1. It's big. Literally.

Image: Dollywood

By the numbers, Big Bear Mountain is a beast. This ride ranks as the longest roller coaster at Dollywood with 3,990 feet of track and an almost unbelievable two minute ride time – and that's without any lift hills to artificially run out the clock.

Big Bear Mountain quite literally fills the hillsides surrounding Wildwood Grove, dipping, twisting, diving, and careening along the terrain. (Though right now those hillsides are quite bare, it shouldn't be too many years before trees reclaim the acres cleared for the ride's expansive construction.) 

2. It's packed with personality

Image: Dollywood

Last year, we spent a whole feature here at Theme Park Tourist exploring what we call the "New Coaster Wars". While the original Coaster Wars in the '90s saw parks and ride manufacturers race to build ever-larger, faster, and more intense prototypes, the New Coaster Wars – an exemplified by Busch Gardens' Pantheon, Islands of Adventure's VelociCoaster, and even Dollywood's Lightning Rod – are about custom rides packed with personality. 

In other words, it's not about having the most intense or outrageous or record-breaking ride anymore. Instead, it's about focusing on what makes your park unique and backwards-engineering rides that make the most of it! For Dollywood, those built-in strengths are the park's authentically-mountainous terrain, its family appeal, and of course, the stories of Dolly's own imaginative childhood and Smoky Mountain stories. Both narratively and experientially, those strengths are are full display as guests rocket through a custom, terrain-following coaster serving as a headliner for Wildwood Grove.

3. It'll be an essential "first big coaster" for generations

Image: Dollywood

On our Facebook, we've seen a few oddly vocal coaster enthusiasts who seem determined to turn people against Big Bear Mountain. They say that Dollywood's new ride (quote) "stinks," is "very tame," is "a kiddie coaster," and even that it's a bust because it doesn't feature any "airtime" or "hang time" – apparently insinuating that riders should be dangled upside down on it! Obviously, these few naysayers don't understand the role that this ride plays in Dollywood, and indeed, for the whole region.

Look no further than the Lost Legend: Big Bad Wolf, formerly at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. No doubt those extreme coaster fans would use the same terms to describe Big Bad Wolf. What they don't understand is that over its 25 year life, generations of locals experienced Big Bad Wolf as their first "big" coaster; the one that bridged the gap between off-the-shelf kiddie coaster models and the rest of the park's bigger, more intense lineup. Big Bear Mountain will be that for decades, serving as a new "first big coaster" for countless families – it's a totally perfect, mid-sized, just-right adventure for families with kids ready to make the jump. 

4. It comes with some unexpected technological flourishes...

Back in the '90s, the picture of a "family coaster" was pretty limited – generally, fairly simple mine trains and the occasional suspended swinging coaster. Today, that genre is exploding. Rides like the Backlot Stunt Coaster, Verbolten, DarKoaster, Slinky Dog Dash, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Dollywood's own Firechaser Express have formed the new 21st century foundation of the genre, adding in once-unthinkable, technological elements like launches, fire effects, projection, switch tracks, drop tracks, backwards motion, swinging cars, and more.

Yep, parks are coming back from the over-intense focus of the '90s Coaster Wars big time, and Big Bear Mountain sets a new standard. Not only does this totally-unique, custom family coaster include an incredible three launches (up to a top speed of 48 miles per hour), but with synchronized on-ride audio – a feature rarely seen outside of Disney and Universal Parks. In that way, Big Bear Mountain really is cutting edge, perhaps signaling that we might see on-board audio become more accessible for seasonal, regional parks going forward.

5. It makes Dollywood an even stronger regional and national contender

Image: Dollywood

No doubt about it – Dollywood is on the rise. With its second on-site hotel (the Heartsong Lodge) set to open this year, more and more families seem to be selecting Dollywood (and other regional parks) as replacements for increasingly inaccessible trips to Walt Disney World. The park's explosive growth over the last decade has shown no signs of slowing down, and Big Bear Mountain seems to be the next step in its incredible investment campaign.

Whether you're looking for cutting edge coasters, live entertainment, home-cooked meals, or a mountain getaway, you'll find them all at Dollywood. And with Big Bear Mountain serving as a new must-see coaster for up-and-coming thrill-seekers, it looks like Dollywood will be staying on many families' "to-do lists" for the foreseeable future... 


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