Disney Faces Mass Exodus Amid Dolly Parton Scandal

in Disney Parks, Theme Parks

In front of a castle backdrop, a person dressed as Mickey Mouse stands next to a woman with blonde hair wearing a black dress with leopard print sleeves. Both are smiling and posing for the camera.

Credit: Inside the Magic

Disney has fallen from its reign as king of the theme parks, thanks to Dolly Parton.

Dolly Parton in 'Hannah Montana'
Credit: Disney

The Walt Disney World Resort, located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, has captivated imaginations since its 1971 opening. Spanning a vast 25,000 acres (the size of San Francisco), it’s a meticulously designed entertainment complex offering an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.

Walt Disney World’s enduring popularity stems from several factors. Firstly, it boasts a multi-generational appeal. From exhilarating rides and captivating shows to heartwarming character interactions and world-class dining, the resort caters to families with children of all ages. Adults seeking a dose of nostalgia and a touch of magic will also find themselves enchanted.

Each of the four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom – is meticulously themed, transporting guests to unique and immersive worlds. Soar through the skies above Pandora – The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom, or relive classic Disney films in Magic Kingdom. Disney’s commitment to immersive experiences ensures that imaginations are truly captured.

Beyond theme park thrills, Walt Disney World offers a variety of other activities. Two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, provide refreshing fun on hot Florida days. Disney Springs, a sprawling complex brimming with shopping, dining, and entertainment options, offers a vibrant nightlife option, especially with the new drone show, Dreams That Soar.

A large, colorful archway sign welcomes visitors to Walt Disney World, featuring its iconic slogan "The Most Magical Place on Earth." The road leading to the entrance is lined with palm trees and includes an image of Mickey Mouse. The sky is partly cloudy.
Credit: Inside the Magic

For luxurious accommodations and convenient park access, numerous Disney resort hotels, each with its own unique theme, await guests. With its diverse offerings, exceptional service – Disney cast members are renowned for going the extra mile – and unwavering commitment to creating immersive experiences, Walt Disney World continues to hold a special place in hearts young and old. This global tourism giant solidifies its position year after year.

A recent survey conducted by Radical Storage, a global luggage storage provider, shed light on American vacation preferences for 2024. The study, which polled over 2,000 individuals, revealed a fascinating split: nearly half (44.4%) favored domestic escapes, while the remaining half (55.6%) yearned for international adventures.

Interestingly, a significant majority (78.9%) expressed interest in a “staycation” during the winter of 2023 or early 2024. This enthusiasm carried over into the spring and summer months, with a staggering 83.1% planning a staycation during that period. But where are these staycationers flocking to? The answer might surprise you – it’s the place where dreams come true!

Guests walking in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom behind Cinderella Castle
Credit: Ed Aguila, Inside the Magic

According to the survey, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando reigns supreme as the most-visited landmark in the United States. A whopping 37.1% of respondents have experienced the magic firsthand. Its West Coast counterpart, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, secured the third-place spot with 29.1% of participants boasting a visit.

Interestingly, sandwiched between the two Disney destinations is the dazzling Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. This glittering metropolis narrowly edged out Disneyland, with 29.2% of respondents reporting a previous visit. Rounding out the top five are iconic landmarks steeped in history: the majestic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (28.5% of respondents) and the Washington Monument, a symbol of American resilience, in Washington D.C. (27.7% of respondents).

While Disney may get visited more, when it comes to where guests want to return to, another survey has shown that Disney is not the leader in that category.

Statue of a man pointing, accompanied by a cartoon mouse, in front of a fairytale castle under a blue sky with clouds, surrounded by visitors.
Credit: Javier Parigini, Flickr

Unveiling a new report by InsureandGo, a travel insurance company based in the UK. Their research examined “Come Back” scores, a metric indicating a visitor’s desire to revisit a location. The study analyzed over 450 landmarks globally, and the winner might surprise you! Dollywood, a theme park nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, secured the coveted top spot with a phenomenal score of 94 out of 100.

But Dollywood wasn’t the only destination under the spotlight. InsureandGo also ranked countries and cities based on traveler sentiment. Japan emerged as the most desired country to revisit, while London reigned supreme as the top city for return trips.

So, what makes Dollywood so beloved? InsureandGo’s meticulous approach involved sifting through thousands of online reviews. They meticulously examined the content of these reviews, paying close attention to attraction ratings and specifically noting comments from guests expressing a desire to return.

By employing a weighted scoring system that considered these factors, they were able to assign “Come Back” scores to each landmark. Dollywood’s impressive score of 94 reflects the overwhelming desire of visitors to experience its magic again and again.

The top 10 (with “Come Back” score) are:

  1. Dollywood- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (94);
  2. Disneyland- Anaheim, California (87);
  3. Stone Mountain Park- Stone Mountain, Georgia (81);
  4. Warner Bros. Studio Tour- London (78);
  5. Blenheim Palace- Oxfordshire, UK (74);
  6. Grand Canyon National Park- Arizona (74);
  7. Crazy Horse Memorial- Crazy Horse, South Dakota (71);
  8. Hampton Court Palace- London (71);
  9. Tokyo Disneyland- Tokyo (70);
  10. Yosemite National Park- California (70);
  11. Universal Studios Florida- Orlando, Florida (70);
  12. Busch Gardens Tampa- Tampa, Florida (70);

Oddly enough, Walt Disney World, did not even make the list.

InsureandGo noted in a press release that “Dollywood is both a theme park and a nod to the local Appalachian culture as well as living legend herself, Dolly Parton…Online reviews praise the park for its fantastic food and decorations during the Christmas period, while many visitors recommend getting the two-day pass, so you can explore everything there is to offer.”

Dollywood Sign
Credit: Dollywood

Dollywood, consistently recognized as the Best Theme Park in the world by Amusement Today, offers a compelling reason to visit throughout 2024. Currently, guests can immerse themselves in the vibrant colors and delightful flavors of the Flower & Food Festival presented by Covenant Health, showcasing over a million blooms (until June 9th).

As summer unfolds, Dollywood transforms into a dazzling spectacle with the Sweet Summer Nights drone and fireworks show, illuminating the Smoky Mountain sky as part of the Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration presented by Food City (June 15th- August 11th).

For many families, Dollywood’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana (September 9th- October 28th) is a cherished tradition. This vibrant celebration embodies the essence of fall with stunning displays of carved pumpkins, captivating performances by talented artists, and the whimsical Great Pumpkin LumiNights presented by Covenant Health.

To culminate the 2024 season, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana (November 1st – January 5th, 2025) reigns supreme as the industry’s Best Theme Park Christmas event. This enchanting experience features a mesmerizing display of 6 million twinkling lights, heartwarming holiday shows, and the quintessential Christmas atmosphere that Dollywood is renowned for.

Most recently, Dollywood opened The Dolly Parton Experience, which will only enhance the Dollywood experience.

Guests ride Lightning Rod at Dollywood
Credit: Jeremy Thompson via Flickr

The Dolly Parton Experience at Dollywood is a sprawling tribute to the iconic singer-songwriter’s life and career. Occupying multiple buildings, the experience boasts triple the size of the former Chasing Rainbows Museum.

The heart of the experience lies in Songteller, housed in the former museum’s space. Here, guests embark on a captivating journey through Dolly’s story. From her humble childhood in Locust Ridge to her early days chasing musical dreams in Nashville, the exhibit meticulously details her rise to stardom.

Visitors can see a replica of the famous coat of many colors, alongside a photo of the dry cleaning receipt that inspired the song. Interactive displays showcase her iconic guitars, including a dazzling paisley-patterned Gibson used during a 2005 tour.

The exhibit seamlessly blends archival footage from her performances and films with an immersive 360-degree projection show. This innovative technology transports viewers to key locations in Dolly’s life, such as her childhood home and the legendary Ryman Auditorium.

Across from Songteller, in the building formerly known as Dolly’s Closet boutique, lies Behind the Seams. This dazzling exhibit offers a glimpse into Dolly’s vibrant wardrobe. Step inside and feel like you’ve entered a giant walk-in closet, overflowing with stunning outfits, shoes, wigs, and more.

Here, you’ll find never-before-seen pieces like a bell-bottom jumpsuit designed by Lucy Adams for her 1970s variety show Dolly! But that’s not all, visitors can unleash their inner stylist and dress a cartoon version of Dolly in various outfits using interactive magnets.

Dolly Parton Dollywood
Credit: Dollywood

As you wait to enter the Dreamsong Theater, prepare to be touched by the Precious Memories exhibit. This heartwarming display features Dolly’s personal narration about her family and faith, accompanied by treasured childhood photos and footage with her loved ones.

Due to the anticipated excitement surrounding the opening of the Dolly Parton Experience, timed-entry tickets will be required for Songteller and Behind the Seams from May 24th to June 2nd during most hours (these tickets are separate from park admission).

Guests can choose 30-minute entry slots between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., though they are free to explore the area for as long as they wish after entering. Tickets can be conveniently registered online. The timed-entry system will be reevaluated after June 2nd.

Dollywood recently had an early closure earlier this month due to weather, but it is now back open for business.

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