This post about things you didn’t know about Dollywood was inspired by my recent behind the scenes hosted trip to the Friendliest Theme Park in America. All opinions are my own.
I like to call myself a Dollywood Expert, at least as far as a visitor is concerned. I’ve been going to the theme park since I was a toddler and by going to the park, I mean more years than not I’ve been a Season Pass Holder and visited dozens of times every year. I’ve experienced the park as a child, teenager, married couple, and now as a Mom.
Over the last 30 years I’ve learned a lot about my favorite theme park, but as it turns out – there are some things about Dollywood that even I learned on my recent Behind-the-Scenes tour. So I thought it would be a fun way to share with you some things that you could learn about the park, whether you’re a Gold Super Pass Holder like me or have never visited at all!
1. Dollywood Adds a New Attraction Each Year
Between Dollywood and Dolly’s Splash Country it seems there’s a new attraction added each year and this year’s is going to be AH-mazing. Although it missed the opening date, Lightning Rod is a tricked-out 1950s-era hot rod that will take riders on the thrill of a lifetime and is the new ride for 2016. It’s a roller coaster in it’s own category and will be the world’s FIRST wooden launch coaster [going from 0 to 45mph] and the fastest wooden roller coaster hitting top speeds of 73 mph. On our tour we were allowed to go inside the Lightning Rod building which only made my excitement for this ride grow. We learned that the coaster was actually built around the mountain’s landscape, which makes it completely unlike any other coaster. The theme, the story, and the decor is on point with the whole Jukebox Junction area.
Since the technology is so new, the ride manufacturer asked for more time for the comissioning of the ride, but hopes are that it will peel out of the service station in May!
2. Free Ice Water
Dollywood offers great souvenir cups that can be refilled for low prices, but for a family like mine who doesn’t drink soda, they have an ever better deal… free water! Visit any booth with a soda fountain and ask for a free cup of ice water to keep cool on those summer days.
3. Used to be Silver Dollar City
In fact, before Miss Dolly took over the theme park was Silver Dollar City and even Goldrush Junction. You’ll find the current Silver Dollar City in Pigeon Forge’s sister city, Branson, Missouri.
4. Has Regular Chapel Services
Dollywood is only 1 of 2 theme parks that conducts regular chapel services. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, be sure to head to the chapel at 11:00am. Dolly began her singing career in church, which is one reason the chapel continues to operate in the park.
5. Dolly Parton is NOT Dollywood’s CEO
In fact, Dolly is often referred to as the “Dreamer in Chief” and when she’s asked if she’s offended by dumb blonde jokes she replies in true Dolly style “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know that I’m not blonde.”
In fact, she’s extremely intelligent and business savvy, which is why she has a hand in everything her businesses’ do, but also knows that by hiring individuals who are talented in business areas, the empire will continue to grow… as it has.
6. Dolly Parton Family of Attractions
Dollywood might be the most well known Dolly Parton Attraction, but there are others under the umbrella. If you’re visiting the area you can’t miss the dinner attraction show Dixie Stampede. It’s an amazing show with the best food you’ll find in town… and you get to eat with your hands! When you visit, get there early to enjoy the Pre-Show too!
Another Dolly Parton Attraction opening this May is sure to be a huge hit too. I was privileged to be a part of the first tour group to go inside Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure and let me tell you – I cannot WAIT until this dinner show opens! It’s going to be full of family fun.
Dolly isn’t just in the mountains either… If you’re in the Myrtle Beach area, you’ll want to check out Pirate’s Voyage. We’re planning to visit this Summer during our family vacation so watch out for that coming soon.
7. The FOOD!
One area that Dollywood likes to brag, other than their world-class entertainment and award winning rides, is their FOOD. Everywhere you look there’s food and this isn’t your normal theme park food. Some of my favorites? Red’s Diner for the Milkshakes, Dogs n’ Taters for the most amazing corn dog you’ll ever eat, Granny Ogle’s Ham n’ Beans for the greens and cornbread [yum!], the Grist Mill for the Cinnamon Bread [do NOT leave Dollywood without trying it, trust me!], and, of course, Spotlight Bakery & Sandwich Shop for the 25 pound Apple Pie!
8. Most instagrammed place in TN
Be sure to tag your pictures on instagram when you visit because Dollywood is, in fact, the most instagrammed place in Tennessee!
You might not see big ears, but you will see big personalities around the park. Some favorites of mine include Miss Lillian, the Gem Tones, and the amazing performers that you see playing music right inside the park.
10. Dollywood now has it’s own Resort.
Of course, this is one that I did know as I’ve had the pleasure of staying at the DreamMore Resort. In fact, I wrote a post all about why you should stay there too!
But a few things that you might not know about the resort is they have their own trolley system [seen above] which will take you right to a private gate at Dollywood – skipping all the entrance lines AND the parking fees.
11. Dollywood has a regular blonde visitor.
Think Dolly just loans her name out to a theme park? Think again. She’s involved with so much of the planning of Dollywood from decor to shows, even writing songs for some of them. She also is involved by being there. In fact, she’s there quite often and one easy way to know if she’s in town is if her bus is parked at DreamMore Resort – it’s the Southern equivalent of the Queen raising her flag when she’s in town.
12. Food Allergy Friendly
I joked with a friend once that if you asked for a gluten-free meal in the South, they’ll laugh you out of the restaurant. It’s true that we like our fried foods, but if you deal with food allergies, you’ll be glad to know that Dollywood is definitely taking them to heart. So much so that Chef Johnathan assured us that they’ll try to accomodate a meal for any type of food allergy. Your best bets for allergy-friendly meals is to visit the Backstage Restaurant or Granny Ogle’s Ham n’ Beans.
13. World Class Entertainment.
I admit that the shows aren’t usually on our To-Do list only because my girls love to ride, but during my latest visit to Dollywood I attended the show Mother Africa, which was a special show for the Festival of Nations, and was speechless during the entire show. The entertainment that Dollywood brings it’s visitors is amazing and definitely something to see on your next visit!
14. Dollywood is a HUGE hit with Roller Coaster Enthusiasts.
Dollywood really is a theme park for all ages – with rides for little ones as soon as they can sit on their own to world class shows for the oldest visitor to enjoy. But that doesn’t mean the ages in the middle are left out. The roller coasters that are on site now are some of the best I’ve ever ridden and there’s quite a few – 7 once Lightning Rod opens. They each are themed with a story and the ride is, well, memorable. Thunderhead, which is a wooden coaster, has never been out of the Top 5 Wooden Coasters since it was built! My current favorite has to the be The Wild Eagle where you soar through the Smoky Mountains at 21 stories high on America’s first winged coaster!
15. World War 2 Veteran on Sight Daily
Actually there’s 2, but you might be surprised at what they look like!
The Dollywood Express is pulled by Klondike Katie, a steam engine that was used in WWII in Alaska. The coal-fired steam engine takes visitors on a 5 mile loop through the mountains and is a family favorite ride!
16. Friendliest Theme Park in America
If you ask any Dollywood Host or Hostess [employee] what their number one goal for the day is each time they come to work and they’ll tell you… Make it a day that the visitor will never forget. That mentality, which comes straight down from the Dreamer-in-Chief herself, is no doubt why Dollywood continually receives one of the top honors of being the Friendliest Theme Park in America.
I hope you learned something from this list that makes you want to visit Dollywood this year. Whether you visit regularly or you’re thinking of making your first trip to the Smoky Mountains, you’ll be armed with information about the park that others might not know! As an east Tennessee gal I couldn’t be more proud or honored to have had the chance to learn all of these about one of my favorite places in the world!
Did you learn something new about Dollywood?
What’s your favorite thing to do when visiting?