Dollywood is a theme park jointly owned by entertainer Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment. It is located in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Hosting over 3 million guests in a typical season—Presidents' Day to the Christmas holidays—Dollywood is the biggest "ticketed" tourist attraction in Tennessee.
In addition to standard amusement park thrill rides, Dollywood features traditional crafts and music of the Smoky Mountains area. The park hosts a number of concerts and musical events each year, including appearances by Parton and her family, as well as other national and local musical acts, and is the site of the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.
Alongside sister waterpark Dollywood's Splash Country (35-acre (14 ha)), and Dollywood's DreamMore Resort (100-acre (40 ha)) (circa 2015), and Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction (5 acres), Dollywood is the anchor of Parton's 295-acre (119 ha) Dollywood amusement resort.
The park opened in early 1961 as a small tourist attraction by the Robins brothers from Blowing Rock, North Carolina, named "Rebel Railroad", featuring a steam train, general store, blacksmith shop, and saloon. In the spirit of the Civil War, centennial visitors could ride the train and experience an attack by Union soldiers, train robbers, and another attack by Indians. The train and its riders were protected by Confederates who fought off the attacks, thus the name "Rebel Railroad". The park was modeled after the Robins brothers' first successful theme park, Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock. In 1970, Rebel Railroad was renamed "Goldrush Junction" when it was bought by Art Modell, who also owned the Cleveland Browns football team. In 1976, Jack and Pete Herschend bought Goldrush Junction and renamed it "Goldrush" for the 1976 season. In 1977, they renamed it "Silver Dollar City Tennessee" as a sister park to their original Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.
In 1986, Dolly Parton, who grew up in the area, bought an interest in Silver Dollar City. As part of the deal, the park reopened for the 1986 season as "Dollywood". In 2010, Parton said she became involved with the operation because she "always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area."
Dollywood has 3,000 people on its payroll, making it the largest employer in that community.
From 1986 to 2010, the park doubled in size to 150 acres (0.61 km2). In 2009, the park had a six percent decline in attendance, which a park spokesman attributed to bad weather, however, many other theme parks in the United States suffered attendance drops that year, as often happens to relatively high-priced tourist attractions in recessions. As of 2017, the prices for admission to the park are $67 for adults and $54 for children.
On November 16, 2010, Dollywood earned the industry's most prestigious award, the Liseberg Applause Award, which was accepted by Dolly Parton during a ceremony at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2010 in Orlando.
Parton said in 2010 that she would like to open more Dollywood parks in the future. "We definitely want to expand with new things every year, eventually with a resort," she said. "We may eventually have Dollywoods in other parts of the country, where we can kind of be true to whatever's going on in that part of the world."
During an announcement on August 21, 2013, Parton announced Dollywood's DreamMore Resort, which opened on July 27, 2015.
Dollywood is organized into ten themed areas. The Showstreet, Rivertown Junction, Craftsmen's Valley, Village, Country Fair, Timber Canyon, and Jukebox Junction areas reflect the historical eras and culture of east Tennessee, while the Owens Farm and Adventures in Imagination areas explore Dolly Parton's life and imagination. Many attractions focus on the history and culture of the Southern Appalachian region.Showstreet – Attractions include The Showstreet Palace Theater, Friendship Gardens, The Celebrity Theater, and The Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.Rivertown Junction – Attractions include The Tennessee Mountain Home, The Back Porch Theater, and the Smoky Mountain River Rampage whitewater rafting ride.Craftsmen's Valley – Attractions include The Dollywood Grist Mill, The Valley Theater, Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, Wings of America Theater, Robert F. Thomas Chapel, Calico Falls Schoolhouse, the Tennessee Tornado coaster, Blazing Fury coaster, Daredevil Falls flume ride, and craft exhibits.The Village – (Formerly Village Square) Attractions include The 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Dollywood Express steam train, Heartsong, a carousel, and the Magic Laughmaker.The Country Fair – (Formerly Fun Country) Rides include The Dizzy Disk, the Amazing Flying Elephants, Lemon Twist, Shooting Star, Sky Rider, Sideshow Spin (Formerly:Veggietales Sideshow Spin Kid's Rollercoaster), Waltzing Swinger, Piggy Parade, Busy Bees, Lucky Ducky, Dolly's Demolition Derby, The Scrambler, and the Wonder Wheel.Timber Canyon – (Formerly Thunderhead Gap) Attractions include the Mystery Mine coaster, the Thunderhead coaster, and Lumberjack Lifts.Jukebox Junction – Attractions include the Rockin' Roadway car ride and The Pines Theater. This area also features the new Lightning Rod wood coaster – which opened early 2016.Owen's Farm – (Daydream Ridge 1987–1999, Dreamland Forest 2000–2010) Attractions include the Mountain Slidewinder water-toboggan ride, the upstairs part of The Grist Mill, the Barnstormer, a barn and plane styled Giant Swing attraction. It will also include soft pigs, planes and other things for the visitor's enjoyment.Adventures in Imagination – (Formerly Dollywood Boulevard) Attractions include the Dolly Parton's My People! show and the "Chasing Rainbows" Dolly Parton museum.Wilderness Pass – Attractions include the River Battle water ride, the SkyZip zip line attraction, and Wild Eagle, America's first winged coaster, and FireChaser Express, a dual-launch coaster that launches forward and backward.
Dollywood features five festivals, each with unique entertainment, between the months of March and December:Festival of Nations offers five weeks of cultural events by performers from around the world.Barbeque & Bluegrass is a bluegrass music and barbecue festival including world-renowned bluegrass musicians and the award-winning barbeque.Great American Summer, a summer festival, includes new shows and a nightly fireworks display.National Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration features gospel music and professional craftsmen.Smoky Mountain Christmas is a nine-time award winner of America’s Best Christmas Event and features holiday performances and four million holiday lights.1986: Silver Dollar City Tennessee reopens as Dollywood on May 3. The Rivertown Junction area, new for 1986, features the Smoky Mountain River Rampage, a whitewater rafting ride; The Back Porch Theater; Aunt Granny's Dixie Fixins' Restaurant; and the Tennessee Mountain Home, a replica of the cabin in which Parton grew up. Also new is "Rags to Riches: The Dolly Parton Story"; a museum featuring articles and mementos from Dolly's life and career. "The Butter Churn" (a Trabant ride) is removed at the end of the season. Also, the year when the first few visitors came.1987: The Daydream Ridge area opens, featuring the Mountain Slidewinder water toboggan ride; Mountain Dan's Burger House; Sweet Dreams Candy Shop; The Rainbow Factory blown glass shop; and the Critter Creek Playground.1988: The 1,739-seat Celebrity Theater is constructed adjacent to the entrance of the park. The theater features the "Showcase of Stars" celebrity concert series. Five new children’s rides are added to the Fun Country area, including a Zamperla Balloon Race. The Dollywood Foundation is established to provide books and schools supplies for the children of Sevier County.1989: Thunder Express, a steel mine train coaster, is built adjacent to Blazing Fury. The ride had been relocated to the park from Six Flags Over Mid-America. The 1989 season is the last for the National Mountain Music Festival, which had been carried over from the Silver Dollar City years.1990: A 1903 Antique Dentzel Carousel, originally built for Rocky Springs Park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is relocated to the park. Situated near the train depot, it takes over the space previously occupied by the Silver Dollar Saloon. The 600-seat Gaslight Theater opens near the Carousel. The Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival premiers in November, extending the park's operating season into December.1991: Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, an outdoor aviary is added. Also new is the Wings of America Theater, featuring the Birds of Prey show, and the 300-seat Valley Theater.1992: The Showstreet area is added, featuring the Showstreet Palace Theater; The Butterfly Emporium; The Backstage Restaurant; The Spotlight Bakery; the Friendship Gardens; and WDLY-FM; a working radio station. To accommodate the expansion, the park's main entrance is moved from Rivertown Junction to Showstreet. The Barnwood Theater is converted into Imagination Station; an interactive children's play area. The 1992 season marks the first time Dollywood's annual attendance tops 2 million.1993: The Fun Country area is renovated into The Country Fair, featuring three new rides: The Wonder Wheel, a 60 ft (18 m) tall Ferris wheel; Twist and Shout, a "Scrambler" ride; and the Tennessee Twister, a tilt-a-whirl. The Balloon Race ride is relocated to the Daydream Ridge area to make room for the new attractions. Also new at the park this season is the "Sunset Musicfest", a summer music festival.1994: The Gaslight Theater becomes the Heartsong Theater, featuring "Heartsong", a multi-media musical presentation that tells the story of Dolly Parton's life.1995: The Jukebox Junction 1950s "Main Street " themed area is added, featuring Rockin' Roadway (miniature car ride), The Pines Theater, Red's Diner, and Cas Walker's Music Store. The Sunset Musicfest does not return for the 1995 season.1996: The Dollywood Boulevard area is added, featuring "Thunder Road", a turbo-simulator ride based upon the 1958 movie of the same name. The area also featured the Silver Screen Café; a 1950s cinema themed restaurant, and the Centerstage gift shop.1997: "U Pick Nick", a children's show featuring themes from the Nickelodeon television network, plays in the Celebrity Theater during the summer. The Flooded Mine dark-ride is closed and demolished in October. The Silver Screen Cafe is refurbished to DJ Platters in the Dollywood Boulevard area.1998: Daredevil Falls, a new shoot the chutes flume ride, opens in area formerly occupied by the Flooded Mine. At the time of its opening, it was billed as "The Highest and Fastest Waterfall ride in America" featuring a 62 ft (19 m) drop. Thunder Express is closed in September, removed from the park, and sold to the Magic Springs Theme Park in Arkansas. The antique carousel is removed at the end of the season and replaced by a new Chance Rides carousel.1999: The Tennessee Tornado; a steel looping coaster, opens in the area formerly occupied by Thunder Express. Also new is the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame. The Balloon Race ride is removed from the park.2000: The Daydream Ridge area is renovated into Dreamland Forest, a children's "Mountain" themed interactive children's area.2001: The Festival of Nations international festival premiers in April. Dolly's Splash Country, a new 25-acre (100,000 m2) water park, is opened adjacent to Dollywood's parking lot.2002: Dollywood Boulevard is renovated into a new area, Adventures in Imagination. The Smoky Mountain Wilderness Adventure; a new simulator film, replaces Thunder Road. Chasing Rainbows, a new Dolly museum, opens in the building formerly occupied by DJ Platters.2003: Kidsfest, a summer children's festival, premiers. Imagination Station is converted into Celebration Hall, a special events facility. 2003 is the final season for the "Showcase of Stars" celebrity concert series.2004: A new area of the park, "Thunderhead Gap", opens featuring the Thunderhead a wooden roller coaster. The construction of the new area opens up a new valley for the park to expand into. The Country Fair Falls log flume is demolished in November. Most of the other Country Fair rides, including the Swingamajig, The Tennessee Twister, The Convoy, and The Barnstormer, are removed at the end of the season to free up space for newer rides.2005: The Country Fair area is renovated to include 10 new rides: Dizzy Disk, the Amazing Flying Elephants, Lemon Twist, Shooting Star, Sky Rider, Veggietales Sideshow Spin children's roller coaster, Waltzing Swinger, Piggy Parade, Busy Bees, and Lucky Ducky. Also new is the National Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration.2006: The Timber Tower ride, along with Lil' Loggers Landing, Beaver Creek, Beaver Creek Boat Float, and the Lumberjack Lifts, opened in a new area adjacent to Thunderhead. The Barbeque & Bluegrass festival premiers.2007: The Mystery Mine, a Gerstlauer Eurofighter coaster with two vertical lifts, a 95 degree, 85 ft (26 m) drop, a heartline roll, and a dive loop, was built. The $17 million ride is heavily themed as an old abandoned mine shaft. In November, the original entrance road to the theme park's parking lot on Dollywood Lane is permanently closed to the public. All cars now enter the parking lot off Veteran's Boulevard via McCarter Hollow Road.2008: River Battle, an interactive water raft ride, is built in a new section of the park called "Wilderness Pass" that connects the Timber Canyon and Craftsmen's Valley areas. "Thunder Road" returns to the motion theater, (now called the "Imagination Cinema") replacing Smoky Mountain Wilderness Adventure. Della's Lye Soap shop is moved from Craftsmens Valley to the Wilderness Pass area. In its place is a new exhibit housing the Wings of America show birds. The Polar Express 4-D Experience is shown in the Imagination Cinema during the park's Smoky Mountain Christmas.2009: Dollywood features two new shows "Imaginé" and "Sha-Kon-O-Hey! Land of Blue Smoke,". "Imaginé" is presented by Le Grand Cirque and is headlining the park's Festival of Nations. "Sha-Kon-O-Hey! Land of Blue Smoke" is a major production based on the last family living in the Smoky Mountains at the time it becomes a National Park. "Sha-Kon-O-Hey! Land of Blue Smoke" features music written by Dolly Parton. "Thunder Road" is renamed "White Lightning" and then changed to a new attraction, Journey To The Center Of The Earth: 4-D Adventure, based on the 2008 film. "SkyZip" owned by Skyline Eco-Adventures of Maui, Hawaii expands to Dollywood opening the first multi-line zipline tour inside of a theme park.2010: The Adventure Mountain attraction opens at a cost of $5 million USD in the Wilderness Pass area. It featured three distinct adventure courses (Geyser Gorge, Black Bear Cliff, and Rocky Top) ranging from easy to expert including 100 different rope features, swinging beams, suspension bridges, flying islands and a floating stairs. Adventure trails ranged from a few inches above ground to more than 26 feet (7.9 m) in the air. The area also included a scaled-down play area called Camp Teachittoomee for younger children. Also for the 2010 season, Dollywood brought back "Sha-Kon-O-Hey! Land of Blue Smoke," and changed their logo for the 25th anniversary.2011: Replacing Dreamland Forest is a new area called Owen's Farm which features a $5.5 million giant swing called Barnstormer, is situated in a barnyard-themed area which also includes a play area for younger guests. Christmas On Ice, a new ice skating Christmas show, premiers in DP's Celebrity Theater and headlines Smoky Mountain Christmas.2012: Wild Eagle opened March 24, 2012. It is the first Bolliger & Mabillard Wing Coaster in the United States and it is the biggest investment in Dollywood history. Dollywood purchases SkyZip from Skyline Eco-Adventures. Timber Tower was dismantled before opening in 2012 following a lawsuit with the ride manufacturer.2013: Dollywood dedicated 2013 to encouraging families to spend time together. New shows for 2013 included Cirque Shanghai, Mystic India, and One World Party to the Festival of Nations along with over 50 new international food items. Dollywood also introduced "Great American Summer," a new summer festival, which replaces KidsFest. "Great American Summer" includes the Great American Country Show, Gazillion Bubbles, The Little Engine Playhouse, and Salute to America. Dollywood extended their hours to 10:00am – 10:00pm and added a nightly firework show. The Smoky Mountain Christmas festival featured a new show, Dolly Parton's version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. For 2013, Dollywood's slogan was Make Time for Happy! Adventures Mountain is removed by August. Imagination Cinema becomes the Dreamsong Theater featuring Dolly's My People, a Show about Dolly's family.2014: FireChaser Express, a dual-launch family coaster, replaces Adventure Mountain in the Wilderness Pass area of the park. Dollywood's slogan is changed to Love every moment. Dollywood adds a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer meet and greet called Holly Jolly Junction.2015: Dollywood opens the new DreamMore Resort adjacent to Dollywood's Splash Country. For the 30th anniversary of the park, Dollywood redesigned their entrance for resort guests and added other things such as 2 new shows to Festival of Nations called Rhythm of the Dance and Timber. Cas Walker's is demolished to clear up room for a new attraction. Also new is 6 new shows to the Great American Summer along with bringing back the Showcase of Stars Concert series. Also new is Rock the Smokies, a Christian music festival. Dollywood also brought back Rudolph and friends to the Smoky Mountain Christmas festival.2016: Lightning Rod an RMC wooden coaster opened on June 13, 2016. It is the world's first launched wooden coaster, as well as the fastest wooden coaster in the world.2017: Dollywood to install Drop Line, a 200-foot freefall ride, and Whistle Punk Chaser, a junior roller coaster, along with presenting two new seasonal events. Splash Country to receive Tailspin Racer mat racer slide complex.