Dolly Parton’s voice echoed through my childhood starting with the song 9 to 5 (do you remember the 1980 movie also starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin?). As the 80’s and 90’s flew by, seasonal Christmas songs and now classics, like I will Always Love You, featured the voice of sweet Dolly. But what really caught my attention as a kid, just over 30 years ago, was the new Dollywood theme park that opened in Tennessee. As a ten-year-old child living in Louisiana it was quickly on my list of places to visit. Well, it took me 30 years to get there, and when I did my husband Jeff and our three children were with me. If fact, my kids are in the same age range I was when Dollywood opened.
As an adult, I wasn’t sure what to expect regarding the theme park. Would it meet my childhood expectations? Theme parks come in all shapes and sizes for all I knew Dollywood might be a disappointment, but that wasn’t the case. The park is sweet, clean, personal and doesn’t carry the same hurried hustle and bustle of other larger parks. The staff ensures guests are well taken care of and the prices are reasonable. Not only did we visit the park but we stayed in the new Dollywood DreamMore Resort opening week. My husband and I fell in love with the Dollywood experience, as did our kids.
While theme park conversations usually revolve around rides and food, Dollywood surprised us with a number of things to do that we were not expecting. Here are some of the things to do at Dollywood:
History. The first stop upon entering the park should be peeking inside the replica of Dolly Parton’s tiny childhood cabin where she and her 10 siblings were raised. Rags to riches stories are always inspirational and this one is grand. You will carry that awe with you the entire day.
Shows. Dollywood has 15 shows! The staff kept telling us the shows are a must-do but that the kids would especially love the Gazillion Bubbles featuring bubble master Deni Yang. His family holds the World Record for Largest Bubble Wall. We took the advice and, yes, the show was outstanding. So much so that the kids still talk about it. The only thing that could have made it better was being one of the kids called on stage, but that’s probably every kid’s dream!
Culture. Guests never forget they’re in the Appalachians with the mountain ambiance but the genuine working Craftsmen complete the authenticity as they produce and sell beautiful work from blown glass, leather, pottery, candles, and candy (fudge, brittle, caramel).
Rides. 40 rides span across Dollywood’s 150 acres. The Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster, was by far our favorite thrill ride. Reaching 21 stories and speeds up to 61 mph made for a fun time. This year Dollywood will open the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster, Lightning Rod. Riders will propel from zero to 45 mph, climb more than 20 stories, face a 165-foot drop and feel speeds up to 73 mph. If you ride, let us know how it is!
There is so much more to love about Dollywood, like the Country Fair with rides and games (you really do feel like you’re at a classic fair). The on-site American Eagle Fountation’s Eagle Mountain Sanctuary is where unreleasable eagles are kept safe while healthy eagles (either born there or rehabilitated) are released. Oh, and don’t forget the food. Our son loves buffets and Aunt Granny’s All-You-Care-To-Eat with home cooked dishes was a hit!
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