Major U.S. Theme Park Announces Closure After Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Death

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An image showing the entrance of Dorney Park, an American theme park, with a clock tower under clear skies. An inset highlights a sign indicating the park is closed, displaying a red prohibition symbol over the word "CLOSED".

Credit: Edited by Inside the Magic

Another theme park titan is down for the count, as the world has been informed of an official closure.

Days ago, we reported that Dollywood, the family theme park started by country singer Dolly Parton herself, had closed its gates in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. 

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

This meant that some of the standout attractions at Dollywood—such as the Lightning Rod, a wooden roller coaster famed for its velocity and steep descents; Blazing Fury, an adventurous runaway mine car coaster; the Dollywood Express, offering a picturesque train journey through the mountains; and the Wild Eagle, the inaugural wing coaster in the United States, which delivers a distinctive flying experience to riders—were all closed to guests.

The park is home to millions of guests each year, many of whom opt to stay on Dollywood property at Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa, which was quickly booted from the theme park due to inclement weather protocol that forced an early closure on the resort.

Severe thunderstorms swept the theme park, leaving management to decide the park’s fate, and ultimately that fate was to close at 4:00 p.m., four hours ahead of schedule.

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: Edited by Inside the Magic

It’s more common to witness weather-related closures at regional theme parks like Knott’s Berry Farm in Anaheim, which experienced several closures due to inclement weather in 2024. Cedar Fair and Six Flags theme parks usually extend the validity of tickets for an additional month when they close prematurely, although they generally do not provide full refunds. Dollywood, however, did not seem to offer a refund option for their guests, as no offering was listed.

Now, another theme park has succumbed to a closure, but weather does not seem to be the issue.

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom is a massive theme park complex nestled in Dorneyville, Pennsylvania, just a short drive west of Allentown. The park provides a perfect day trip destination for families and tourists visiting the Lehigh Valley region. The park falls under the Cedar Fair umbrella, which is now owned and operated under the Six Flags name following the recent merger. 

Dorney Park - an image of the new Iron Menace B&M dive roller coaster coming to the theme Park in 2024
Credit: Dorney Park

The park is home to attractions such as Steel Force (which is the second-longest steel coaster in the country), Talon, Hydra the Revenge, Lightning Racer, Wild Mouse, the newly opened Iron Menace, and more, but today, that will all change.

Dorney Park (@DorneyParkPR) has just shared that they will be closing at 5:00 p.m. today. The post reads: Park Update: Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom will be closing at 5pm. Guests who have tickets for today, May 12, can use them on any one public operating day through September 2, 2024. Thank you for understanding.”

It appears Dorney Park is allowing guests who cannot use their ticket today to use it on a plethora of dates through to September 2, 2024, which is a much longer usage span than what we have seen for other Cedar Fair and Six Flags Park closures as of late.

The park was meant to close today at 7:00 p.m., but there was no explanation as to why this unprecedented early closure occurred. The weather in Dorneyville is currently all sun, which means there is a different reason for the theme park’s closure; however, the theme park is silent on the real reason for the park’s unknown shutdown.

There was also a push for Dorney Park to be the family spot of the weekend, with Mother’s Day celebrations in full swing, which is another reason why this closure is off-putting. There is a chance that the park could be closing early due to low attendance, but that is not a protocol that other large theme parks, such as the Disney parks or Universal parks, would implement.

A wide shot of Dorney Park, a theme Park located in the Northeast portion of the United States
Credit: WFMZ, X post

The park has had staffing issues in the past, which left the amusement park to announce it will only be open five days a week, from Wednesday through Sunday in 2021.

The park was aggressively recruiting and adding new staff daily, officials said in a Facebook post. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience and support as we work through these challenges. We will continuously monitor our progress and add more opportunities for fun as workforce improvements allow,” the post said.

While staffing has been an issue, another main complaint is that the park’s hours of operation end at 7:00 p.m., leaving kids in school unable to visit afterward, as there is not enough time.

Luckily, this early closure appears to be a one-time occurrence, as no other mentions of early closures have been made at this time.

Do you plan on visiting Dorney Park this 2024 season?

 

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