Battle of the Night Rides: Wild Eagle vs. Lightning Rod

Roller coaster rides are fun and thrilling at any hour of the day. But there’s something about plunging into the darkness of the night and turning head over heels under the inky night sky that enhances the experience.

Dollywood is home to two of my favorite roller coasters to ride at night: Wild Eagle, the steel wing coaster, and Lightning Rod, the record-breaking launched wooden coaster.

But which nighttime ride reigns supreme: Wild Eagle or Lightning Rod? Let’s compare the two.

Wild Eagle

A flight on Wild Eagle is unforgettable regardless of when you ride the steel wing coaster – soaring through the air on the “wings of an eagle” at 61 mph with no track above or below you is adrenaline-pumping fun from start to finish.

The slow climb up the 21-story lift hill allows you to admire the faint silhouettes of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. You’ll be treated to unobstructed views of the often-starry Tennessee night sky.

But as serene as that ascent may be, what goes up must come down. The 135-foot first plunge is exhilarating. Slicing through the brisk, clear air at 61 mph will jolt awake any tired eyes. Flying through the coaster’s four inversions in the dark is laugh-out-loud fun.

The entire ride is refreshingly invigorating and a spectacular finale to an action-packed day at Dollywood.

Lightning Rod

The world’s first launched wood coaster is crazy by day and crazier by night. Unless you’re graced by a full moon, prepare for a pitch-black, out-of-control race through the dark.

When your hot-rod train leaves the station, say goodbye to civilization and your eyesight – the lights inside the station will be the last you see for a while. The zero-to-45 mph launch whisks you over a hillside, and the 165-foot drop plunges you into utter darkness at 73 mph, making Lightning Rod the fastest wooden coaster in the world.

What follows that first drop is pure insanity: twists, turns, drops and more – all in total darkness. With no way to see what lies ahead, you are at the mercy of the ride as it ferociously careens through the 3,800 feet of wooden track.

I’ve ridden 175 roller coasters across the country – many of those at night – but my first nighttime ride on Lightning Rod remains by far one of the most memorable.

Final Verdict

Riding Wild Eagle and Lightning Rod in the dark are two totally different experiences, both spectacular in their own ways.

If you prefer a gentler (but still forceful and thrilling) ride through the cool, dark air, I recommend a night flight on Wild Eagle.

But if you’re an adrenaline junkie who wants to end your day at Dollywood with a bang, look no further than a pitch-black, crazy-from-start-to-finish ride on Lightning Rod. You won’t regret it.

By | 2017-10-25T14:56:51-04:00 October 25th, 2017|Thrill Rides|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Stevenson (Dollywood Insider 2017-2019) was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and now lives in Nashville. He’s a devout roller coaster enthusiast and has been a frequent Dollywood visitor since 2001. That love for roller coasters led him to start Coaster101.com in 2005. Since then, the website has become a trusted source for the latest roller coaster news, educational articles, interviews with amusement industry leaders, and of course, all things Dollywood. The world record-breaking Lightning Rod is near the top of John’s list of favorite coasters, which is impressive considering he’s ridden more than 190 coasters across the United States! However, he’s been known to tout Dollywood’s famous cinnamon bread as the park’s star attraction. He looks forward to sharing his passion for Dollywood with the world!
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