You may have walked right by these a dozen times, but you will thank me if you pause on your next trip to Dollywood to notice these things that I like to think of as “hidden treasures.”
Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum – This is on the far left side as you enter the park and head to Timber Canyon. I think there are probably a lot of people who walk right by this not knowing they can go in and experience it. There are quite a few “hidden treasures” in just this one building! In one of the display cases is an antique Bible printed in 1886 which was a gift from the family of President James Buchanan. Very interesting! Also in this building, they have a replica of an old radio broadcasting station and in this area, there are many old gospel music records, Christian music CD’s, and Christian books for sale. As the daughter of a gospel music fan, I had fun taking a walk down memory lane looking at these vintage records and CD’s. There are also many records, outfits, and other memorabilia from famous gospel music personalities on display – as well as the Blackwood Brothers Quartet’s actual tour bus! I am looking forward to bringing my father here the next time he’s in Tennessee.
Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home- This is right in the middle of Rivertown Junction, and like the above Gospel Hall of Fame, something I think many people don’t realize they can actually go in and tour. I’m not sure I’ve ever had to wait to go in this. This is a two-room replica of Dolly’s childhood home, and fascinating to see. Dolly’s brother built it and her mother decorated it to be sure it is just like the original. You’ll see it’s a typical mountain home in this area during the 1940’s, so it also counts as a sneaky local history lesson for the young ones.
Tennessee Water Tree – As you are walking into The Village toward the Dollywood Express Train Depot, pause and look for this unique item – a tree which is “dripping water” (from a small pipe inserted in the tree) into a half-barrel. There is a sign to the right of the tree telling you its “history” and even giving its Latin name! Young Dollywood visitors will get a kick out of seeing this. I still remember the astonished look on my seven-year-old nephew’s face when I pointed it out to him about 12 years ago.
Heartsong Theater- At the far end of The Village area is a theater that has been a part of Dollywood for many years, but I call it “hidden,” because even on very crowded days at Dollywood, I have never seen it completely full. This theater’s show is described on the Dollywood app as a “multi-sensory film experience” where “Dolly Parton takes you on a breathtaking journey through the Great Smoky Mountains as she shares her story.” More than just a 20-minute movie, there are several surprises for the audience as you watch! A must-see if you are a Dolly fan, but anyone would enjoy the scenery and music. One of my favorite things to do at Dollywood!
Feeding the fish and ducks – There are a couple of bridges that connect Rivertown Junction to Jukebox Junction. On these bridges, before you cross, there are dispensers that for a quarter will give you food to feed the large fish and ducks that make their home in the water below. This is a fun, inexpensive way to entertain the children in your party and also gives you a chance to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty of the park. My grandchildren always enjoy this.
Whimsical and nostalgic sculptures – As you walk up toward Craftsman’s Valley through Rivertown Junction, just before you go under the railroad bridge, on the left is a whimsical sculpture of a boy chasing a dog, who is chasing a cat, who is chasing a squirrel on a tree limb. Across from this is another sculpture I noticed only the last time I was at Dollywood of what looks like a mother and her two children looking at an insect on a stick. Both works of art depict sweet moments of childhood and the nostalgia for which Dollywood is known. Take a minute to stop and look and enjoy the details.
Fun and unusual Icee flavors- In two locations – in Craftsman’s Valley (at the Sit & Sip) and also in the Country Fair (at Midway Market) you can get an Icee in a flavor different from the usual “coca cola” and “cherry” that you see at many places. Here, you have a choice of flavors such as banana, pina colada, watermelon, and sour apple. Mix and match for a real flavor explosion! For many years, I have enjoyed getting a fun-flavored Icee and considered this a “hidden treasure.” I have noticed on my visits this summer, however, that these locations sometimes had lines, so maybe this isn’t as “hidden” as I thought.
Unadvertised dinner show – I discovered this “treasure” serendipitously one day when I was eating a late lunch/early dinner at the park. I had always wanted to try Granny Ogle’s Ham ’n’ Beans, but it was hard to convince my family to stray from their favorite, Miss Lillian’s Smokehouse. On a solo visit, I decided this was my chance to visit Granny Ogle’s. I had no wait as I arrived around 4 p.m., and I asked if I could be seated on the front porch. Right as I sat down, I heard music coming from the Valley Theater next door and realized the Country Crossroads show was getting ready to start. I sat there and enjoyed my delicious meal and watched a wonderful, high-energy, entertaining show as I ate. My check arrived right at the end of the 30-minute performance and I left feeling not only physically refreshed, but delighted to have also seen such a great show. Check the show schedule and you will find there are several times during the day that you can attempt to do this.
These are a few of the treasures that I have enjoyed at Dollywood over the years – what are some of yours that you would add to this list?