Last Friday, David and I packed up the car for a day out in nearby Branson, MO.
Growing up 30 minutes north of Branson, I have frequented the tourist spot hundreds of times throughout my life most notably with visits to Silver Dollar City. As a lover of roller coasters, my mom took my brother and I throughout each year to ride roller coasters, celebrate the end of summer with friends, view craft demonstrations, and participate in the festivals — crafts, BBQ, Christmas festivals and more.
Silver Dollar City is an 1800’s themed park that blossomed from the ground, literally. The park started with Marvel Cave, which was first discovered by a tribe of Osage Indians in the 16th century. When they heard strange noises from the cave they assumed that it was an entrance to Hades. So they named it “Devil’s Den” and never returned. In the 19th century, the cave was believed to be filled with marble and was thus given the name “Marble Cave.” So in 1884, Mr. T. Hodge Jones purchased the property to mine the marble only to find out that the cave only had limestone. In a position suitable for Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs, Jones mined the bat guano and sold it for $700 a ton instead.
Years later, seeing it fit for an attraction, William Henry Lynch, a Canadian miner and dairyman, purchased the property for a sightseeing attraction in 1889. It only cost $10,000. You can’t even buy a decent house that cheap now. Lynch renamed it Marvel Cave and his family managed the attraction for 56 years.
In 1950, the last remaining Lynch family member sold the property to Hugo Herschend, a vacuum cleaner salesman who was looking for a family business to run with his wife and 2 sons. The first summer, Marvel Cave drew 8,000 visitors to the beautiful Ozarks. With big dreams in mind, the family planned some above ground improvements, namely a park and native craftsmen to demonstrate traditional Ozarks crafts to draw more visitors. When Hugo died just two years later, his wife Mary put Hugo’s plans for the park into action. The Lynch’s opened the park in 1960 under the name, “Silver Dollar City” because they gave customers silver dollars as change for advertising purposes. The town boasted a blacksmith shop, general store, doll shop, ice cream parlor, and much more!
Over the years, the park continued to grow and grow. In the late 60’s, a steam train was added to the park to entertain visitors. That same train still calls Silver Dollar City home more than 50 years later. In 1972, Fire-in-the-Hole, a three story indoor coaster, was built as the park’s first roller coaster. Subsequently, Thunderation, a steel coaster and the first one I ever rode, opened in 1993 sparking years of ride construction. Now, millions of visitors later, specifically 2 million plus each year, Silver Dollar City has grown to be a 60-acre park featuring more than 22 thrilling rides including 6 roller coasters, 6 festivals, several large theaters, more than 100 craftsmen, all kinds of custom shops, and more!
It has been years since I’ve had the chance to hit up all the rides in the park and I could not wait to try out the theme park’s shiny new $10 million toy — Outlaw Run! The wooden coaster rings in as the second wooden coaster with inversions (this one’s got 3!), soars as the world’s steepest wooden coaster with a 162 foot (16 story) drop at 81 degrees (trust me, you’ll leave your stomach behind on that one), clocks in as the second fastest wooden coaster in the world at 68 mph, and ends with a bang, specifically a 720-degree corkscrew!
I love, love, love riding roller coasters. The weightlessness, the speed, the “Will I ever manage to touch the ground again?” feeling, and, most importantly, it’s fun! Unfortunately, Outlaw Run did not manage to ring in as a favorite for me or David. In the photo above, you’ll notice that you’re only held by the lap bar with two bars that wedges your legs into place. No hand holds and nothing holding onto your upper body was a little too nerve racking for me. However, nothing beats the feeling of the corkscrew at the end. The train slows down after the first 360-degree flip offering a seriously indescribable feeling. All I can say is that I wish I were a bird. A ridiculously long line due to the roller coaster’s opening being two months ago only allowed us time to ride this one once. We did not want to spend 2+ hours standing in line. However, it does deserve a few more rides before I make a final verdict so don’t take my word for it. This roller coaster is certainly awesome and I will most definitely ride it again!
Our favorite? Powderkeg! The awesome coaster shoots riders 0-53 mph in 2.8 seconds. That awesome feeling cannot be beat. With a 110 foot drop, a 90-degree bank turn, and a high speed of 64 mph, PowderKeg certainly holds its own among the park’s 6 other roller coasters. On our trip, we frequented this awesome coaster as many times possible. For the record, that number was 5. I told you it was our favorite.
For inversion roller coaster lovers, I recommend Wildfire! With loop de loops a plenty, you’ll go upside down 5 (count ’em, 5) times before landing back on solid ground. Reaching a speed of 66 mph after plummeting down a 155 foot drop (that’s about 15 stories), Wildfire will certainly leave you breathless.
All in all, we had a fantastic trip to Silver Dollar City. I recommend this park to anyone traveling near the Branson area. I absolutely cannot wait to go back. With rides and attractions for the whole family, young and old, this fun park cannot be beat. I see season tickets in our future.