Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Dollywood originally opened in 1961 as a small park with a steam train, general store, blacksmith, and saloon. However, in the mid-1980s, after a couple of other changes in ownership, a certain music icon with an undying love for her hometown, began to show an interest in purchasing the theme park.
This icon, of course, was none other than Dolly Parton. Dolly wanted to bring jobs and tourism to her hometown, so she became co-owner of the park in 1986 and the park officially became Dollywood. In the year after the purchase, attendance more than doubled. New attractions were added, and the park doubled in size from 1986-2010.
The park now has 11 themed areas, over 45 attractions, and a water park. Dolly Parton still takes an active role in her ownership of the park, and if you are very lucky, you may even catch her visiting the park on occasion.
Fun From 9 to 5 (And All The Time)
For what many would consider a “smaller” park, Dollywood has quite a great line up of rides and attractions for not only family but thrill seekers as well. While most of the rides are much more family-friendly than some larger parks that focus on big and fast coasters, the park does have a couple of great coasters.
Lightning Rod is a RMC (Rocky Mountain Construction) wooden and steel coaster that opened in 2016 as the fastest wooden coaster in the world. It is a fast, coaster that twists around the terrain. Sadly, the ride is known to face frequent downtime.
However, you can also check out Dollywood’s steel-winged coaster, Wild Eagle. Wild Eagle was America’s first winged coaster and it sends riders through 4 inversions and reaches speeds of over 60 miles per hour. Though, if you are looking for a unique coaster experience, try Mystery Mine. This coaster features a vertical lift, a dark mineshaft ambiance, and even a couple of inversions.
Dollywood specializes in family-friendly fun attractions. There is no doubt about that. It also has several great flat rides including a wild swinging pendulum ride, Barnstormer, and a high-flying swinging ride, Sky Rider.
Guests can even take a ride on the steam train, Dollywood Express. The park also features the first duel-launching family coaster, FireChaser Express which launches riders both forward and backward. If you are visiting the park in the summer, be sure to cool off on one of the two water rides or head to Splash Country, the adjacent waterpark. Adding admission to the water park costs an additional $10 per ticket.
We Will Always Love These Entertainment Offerings and Accommodations
Dollywood boasts several non-ride attractions and shows as well. There are several festivals throughout the year including The Barbeque and Bluegrass Festival, Harvest Festival, and Smoky Mountain Christmas. The park also pays homage to the culture of Appalachia with its many shows and musical offerings. There are also several museum-like attractions such as Chasing Rainbows, a museum with Dolly Parton memorabilia, and a replica of Dolly’s childhood home.
There is even a functioning chapel in the park that has services on Sundays. One of the most special parts of Dollywood though is the way it features crafters and artisans. From handmade candles to incredible cinnamon bread, you will be sure to leave with a unique souvenir.
There are many other reasons to visit Dollywood, besides the rides and entertainment. First and foremost, Dollywood is located near dozens of other attractions and things to do. If you want to make a few days of it, you can even stay on property at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort.
The resort offers priority access to the park, complimentary TimeSaver passes (Dollywood's version of a Fast Pass), and complimentary transportation to the park. You can also have merchandise purchased in the park sent back to the resort. Additionally, on Saturdays, resort guests get early entry to enjoy a select attraction. The park even has its own doggie daycare called Doggywood.
2023 Is Set To Be a Rockin' Year
This year, Dollywood will be adding its biggest attraction yet. Big Bear Mountain will be a launching family coaster that will zip over and through both the wooded terrain and other attractions at the park. It will travel along almost 4,000 feet of track and include onboard audio. It will be a great addition to Dollywood’s family-friendly attraction line up.
Have you been to Dollywood? Be sure to let us know your favorite attraction in a comment or on our Facebook page. You can also check out our Dollywood Guide & Reviews here.