As far as theme parks go, Dolly Parton’s Dollywood is pretty close to perfect.
While it’s an homage to the big-hearted country singer – highlighting her story and legacy – the theme park is for the whole family to enjoy. Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, this sprawling 160-acre establishment has been delighting visitors for over three decades. It welcomes visitors of all ages through a wide variety of rides and other types of entertainment.
It’s no surprise it became one of the most popular attractions. Still, there might be a few things you may not know about it! Keep on reading below as we spill some of the most fascinating facts about Dollywood.
It Had Many Names Before Dollywood
When one day Dolly Parton decided to build a theme park, she didn’t do it from scratch. In fact, three other parks had already existed and had been around for decades in this location before it became Dollywood.
The very first park was the Rebel Railroad, which was a small tourist attraction built by brothers from North Carolina in 1961. Its main attractions are the steam train, saloon, blacksmith shop, and similar others that are based around Smoky Mountains’ history.
It was rebranded nearly a decade later by the same man who owned the Cleveland Browns football organization and changed the name to Goldrush Junction, wherein log flume ride, kids’ rides, and more attractions inspired by the Wild West theme were added. In 1977, it became Silver Dollar City, where the park had significant growth. The new owners added several brand-new rides, shows, and shops that showcased the craftsmanship of the Smoky Mountain region.
Parton came into the story in the 1980s as she became part-owner of Silver Dollar City. In 1986, it was then that she reopened the park as Dollywood.
It’s The Home To The Fastest Wooden Roller Coaster In The World
In 2016, Dollywood announced what is said to be the world’s fastest wood coaster, called the Lightning Rod. Based on the theme of a tricked-out 1950s-era hot rod, the ride comes with 3,800 feet of track that could reach a speed of 73 mph.
In over three minutes of ride time, twenty-four riders will get to experience a 165-foot drop, a half-loop, wicked twists and turns, and more.
But The Queen Of Country Music Refuse To Ride The Rides
Ironically, Parton is not riding the rides at her own theme park. It turns out the country legend is terrified of roller coasters. And her reason for fearing them is a little more unique. She admitted to having motion sickness and jokingly said she has too much to lose — like her hair!
It Is Also The Home To One Of The Largest Eagle Sanctuaries In The Country
Dollywood is not only a great place for thrill-seekers and music enthusiasts but also the best one for animal lovers. The park holds the country’s biggest sanctuary for non-releasable bald eagles, which spans up to 30,000-square-foot. You can walk along the edges of the aviary and enjoy the sight of its occupants. There’s also a show by the live birds and their handlers.
It Hosts Various Festivals
The renowned park hosts multiple festivals throughout the year.
It begins with the Festival of Nations at the start of the year, where performers and artists from different countries come together to give the guests the opportunity to explore other cultures. What’s even more interesting is that every year is unique, making you want to visit again and again.
Meanwhile, Dollywood hosts a fireworks show each summer. Other festivals include Flower & Food Festival, Harvest Festival, and Smoky Mountain Christmas, among others.
It Is More Popular Than Disneyland
According to Tripadvisor’s Choice Best of the Best Awards in 2020, Dollywood is more popular than the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth.” Tripadvisor users love the park’s proximity, its accommodating employees, exciting rides, and world-class entertainment.
It beat three Disney properties in the Top 25 United States Amusement Parks poll, where it ranked No. 6. Meanwhile, it also ranked No. 8 worldwide, making it the first American park on the list that is not part of the Disney or Universal families.
The rankings were based on Tripadvisor’s reviews, ratings, and saves from travelers all over the world.
It’s The Best Place To Learn About Dolly Parton’s Life
While not every part of Dollywood directly relates to the country legend, there are several attractions celebrating her. This includes Chasing Rainbows, which features Parton’s prestigious awards and her intricate costumes throughout her career.
For a much more intimate look at Parton’s life, you can drop by her tour bus or the replica of her childhood home – which was built by her brother, with an interior that was created by her mother. It is filled with plenty of authentic items from the old home Parton grew up in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Indeed, whether she’s entertaining fans through her songs or on an adrenaline-pumping amusement park ride, it’s clear Dolly Parton knows how to deliver a great time. So, if you have never been to Dollywood, make sure to add this to your travel list.