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Silver Dollar City

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Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City logo
Statistics

Location

Branson, Missouri, USA

Opened

1960

Owner

Herschend Family Entertainment

Size

61 Acres

Official Website

[1]

Silver Dollar City is an amusement park located at Branson, Missouri. The park was built around a cave (Marvel Cave) once mined for its marvel. However, no marvel was found, so instead, the owners gave tours of the cave. The park got it's name because when tourists would come to see the cave, they would pay with "silver dollars". Thus, the name, "Silver Dollar City" came to be. The park began to add rides and attractions starting in the 1960's.

The park is known for its landscape, and its shops, which is where guests can watch and learn how to metal smith, chop wood, and other various pioneer activities. In 2013, their newest attraction, Outlaw Run opened. Making their 6th coaster.

Starting off as a summer cave tour business in the Ozarks has developed over the years into a thrilling, 55-acre theme park. Silver Dollar City[/i], located near Branson, Missouri, now has six word-class festivals over throughout the year, 12 stages, 22 rides, 12 restaurants, 60 shops, and over 100 craftsmen.
Long before the park existed, and long before the city of Branson could even be conceived, there was a hole in the Earth, known as Marble Cave. Discovered by the Osage Indians in the 1500s, the cave quickly gained notoriety as geologists and adventures explored the deep main chamber, awed by its mystique. Mining started in the cave to pull out nitrogen-rich bat guano, but no marble was ever found. William Henry Lynch, a Canadian mining expert, bought the cave, traveled to the Ozarks, and opened it to public tours in 1894.
Through the early 1900s, the caves gained notoriety as Harold Bell Wright published “The Shepherd of the Hills,” sparking nationwide interest in the Ozarks. Combine this with the automobile, and the hot-spot became a tourist destination. Cutting through the brush, Lynch cleared the way for Missouri Highway 76 to run from Branson to the caves, making it easier to get to, and attractive even more visitors. At some point, the cave was renamed to Marvel Cave because of both its lack of marble, and its awe-inspiring proportions.
© Silver Dollar City
In 1946, Hugo and Mary Herschend vacationed to the Ozarks, discovering and falling in love with the cave, now run by Lynch’s daughters. When the two sisters decided to retire, they offered the Hershends a 99-year lease on the cave. Since Hugo was looking for a family business where he could work with his wife and two sons, rather than constantly traveling, the family accepted the offer and took over the management and tours of the caves in 1950.
At this point in history, the evolution into what is now Silver Dollar City would slowly begin to materialize. After making improvements to the cave access, the Herschend family wanted to make some above-ground improvements, such as a waiting area and native craftsmen demonstrating traditional Ozark crafts. In 1954, an 80-plus year old man, Charlie Sullivan, told the Herschends about a mining town called Marmaros, which was his birthplace and had once existed near the entrance of the cave. The family got the idea from him of recreating an 1880s mining town.
© Silver Dollar City
After Hugo’s death in 1955, his wife and two sons began building the mining town. His wife Mary was committed to authenticity and preservation of the area’s natural beauty, so there would be no cheap storefronts, and everything would be of the highest quality. In 1960, the village, known as Silver Dollar City, was born--the name of the park coming from the idea of giving visitors silver dollars as change. The promotion worked wonders, as customers paying for gas and other items were questioned about the silver dollars, and would tell them of Silver Dollar City.
The new village had a blacksmith shop, general store, ice cream parlor, doll shop, two authentic 1800s structures which had been relocated and restored, the McHaffie home, Wilderness Church, and “citizens” dressed in 1880s costumes performing street theater. The first year the park opened it drew over 125,000 people, far more than the number that had ever toured the cave.
© Silver Dollar City
Soon after the park added stagecoach rides and a steam train, the Frisco Silver dollar Line, but it was the parks ingenuity in handling challenges that led to long-standing traditions. For example, the train required a stop to build up enough steam to make its final run up a hill back to the station, so the rest was turned into a show, where train robbers would hold up the passengers while the steam built-up.
In 1963, the park held its first craft festival, having native craftsman demonstrating 19 crafts including woodcarving, blacksmithing, and candlemaking. Guests were so intrigued by the demonstrations that additional craftsman were added to the lineup, including a glass blower, potter, and silversmith. That year, the park had over half a million visitors, and instantly became Missouri’s number one tourist attraction. The park then gained national attention in 1965 when the Beverly Hillbillies came to the park to film five episodes at the location.
Then 1968 season saw the addition of the parks first two big attractions, Slantin’ Sam’s Mining Shack and the Flooded Mine dark ride, and along with it, an admission charge. Slantin’ Sams, now known as Grandfathers Mansion, was a mine-themed fun house. The following year, the park added Jim Owens Ozark Float Trip, an outdoor boat ride around a river with caves, whirlpools, and animatronics interactions.
© Silver Dollar City
In 1970, the park added Herman the Hermit’s Tree House, later known as Huck Finn’s Hideaway, which was a large playhouse built several stories above the ground. The attraction had a small spiral staircase which lead into a fake, hollow tree, at which point guests had to crawl across a tiny bridge over to the tree house.
The 1972 season was a big year for the park for several reasons. First, Marvel Cave was designated a Registered Natural Landmark, and second, the park received its first roller coaster, Fire-in-the-Hole. The ride itself is essentially a dark ride, which meanders through scenes of a town set on fire by the Bald Knobbers, followed up with a short roller coaster ending, as the train avoids other trains, fires, and a broken bridge. The ride is very similar to Blazing Fury at sister Herschend park, Dollywood in Tennessee.
Despite several years of only minor and internal improvements, the park hit a record of 1.4 million guests in 1976, and was honored as number one in repeat business. The following year, the park added the Deep Woods Section, increasing the parks size by 25%. The new area included the Rub Dugan’s Diving Bell, a simulated underwater trip in search for the lost Yoakum Silver Mine, in a Jules Verne-style fantasy submarine.
© Silver Dollar City
For the 1981 season, Jim Own’s Ozark Float Trip was remodeled into the American Plunge log flume. For the remodel, the ride was reversed, and a 50-foot shoot-the-shoots style hill was added, reaching speeds of approximately 35 mph before a soaking splash-down. The next major addition to the park came three years later, in 1984, when Tom Sawyer’s Landing was added. This new play area featured rope towers, rope nets, and Becky’s Carousel, a carousel in which Silver Dollar City craftsmen hand-carved each of the horses.
In 1985, after only 8 years of operation, Rube Dugan’s Diving Bell was removed due to its relatively low capacity, and was replaced with the Lost River of the Ozarks, a river-raft ride with a much higher hourly capacity. After an off year, the following two seasons saw the addition of the Wilderness Water Toboggan, and the opening of the Land of Forgotten Crafts.
© Silver Dollar City
Tom Sawyer’s Landing received a significant upgrade in 1989, when three new attractions, The Balloon Ride, The Ferris Wheel, and The Kid’s Coaster, were added. The town square was also remodeled with a Victorian theme, the General Store was replaced with a Mercantile, and employees were dressed in Victorian costumes. The remodeling and retheming was not well-received, however, and the original Ozark Mountain style was quickly returned.
To kick off the next decade, the park renovated the Flooded Mine into the Great Shoot Out at the Flooded Mine, adding targets to the ride which guests shoot at, as they attempt to round up the prisoners who escaped during the flood. The park also added the Furniture Factory, which used only tools of the 1880s and 1890s to create furniture.
© Silver Dollar City
In 1993, the park opened its single most expensive attraction today, the $7 million Thunderation runaway mine train coaster built by Arrow Dynamics. Its entry sign writes the name of the coaster out as “ThuNderaTion” to spell out in “code” what the trains are supposedly propelled by. The most unique element about this 3,000 foot long coaster is the fact that the third and fifth cars of the train are actually turned backwards. The next year, Marvel Cave celebrated its 100th year of tourism, with five hot air balloons being flown inside the Cathedral Room of the cave.
After several seasons of only minor additions, mostly the changing and adding of shows, 1997 saw the addition of Geyser Gulch, the world’s largest tree house. Geyser Gulch consist of two large buildings, in which patrons run throughout a building located by the “lake,” shooting each other with water guns, running through outside sprinklers, and dodging balls being thrown by others or through tubes.
Just before the decade ended, Silver Dollar City was finally recognized for its quality and tradition, winning the Applause Award in 1999, the theme park industry’s Top Award for Excellence. That same year, the park opened BuzzSaw Falls, the world’s first “liquid coaster.” This first-of-its-kind ride was essentially a roller coaster with water-type boats as the ride vehicle.
© Silver Dollar City
At the turn of the century, the park celebrate its 40th birthday in the new 25,000 sq. ft. Red Gold Heritage Hall, which allowed for large scale productions and dining opportunities for Festival Food and other festivals. The biggest news, however, came the next year in 2001, when the park announced an investment that was twice the cost of 1993’s Thunderation, the $14 million sit-down B&M, Wildfire. The Swiss-built coaster stands at 120 ft tall, with a 155 ft drop, 3,073 ft course, and five inversions, including an immelman, loop, cobra roll, and corkscrew. The theme of the ride is based on the story of an old Ozark inventor, Dr. Horatio Harris, who created a flying contraption to cross the Ozark Mountains, using Wildfire as the fuel for his flying machine.
In 2003, the parks Wilderness Water Toboggan was overhauled and renamed the Waterworks Waterboggan, a ride similar in style to the more familiar Slidewinder at Dollywood—a twisting, racing wet-dry raft slide down the side of a mountain. The next year saw the removal of the Runaway Ore Cart, a small children’s roller coaster, and it was also announced later in the year that BuzzSaw Falls would be modified into the launched Powder Keg roller coaster. The new Powder Keg coaster, built by Premier Rides and S&S Power using the remnants of mechanically plagued BuzzSaw Falls along with new track, features a launch of 0-53 in 2.8 seconds, highly-banked turns, airtime hills, a mid-course lift hill, and an exciting water-splash style finale.
© Silver Dollar City
A new one acre children’s area, The Grand Exposition, was added to the park in 2006. With it came the addition of The Magnificent Wave Carousel (Zamperla Waveswinger), Electro Spin (Zamperla Disk’O), the Mighty Galleon swinging ship, the kid-friendly Great Exposition Coaster, Royal Tea Party (teacups ride), Wings of Wonder, Happy Frogs, and the Ladybugs.
© Silver Dollar City
After adding a new section for families, Silver Dollar City wanted to add something to keep the thrill-seekers coming back, and the parks first major stand-alone flat ride. In 2007, the announced the Giant Barn Swing, an S&S 32-passenger Screamin’ Swing ride themed to be crashing and swinging through a barn. Before adding the ride, the park had 3 different concepts in mind: a HUSS Giant Frisbee, a HUSS Topple Tower, likely a clone of Timber Tower at Dollywood, and the S&S Screamin’ Swing concept which was overwhelmingly chosen by guests and management.
While 2008 saw the construction of the Culinary and Crafts School, which offered cooking and craft demonstrations with a porch overlooking Echo Hollow, the big news came during the summer, when Tom Sawyer’s Landing was closed and fenced off, the rides were removed, and teasers for a 2009 attraction began appearing. Despite the build-up and a giant pit which had been dug out, economic woes throughout the US would delay the construction of the ride until 2010. Finally coming to the park in 2010, Tom and Huck’s River Blast, a heavily themed and interactive Mack Splash Battle, would open as the largest of its kind in the country at 570 ft long.
With one of the best overall selections of rides, heavy themeing, tradition and authenticity, and a strong backing from Herschend, also co-owners of the highly-touted Dollywood theme park, Silver Dollar City’s future looks bright as it sits at the top of Branson, Missouri’s list of tourist attractions.

Present Roller Coasters (6)Edit

Name Manufacturer Type Opened Status
Grand Exposition Coaster Zamperla Steel 2006 Operating
Fire In The Hole Herschend Family Entertainment Enclosed 1972 Operating
Outlaw Run Rocky Mountain Construction Wooden 2013 Operating
Powder Keg: A Blast into the Wilderness S&S Worldwide Launched 2005 Operating
Thunderation Arrow Dynamics Mine Train 1993 Operating
Wildfire Bolliger & Mabillard Steel 2001 Operating

Past Roller Coasters (1)Edit

Name Manufacturer Type Opened Closed Relocated
Runaway Ore Cart Molina & Sons Kiddie ? 2004 No

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