Silver Dollar City is a park I've long wanted to visit, often finding it atop people's lists of the best theme parks in America. But, it's a hard place to get to from the east coast, requiring either multiple days of driving or an expensive flight to Springfield, Missouri. In October, I opted to do the latter to finally check it off my bucket list.
Wildfire has one of the prettiest locations for a ride I've ever seen, maybe topped only by the one sharing the same name in Sweden. The deck offers a unique elevated view of the ride, backdropped by the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake. Great place to people-watch as well.
If I had to single out something I was most excited about prior to the trip, it would probably be Time Traveler, the park's Mack Xtreme Spinner. Never been on anything like this before, and it made me far more excited to experience its more-intense sibling in Belgium in a few months. If there's a downside, it's that its tangled knot of track is really only visible through dirty windows in the queue house, making unique photo angles of the ride all but impossible. One of the photos I came away with frames the ride's ridiculous first drop and vertical loop through said windows.
I knew I wanted a panning shot of the train going down its first drop out of the station, and I was determined to get it. It was a bit of a grind with only one train running, but after 30 minutes or so I pulled this one off which I'm quite happy with.
Mystic River Falls headlined the park's recent major investment in Rivertown, as a direct replacement and upgrade to the previous rapids ride that existed here since the 80's. Typically I'm against the more recent trend of parks making their buildings bright and multicolored, preferring more natural and understated palettes. The look usually feels a bit plasticky and inauthentic. See Wildwood Grove at Dollywood. But, Rivertown doesn't go crazy with it, and the end result is quite nice looking, especially complimented by the turning trees.
I'm not usually much for water rides, but I'll make exceptions for ones that are truly outstanding. Mystic River Falls fits nicely into the 'outstanding' category.
I wanted to catch some facial reactions to the huge tidal wave created by the Mystic boats as they level out from the drop. Only took one boat to get precisely the shot I had in mind.
Among all of the modern rides, some of the more traditional aspects of Silver Dollar City shine through, like the Silver Dollar Saloon, a variety show that would feel wildly out of place at just about any other park in the country. But it works here, doing a better job of teleporting you back to Silver Dollar City's 1880's setting than any other offering in the park.
Silver Dollar City's railroad isn't too much to write home about, consisting of a handful of narrow gauge 0-4-0 engines, this one from Germany. It does have a couple of fun interactions with the pathway, most notably this low bridge next to the saloon. I'm particularly happy with this shot because this path is typically flooded with people, making it feel like somewhat of a lucky capture.
Noticed this angle of the railroad through a tunnel of trees on my first day in the park, from the Fire in the Hole queue. Made it back to that spot later one evening when the soft light was complimenting the yellowing trees a little more nicely. One of my favorites from the trip.
Crazy to think that only about 10% of Silver Dollar City's annual visitors do the Marvel Cave tour. Makes me wonder how many people somehow don't even know it's there. The cave is actually incredibly impressive, especially the Cathedral Room, which stands over 200 feet tall. I took this during the brief moment the lights are turned off, with the room illuminated only by natural light coming in through the sinkhole.
One of my favorite spots in the park was the area to the left of the entrance, near the homestead. It always felt more peaceful than anywhere else in the park, with no rides, and few people bothering to wander over there. It was especially nice in the late evenings, with the dying sunlight filtering in through the thick tree cover.
On my first day at the park I noticed how the late evening light was playing off of Powder Keg's train as it launched. Seeing as Powder Keg isn't easily photographed at all, I was itching for basically any interesting shot of the ride I could get. Made it a point to go back over there at sunset and get this.
One of the reasons I spent so much time over by Wildfire is that I probably watched the sunset from its viewing deck 3 or 4 different times. The ride is pretty during the day and all, but it hits differently when the track and Ozark landscape are silhouetted against a fiery orange sky.
It's all but impossible to photograph Outlaw Run's layout from normal park areas, since like most rides in the park, it's tucked away in the tree covered hillside. Because of this, my photos were mostly limited to the ride's station area. Here I used a longer exposure to capture the train as a blur as it dispatched.
This pathway sandwiched between Mystic River Falls and Fireman's Landing offered a nice reprieve from the crowds the couple of times I walked over there. It was especially nice after dark, with the fog-engulfed firehouse and colorfully lit trees reflected in the lake below, and a clear starry sky above.
For quite a while one of my bucket list photographs has been to do a long star trail exposure inside of a theme park. For obvious reasons, this is a logistical challenge. Silver Dollar City's new parking lot offers a nice compromise with its view of Wildfire from across the ravine. Surprisingly no one came over and kicked us out, even as we were the last car there, so I was able to get a full hour's worth of exposures to create this photo.