September 18, 2023
This article was written by Dollywood PR Intern Emma Cavanaugh
Dollywood struck gold on Sept. 9 during the 25th annual Golden Ticket Awards presented by Amusement Today. Known as the Oscars of the industry, the Golden Ticket Awards recognize the top performers in the world of roller coasters and amusement parks. Our favorite park was not only awarded with multiple Golden Tickets, but also had the honor of hosting the awards for the first time since 2012. Dollywood welcomed more than 300 industry professionals into the park to network, reconnect and celebrate the successes of parks and service providers worldwide. The park was a finalist in 10 categories and won five Golden Tickets among them, more than any other park in the world.
Dollywood Wins Golden Ticket for Best Park
The excitement was bigger than ever as Dollywood claimed the award for Best Park for the first time, an award held for the past eight years by Europa Park in Rust, Germany. The award is a monumental honor, and has only been won by three parks in the history of the Golden Ticket Awards. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause after the announcement, just to grow even louder when our Dreamer-in-Chief arrived onstage to accept the award with park president Eugene Naughton. Winning the award reinforces what guests have been saying for years; that Dollywood is considered one of the top family vacation spots in the country, as our hosts strive each and every day to make the experience even more memorable for everyone who visits. It is surely an award that will be cherished.
Best Guest Experience Found at Dollywood
Dollywood claimed the Golden Ticket for Best Guest Experience, continuing their clean sweep of the category for the fourth year in a row. The award takes several attributes into consideration such as friendliness, cleanliness and overall value. The award was created in 2019, and since then, with the exception of no Golden Tickets being awarded in 2020, Dollywood has been the only recipient. This shows how hard our hosts work each and every day to prioritize our guests and make their experience at Dollywood unforgettable.
Best Kids’ Area Awarded to Dollywood
Dollywood’s Wildwood Grove has taken the number one spot for Best Kids’ Area for the fourth year in a row. From its opening in 2019, Wildwood Grove has claimed a Golden Ticket each year since. Thanks to the addition of Big Bear Mountain in May, this expansive area has continued to make a name for itself at the Golden Ticket Awards.
Best Family Coaster Goes to Big Bear Mountain
Considered one of the best new roller coasters in the world, Big Bear Mountain is the most recent addition to the park and a ride you don’t want to miss. After all, it did take home the Golden Ticket for Best Family Coaster this year. Guests are thrilled to experience this ride and have celebrated it being the longest coaster at the park, as well as admire the many unique features this ride presents.
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Named Best Christmas Event
Santa visited early this year, and came bearing a Golden Ticket for Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana. Smoky Mountain Christmas received the award for Best Christmas Event for the 15th year in a row, the only park to ever receive this honor. If you haven’t been to Dollywood during the holiday season, then you are missing out on the most festive spectacle of the year. The event has been included in several movies such as Hallmark’s Christmas at Dollywood and two-time Emmy nominee Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas.
In addition to these five Golden Tickets, Dollywood received runner-up for Most Beautiful Park and Best Food Awards. Big Bear Mountain placed third among Best New Coaster, and fifth for Best New Attraction Installation. Thunderhead was recognized in fourth place for Best Wooden Roller Coaster.
Dolly, along with Peter and Jack Herschend of Herschend Family Entertainment, were recognized as Industry Legends with a Golden Ticket. This special partnership took former Silver Dollar City and created Dollywood in the mid-1980s. With the help of the Herschend Brothers, Dolly’s dream of having her own theme park came to life in 1986, and has since grown into the widely successful park that it is today.
“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. 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.”
As an intern, I was able to experience this event from behind the scenes, and see firsthand the tremendous effort that went into making this event possible. I realized that the company I work for is a lot bigger than I originally thought. That is due to the unwavering hospitality displayed by the hosts each and every day. They make you feel at home in a park that welcomes millions of guests each year. Once you walk through the turnstiles, you are home. From visiting the park frequently as a kid, I would’ve never thought that I’d be here today, working for the best park in the world and one of the biggest names in the amusement industry. It was truly an incredible celebration, and I am honored that I was able to be a part of making it all happen.
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