How to Pack for a Day at Dollywood
Category: Trip Planning
Date: February 10, 2017
I have been to Dollywood nearly 100 times over the years—so I’ve learned a thing or two when it comes to preparing for a day at my favorite theme park. One word of advice: pack an extra pair of socks for those who plan to do the water rides! Find out what else I recommend you bring in my “How to Pack for a Day at Dollywood” video.
Dollywood 2017 "Behind the Scenes" Construction Tour
Category: Family Visits
Date: February 16, 2017
Dolly Parton has proclaimed 2017 “The Year of the Family”, and there are some great things coming to ensure that families are the focus! Come along with your Dollywood Insiders’ hosts as we take you on a “behind-the-scenes media construction tour,” keeping you in-the-know on all the latest and greatest new experiences and park upgrades you can expect for the upcoming 2017 season at Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country.
The Dollywood theme park closes every winter from January through the middle of March. During this time, numerous construction, renovation, and remodeling projects are implemented to enhance the Dollywood guest experience upon re-opening in March. It also allows improvements to be made without impacting the day-to-day operations or inconveniencing guests.
This year, before Dollywood re-opens (March 18) and Dollywood’s Splash Country re-opens (May 13), about 250 such construction and remodeling projects, totaling around $11 million in capital investments, are taking place.
Most of these are “behind-the-scenes” projects which focus on improving the “guest experience and comfort.” Dollywood surveys its guests constantly throughout the year and uses this feedback to prioritize improvements. For instance, personnel are busy replacing air conditioning systems in theaters and other locations, repairing and replacing roofs, painting structures, and remodeling walkways and other areas. Dollywood is also working to facilitate time management in the park, which surveys showed is very important to guests. These improvements will include reconfigured lines and food service processes, as well as widened doorways and pathways to accommodate better circulation as the park and attendance grows.
Before I get to the BIG news of the fabulous NEW ATTRACTIONS under construction, let’s talk about a few of the “smaller” projects.
“Backstage Restaurant” Becomes “Front Porch Cafe”
Backstage Restaurant, which formerly boasted a movie and musical theme, is being completely remodeled and renamed the “Front Porch Café.” It’s going to feel like you’ve come to enjoy a meal and a visit “on your neighbor’s front porch up in the beautiful Tennessee mountain farmlands.” The atmosphere will be enhanced by a farm theme, peaceful murals providing farmland scenery on the walls, new hardwood floors, tongue-and-groove ceilings, and mountain music. The new menu will feature healthful farm-fresh food, much of it locally sourced. There will also be some Tennessee favorites, such as country-fried steak and fried green tomatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
“Rainbow Glass Factory” Becomes “Mountain Blown Glass”
One thing Dollywood is known for is showcasing the beautiful and useful handiwork of regional craftsmen and craftswomen of the Smoky Mountains. One such exhibit of craftsmanship at Dollywood since the 1980s has been the art of glassblowing. You may not know that you can actually blow your own glass ornament at what was formerly known as “Rainbow Glass Factory” in Rivertown Junction. Improvements are being made in three phases: reconfiguring the glassblowing equipment to showcase two craftsmen at once; a newly built area to “make-your-own glass ornament;” and a remodel of the retail shop, where you can purchase handmade ornaments and gifts in a myriad of patterns, shapes, and colors.
“Timber Canyon Pass” Goes Big and Bountiful
The 800-foot Timber Canyon Pass, which is the “back way” to the biggest coasters and attractions at Dollywood (take a left upon entering the park), is getting a makeover to enable it to handle large crowds. Construction crews were working hard to widen, straighten, and add new sound and lighting to this oft-used walkway. They’re even adding additional props to beautify the area and provide some new picturesque settings for those family photos.
“Lumber Jack’s Pizza” Sized for Service
Lumberjacks are known for their big appetites after working so hard, but they also, apparently, want to get their food faster between thrill attractions. Lumber Jack’s Pizza has also been known for its BIG 30-inch pizzas, with individual slices bigger than your head! However, in order to provide dining experiences that will meet the needs of guests requiring faster food service, Dollywood has opted to do away with those humongous pizza slices and start serving 8” to 9” personal pizzas. These pizzas have been promised to retain their deliciousness and will continue to be fired in the large pizza oven, which will remain intact. These changes, along with a remodeled and reconfigured line process, will expedite the dining experience and get all your lumberjacks back in line for the next thrilling attraction as soon as possible!
NOW for the ride enthusiasts… you’re not going to be disappointed in 2017. Three fabulous new attractions are currently under construction, set to open this summer!
“Drop Line” - Sure to Raise Your Adrenaline Levels
Drop Line is going to do just what it says it’s going to do: DROP. Twenty stories (230 feet) to be exact. This thrilling attraction, part of the continued logging story theme in Timber Canyon, will be located across from Lumber Jack’s Pizza, just past Thunderhead. After you’ve been lifted up to the heights of this tower, just before you drop, you’ll be thrilled by a split-second view of the majestic Smoky Mountains and the park. You’ll barely have enough time to prepare yourself for the thrilling rush as you plummet back to Earth! Drop Line will open this summer; exact date yet to be announced.
“Whistle Punk Chaser” to Thrill the Junior Coaster Enthusiast
Right between Drop Line and Thunderhead (the wooden roller coaster), “Whistle Punk Chaser” is opening in the Summer of 2017. What’s a “Whistle Punk,” you ask? In logging terms, it’s a lumberjack who operates the signal wire running to a donkey engine whistle. And in this case, it’s a junior coaster full of thrilling twists and turns for the younger loggers at Dollywood. It fits right in with Dolly’s promise of 2017 being, “The Year of the Family,” with something for everyone. In this case, it provides convenience for families with something to do for the small kids while the big kids get to enjoy the bigger thrill attractions close by.
“Make a Big Splash on TailSpin Racer”
Just in time for the grand opening of Dollywood’s Splash Country in May, a new and exciting waterslide attraction will be opening - bringing the park’s total to eleven splash-tacular slides! Guests will see the new “TailSpin Racer,” which is longer than a football field, as soon as they enter the water park. First you’ll spiral through enclosed AquaTubes, which will finally open up into an open racing slide for your splash-down finish. There are six lanes, so you and five of your competitors can line up for a slip-sliding sprint to the finish line! The winner gets to the Lazy River first!
As you can see, there is something new and exciting for everyone this season at Dollywood! Stay tuned as the Dollywood Insiders promise to bring you all of the exciting news as it comes along!
Our “sneak peak” tour was hosted by various Dollywood personnel, including Pete Owens, Director of Communications; Amber Davis, Ellen Liston, and Wes Ramey from Dollywood Communications and PR; Brian Dudash, Vice President of Maintenance and Construction; Evan Schukman, Director of Facilities; and Mike Brown, Dollywood’s Splash Country General Manager.
Springtime in the Smokies
Category: Trip Planning
Date: February 28, 2017
Springtime in the Smokies is always truly captivating. The bright sunshine and gentle showers coax the daffodils, tulips, and forsythia into bloom, as the dogwood and redbud trees light up the mountains with colorful cheer. Dollywood is an especially spectacular place to visit to celebrate the return of spring every year, and 2017 promises to be the most exciting yet!
The Grand Opening of the Dollywood Theme Park is March 18, and they’re welcoming everyone back with the Festival of Nations (March 18 - April 9). This annual event is a fascinating multi-cultural extravaganza, featuring traditional music, dance, food and art of nations from all over the world. What better way to remind us how much we share in common than to experience and embrace the colorful cultures and traditions found around our globe! This season, Mother Africa, the headline show, returns for another exciting, entertaining, and high-energy performance. Also this year, Slask Song and Dance Ensemble, a prominent Polish folk ensemble, visits Dollywood for the first time. These shows, along with more internationally known performance artists and groups, roaming musicians, and all of the sites, sounds, and tastes of the nations will ensure your family experiences a fun, educational, and exciting escape around the world without ever leaving the Smokies!
Are you looking for a new way to spend Spring Break this year? Just as Dollywood’s Festival of Nations moves out, Spring Break with Tokyo-based dance company enra moves in (April 10 - 22). The cutting-edge performance routines of this high-energy, multi-media dance, light and video fusion show will surely leave guests mesmerized. This group was featured on America’s Got Talent in 2015, and I believe the only way to truly understand this “motion graphics performance art” is to just go see it for yourself!
And just because one huge festival in the spring isn’t enough, I’m happy to report that Dollywood is once again closing out spring with some fabulous “swine dining and old time mountain music.” Of course, I mean none other than Dollywood’s BBQ & Bluegrass Festival (May 26 - June 4)! Come to Dollywood to get summer started in the South with the tastiest barbecue and some of the biggest and brightest names in bluegrass. Enjoy free daily concerts from performers such as Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Daily and Vincent, Blue Highway, Hot Rize and Steep Canyon Rangers. Honestly, I can’t think of anything my family and I enjoy much more than eating saucy barbecue while listening to the South’s sauciest music!
Don’t forget - Dollywood’s Splash Country opens May 13 for the 2017 season (daily operation begins May 20). So, if your family prefers their thrills to involve lots of splash-tacular fun, be sure to plan your vacation around the grand opening of this theme park! Splash Country features 35 acres of fun, including a brand new exciting water slide this year - TailSpin Racer!
This year promises to bring special enchantment to the Smokies as Mother Nature’s springtime recovery from the devastating wildfires of late November last year takes on a life of its own, literally. Though about 17,000 acres were affected, that is only a very small portion of the 520,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina - so there will be plenty to see and do!
My family has always welcomed spring by making the pilgrimage back to enjoy the great outdoor adventures along the mountain pathways on the many trails throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we look forward to doing so again this year. My boys and I are anxious to go creek-walking in the Chimneys, hike to the overlooks and waterfalls, and explore Cades Cove on our bicycles. As always, and especially this year, I recommend that you check the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website or call to find out about any road, trail, or bridge closures. This is always a good idea, because there are always repairs to be completed after the sometimes severe weather of winter, and as in the case this year - wildfires, in the mountains.
Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg also have their own special ways of welcoming springtime in the Smokies. Tourists are sure to pour into the region this year, not only to welcome spring, but also to bring their support back to this beautiful region as it continues in its recovery from the wildfire damage.
Gatlinburg will bloom with color during the Great Smoky Mountain Associations’s 67th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage (April 11 - 15). During this week of activities, everyone from the serious botanist to the weekend gardner will be able to follow along as the nation’s leading botanical experts and Appalachian wildlife authorities conduct exciting seminars and intimate guided tours. There will be more than 150 programs, instructional walks, guided hiking tours, demonstrations, and guest lecturers. What an amazing opportunity to learn about the abundance and varieties of wildlife native to the Great Smoky Mountains!
Pigeon Forge’s Wilderness Wildlife Week™ (May 9 -13) will delight nature lovers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Educational programs, guided hikes, seminars and workshops will be offered daily from the beautiful LeConte Center in the heart of Pigeon Forge. Come celebrate the features, creatures, and cultures of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park right in the “Center of Fun” in the Smokies!
Sevierville’s Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival (May 20 - 21) takes place during Smoky Mountain Springfest, located conveniently in historic downtown Sevierville - which happens to be the home of a beautiful statue of none other than Dolly Parton—since this is her hometown. This festival is a true barbecue cook-off - an official barbecue championship of the State of Tennessee.
As you can see, there is so much to see and experience during springtime in the Smokies, so be sure to plan your getaway now so you can enjoy the fun, beauty, and adventure for yourself!
Welcome Back to Dollywood 2017!
Category: Best Value
Date: March 20, 2017
Spring is here and it’s time once again to play at Dollywood! With all of your favorite rides, attractions, and culinary treats back within your reach after this long winter, PLUS the addition of new ones added over the off-season, 2017 promises to be full of fun, excitement, and surprises for the whole family.
This season, which Dollywood has dubbed “The Year of the Family,” is hailing all sorts of exciting new things - like two major new attractions (Whistle Punk Chaser and Drop Line), newly remodeled and themed restaurants (Front Porch Cafe and Lumber Jack’s Pizza), and many upgraded services and amenities at the theme park; as well as a splash-tastic new water slide (TailSpin Racer) at Dollywood’s Splash Country. What more, you ask, could they possibly offer to top all that? Well, let me fill you in…
Friday, March 17 Dollywood theme park kicked off its opening weekend with a special “Sneak Preview Day” for Season Passholders before opening to the general public on Saturday, March 18. The folks at Dollywood are especially delighted to be able to thank their loyal customers on this Sneak Preview Day as they open for their 32nd season. It’s going to be a fantastic year!
After a difficult winter in the Smokies with losses due to the wildfires in November of 2016, Dolly Parton and the employees of Dollywood spent many of their own dollars and hours working and raising funds for those who sustained difficult losses as a result. Dollywood’s theme park, water park, and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa were spared the brunt of the damage, thankfully, and the management and employees have been especially grateful to be able to give back to the community and now to be able to open Dollywood’s doors to the public right on time in 2017.
To celebrate, they turned the Season Passholder “Sneak Preview Day” into a grand event to show their appreciation to their loyal customers with some brand new traditions. Curious? Let me take you on a little tour of some of the surprises offered to Season Passholders on this special day…
Imagine pulling up to the Dollywood parking lot, and being told that you’ve just been upgraded to Preferred Parking (for FREE) for the day! That’s what happened for the first 100 cars who showed up to the park! AND the first 50 who asked for valet parking received a discount!
Keep imagining with me….after parking your car, and taking the very short walk to the park entrance, you take it all in and realize this day is really not going to be your typical day at Dollywood - but then again, is ANY day a typical day at Dollywood??? NO!
Today, Dollywood has literally rolled out the “red carpet treatment” for you with a special V.I.P. entrance! As you stroll the red carpet (Dollywood employees REALLY want you to feel special and welcomed on this day!), amidst greetings from your favorite Dollywood employees and friends, you can stop and have your picture snapped by professional photographers, and, if you’re among some of the first to arrive, you even receive your own gift of Hollywo-... er, uh, I mean “Dollywood swag” - a car magnet and a pair of fabulous sunglasses - fit for the celebrity guest you truly are!
They like me! They really like me!!!
In addition to this one-of-a-kind welcome, Season Passholders were delighted to find many other treats in store for them on this special day: coupons for “buy one, get one free” games for the first 6,000 guests (arcade games not included), discounted Sky Zip tours, special discounts on food, drinks, and treats across the park - BEYOND the normal Gold Pass discount, and more!
Don’t forget, Dollywood Season Passholders don’t just get one day of special treatment at Dollywood. They receive a bounty of amazing benefits all year long:
- Unlimited visits to the Season Pass’ respective Park
- Exclusive ride times on select attractions
- Friends & Family Discount - $5 off regular 1-Day admission for friends to the Season Pass’ respective Park (Passholder must be present and purchase)
- 20% off Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins and overnight accommodations (Passholder only); Subject to availability
- For Dollywood Season Passholders only - Passholder discount to Dollywood’s Splash Country - $5 off Regular 1-Day Admission to Dollywood’s Splash Country (Passholder only)
- For Dollywood’s Splash Country Season Passholders only - Passholder Discount - $5 off Regular 1-Day admission to Dollywood (Passholder only)
- Gold Passholders - Save up to 10%, based on seasonality and availability at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, limited to Sunday - Thursday (plus, Gold Passholders receive free parking every operational day, and 20% off food, merchandise, and select rentals at the respective park.)
- Super Passholders - Save up to 20%, based on seasonality and availability at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort
- Fabulous discounts to other regional attractions - just show your pass and save! Attractions such as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede (Pigeon Forge), Chimney Rock (NC), Biltmore (Asheville, NC), Tennessee Aquarium (Chattanooga), Stone Mountain Park (Atlanta, GA), Silver Dollar City (Branson, MO), Silver Dollar City’s White Water (Branson), Ripley’s Attractions (Sevierville & Gatlinburg), Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Bryson City, NC), Cumberland Caverns, and Zoo Knoxville (Knoxville, TN).
All of this and more - just to say thank you, and welcome back to your Dollywood home in the Smokies! It’s not too late to purchase your Dollywood Season Pass for 2017. Just go to Dollywood.com for more information and to make your purchase. So, what are you waiting for? Dollywood and the Smokies are calling!