February 24, 2023
How can it already be the end of February? It feels like the calendar just flipped over to January. What’s really exciting is that in just a few short weeks, the cold winter nights will start to warm, and the vibrant colors of spring in the Smokies will be upon us. The end of February also makes me think of something else. Much like that warmer weather, March means that our 2023 Grand Opening weekend is just a few short weeks away!
I also still have way too many things on my to-do list with the season so close—just don’t tell my boss, Pete! But it’s already on my mind, so let me explain to you why we’ve been talking about how “BIG” the 2023 season is going to be.
This is obviously the elephant—uhhhh, bear—in the room. If you haven’t seen any of the pictures of the ride or seen the construction firsthand during a Dollywood Express ride at Smoky Mountain Christmas, this thing is, well, BIG! The longest coaster in our portfolio, Big Bear Mountain is 3,990 ft. long. It also is our first ride with onboard audio, has a 39” height requirement and sends brave adventurers racing all around the outskirts of Wildwood Grove looking for that hard-to-find Big Bear. Legend is that he’s out there, and you’re going to help Ned Oakley prove his existence. The ride is so big that Wildwood Grove couldn’t contain it, so we’ve had to expand the area that has won the Golden Ticket Award for Best Kids Area every year since it was built. With this addition, the team at the Golden Ticket Awards better get another award ready…more on that in a second.
Have you had the chance to visit Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa? Whether you’ve dropped in to check out the welcoming lobby and porch areas, dined in the spectacular restaurant, relaxed in the spa or recharged in the comfy guest rooms, you know how special DreamMore Resort truly is! Well, Dolly’s done it again. This fall, we’ll open HeartSong Lodge & Resort, and I know you’re going to absolutely fall in love with it as well. We’re proud of these two beautiful resorts; one which let’s you relish in the picture-perfect presentation of Southern charm (DreamMore), and the other which allows you to escape back into a Smoky Mountain cove (or holler if you’re from where I’m from) to truly experience the beauty of God’s creation (HeartSong). HeartSong Lodge & Resort is a well-appointed property with high ceilings, exposed beams and natural layered textures. Spacious family suites and bunk rooms feature touches that are inspired by the beauty of the Smokies, inviting guests of all ages to gather for meaningful connections. It even has balconies that let you breathe in all that Smoky Mountain goodness!
Beginning Father’s Day (June 18) and running through June 21, the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) descend on Dollywood as part of Coaster Con. This annual event takes place in a different part of the country each year, and this season’s event is the 45th Hundreds of coaster enthusiasts from around the globe will descend upon Pigeon Forge to experience everything Dollywood has to offer. While we can’t spill all the secrets, this group enjoys behind-the-scenes tours, exclusive ride time on our amazing roller coasters and other attractions, as well as great food, prizes, games, free gifts (yay gifts!) and much more! You’re a coaster enthusiast, you say? Perhaps you should join ACE and come experience it for yourself!
I told you we would come back to this! You often hear us reference the “Golden Ticket Awards.” These awards are like the Grammys or Emmys within the theme park industry. Theme Park industry insiders, workers, enthusiasts and more vote on the best of the best in dozens of categories that truly run the gamut. To win one of these awards, a property must work hard and showcase they truly deserve to be considered the best. We’ve been lucky enough to be the most awarded park for the last several years and are proud to be recognized with these awards. Last season, we won Best Christmas Event (14 in-a-row), Best Kids Area (three in-a-row) and Best Guest Experience (three in-a-row). Much like Coaster Con, this event travels to a new location annually. In early September (the 7-9, specifically), the Golden Ticket Awards will be held right here at Dollywood. It is a special event where the who’s who of the theme park world attend to honor what makes our industry so special. Though this event isn’t open to the public, we’re proud to host this prestigious ceremony.
While these are four big events, I can tell you the fun doesn’t end there! With the new I Will Always Love You Celebration to kick off the year, more operating days when compared to last season and some of the industry’s most-loved festivals, 2023 truly is going to be the BIGGEST one yet! I hope you’ll come see us and experience it all!
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