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The Wildwood Grove Tree Experience

When I first heard that Dollywood’s new Wildwood Tree in Wildwood Grove was going to have a “unique nighttime experience,” I was curious. Not a “show,” but an “experience.”  What would that look and sound like? I got to enjoy it recently and decided to share my thoughts with you:

It is a great closing to your time at Dollywood – and one I never even thought the park needed. But now that I have experienced it, enjoying the Wildwood Tree at night is a wonderful way to end your time – sort of like a grand finale to the day.   During Summer Celebration, Dollywood also has a fireworks show at the end of every night—now through Aug. 4.

As the sun is setting you can begin to really see the hundreds of butterflies lighting up in the tree; stay tuned, though! The “experience” begins a short time after you notice the illuminated butterflies.

The tree itself is described as “majestic… indigenous to the Smoky Mountains, yet unlike any other tree in the world. Strong and defiant, it grows from a cluster of natural rock and boulders. The green, leafy canopy is bedecked in butterflies with glistening wings dancing colorfully in the breeze.”  This tree is 50 feet tall and 50 feet wide and features nearly 650 lighted butterflies (orange, blue, yellow, pink and multi-colored) and almost 9000 leaves. It is the focal point and literal heart of Wildwood Grove.


The “experience” begins with a Dolly Parton narration telling the legend behind the tree: a little girl wandered away from her family to explore the mountains and was led to this tree by some colorful butterflies. The narration is accompanied by whimsical mountain-style music in the background and the butterflies turn different colors with different color schemes. At the same time, there are light projections on the trunk of the tree and rocks below the tree.  It is truly magical and beautiful and lasts only about three minutes—perfect for children with short attention spans! The story includes poetic lines: “The legend also says on nights like tonight when the Grove is alive with love and light, your very own dreams can also take flight carried by the wind of a joyful song, and you can make the music of the mountains part of your heart song forever.”

My daughter-in-law Amanda said, “Once Dolly started talking, it really drew people in. It made them all stop and want to watch the tree, whereas before maybe they were just walking by, now they wanted to stop and take a better look.” If you are wondering about the best vantage point, numerous people were sitting down on the benches and walls outside Hidden Hollow (the indoor play area) to watch what was going on.  We were across the walkway from there and had a fantastic view, but it seems there would be many places around Wildwood Grove that would be great vantage points.

Vendors were also selling lighted items such as butterfly wands, spinners and bubble blowers, which added to the festive atmosphere.

After the experience, the butterflies stay lit and continue changing color schemes: all green, blue and orange, all white, etc.  Something else to note: the entire Wildwood Grove area is spectacularly illuminated in the evening. Many trees twinkle with white lights that look like fireflies, the Dragonflier roller coaster is lit in blue and green and the Giant Tree Swing shows a pink-lit bottom as it swings.

This “experience” is described this way: “The tree comes to life each evening during a unique nighttime experience. Each season features a spectacular new experience for guests.” So, I am anticipating a fun and different encounter during the fall, winter and spring seasons at Dollywood, and I am excited to see what that might look like.

Have any of you been to Wildwood Grove since this experience started?  What are your thoughts?

By | 2019-07-03T13:48:07+00:00 July 3rd, 2019|Attractions|0 Comments

About the Author:

Kelly Harb (Dollywood Insider 2018-Now) had a landmark year in 1986. She married her husband Richard, moved to East Tennessee, and discovered Dollywood! Kelly has two wonderful adult children – a son and a daughter – with mates who greatly enhance the family. Her happiest delight is her grandchildren – ages 5, 3 and one due in the fall of 2018. A native of Mississippi, Kelly continued her parents’ tradition of memory-making-travel with her own family. The Harbs have journeyed to faraway places and places right down the road like Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains. A life-long theme park aficionado, Kelly also loves to spend time with family and friends, is a long-time Bible Study Fellowship leader, loves to read, watch college football, and she and her husband enjoy mentoring young married couples through small groups in their church.
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