Hello Dolly, oh Hello Dolly ...
It's So Nice to See the Place Where You Belong
Dizzy Disk is among the family attractions at Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park.*
By Kay Harwell Fernandez
Hello Dolly! You're looking swell Dolly. When legendary entertainer Dolly Parton joined hands with Herschend Family Enterprises in 1986, the former Silver Dollar City in Pigeon Forge, TN, opened under the Dollywood banner.
Since then, Dollywood has doubled in size to 125 acres. And with Dolly’s personal imprint throughout, Dollywood is both flourishing and expanding. Open March 31 to Dec. 30, the park now offers more than 40 rides and attractions as well as craft demonstrations.
Dollywood features multiple rides, some mild (left) and some thrilling like Thunderhead (right). *
Last year, Dollywood rolled out its new $17.5 million Mystery Mine roller coaster ride. Lodged between two mountains in the Timber Canyon area, Mystery Mine has joined Thunderhead, one of the world’s top wooden coasters. Mystery Mine is set in an “abandoned” early 1900s coal mine.
Coaster riders will encounter a 95-degree, 85-foot vertical drop, as well as a weightless inversion known as a heart-line roll. Expect several high-speed twists as Mystery Mine's "miner cars" maneuver their way through a fall from a collapsed trestle and a plunge into a deserted tunnel.
The new Mystery Mine thrill ride opened last year has a spooky aura.*
Entertainment, Food and Crafts
For those seeking less heart-pounding activities, Dollywood delivers in the entertainment arena, too. Not surprisingly, the park's entertainment mirrors Dolly's own interests. Park goers enjoy country, bluegrass, Southern gospel, classic rock and ‘50s music presented in live stage shows.
In Dollywood’s Pines Theatre, the Dreamland Drive-In production opened in 2006. It's already won many awards and showcases the music of the 1950s and 1960s. Set in a drive-in diner, the storyline takes you down memory lane as you follow the lives of Danny the DJ and “the girl in the green dress.”
If you wait until the end of the year to explore Dollywood, be sure and see the holiday show Babes in Toyland. The most elaborate stage production in Dollywood’s history, Babes in Toyland made its debut last November. A “wow” moment comes with the March of the Giant Toy Soldiers led by their 10-foot-tall general.
Guests also will savor Smoky Mountains food and culture. You might chomp on green fried tomatoes, funnel cakes, kettle korn, fried chicken or barbecue.
Aunt Granny's All-You-CARE-To-Eat Buffet serves up a brunch until 11 a.m. each day. Southern staples include biscuits and gravy, and sausage and grits. Granny Ogle's Ham 'n' Beans dishes up chicken pot pie and skillet cornbread, as well as, of course, ham 'n' beans.
Miss Lillian's Chicken House in Craftsman's Valley doles out Southern favorites such as cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole and Southern fried chicken. In total, you'll find three dozen places to snack and chow down, including 11 eateries that offer kids' meals.
While you're in Craftsman's Valley, be sure and watch 12 or more authentic crafters demonstrating and explaining their crafts. For example, at the park's Valley Carriage Works, you'll see one of the few working wagon shops remaining in the U.S. Smoky Creek Leather tools leather creations, such as belts, the old-fashioned way.
Dollywood has 12 crafters who provide demonstrations of leatherworking, wagon building and more.*
If all the theme park diversions aren't enough, you might also add Dollywood’s Splash Country to your day of fun. New this year, the Cascades lagoon-style pool features 25 interactive elements including four slides that weave throughout a grotto.
Floating along Splash Country's lazy river is a relaxing way to cool off in summertime.*
Open through mid September, the 30-acre water park overflows with a white water rafting adventure ride, 25 water slides and a down the lazy river float.
Hours and Admission
Dollywood's park hours vary according to the season and special events. Springtime hours, for example, are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. In the summer and fall, hours generally are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For families, admission to Dollywood is a bit more affordable than the major Florida theme parks. One day's admission at Dollywood runs $47.95 for adults, $44.60 for those 60 and older, and $36.80 for children 4 to 11.
Season passes offer considerable savings. They're priced $69 for all adults and $56 for children 4 to 11.
Combination Dollywood and Splash Country tickets run $78.05 for all adults and $61.30 for children 4-11. Options also include a Super Pass for children at $97 and $110 for all adults.
Bringing the family pet? You’ll even find a spot for man’s best friend. Doggywood, adjacent to guest services at the front gate, houses 12 kennel runs in a climate-controlled area. While you’re traipsing through the park, Fido is well taken care of for $12 during park hours only.
Dollywood Fun Facts
• Dollywood’s River Rampage holds 1.5 million gallons of water.
• In the 1970s, the theme park was called Goldrush Junction and was owned by the Cleveland Browns’ football team.
• Dollywood’s Wardrobe Shop uses 24,000 feet of fabric to sew 7,650 costumes each season.
• In one season, the Dollywood Foods Team uses 3 million pounds of ice, 46 tons of French fries, more than 100,000 feet of aluminum foil, and 750,000 pairs of disposable gloves.
• In one day, the 90-ton Dollywood Express steam train burns two tons of coal and gulps about 4,000 gallons of water.
• More than one million gallons of water are needed to fill Mountain Waves and the Downbound Float Trip at Dollywood’s Splash Country.
• Dollywood is one of only a few theme parks in the country to have a full-time chaplain who leads Sunday morning services at the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Chapel. It was named in honor of a beloved minister and doctor in Sevier County, TN, who brought Dolly Parton and several siblings into the world.
This small chapel was named for the doctor who "delivered" Dolly Parton and her siblings.*
• With 2,000 employees during the peak of the operating season, the Dollywood Company is the largest employer in Dolly’s native Sevier County, TN.
• Dollywood is the second most visited attraction in Tennessee, surpassed only by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is free to visitors.
• In three months’ time, seven Dollywood employees hang more than three million lights for the park’s annual Smoky Mountain Christmas festival.
For More Information
Address: 1020 Dollywood Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN
Phone: 800-DOLLYWOOD or 865-428-9488
Web site: www.dollywood.com
Kay Harwell Fernandez is a freelance writer based in Ormond Beach, FL. She specializes in travel, especially pertaining to food and wine; art, culture and history; and cruises.
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of Dollywood. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.