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by Nick · Aug 21, 2023
Earlier this month, I made my first ever visit to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Long had it been at the top of my list of theme parks in the USA I wanted to visit but the ten-plus hour drive and lack of nearby airports with direct flights were the main factors holding me back. After receiving an invitation to Silver Dollar City’s big 2024 attraction reveal, I knew that was the excuse I needed to make the long journey.
On Sunday, August 13th, the day before the announcement, I visited Silver Dollar City for the first time. I didn’t do much research beforehand, assuming it would be very similar to sister park, Dollywood. Boy, was I wrong. Here are the six biggest surprises Silver Dollar City had instore for me:
Silver Dollar City began surprising me as soon as I pulled into the parking lot when I saw the signs directing traffic to the FREE parking lot. Yes, you read that right. I know some of the smaller parks like Holiday World and Waldameer offer free parking but I had no idea and was shocked that a regional tourist destination like Silver Dollar City still had free parking. Especially when most parks now charge $30 for parking. If you want to park closer to the front entrance or avoid waiting for trams, they do have Preferred Parking for $18/day+tax and Premium Parking for $58/day+tax. I really like that they have options for both ends of the financial spectrum. By comparison, Dollywood parking is $22.80 or $41 for preferred. Off to a good start to the day.
One of the things I loved about Silver Dollar City was the lack of the usual amusement park midway. Almost every other amusement park has large, hot asphalt or concrete wastelands with bustling crowds and little to no trees. Most parks are laid out in a hub-and-spoke or circular layout with a landmark in the center. Silver Dollar City is more like, well, a city. Instead of midways, there are alleys and side-streets. The design and layout of Silver Dollar City naturally leads to exploration and discovery more than any other theme park I’ve been to. There are a lot of attractions with hidden entrance that you end up just sort of stumbling upon. If you get lost then it means you’re doing it right.
It’s a completely different mindset then going on a family vacation to Walt Disney World where you need to do months of research in advance and be on your phone the entire time making sure your Genies and Lightning Lanes are set. I pride myself in my natural sense of direction and even I got turned around a few times. Pro tip: Generally, if you’re walking downhill you’re going away from the park entrance, uphill then you’re heading towards the exit. If you need guidance, download the park’s app or grab a Pathfinder in the Town Square – a newspaper with show schedules and the park map on the back.
I knew Silver Dollar City was a THEME park but I had no idea that meant every square inch would be themed. Everywhere you go there is something for your senses to feast on, like reading the million of clever signs in this park, smelling the fires from the blacksmith, or hearing the clicking clocks of Charles Henry.
Silver Dollar City certainly loves their clocks.
Beyond the man-made theming, the location and natural environment are incredible all on their own.
While most other theme parks have regions with entirely different themes, what makes Silver Dollar City unique is a relatively cohesive theme for the entire park. There’s no jarring transitions from one area to another that takes you out of the story. All the staff “Citizens” are in themed costumes as well.
Let’s face it, food service is usually the one area that every theme park sucks at: long lines, slow service, mediocre food, etc. While the quality of food at American theme parks has generally gotten better over the past twenty years, the service has not. That is, except for Silver Dollar City. I was pleasantly surprised I didn’t have to wait in any lines for food at all. Service was quick, friendly, and accurate – something I haven’t experienced at any theme park recently.
Did you even go to Silver Dollar City if you don’t get a skillet meal? Also notice the giant waterfall in the background that has no purpose of being there except for why not?!
One thing that surprised me but more on the disappointment side was only one train operation on four out of the five major outdoor roller coasters. I visited on a Sunday in early August – still the prime summer season – so to see a park of this caliber running major attractions at reduced capacity was a real bummer. Here’s my thoughts on each coaster’s situation:
Best start right out of the station on a roller coaster in the US
I knew Silver Dollar City was built over top of a cave but what surprised me was how awesome and magnificent the cave is. Not far from my home is the Olentangy Caverns, a series of underground caves and passages with self-guided tours. For some reason I was expecting Marvel Cave to be on the same, smaller scale. As we began descending 300 feet into the bowels of the earth, down the 700 steps into the massive Cathedral Room I quickly realized just how wrong I was. Bonus points to the tour for blasting the Uncharted theme song as we climbed down.
The Corkscrew, Gulf of Doom, Waterfall room, and Mystic River Passage were just some of the names of the areas we got to explore.
The entire Marvel Cave tour experience probably took around an hour and forty minutes. You won’t want to miss it but for this reason I would plan for at least a day-and-half to explore Silver Dollar City. Pro tip: do the cave tour BEFORE lunch or dinner, not after. There’s no bathrooms down there.
Bonus surprise: I’ve been in other caves before and every time I’ve had to climb back out of them on foot. So I was caught off-guard again when I found out we would be riding a narrow gauge funicular 218 feet back up the hillside. This unique cable-pulled railway with a 180-degree turn was added in 1957.
Check out some clips from our day at Silver Dollar City by watching the short video montage below:
Overall, I had an incredible time at Silver Dollar City and it cemented itself as one of my favorite theme parks. I can’t wait to go back!
The following day I had the special opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the the construction of Fire in the Hole, new for 2024.
See even more photos from Silver Dollar City on our Facebook album.
Have you ever been to Silver Dollar City? Let us know what you think about it in the comments below!
Tags: bransondollywoodherschendsilver dollar city
Jul 22, 2010
Aug 28, 2014
Nov 30, 2010
The first time I was there ( it wasn’t Silver Dollard city then). Just the cave and a few places to eat. You had to park in a gravel lot and walk across the highway. To tour the cave. But, I’ve been there several times after. It’s the best I’ve ever been to
I was there on the same day, and it didn’t help that coasters were closed or delayed continually for rain and nearby storms. I wonder if that had to do with the coasters only running one train. I know Thunderation has only been running one all summer. Who knows how long total. It was one of the weirdest days at SDC that I’ve ever had.
Yes, we were there Aug 17 and 18. We parked in the free lots and the team was already there loading up. I especially liked the shows, but went on rides and our grandsons rode more than my husband and I. We did get drenched from head to toe on the Mystic River Falls. I loved the atmosphere and they opened the day with Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem. Also, they honored all the veterans. We had places to sit in the shade all day when we needed a break.
Just got back today. This time we had grandkids ip from Mississippi. They had a blast. FIRE IN THE HO OLE is open until end of season. I took a pass on Powder Keg.
0 to 64 in3.4 secs? Not happening. We parked right ip front for free. Our 3rd time there. Thats enough
I love SDC, most Family friendly park and by far The Best Food. Very fun and also wholesome.
I grew up near this park and loved it. And go back as much a I can. Love the caves and all the rides. Great foods a good prices to.
We’re in Texas. We have been to SDC several times. The week you were there was probably back to school week in many schools in many states. SDC is a wonderful park for all ages. We’ve been with grandkids. Christmas is awesome-the lights are beautiful.
FOAT! I buy season passes even though I’m 8 hours away! I’m a superfan!
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