Chances are when someone says “theme park,” you think of lots of different things: coasters, characters, maybe a funnel cake or two. But do you think of history?
At Dollywood they do things differently in the best of ways, pairing your favorite thrill rides and entertainment with the soul of the Great Smoky Mountains. Attractions are plentiful, you can get a ton of tasty treats, and you’ll find everything you love about theme park fun right where you’d expect. But at Dollywood, it’s all steeped in the legacy of the Smokies and the proud history of Appalachia. How do they wrap nostalgia around a park full of thrills? Let’s find out.
Ride the Rails
Dollywood’s roots lie in a small attraction that opened in 1961 called Rebel Railroad. Featuring a coal-fired steam train named Klondike Katie, the railroad took guests on a ride through the mountain wilderness. Those rails still exist today and now guide Klondike Katie and another coal-fired steam train named Cinderella up the mountain to give Dollywood guests a taste of Appalachia as they see the countryside. While the park’s newest roller coaster, Lightning Rod, is a wild ride, hearing the distinctive whistle of a steam engine as it chugs past is a thrill all its own.
See the Mill
Much of the Great Smoky Mountains’ heritage lives in the products and crafts of its people, whether it’s a mile-high apple stack cake, a handcrafted leather belt, or a tune picked on a set of strings. At the heart of Dollywood is the Grist Mill, the first working grist mill built in the Smokies in more than 100 years. Hosts at the mill handcraft the most incredible cinnamon bread along with other scrumptious fresh-baked goods. Guests use the extra energy from the warm, sweet bread to make their way to Craftsman’s Valley where a wide variety of authentic crafts like homemade jams, handcrafted linens, and handblown glass await, with daily live demonstrations. Nowhere else can you experience the heirloom legacy of this incredible region alongside the heart-pounding technology of the country’s most cutting-edge rides.
Hear the Songs
It wouldn’t be Dolly’s if it wasn’t wrapped in a melody. Dollywood is as steeped in music as it is in mountains. From the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame just inside the park’s gates to festivals centered around gospel and bluegrass music, to the incredible stage shows and regular performances, the park rings with the native music of the Smokies every minute that it’s open. You’ll hear everything from Dolly’s hits to true Southern Gospel and can even attend a church service in the park’s Robert F. Thomas Chapel on Sundays for a good dose of classic hymns.
These days it’s difficult to find a place that excites as much as it enchants. I call Dollywood “my” park for the fun, the heritage, and the feelings of home it brings when I visit. Come find out what “Dollywood Different” means for you and your family and make it your park, too.