The Midwest Theme Park That Looks Eerily Like Tennessee’s Dollywood

Silver Dollar City and the flooded mine

There are a lot of similar rides and attractions at Dollywood's sister park Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO – like The Flooded Mine (photos courtesy of Silver Dollar City, Paul Drabek, collage by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com))

Branson’s Silver Dollar City looks like a 1990s Dollywood sans the Dolly Parton theme

Most loyal fans know that Dollywood has a sister park located 700 miles away in Branson, Mo. And it goes by the name of Silver Dollar City. It may sound familiar because Dollywood also used to be called Silver Dollar City. And both are still owned, at least in part, by the same company: Hershend Family Entertainment who used to be the sole owner and operator before Dolly Parton stepped in as a partner in 1986. That’s when the Pigeon Forge location officially became known as “Dollywood”.

Today, Dollywood is operated as a partnership between the Parton and Hershend ownership. While Dollywood remains unique in its own right, those who have visited both locations have noticed more than a few similarities between the two parks. And it goes beyond the old-timey vibe. It’s also the attractions. Some of which, might just feel like a blast from the past for true Dollywood aficionados. Below, we share some of our favorite copycat attractions and features that made us look twice.

1. The Flooded Mine

Allow me a Frankenstein moment – “It’s alive!! It’s ALIVE!!!!!” That’s right, Dollywood aficionados will instantly recognize this beloved doppelganger. The Flooded Mine was a simple indoor boat ride that carried passengers through ‘”flooded” prison mine shafts as prisoners desperately tried to escape. (Think Disney’s “It’s a Small World” with prisoners and less singing). The Dollywood version closed in the late 1990s to make way for Daredevil Falls. But The Flooded Mine attraction at Silver Dollar City remains standing today, featuring a multitude of familiar scenes that are sure to jog your nostalgic Dollywood-loving memory. The Flooded Mine has, however, gone through one major upgrade at the Silver Dollar City location that never made it to the Dollywood version: Laser pistols. A POV video has been embedded above for your entertainment.

2. Fire in the Hole

Fun fact: Fire in the Hole, Blazing Fury’s sister coaster, was one of the world’s first indoor roller coasters. Built in 1972, six years before Blazing Fury, Fire in the Hole was nearly identical to its sister Dollywood coaster until it was shuttered in 2023. It differed in a handful of scenes, dialogue, and the noticeable presence of something called “Bald Knobbers.”

That’s right, Molly isn’t worried about anyone’s weak back, Sarah hasn’t been kissing any steam trains, and Baldknobbers (a group of vigilantes from the 1880s infamous throughout southwest Missouri) are clearly to blame for the cause of the fire that engulfed this little animatronic town. While it’s not entirely clear why Blazing Fury is missing the Bald Knobber backstory, one might imagine it’s a storyline that wouldn’t have been quite as familiar to East Tennesseans as it is to Missourians. A POV of Fire in the Hole has been provided above courtesy of Coaster Legend.

Riverblast at silver dollar city
Silver Dollar City’s RiverBlast ride is the sister ride of the late Dollywood River Battle (media photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City)

3. Tom & Huck’s RiverBlast

Here’s another blast from the past (get it, blast): Tom & Huck’s RiverBlast! River Battle was a slow-moving boat ride with man-operated water blasters. It was a rather short-lived attraction at Dollywood, opening in 2007 and closing less than a decade later in 2017. It’s one of the only Dollywood rides I personally never tried. It just lacked any thrill or mystery for me. I could stand around in my yard at home and ask someone to shoot me with a water gun. Regardless, River Battle’s sister ride, Tom & Huck’s RiverBlast lives on at Silver Dollar City complete with 80 super soakers and over 150 targets.

the giant barn swing
The Giant Barn Swing is a near replica of Dollywood’s Barnstormer (photo courtesy of Silver Dollar CIty)

4. The Giant Barn Swing

This is another one that will look quite familiar. These two rides are virtually identical to one another. Both launch guests through barn doors at 45 mph at a 230-degree rotation (giving guests the feeling that they are about to go upside-down). At Dollywood, Barnstormer is located in an area named “Owens Farm” which is a nod to Dolly’s mother’s family, the Owens. If that name sounds familiar, congratulations you’re ready for Dollywood Trivia Night. The name also happens to be the family of Pete Owens, head of Dollywood’s publicity department. At Silver Dollar City, The Giant Barn Swing is located in the “Wilson’s Farm” section.

the frisco train at silver dollar city
Silver Dollar City’s train still features the mid-ride show that Dollywood has since removed (photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City)

5. Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train

Like Dollywood’s Klondike Katie and Cinderella – two authentic WWII-era steam trains, Silver Dollar City also has a fleet of their own historic coal-fired steam trains: Engine 13, Engine 14, Engine 76, Engine 504 and Engine 43 (Editor’s Note: It’s clear that Dollywood is certainly much better at naming trains). Like their sister engines at Dollywood, The Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Trains take guests on a leisurely ride throughout the park. Both parks also once featured a fun live-actor shoot-out and train-robber scene mid-ride. Silver Dolly City’s train still features a mid-ride show. Dollywood’s mid-ride show has since been removed.

mystic river falls
Mystic River Falls is like a modern-age River Rampage with a massive “drop” at the end (photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City)

6. Mystic River Falls

While every park has a ride similar to Dollywood’s River Rampage, Silver Dollar City’s 2020 take on the ride, in certain places, looks and feels like a near replica. That is until the upgraded giant Daredevil Falls style drop at the end. Perhaps we will get to see a similar upgrade to River Rampage in the future (a gal can dream).

woman holds a tray of cinnamon bread while smiling at the camera
You can find cinnamon bread at Clara Bell’s bakery at Silver Dollar City (photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City)

7. Cinnamon bread

Oh, you thought Cinnamon bread was strictly a Dollywood thing right? It turns out you can also order the famous loaf at Silver Dollar City, too. But Silver Dollar City has its own special varieties in addition to the traditional loaf. Varieties we haven’t yet seen at Dollywood such as apple cinnamon, peach cinnamon, and Time Traveler Cinnamon drizzled with caramel and chocolate. And at Silver Dollar City, you can order your loaves with a side of Starbucks coffee.

wilderness church exterior
Like Dollywood’s church, live church services are held at Wilderness Church every Sunday at Silver Dollar City, too (photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City)

8. Historical buildings

Silver Dollar City also features a variety of historical properties on-site, similar to Dolly’s homestead replica including Birdle’s Cabin, McHaffie’s Homestead and Wilderness Church. Birdle’s cabin commemorates the life of Birdle Mannon traveled to Missouri by covered wagon from North Platte, Nebraska. The Wilderness Church, like the Robert F. Thomas Chapel at Dollywood, holds live church services on Sundays.

Silver Dollar City's Magnificent Wave
Silver Dollar City’s Magnificent Wave Carousel is reminiscent of Dollywood’s The Waltzing Swinger (photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City)

9. Other traditional theme park rides

While we’ve already mentioned the majority of the eerily similar sister rides and major attractions that the two parks share, it’s worth noting that the similarities don’t stop there. Both parks also feature many of the same or similar traditional theme park rides. The American Plunge is reminiscent of the old Log Flume. Also shared between the two are a collection of common carnival-style rides. Examples are the Electro Spin (Dizzy Disk), Happy Frogs (Frogs and Fireflies) and the Magnificent Wave Carousel (The Waltzing Swinger).

Feels a bit like fringe universe Dollywood doesn’t it? Have you ever been to Dollywood’s sister park in Branson, Mo? Let us know in the comments!

PS: Many thanks to the media folks at Silver Dollar City for working with us on some of these archive photos! Be sure to visit the park if you’re ever in town!

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at editor@thesmokies.com (preferred) or call 865-505-0648.

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12 thoughts on “The Midwest Theme Park That Looks Eerily Like Tennessee’s Dollywood”

  1. Been to both parks multiple times. Much prefer Silver Dollar City. It seems friendlier. One of the things we like most is being able to enter early and have a nice buffet breakfast before the attractions are open and we love the SDC opening ceremony.

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  2. Silver Dollar City also still has Grandfather’s Mansion – a gravity tilt house. Dollywood (Silver Dollar City, TN) added a clone called The Inventor’s Mansion. The structure still stands but is closed to the public.

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  3. Becky Smith – I miss the breakfast buffet they once had at Dollywood as well. I always make a point of having Breakfast in Molly’s Mill at SDC. It is a shame that so many of the SDC originals have been ripped out of Dollywood, although SDC has its losses as well.

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  4. I actually work at Silver Dollar City in Branson and used to go as a kid all the time. I have never been to Dollywood.

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  5. I worked for dollywood for 6 years although the hours were long and very hot in the summer and very cold in winter I had a great time and enjoyed my time there. I two have been to been to SDC I’ve went for the last 50 years (I’m 55) I always have great memories and while some of rides are not there any more and fire in the hole has gone to automated. I still enjoy it. Fire in hole use to have live performers in fire in the hole.

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  6. We love Silver Dollar City!!! Dolly Parton is a very nice lady, but I’d go nuts having to listen her songs over and over again all day long.

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  7. I have been going to SDC since I was a kid. I am 61. I loved all the rides and have taken my children there also. I remember so many things, but one of the simplest was a small cart with a box on the back. There was a sign posted on top of the box, something about not taking a look through the peephole below, because it was a dirty image. I had to look, curiosity and all. As soon as I squinted my eye up to the hole I saw a pair of dirty boots reminiscent of something Granny Clampant had worn. My dad just started grinning at me. The park has always been family friendly and I have loved the cooking trees and welcoming people.

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  8. Grew up going to Dollywood almost every year! We went on our first Christmas vacation in 2019 and went to Branson, MO. We had to go to SDC! So glad that’s where we picked! We LOVE both parks! And SDC at Christmas time was spectacular ❤️❤️❤️ going to Dollywood for the first time in almost 12 years labor day weekend and can’t wait!

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  9. I’ve been an employee at SDC for 8 years in their Entertainment dept. I love working there and working with such talent. I want to see what Dollywood has in the show dept. It’s on my bucket list to go.

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  10. Love SDC, been going 36 years usually 3-4 times a year. Soooo appreciate the CLEAN CHRISTIAN atmosphere.

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  11. Dollywood came into existence on May 3, 1986. Silver Dollar City was already operating and had been since May 1, 1960. So I think the headline and lead should be that Dollywood copied SDC. They aren’t sister parks as they aren’t under the same parent ownership or operator.

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