After the deadly fires in East Tennessee threatened to destroy it, Dollywood is back for its 31st season, and it’s teeming with new attractions and signature favorites.
The number one ticketed attraction in the state, Dolly Parton’s theme park is as warm and welcoming as the star herself. In fact, Amusement Today has named Dollywood the Friendliest Park for the past five years in a row.
It may be homey, but it’s also the home of some of the most nail-biting, award-winning rides in the world.
Check the hours before you go: these people aren’t working nine to five.
Lightning Rod — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
The world’s fastest wooden roller coaster, Lightning Rod won Amusement Today’s highly-coveted Golden Ticket Award for Best New Attraction when it opened last year.
Inspired by a tricked out 1950s-style hot rod, it’s also the world’s first wooden launching coaster. It launches riders from zero to 45 mph, provides an unparalleled mix of twists, turns and drops, culminating in a near-vertical 165-foot drop, and zooms along its 3800-foot track at a top speed of 73 mph.
This is a ride that needs to be experienced both during the day and in the dark of night. As you gasp at the astonishing and adrenaline-filled 20 seconds of pure airtime, you may receive an understanding glance from the high-flyers over at Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.
Eagle Mountain Sanctuary
Eagle Mountain Sanctuary — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
The largest aviary dedicated to eagles in the United States, Eagle Mountain Sanctuary provides a safe and natural outdoor home for more than a dozen, non-releasable bald eagles. It also provides a rare opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in person.
While you’re there, take in a birds of prey show at the Wings of America theater, featuring hawks, falcons, vultures, owls and eagles – some in free flight. Then visit the viewing facility for an up-close and personal look at the stars of the show.
Dollywood Express — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
One of Dolly’s favorite rides, this authentic 110-ton coal-fired steam engine takes you on a five-mile journey through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Originally built for the U.S. Army, the engine was used in Alaska during World War II to haul troops and lumber.
The train now hauls 550 guests in its seven cars, offering a 30-minute ride every hour, rain or shine.
SkyZip — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
There’s too much to see and do to zip through Dollywood, but zip over it? Yes, please! The park’s first premium adventure, this zipline gives you a whole new view of Dollywood and its gorgeous backdrop – the Great Smoky Mountains.
Four lines range in length to give you the opportunity to literally test your wings.
Craftsman's Valley — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
In Craftsman’s Valley, master artisans continue to perform the same jobs that were so vital to life in the late 1800s. Watch them at work as they hand-forge beautiful steel items, dip candles, carve wood, blow and paint glass, create dulcimers and craft original leather goods.
You can make your own glass ornament at Mountain Blown Glass or dip your own candle at the Old Flames Candle Shop. If you’d rather leave it to the professionals, you can buy accessories crafted by Dollywood’s leathersmiths at Smoky Creek Leather or unique pieces of stoneware at Stone-Penland Pottery.
Southern comfort food
Granny Ogle's Ham n' Beans — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
Sure, you can snack on funnel cake and cotton candy, but why would you when you’re in Pigeon Forge, where food has a delicious Southern accent? Indulge in the massive buffets at Miss Lillian’s Chicken House and Aunt Granny’s or opt for the classics – Southern barbecue! – at Granny Ogle’s Ham n’ Beans.
Whatever you do, save room for dessert. The homemade cinnamon bread from the Grist Mill is legendary and the 25-pound apple pie, cut into three-pound slices, is a sweet meal in itself.
DreamMore Resort and Spa
DreamMore Resort and Spa — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
This beautiful new property features indoor and outdoor pools, a full-service farmhouse-style restaurant and family-friendly rooms complete with bunk beds and views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Dolly’s presence is evident throughout the resort, which is filled with lots of photos and a wall devoted to her albums.
Guests of DreamMore get to take advantage of special park privileges like free transportation and front-of-the-line access. But, with lots of comfy rocking chairs inviting you to treat the resort as though it were your own down-home front porch, you may never want to leave.
Drop Line — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
Be the first to take the plunge when Dollywood’s newest thrill ride opens in summer 2017. Towering over Timber Canyon, Drop Line provides a stunning, “wish-I-had-my-Go-Pro” view of the park to lull you into a state of contentment before making a dramatic 200-foot free fall. The drop tower ride lifts you almost 20 stories above the Canyon’s pool, then plummets you back to the ground, where you can pick up your stomach.
Parade of Many Colors — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
There’s always a celebration going on at Dollywood! The season opens with the Festival of Nations, giving guests a musical glimpse into the diverse cultures of countries around the world. Dollywood’s Barbecue & Bluegrass marks the unofficial start of summer, which is a celebration in itself, highlighted by an All-American Fourth of July.
Fall means the Harvest Festival and a new crop of goodies, including fresh apples, fried green tomatoes and the all-new Great Pumpkin LumiNights. It all leads up to the biggest celebration of the year: Smoky Mountain Christmas, voted the Best Christmas Event in the world for nine years in a row – the only theme park to ever win this award.
Chasing Rainbows — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
A fan’s dream, this state-of-the-art interactive museum pays homage to Dolly and is filled with her awards, costumes and meaningful artifacts like a replica of the Coat of Many Colors her mother made her, and the laundry slip on which she originally wrote the song based on it.
Listen to Dolly’s music, try on her wigs virtually and hop on her former tour bus, located in front of the museum. Watch the video about the Imagination Library program she developed with the Dollywood Foundation, through which she has distributed more than 80 million free books to children. Be inspired to use your own imagination and follow her example to bust through any obstacles to make a difference in the world.