Exclusive: Dollywood Closure Update Confirmed After Dolly Parton’s Theme Park Suspends Operations

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The image shows two signs related to dollywood. on the left is an ornamental golden "dollywood" sign and on the right, a digital roadside sign announcing that dollywood is closed, asking visitors to check their website for more information.

Credit: Inside the Magic

Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood, is officially shuttering its gates after a special statement confirmed the park would shut down operations for the day while keeping guest safety at the top of its mind as a harrowing storm rolls in.

In an official update, Dollywood has sent Inside the Magic an authorized response on the refund policy regarding the closure of the park, which you can find below.

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

Dollywood is one of America’s most popular theme parks, located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. While it is known for its rides, food, and entertainment, the park is themed around the life and career of country music legend Dolly Parton, who grew up in the nearby area, making Parton the main attraction for many.

Some of its most iconic rides include the Lightning Rod, a wooden roller coaster known for its speed and steep drops, Blazing Fury, a runaway mine car coaster, and the Dollywood Express, a scenic train ride through the mountains; and the Wild Eagle, the first wing coaster in the United States, which provides riders with a unique flying sensation.

Guests ride Lightning Rod at Dollywood
Credit: Dollywood

In addition to its rides and attractions, Dollywood is also home to several theaters showcasing live entertainment, including musical performances, comedy shows, and theatrical productions. The park’s entertainment lineup often features country, bluegrass, and gospel music, reflecting Dolly Parton’s musical roots. The theme park also has two resorts: Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa.

As for attendance, Dollywood typically attracts millions of visitors each year, making it one of the most popular theme parks in the southeastern United States. The exact number of visitors can vary from year to year, but the park consistently ranks among the top tourist destinations in Tennessee.

That is why the most recent news of the theme park’s closure will likely leave many guests quite upset.

As NWS Morriston has confirmed, severe thunder storms are ongoing in Tennessee at the moment, with Pigeon Forge being heavily hit.

A special weather statement has been issued for Maryville TN, Pigeon Forge TN and Gatlinburg TN until 2:15 PM EDT

News station Wate also shared the gravity of the ongoing weather systems, “We have already seen several severe thunderstorm warnings and even a tornado warning so far today. Multiple rounds of severe weather remain possible. The important take-away is that all day, especially this afternoon and tonight, severe weather will be possible.

Our severe weather risk will remain elevated past lunchtime and extend through the afternoon and evening with the “first round” of storms. A second round will move in late tonight and continue into the overnight hours. As a result, we are Weather AWARE today.”

With all of this, Dollywood has opted to close down early.

The Dollywood Parks & Resorts X account explained the news, “PARK UPDATE: Due to severe thunderstorms approaching Pigeon Forge this afternoon and through the evening, Dollywood will close today (Wednesday, May 8) at 4 p.m. The park will reopen on Thursday, May 9 at 10 a.m.”

While Dollywood does not heavily advertise this policy, nor did they mention it in their official closure announcement above, representatives from the park assured Inside the Magic that the park does offer “Rain Checks” to guests!

As stated by Dollywood:

“If it is raining when you leave the Park and your visit is shortened by the rain, you can request a Rain Check—just ask. Rain Checks are distributed at the Ticket Annex, Guest Services and any one-day ticket window and are valid until the end of the season. If park operations are interrupted because of severe weather and your stay is shortened, you can request a Rain Check—just ask. Rain Checks are distributed at any ticket window and are valid until the end of the season.”

Typically, the park shuts down at 8:00 p.m., so this would have cut four hours out of guest’s park day.

Inside the Magic, spoke with a guest who was in attendance at Dollywood the day of the closure, who was unaware of the “Rain Check” policy that the theme park had. A lot of the time, guests must take these circumstances into their own hands when it comes to being proactive about compensation. If you ever have your day cut short at a theme park or your experiences ruined, going to the guest service window can often be a remedy.

If you were at Dollywood on May 8 and did not receive a Rain Check, you can likely pick one up at the park on your next visit at the guest service window, according to Dollywood’s policy.

Disney World will often grant guests a similar kindness, but it is also not heavily advertised. A good example of this would be the opening night of Disney’s Jollywood Nights, the Christmas event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which debuted in 2023. On opening night, not only were operations messy, but it also rained toward the end of the night, ruining a few offerings.

Multiple guests replied that they spoke with guest services that night or the next day to explain their disappointment and were able to receive a refund. Unlike Dollywood, this is not an official policy, as rain happens almost every day in Orlando, but it is something that the park attempts to remedy when the rain ruins something like an after hours event.

This is something we also saw during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom.

Considering the location is a heavy tourist spot, this closure will likely affect many vacations.

A study conducted by InsureandGo, a UK-based travel insurance provider, revealed that Dollywood achieved the highest “Come Back” score among over 450 landmarks worldwide. InsureandGo’s report also ranked countries and cities, with Japan emerging as the top-ranked country and London as the top-ranked city.

Dolly Parton Dollywood
Credit: Dollywood

In compiling the list of attractions, the company analyzed thousands of online reviews, considering factors such as content, attraction rating, and guest reviews expressing a desire to revisit. Employing a weighted scoring system, InsureandGo assigned “Come Back” scores to the attractions on a scale of 1 to 100. Dollywood secured the top position with a score of 94 out of 100.

All of this to say, there are likely quite a few tourists who may not feel so favorable about the theme park after today.

Weather shutting down a theme park is something we do tend to see for more regional theme parks, such as Knott’s Berry Farm in Anaheim, which has had a string of inclement weather closures in 2024. Typically, the Cedar Fair and Six Flags theme parks give guests an extra month to use their ticket when they close early, but they do not offer full refunds.

Dollywood Sign
Credit: Dollywood

The Disney and Universal parks, on the other hand, typically need very severe weather, such as a hurricane, to shut their gates.

On a more positive Dollywood note, guests can soon get ready for a supersized dose of Dolly! The Dolly Parton Experience is replacing the Chasing Rainbows Museum and promises to be three times bigger and better on May 24, 2024. This immersive experience isn’t just an exhibit – it’s an interactive journey through Dolly’s life, taking you from her humble beginnings in Locust Ridge all the way to the bright lights of international stages.

The entire Adventures in Imagination area is getting a makeover to house this exciting new attraction. The Dolly Parton Experience will be divided into three distinct sections, each using cutting-edge interactive technology to tell Dolly’s story in a way that’s never been done before.

You can check out the official promo in Dollywood’s Instagram reel below:

Cue the music (and the sparkles) because the Dolly Parton Experience opens May 24! 💅✨🎵🦋

The Dolly Parton Experience provides guests more Dolly than ever with interactive elements in multiple buildings that invite guests on Dolly’s journey from Locust Ridge to stages around the world.

At Behind the Seams, guests will get a sneak peek of how Dolly’s iconic looks come to life!

Dollywood has had to shut its gates in the past temporarily due to an erupting fire that left guests in danger; thankfully, the closure was swift, and no one was injured.

Have you ever experienced a theme park closing down early without warning due to weather? 

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