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Dollywood: Unveiling the Charm of Tennessee’s Premier Theme Park

Dollywood is a staple of American theme parks, nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This park, co-owned by entertainment legend Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment, extends a warm welcome to millions of guests each year.

Known for its Southern charm and family-friendly atmosphere, Dollywood offers a unique combination of thrilling rides, live music performances, and crafts that preserve the cultural heritage of the East Tennessee region.

As you step into Dollywood, you’re greeted by the smells of classic Southern cuisine and the sounds of award-winning shows that echo through the park’s themed areas. The park boasts more than 50 world-class attractions, including roller coasters that weave through the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, water attractions that cool you down on hot days, and seasonal festivals that celebrate the rich tapestry of the area’s history and traditions.

Whether you’re planning a visit to engage with the high-energy entertainment, seeking the adrenaline rush of gravity-defying coasters, or looking to create lasting memories with your family, Dollywood provides a diverse range of experiences.

Detailed planning, ticket options, and resort accommodations are readily available to make your visit both enjoyable and seamless, reinforcing the park’s reputation as one of the premier destinations for wholesome family fun.

Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - Couples Attractions
Dollywood | photo via @remi8xphotos

History of Dollywood

Your understanding of Dollywood’s history is key to appreciating the park’s Southern charm and cultural significance. This section will guide you through its evolution from a local attraction to a renowned theme park under the co-ownership of Dolly Parton.

The Transformation from Silver Dollar City to Dollywood

Before you came to know it as Dollywood, the theme park had its roots in a modest attraction called Rebel Railroad in 1961. By the time it transitioned to Dollywood in 1986, it had already undergone several transformations, including a period known as Silver Dollar City, Tennessee. This was an extension of the Branson, Missouri location known for its 1880s Ozark Mountain theme.

Dolly Parton’s Involvement

You’ll find Dolly Parton’s influence is integral to the essence of Dollywood. Her involvement began in 1986 when she entered into a partnership to revitalize the then Silver Dollar City and rebrand it as Dollywood.

She brought a new level of fame and attention to the park, embracing and enhancing the cultural themes of the Smoky Mountains area, which strongly reflects her own upbringing in rural Tennessee.

Under her guidance and vision, Dollywood expanded to host nearly 3 million guests annually, contributing extensively to the local economy and culture.

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FireChaser Express | photo via Steven Bridges / www.stevenbridges.com

Attractions and Rides

Dollywood offers a diverse array of attractions catering to thrill-seekers as well as families. From high-speed roller coasters to water attractions, the park provides an enjoyable experience for all ages.

Roller Coasters

Dollywood boasts some impressive roller coasters that appeal to thrill-seekers. Here are a few of our favorite roller coasters at Dollywood.

Lightning Rod

This roller coaster is particularly notable for its unique features. It’s the world’s first launched wooden coaster, meaning it uses a propulsion system to launch riders uphill instead of the traditional chain lift. The ride reaches speeds up to 73 mph, making it one of the fastest wooden coasters in the world. Its design incorporates several airtime hills and a twisting layout, providing an exhilarating experience.


This is a traditional wooden roller coaster known for its smooth ride and high-speed twists and turns. It features a 100-foot drop and reaches speeds of up to 55 mph. Thunderhead is particularly praised for its “fly-through” station, where the coaster speeds through the station mid-ride, adding an exciting element to the experience.

Wild Eagle

This coaster stands out as America’s first wing coaster, where riders sit on either side of the track with nothing above or below them, creating a unique sensation of flight. It reaches heights of 210 feet and speeds of 61 mph, featuring several inversions, including a giant loop, zero-G roll, and a massive drop.

Mystery Mine

This steel coaster offers a different kind of thrill with its indoor and outdoor track. It features a 95-degree, 85-foot vertical drop and two inversions. The ride is themed around a haunted mining operation, complete with special effects and a storyline that unfolds as you ride.

Tennessee Tornado

An older but still popular coaster, the Tennessee Tornado is a steel coaster known for its smooth ride despite its age. It features a 128-foot drop into a tunnel and three inversions, including a loop and a spiral.

FireChaser Express

This family-friendly coaster is unique as it features both forward and backward sections. Themed around firefighters, it’s a dual-launch coaster that propels riders forward and then backward, making it a great choice for those who want thrills without extreme intensity.


Part of the Wildwood Grove expansion, this family coaster mimics the flight of a dragonfly. While it’s more gentle compared to the park’s other coasters, it still offers an enjoyable experience with twists, turns, and dips.

roller coaster at Dollywood Park in Pigeon Forge Tennessee
Dragonflier | photo courtesy of Dollywood

Kiddie Rides

Dollywood is not just about thrilling roller coasters; it also offers a wide range of family-friendly attractions that cater to visitors of all ages. Here are some of the most popular kiddie rides at Dollywood:

Busy Bees

A delightful ride for the little ones, Busy Bees allows children to pilot their own bee vehicle, which gently rises and falls as it circles around a hive.

Lucky Ducky

This ride is perfect for young children, featuring a circular, gentle motion with brightly colored duck-themed cars that go up and down.

Piggy Parade

A fun and whimsical ride, Piggy Parade features adorable pig carriages that spin and rotate, offering a light-hearted experience for young riders.

The Amazing Flying Elephants

This ride allows children to control their own flying elephant, moving up and down as they circle around. It’s a classic amusement park ride that’s always a hit with the kids.

Frogs and Fireflies

On this ride, children can hop aboard a frog or firefly for a bouncing and spinning journey, simulating the playful leapfrog game.

kid-friendly attractions at Dollywood Park in Pigeon Forge Tennessee
Barnstormer | photo courtesy of Dollywood

Black Bear Trail

This ride offers a gentle adventure where kids can ride on the back of a mechanical bear, meandering through a scenic trail.

Shooting Star

A mini drop tower designed for children, Shooting Star gives a gentle thrill with its up-and-down motion, perfect for young adventurers.

Rockin’ Roadway

This is a classic car ride where kids can get behind the wheel of a ’50s-style car and cruise along a scenic track.

Demolition Derby

A softer version of the bumper cars for younger children, this ride allows them to drive around and gently bump into other cars in a safe and fun environment.

Firehouse Fun Yard

While not a ride, this interactive play area is designed for children and includes a variety of activities like pop-jet fountains and a soft play structure.

water rides at Dollywood Park in Pigeon Forge Tennessee
SwiftWater Run | photo courtesy of Dollywood

Water Attractions

While primarily known for its dry park attractions, Dollywood also offers a selection of popular water rides that provide a refreshing break, especially during the warmer months. Here are some of the most popular water rides in the park:

Daredevil Falls

This is a log flume ride that combines a traditional water ride experience with a thrilling drop. Riders board log boats and are taken through a scenic, mountain-themed course before plunging down a 60-foot waterfall at high speeds, creating a massive splash.

Mountain Slidewinder

This unique water toboggan ride is a blend of a water slide and a roller coaster. Riders sit in a boat-like sled and slide down a winding, hilly course through the woods, experiencing both rapid descents and splashy turns. It’s a very popular ride due to its unique design and the fun, splashy experience it offers.

River Rampage

This is a classic river rapids ride where guests board large circular rafts that navigate through choppy waters, whirlpools, and waves. The ride simulates a wild river expedition and includes unexpected water sprays and waves, ensuring that riders get a good soaking.

Smoky Mountain River Rampage

Similar to River Rampage, this ride takes guests on a wet and wild journey through rapids, twists, and turns. It’s a great way to cool off and enjoy some excitement with the whole family.

Splash Country (Water Park)

While not a single ride, it’s worth mentioning Dollywood’s Splash Country, a separate water park adjacent to Dollywood. It features a variety of water attractions, including the Raging River Rapids, a family-style white water rafting ride; the Fire Tower Falls, the tallest and fastest water slides in the park; and the Bear Mountain Fire Tower, a multi-level interactive water play structure.

Shows and Entertainment

Your visit to Dollywood offers a variety of performances that range from the heartfelt strums of acoustic guitars to the elaborate staging of theatrical productions. Every show is crafted to provide you with an authentic Smoky Mountain experience.

The park’s commitment to live music and entertainment is one of the features that sets it apart from many other theme parks, offering a rich and immersive cultural experience to its visitors.

Pidgeon Forge, TN USA March 26 2023: exterior front Dollywood Theater
Show Street Palace Theater I Photo Credit: Melissa Herzog / Shutterstock

Live Music Performances & Theatrical Productions

Dollywood is home to several theaters and venues where live shows and music performances are held. Here’s a list of some key locations within the park where you can typically find these shows:

DP’s Celebrity Theater

This is one of the larger indoor theaters in Dollywood and often hosts some of the park’s biggest shows, including special concerts and celebrity performances.

Showstreet Palace Theater

Located near the entrance of the park, this theater often features high-energy shows and musical performances, including country, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Pines Theater

Situated in the Jukebox Junction area of the park, the Pines Theater is known for hosting a variety of shows, often including classic hits and retro-themed performances.

Back Porch Theater

This outdoor venue, located in the Country Fair area, offers a more intimate setting and typically features bluegrass, country, and folk music.

Valley Theater

Found in the Craftsman’s Valley section, the Valley Theater is a great place to catch traditional Appalachian music and gospel performances.

Heartsong Theater

This theater showcases a film presentation about the Smoky Mountains, narrated by Dolly Parton, and occasionally hosts live performances as well.

Birds of Prey Theater

Located in the Wilderness Pass area, this outdoor theater is primarily used for educational presentations about birds of prey, but it sometimes hosts musical performances too.

Robert F. Thomas Chapel

For a more spiritual experience, this chapel holds Sunday services with gospel music.

Seasonal Venues

During special events and festivals like the Harvest Festival or the Smoky Mountain Christmas, additional stages and performance areas are set up throughout the park to host seasonal shows and musical acts.

The specific shows and performers can vary from season to season, so it’s always a good idea to check Dollywood’s current entertainment schedule for the most up-to-date information.

Seasonal Festivals and Events

Dollywood celebrates the seasons with an array of festivals and special events throughout the year that showcase the unique charm and culture of the Smoky Mountains. These festivals are a significant part of the park’s appeal, drawing visitors for special events, seasonal decorations, and exclusive performances.

Here’s an overview of the annual festivals typically hosted at Dollywood:

Festival of Nations


This festival celebrates world cultures with international music, dance, food, and art. It features performers from around the globe, showcasing their traditional customs and talents.

Spring Mix Music Series


This event focuses on music and features a wide range of musical acts, from classic country to contemporary Christian artists. The lineup often includes well-known national and international artists.

Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival

Late Spring/Early Summer

Combining delicious barbeque with lively bluegrass music, this festival is a favorite for both foodies and music lovers. It features some of the best bluegrass musicians in the nation alongside mouth-watering BBQ offerings.

Summer Celebration


This festival typically includes extended park hours, nightly fireworks, and special summer entertainment. It’s a time when the park is alive with energy, offering a variety of performances and activities suitable for all ages.

Harvest Festival, featuring Southern Gospel Jubilee & Great Pumpkin LumiNights


Celebrating the autumn season, this festival includes a Southern Gospel music series with free concerts, and the Great Pumpkin LumiNights, which features artistic pumpkin displays and sculptures throughout the park.

Smoky Mountain Christmas


This award-winning festival transforms the park into a winter wonderland with millions of holiday lights, Christmas shows, a Parade of Many Colors, and seasonal food offerings. It’s a magical experience with a strong focus on family-friendly holiday entertainment.

The specific dates and events for each festival can vary from year to year, so it’s a good idea to check Dollywood’s official website or contact the park directly for the most current information.

Dollywood Foods
Food at Dollywood | photo via Steven Bridges / stevenbridges.com

Dining and Shopping

When visiting Dollywood, you’re treated to a wide array of dining options and a unique shopping experience. From Smoky Mountain culinary delights to exclusive Dollywood merchandise, you’ll find something to satisfy both your palate and your shopping desires.

Restaurants and Eateries

  • Aunt Granny’s Restaurant: Savor traditional southern dishes in a family-friendly atmosphere at Rivertown Junction.
  • Blue Ribbon Cones: Enjoy a sweet treat at Country Fair with a variety of ice cream flavors.
  • Celebration Hall: Grab a quick and satisfying bite over at Country Fair, offering a selection that caters to all tastes.
  • Red’s Drive-In: For a taste of classic Americana, try the burgers and fries here.
  • Hickory House BBQ: Indulge in the smoky flavors of barbecue at this rustic eatery.
  • Dogs N Taters: A perfect spot for quick and tasty hot dogs or tater twirls.
  • Lumberjack’s Pizza: When craving pizza, this is your go-to place for a slice or a whole pie.
  • Market Square Big Skillets: Experience the sizzle and flavor of food prepared on large iron skillets.

Unique Souvenir Shops

  • Grist Mill & Cinnamon Bread: Not only a place to watch bread-making but also to buy the famous cinnamon bread.
  • Dolly’s Closet: Find a selection of fashion curated by Dolly Parton herself.
  • Eagle’s Flight Outfitters: For outdoor gear and souvenirs, head to Wilderness Pass.
  • Gazebo Gifts: Located on Showstreet, it’s your destination for collectibles and gifts.
  • Hillside General Store: Step back in time and find old-fashioned goods and treats.

Each dining and shopping venue offers you a unique flavor of Dollywood’s culture and hospitality. Whether you’re in the mood for a meal or just looking for that special keepsake, you’ll find plenty of options throughout the park.

hand-carved candles on display in Dollywood store
Dollywood Park | photo courtesy of Dollywood

Frequently Asked Questions About Dollywood Parks & Resorts

Dollywood is a popular destination with various attractions and amenities. Knowing the basics can help plan your visit effectively.

What are the operating hours for Dollywood?

Dollywood’s operating hours vary throughout the year, often opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m. However, these times can extend during peak seasons and special events.

What accommodations are available at the Dollywood Resort?

The Dollywood Resort offers a range of accommodations, from luxury rooms and suites at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort to rustic cabins for a more secluded stay.

Is it possible to experience all of Dollywood in a single day?

While it is possible to see many of Dollywood’s highlights in one day, fully experiencing all that the park has to offer, including shows, rides, and exhibits, may require more time.

What are the top family-friendly attractions at Dollywood?

Dollywood boasts a variety of family-friendly attractions including the Dollywood Express Train, the Country Fair area with classic rides, and Wildwood Grove, designed for family fun.

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