Final Decision: Dollywood’s Future Unveiled Post-Controversial Closure

in Theme Parks

The image shows the Showstreet Palace Theater at Dollywood with its iconic sign and a flowerbed spelling "Dollywood" in front. To the right, there's a close-up of empty ride seats from a recent shutdown, with a section of the queue area visible.

Credit: Edited by Inside the Magic

Dolly Parton’s world-renowned theme park, Dollywood, has just accepted a partnership that suggests this park is around for the long haul.

Dollywood Sign
Credit: Dollywood

Nestled amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood beckons visitors with a unique blend of exhilarating rides, captivating shows, down-home Southern charm, and the unmistakable spirit of its founder, Dolly Parton. This theme park paradise offers an unforgettable experience for families, thrill-seekers, and music lovers alike.

Dollywood’s story begins with Dolly Parton’s unwavering belief in her Tennessee roots. In the 1980s, she envisioned a park that celebrated the rich heritage and traditions of the Smoky Mountains. Dollywood (originally called Silver Dollar City) opened its doors in 1986, and over the years, it has grown into a premier theme park destination, consistently ranking among the best in the world.

Dollywood transports guests to a bygone era, showcasing the craftsmanship and artistry of the Smoky Mountain region. Wander through meticulously recreated artisan villages, witness skilled demonstrations of blacksmithing, pottery making, and quilting, and savor the delectable flavors of Southern cuisine. The park’s calendar is also dotted with vibrant seasonal festivals, like the National Cornbread Festival and the Smoky Mountain Christmas, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the region’s rich cultural tapestry.

Dollywood boasts over 50 world-class rides catering to a variety of preferences.

Concept art for Big Bear Mountain roller coaster at Dollywood theme park
Credit: Dollywood

Adrenaline junkies can conquer the heart-pounding Lightning Rod, the world’s fastest wooden coaster, or plummet down the daring Wild Eagle, a thrilling wing coaster. Families with younger children can embark on a whimsical journey through the Wildwood Grove or take a scenic ride on the Dollywood Express steam train. The park also offers a dedicated water park, Dollywood’s Splash Country, providing a refreshing escape on hot summer days.

Much like its owner, Dollywood’s commitment to entertainment extends beyond its rides. The park stages a remarkable variety of live shows throughout the day, showcasing everything from bluegrass music and theatrical productions to acrobatic feats and gospel choirs.

Dollywood also offers a variety of on-site hotels and resorts, allowing guests to extend their Smoky Mountain adventure. From the luxurious Dollywood DreamMore Resort and Spa to the cozy Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort, each accommodation option provides a comfortable and convenient base for exploring the park.

Dollywood's Newest Resort, HeartSong Lodge & Resort concept art
Credit: Dollywood

Recently, the theme park shut down early due to thunderstorms in the area. Luckily, Dollywood does have a “rain check” policy, however, it is not heavily advertised, and must be obtained day-of the rain incident.

“Dollywood & Dollywood’s Splash Country will issue a rain check if the length of your visit is negatively impacted due to weather. Individual rain checks will be given when one-day admission tickets are presented at the Groups Booth. Rain checks MUST be obtained before leaving the park. Rain checks will be valid for one-day admission on any operating day in the current operating season.”

While this will give you another day at the park if obtained correctly, it is not a refund.

Now that the park is once again operational, exciting news has been exuding from the theme park. 

KnoxTNToday reported, “Food City associates are thrilled at this week’s announcement of our company’s partnership with Dollywood. The press release said Food City has been named the official grocery partner for Dollywood Parks & Resorts. In addition, Food City becomes the presenting sponsor of Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration as well as the sponsor of the ever-popular Colossal Pumpkin Patch during Dollywood’s Harvest Festival.”

Steven C. Smith, president and chief executive officer, said “Food City is proud to serve as the official grocery partner for Dollywood . … Like our company, they are dedicated to their customers, their associates and the communities they serve. We look forward to working together to continue to enhance the customer service experience for both of our organizations.”

The 25 pound apple pie at Dollywood
Credit: Delish

With Dollywood expanding its partnerships, it is clear the theme park is sticking around for a while, which makes sense due to its overwhelming popularity.

Tripadvisor officials named Dollywood the #1 theme park in the United States and the #8 theme park in the world during the 2022 Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards.

Last year, the park won five Golden Ticket awards. 

“We’re so proud to have the Golden Ticket Awards here at Dollywood this year,” Dolly said. “This award ceremony is so very special and I think Dollywood is special too, so I think it’s great we were able to host the event here. We don’t do what we do to earn awards, but we’re not going to turn them down either,” she said with a laugh. “Seriously though, our teams work hard to make sure our guests enjoy their time at Dollywood, and these awards honoring what they do sure make me happy because they are getting the recognition they deserve.”

Dollywood secured finalist positions in a total of 10 categories and emerged victorious in numerous Golden Ticket awards, surpassing all other parks globally in terms of accolades.

At the Golden Ticket Awards, Dollywood clinched the prestigious title of Best Park, a distinction previously held for eight consecutive years by Europa-Park in Rust, Germany. This recognition reflects Dollywood’s consistent recognition as a leader in the theme park industry over the past several years.

Dollywood has also reported millions of visitors each year, making it one of the most popular and most-visited tourist destinations in the United States.

Dolly Parton Dollywood
Credit: Dollywood

This year, Dollywood will also be unveiling a new “attraction”, The Dolly Parton Experience.

The newly unveiled Dolly Parton Experience comprises multiple buildings that serve as a museum celebrating Parton’s illustrious career, showcasing her distinctive fashion choices and wigs, and paying homage to her family roots. Situated in the former Adventures in Imagination area, which had remained unchanged since 2002, this expansive interactive museum project is three times the size of its predecessor, the Chasing Rainbows Museum.

The Dolly Parton Experience encompasses three main exhibits:

  • Songteller: Visitors embark on a journey through exhibits chronicling Parton’s life and professional trajectory, shedding light on the inspirations behind her most renowned songs and achievements.
  • Behind The Seams: This exhibit showcases a curated collection of Parton’s iconic fashion statements throughout the decades, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creative process behind her memorable looks.
  • Precious Memories: Located at the DreamSong theater, this exhibit delves into the significance of faith and family in Parton’s life, providing audience members with insights into her personal values and beliefs.

It will officially open May 24, 2024.

Additionally, paying tribute to its namesake, Dollywood significantly emphasizes music performances and shows as integral components of the park’s entertainment offerings. With a $1 million investment in its entertainment venues and productions, the park is set to present an expanded lineup of shows compared to previous years.

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

This year, Dollywood will premiere four new shows, including one specially crafted for the Dolly Parton Experience, written by Dolly Parton herself and featuring her niece, Heidi Parton. Additionally, audiences can look forward to From the Heart, directed by Broadway director John Dietrich, Trio, Again, showcasing the Three Times A Lady trio, and a new sing-along show.

Logo of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts featuring stylized red text on a white banner background, surrounded by a green border.
Credit: Krispy Kreme

Dolly Parton is also making massive headlines for her new collection with Krsipy Kreme, which was announced by KTLA. The following donuts will be available:

  • Dolly Dazzler Donut – an Original Glazed Donut dipped in strawberry icing, with gold, pink and white glitter sprinkles and a signature chocolate Dolly butterfly piece.
  • Peachy Keen Cobbler Donut – an unglazed donut filled with real peach filling, dipped in brown sugar icing and crunchy cobbler topping.
  • Banana Puddin’ Pie – an unglazed donut filled with banana pudding made with wafers and banana pudding Kreme, dipped in yellow icing, with white icing swirls and a wafer cookie.
  • Chocolate Crème Pie – an Original Glazed donut topped with a swirl of chocolate brownie cream and vanilla whipped topping, sprinkled with chocolate cookie crumble.
Dolly Parton
credit: Pipilongstockings, Flickr

“Having some of my very favorite southern flavors in one, unique doughnut collection from Krispy Kreme is so special to me,” Parton said in a statement. “These doughnuts remind me of home. So, I’m excited for folks to share them with their own family and friends. They’re pretty sweet, if I do say so myself!”

However, the singer is taking a step back from the spotlight to care for her husband. Dean has reportedly been battling Alzheimer’s, after he was diagnosed with the illness back in 2019.

Are you planning a Dollywood visit in 2024? 

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