DOLLYWOOD & Splash Country
Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Herschend Family Entertainment
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(10/11/18) Lightning Rod Lives Plus Wildwood Grove Update
(10/8/18) Wildwood Grove Construction Update (MORE...)
(9/20/18) Lightning Rod and Mountain Slidewinders Status Update (MORE...)
(9/16/18) Bigger and Better, Great Pumpkn LumiNights Are Returning (MORE...)
(9/11/18) Dollywood Wins Several Golden Ticket Awards (MORE...)
Dixie Stampede (2016) Review
DOLLYWOOD’S SPLASH COUNTRY WATERPARK - OFFICIAL REVIEW
FireChaser Express Grand Opening & Review - Click Here
Dollywood DreamMore Resort (MORE...)
General Park News - (10/11/18) Good news for Dollywood, there have been several tweets posted on Wednesday confirming the Lightning Rod is open to guests once again.
(9/20/18) Screamscape reached out to Dollywood to answer a few quest questions that I know you are all dying to know. For starters, some of you may have noticed that the Mountain Slidewinders attraction is no longer listed on the park's website. As confirmed with the park, this is normal, as the park closes the Slidewinder each season after Labor Day weekend.
Next up we checked on the status of Lightning Rod and the park confirmed that they 'have been working with the manufacture to deal with some performance issues. We are optimistic it will reopen this season." So cross your fingers folks, let the crews finish up their work as we send a virtual "Get Well Soon" card to Lightning Rod.
(9/16/18) Fall is here and something special is coming to Dollywood once again, the return of the Great Pumpkn LumiNights event from Sept. 28th to Nov. 3rd. Even better the event will return twice as big as it was last year to "double the glow" with this fantastic looking family-friendly halloween themed festival of pumpkin lights and decor after dark, along with the returning Harvest Festival events during the daytime hours, full of concerts, artisans working their crafts and yummy fall food and treats! Follow the link to the official site for more info.
(9/11/18) A quick congratulations goes out to our friends at Dollywood for winning three awards in this year's Golden Ticket Awards. The Pigeon Forge theme park took in top honors winning awards for: Friendliest Park, Best Shows and Best Christmas Event. The park also was listed in the Top 10 for the following awards: Best Food, Cleanest Park, Best Water Park, Best Park and twice for Best Wooden Coaster with Thunderhead taking 10th place and Lightning Rod taking 6th place.
(8/23/18) For those still wondering, Lightning Rod at Dollywood is still closed, and according to a reader who just visited, it now appears that work is taking place once again on the coaster's notoriously fussy launch system on the lift hill. While previously we had heard when the coaster went down it was not launch related, but according to another source Lightning Rod may have lived up to it's name and may have possibly took a lightning hit in July causing further damage. Bottom line though, it's still closed and no one seems to know when it will open.
(8/3/18) Since Lightning Rod has been down awhile, I attempted to reach out to Dollywood for a little more information on the situation, but unfortunately I've been able to get no official word about the coaster's status. On the rumor side of things, employees are said to not be very optimistic at this point, with many believing it could be closed for the rest of the season. I'd prefer not to think that were the case, as Dollywood is likely doing whatever it can to get it reopen ASAP.
(8/1/18) Dollywood’s Splash Country will host a unique event on Saturday August 11th as the American Cornhole Organization Champions are coming to the park to compete in the first ever ACO Dollywood Classic for a $7500 total prize purse. The event will take place in the waterpark from 11am through to 7pm and hopes to host up to 160 two-person teams to play in the double-elimination tournament. If you think you’ve good enough to complete the competition has openings for the general public to play. Click here for the official information on the tournament and how you can join up.
(7/16/18) Despite hope and rumors to the contrary, it seems that Lightning Rod is still closed as of Sunday evening. Rumors reported that they hoped to get it up and running for the Thrills in the Hills coaster enthusiast event held on Friday and Saturday at the park, but as of Sunday morning the parks website still lists the coaster and being closed for repairs.
No word on when it may reopen... but according to one insider, the crew have been reassigned to other attractions for the time-being, but had the impression it might be several more weeks before they could return to Lightning Rod.
(7/12/18) While as of this writing (Wednesday evening), Lightning Rod is still listed as being closed for repairs on the official website. That said, we've heard some interesting but unconfirmed news regarding this closure. According to the rumor mill, the park is taking care of a number of smaller issues with the ride now to improve rider comfort as well as the overall experience. This is rumored to include some new padding for the trains, working on a rough patch or two of the track and so on.
Again... nothing has been confirmed by the park, but the expectation is that Lightning Rod is planning on reopening in time for the 10th Annual Thrills in the Hills coaster enthusiast event at the park being held on July 13-14th, where rides on the coaster are expected to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Stay tuned!
(7/4/18) Dollywood celebrates a Star-Spangled Summer as part of its ongoing Summer Celebration (now-Aug. 5) which features extended park hours—10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily—as well as a nightly fireworks extravaganza and a number of patriotic events to help guests enjoy family, fun and freedom during their time making memories at the park.
This includes the colorful iLuminate performances July 7-21 (as seen on America's Got Talent), the America's New Faces of Country concert series every Thursday in July, each evening Summer Celebration ends with Dolly's Nights of Many Colors fireworks show.
(6/26/18) According to the local news a woman is now attempting to sue Dollywood after claiming to be injured at Dollywood's Splash Country waterpark on the RiverRush Water Coaster. She claims to be riding with her family and somehow came out of her seated position at the top of a hill and then fell back into her seat hard, causing a spinal injury for which she is seeking $2 million in damages.
You can see some brief footage of RiverRush Water Coaster I shot myself in the video below, and based on that and the times I've ridden it myself... I'm not buying this claim. There really isn't any floater airtime, let alone ejector airtime at the top of any of the hills on this slide. Despite that this is a ProSlide Hydromagnetic water coaster slide, it does share a certain visual similarity to the Schlitterbahn MasterBlaster style slides due to the use of an overhead netting over parts of the slide path... which were also used on Schlitterbahn's disastrous Verruckt slide in Kansas City. I'm sorry to be the one to look for ulterior motives, but I can't help but think that their lawyer will try to compare the two incidents, despite being from different manufactures and using entirely different technology. Bottom line though... I've ridden this... and I don't see how that could have happened. The slide is very fun... but also a bit on the mild side.
(5/18/18) Dollywood reminds us that Dollywood's Splash Country waterpark will open for the season on May 19th, and to celebrate they are offering a special ticket deal: purchase a two-day Dollywood ticket and upgrade to a two-day, multi-park ticket for free! You can take advantage of this offer now through May 18th (FRIDAY) and the tickets can be used through to June 3rd.
Splash Country will also showcase a number of upgrades for their 18th season featuring "Too Hot Turesday" where a DJ performs on the wave pool deck, a ton of new menu items throughout the park, new landscaping and some new paint and themeing elements to explore and even new shade structures over select queues. Screamscape readers know I'm a big fan of Dollywood's Splash Country as well... as I think it really is one of the best waterparks in the country to visit, both in terms of awesome attractions and a great relaxing themed atmosphere.
Check out our review and video feature for more details if you have never been. You wont regret it.
(3/13/18) Dollywood finds itself the target of another guest lawsuit, this one asking for $400,000 after the guest was injured in the park. What happened? According to this article a woman named Judy Eatherton visited the park in March 2017 and while attempting to climb out of the Rockin' Roadway car ride vehicle, she stumbled, fell and fractured her wrist.
So yeah... she is asking for $400,000 in damaged for a self-stumble and a broken wrist? And the interesting part is she takes no blame for the incident, but instead claims to be suffering permanent impairment, disability and "loss of enjoyment of life' because the design of the car's is flawed because there is no open doorway to enter and exit through, which forced her to climb over the car into the seat.
While there are some antique car themed car rides out there with large vehicles with open sides, the majority of car rides I've seen over the years, including those at the Disney parks, all require guests to step over the door to enter and exit the vehicle. This is typically done for an important reason... these are kiddie rides with no open doorways for small children to fall out and get hurt. Fixing this "flaw" would then put the small children that ride this attraction at risk, or force the park to increase the height limit which would then bar small children from riding.
Lets hope logic prevails here and this case is tossed by the judge before this lady trips over herself again trying to sit at a picnic table somewhere.
(3/12/18) While a lot of the focus on Dollywood right now is aimed at their 5-acre 2019 expansion (follow this link to see brand new information about that) some other interesting news was passed my way this week. According to the latest rumors, Dollywood may be considering plans to attempt to keep the park open year-round within the next couple years. As it is right now, Dollywood is almost open year-round, only closing down from early January to mid-March, which is pretty much the coldest time of the year for the area, and a time when tourism falls off at most of the area businesses in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, with things picking up once again in March... just when Dollywood reopens.
The question here to be solved may be similar to the, "Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg?" question. Does tourism in the area fade during this time just because Dollywood is closed, or would the tourists continue to visit if Dollywood were to remain open? We may just find out the answer to that question before too long, so stay tuned.
(3/8/18) In addition to news about the 2019 expansion, Screamscape sources tell us that Dollywood has removed their small Ferris wheel attraction.
2018 - The “Season of Showstoppers” and “The Venue” - (2/24/18) Dollywood has posted a nice update to their Blog showing off how they are progressing inside the park on various off-season improvement projects inside the park. New paint, a look at the new Festival Plaza mixed-use space, word that big changes are coming inside Aunt Granny's restaurant, upgrades all around Rivertown Junction and much more.
(11/6/17) Another note from Dollywood describes "The Venue", a new themed multi-purpose area that will replace the park's closed River Battle ride between Mystery Mine and the entrance to Wild Eagle. While it will have a natural looking theme to it, the area is being designed with the idea of being able to overlay extra themeing to it to tie into whatever special event or seasonal holiday is being celebrated in the park at any given time of year.
(11/4/17) Dolly Parton and Dollywood have announced that in 2018 the park will make their 'largest entertainment investment in history'. This will take the form of an unprecedented lineup of performers coming to Dollywood throughout the 2018 season in what Dolly has called a, "Season of Showstoppers".
“Music is the universal language that unites all of us,” Parton explained. “It celebrates our people, our families and our communities. I’ve made music my life’s work because I feel each and every one of us has a special song to sing. I’ve made sure that here at my Dollywood, we use music to encourage and inspire those songs in each and every one of our shows.”
Dollywood’s 2018 entertainment roster reads like the nomination list from an awards ceremony. A range of performers—from CMA Hall of Fame members to emerging artists—ensure there is something for everyone. Combined, the headlining artists performing at Dollywood in 2018 have 42 gold albums, 18 platinum albums, 30 Grammys, 14 Country Music Association Awards, 10 American Country Music Awards, five American Music Association Awards and 62 Dove Awards.
It all begins with Dollywood’s Festival of Nations (March 17-April 9) which includes headliners National Dance Company of Siberia, The Flamenco Kings starring Los Vivancos, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
April plays host to three weeks (April 11-29) of stellar performances during the all-new Spring Mix music series. Dollywood guests can expect performances by Dollywood entertainment alumnus Bogguss, Sheppard, Pam Tillis, Gayle, Connie Smith and Shenandoah during the first week of the event. The second week plays host to artists such as Amy Grant, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Larnelle Harris, David Phelps and comedienne Chonda Pierce – also known as “The Queen of Clean.”
Classic artists like The Marshall Tucker Band (Can’t You See and Heard it in a Love Song), The Drifters (Under the Boardwalk and Save the Last Dance for Me), Debby Boone (You Light Up My Life), The Atlanta Rhythm Section (So Into You and Imaginary Lover), Firefall (Just Remember I Love You and You Are the Woman), and Al Stewart (The Year of the Cat and Song on the Radio) entertain park guests during the final week of the event. Individual concert dates and show times will be announced at a later date.
Already one of the nation’s best bluegrass events, Dollywood’s Barbeque & Bluegrass (May 25- June 10) adds an extra week of concerts from the biggest names in the business. Guests should expect hundreds of live bluegrass performances during the festival with headline shows from Grammy and IBMA winner Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, and IMBA winners Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Dailey & Vincent, and many more.
Families have a multitude of world-renowned options to keep them entertained during Dollywood’s Summer Celebration. iLuminate, finalists on America’s Got Talent in 2011, bring their electrified glow-in-the-dark costumes to DP’s Celebrity Theater to perform dynamic dance routines and illusions to thrill guests. Summer 2018 also sees international touring sensation DRUMLine Live! visit the park with riveting rhythms, bold beats and ear-grabbing energy. Developed by the consultants of the hit 2002 movie Drumline, the band featured in this exhilarating show creates a synchronized musical masterpiece for guests—it’s more than just the typical halftime performance! Dan Dunn—America’s favorite speed painter—brings his innovative and mesmerizing PaintJam to Dollywood. Audiences will be astonished as he creates stunning works of art on a spinning 360-degree canvas, while he dances and moves throughout the performance.
Dollywood’s popular Rock the Smokies moves to August 25 with TobyMac and Crowder serving as headliners. Multiple contemporary Christian artists perform throughout the park during this exciting conclusion to the summer.
Dollywood’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana (Sept. 28 – Nov. 3) provides more fall family fun with the expansion of the new guest-favorite Great Pumpkin LumiNights and the largest Southern gospel event in America. During the festival, several hundred performances by Southern gospel royalty take place during the day, while at night, thousands of carved pumpkins illuminate the dark with an expanded number of displays and activities for families to enjoy. Dollywood guests also can enjoy the spectacular artistry of visiting crafters from across the country, or sample the special harvest-themed food items from Dollywood’s award-winning foods team.
Dollywood’s 2018 season again ends with America’s favorite theme park holiday event, Smoky Mountain Christmas. Voted as the best theme park Christmas event for a decade, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana (Nov. 10, 2018 – Jan. 5, 2019) features four million spectacular lights, classic holiday entertainment—including Christmas in the Smokies and It’s a Wonderful Life—Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Friends, and the heartwarming Parade of Many Colors.
2019 - Wildwood Grove - (10/11/18) Dollywood posted a picture on their Instagram account showing off the fantastic and bright paint job they are giving the Mockingbirds cars, coming to Wildwood Grove in 2019. Check it out below.
(10/9/18) A reader visiting Dollywood sent in some new pictures showing off new coaster track and other ride parts on site for Wildwood Grove.
(8/27/18) A new construction report showing off the progress on Dollywood's new Wildwood Grove site for 2019 has been posted to Wild Gravity Travels this week.
(8/3/18) Dollywood announced the details of their huge Wildwood Grove expansion for the 2019 season on Friday afternoon. The expansion is said to be the park's largest capital investment in the 32-year history of Dollywood.
Guests will enter Wildwood Grove by traveling through the hollow center of a giant fallen tree and enter into a new wilderness themed wonderland powered by imagination, full of attractions for the whole family. According to Dolly, "This area is going to give families a place to explore, play and imagine together—but more importantly—it’s a place where they can spend more time together,” she explained. “I believe everyone has a song in their heart that needs to be set free. Wildwood Grove will be a place where families can learn together about what their heart song truly is."
Inside the new land will be six new rides, a 4,000 sqft indoor climate-controlled play area, all anchored by The Wildwood Tree, a giant tree unlike any other, growing out of a cluster of natural rocks and boulders that serve as a stage for various forms of entertainment, where the green canopy covered with thousands of butterflies that will dance in the breeze. After dark the area will glow from the light of lanterns and glimmering fireflies, where the Wildwood Tree will comes to life each night for a "unique nighttime show that features the butterflies glowing in a kaleidoscope of spectacular color."
The new attractions will include:
The Dragonflier, a new family sized inverted roller coaster that will dart along the landscape, past gushing geysers and more.
Black Bear Trail - Climb onto the back of a black bear and go for a ride through the forest.
Sycamore Swing - Swing back and forth on board a giant "leaf boat".
Treetop Tower - Riders sitting in giant acorns will spin around as they rise up in the air, before gently lowering back down to the earth at the end.
The Mad Mockingbird - A Flying Scooters ride themed to the Tennessee state bird, where riders control the action by moving a large sail back and forth.
Frogs & Fireflies - A kid sized round-about style ride, where they sit inside giant frogs that hop as they go around in a circle.
Hidden Hollow - The giant indoor play structure featuring climbing areas, slides, games and areas to explore.
Wildwood Creek - A run little pop-jet / splashing pool area outside for kids to play in.
Other features of the new land include new characters to meet, such as Benjamin Bear and two butterflies, Flit and Flutter. You can also dine inside the new Till & Harvest restaurant featuring a collection of Southwest favorite dishes.
(7/28/18) Dollywood has now posted a fun animated reveal of the Wildwood Grove name for their new land, along with the description that "This is where adventures take root and dreams take flight."
(7/26/18) A good look into the new 2019 land coming to Dollywood can be seen at WildGravityTravels this week, where we get a look at what appears to be some footers going in, as well as early structures going up.
(7/25/18) And now we've got a name... as the official invitation to the 2019 announcement at Dollywood on August 3rd has now added a logo with the name, "Wildwood Grove".
(7/19/18) It may just be marketing hype and attention getting graphics, but so far the announcements being sent out from Dollywood to media and passholders about the upcoming new land announcement (Aug. 3) has kept an interesting theme. Each graphic contains images of brown and green vines with colorful leaves attached, along with a very colorful butterfly sitting nearby. Could this indicate some kind of garden or a setting with lush colorful vegetation? Perhaps, as the text also mentions they are "planting the seeds for something BIG".
Since we already know one of the main attractions for this new land will be a family inverted coaster from Vekoma, plus add in the concept of brightly colored vegetation and this new land is starting to sound more like it could be more focused on Dollywood's smaller to medium sized guests rather than the thrill seekers who have lots of big steel rides to choose from just outside this new land like Thunderhead, Mystery Mine and Wild Eagle. Just thinking here... that's all... we'll know more soon enough.
(7/17/18) A reader sent in three more pictures of the construction taking place for Dollywood's new land. Only two and a half weeks left until the big announcement.
(7/11/18) Good news from Dollywood... the park sent out a 'save the date' card for August 3rd, when they will reveal "An exciting look into Dollywood's new land opening in 2019." Also not to be missed, a reader sent in some new construction pictures of the expansion site this week as well taken from the train.
One more item of note... been hearing from several readers that Lightning Rod has been closed for several days. According to the official website, it says that it is "closed for repairs", which makes this sound like it could be a bit longer than just a few days. Anyone know more?
(6/12/18) Screamscape dropped into Dollywood over the weekend and we took a ride on the railroad to look over the park's 2019 construction site. The video below says it all, showing off the huge site they now have cleared that is being prepared to start full scale construction on the new structures and rides before the end of the summer.
Of course they try to cover for all the construction on the train by explaining that Dolly lost a pair of expensive diamond earrings in the woods they the crew is simply trying to locate them.
(5/24/18) According to an early rumor, the current massive expansion project underway at Dollywood for 2019 may be given a water or river themed name, with the name Geysers Gulch being tossed around as a possibility at the moment. Another interesting rumor sent my way claimed that the removed River Battle ride may return as part of this expansion… but with a shorter layout. Our source tells us that the boats and hardware for the ride are still on-site at the park in storage. Keeping with the river themeing, one of the kiddie flat rides is said to be themed as paddle boats. Look for construction to kick into full gear sometime in July.
But the fun may not stop there… more could be added in 2020! (See below)
(3/30/18) A new video from Coaster Studios shows off the 2019 construction site progress as of March 22, where everything has now been cleared out entirely to make way for the expansion. Compare this to how it looked in late 2017 and it's amazing at how level they have made this land compared to how it used to be.
(3/12/18) Some concept art showing off the layout of the new 5-acre land being added to Dollywood for 2019 can be found at the PigeonForgeTNGuide website. Just scroll down a bit to get to the "March 6" update, and they've posted some of the artwork shown to the town officials, which include the layout of the new coaster, which is an exact match for the Orkanen coaster, just as I said it would be, which looks to be keeping that fun underground tunnel dive element as well.
You can also make out a number of new flat rides being added to the area, which is always a good thing, along with some kind of tracked ride, but I'm not sure if this is a car/tractor style ride, or a small flume. The other interesting features I see are two large buildings being added... one near the pathway entrance by Mystery Mine and the other at the far end just before you reach the coaster. One description mentioned an indoor play attraction space, but what is the other building for? A restaurant? New shop? A dark ride maybe? It's hard to say just yet, though the bigger one near the coaster appears to be at least two-stories tall.
(3/9/18) According to Screamscape sources the new coaster coming to Dollywood in 2019 will actually be a new Vekoma Family Suspended coaster, featuring the latest in Vekoma's train and comfy restraint designs. As for the layout itself, I'm told it will actually be a clone, or near clone of Orkanen (Farup Sommerland, Denmark). Orkanen is known for having a unique custom layout that flies out over the water and even has an underwater dive element through a tunnel, so I'm guessing a Dollywood version could offer a unique terrain-run style, over and through whatever theming they choose to populate the new expansion area with.
(3/8/18) Following up with the on-site reports from December showing off a huge new clearing being made at Dollywood behind Thunderhead, the local news now confirms that this will be for a new 5-acre expansion to Dollywood that will include eight new "attractions", a new restaurant along with other assorted amenities.
While there is no official word from the park on what the new attractions will be, the files spotted by the news report mention seeing what they believe is an enclosed family coaster, a swinging pendulum style ride and indoor play area. The picture shown of the swing ride looked like your typical swing-ship ride.
Just a thought, but either way 2019 is going to be a big year for Dollywood. As for the expansion itself, Screamscape has been told that the access pathway to the new area is located pretty much right next to the Mystery Mine building.
(12/24/17) Screamscape has been getting some interesting reports about new construction taking place at Dollywood as of late. As previously reported, River Battle is coming out to be replaced by "The Venue". Meanwhile, over the last several years we've witnessed a slow but steady clearing of the land along the upper end of the train route. Several years ago the large circle / turnaround area at the top of the line used to be forested, but was cleared out for unknown reasons, and ever since then the land near the train tracks leading up to this point behind Firechaser Express and now down to the hillside behind Thunderhead has been slowly been cleared and leveled for some kind of unknown future project.
Well now it looks like this clearing is suddenly going full speed ahead and has really expanded in scope. Coaster Studios dropped by the park this week and posted some video footage of this huge land clearing taking place as seen while riding the train, which you can watch below. You can compare the video footage to some photos a reader sent in about 10 days ago and see how much more the site has been cleared since then. Based on the video, I've marked on an aerial image where I believe this clearing now is, as if I'm right, this is clearly a big enough space to build an entirely new land, if that is what the park wanted. I would look for something huge to appear here in 2019.
Lastly, you see a bit of it at the end of the video, but it seems the park also quietly demolished the old "Apple Jack's Sandwiches" restaurant structure leaving no trace of it, other than a construction fence. I'm told that Dolly used to have a private little apartment space on the second floor of the building she could use a long time ago, but the space was said to have been cleared out completely about 6 or 7 years ago. (Of course, Dolly now has her own Suite at the DreamMore Resort...)
2020 - New Coaster - Rumor - An early rumor claims that Dollywood may be looking to build their next major coaster as a Phase 2 expansion to the 2019 project. Manufacturers are being looked at, but rumor has it they may be leaning towards B&M simply for a reliability standpoint. What kind of coaster may be up in the air as well, though after just opening Fire Chaser Express and Lightning Rod, they definitely are not looking to have another launched coaster at this point. While a B&M Hyper may be considered a likely choice, I believe Dollywood is too close to Carowinds and Six Flags over Georgia for that to happen with the typical B&M contracts that prevent similar coasters from being built too close together too soon. A B&M Inverted may be a possibly however, even though Carowinds has one as well, simply because Afterburn was built in 1999, and by 2020 enough time should have passed to allow for it. Plus I think it would be kind of cute to open the rumored family inverted coaster in 2019… and then follow it up with a monster sized version that could run wild through the mountainside and trees, much like Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
That’s just a dream on my part however, Dollywood could very well opt to go with an entirely different manufacturer to get a Hyper or anything else they want. Stay tuned while we listed for more rumors on the wind.
DOLLYWOOD’S SPLASH COUNTRY -
Review by Lance Hart
Here at Screamscape our family are big fans of waterparks, and we've traveled across the country to visit many of them over the years, and have written quite a few reports about our favorites which you can find scattered throughout our many "Features" articles.
Today we add to this famous list another waterpark that is very deserving of your attention: Dollywood's Splash Country. The park is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, just across the road from the world famous Dollywood theme park, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, nestled right in-between the theme park and Dollywood's DreamMore Resort, surrounded by the lush and beautiful hillsides that make for the perfect terrain for a truly incredible waterpark.
In fact once you get your ticket and head down the path to the park entrance, you may just quickly forget just where you are, as you pass into what may be one of the most well themed and beautifully landscaped waterparks anywhere. Your ears will be filled with the sound of waterfalls, trickling rivers, laughing children and gentle music as you enter the first area where the entry to the Downbound Float Trip (aka: Lazy River) sits to your right, with a backdrop of cascading waterfalls. To your left is the Little Creek Falls kiddie play area for the little kids, and there are plenty of lounge chairs on either side here if you wanted to plop down and park your stuff.
Of course this is just the tip of the ice-berg, as Splash Country has several great areas you can sit and relax in. You can keep walking straight ahead and up a rise to find the huge Mountain Waves area, dominated by a 25,000 sqft wave pool. Or head down the hill to your left and you can hang out at Bear Mountain Fire Tower area, dominated by a huge water fortress structure, complete with a massive bucket of water on top that dumps down on everyone below every couple of minutes. Keep walking down the path from here and you'll come to one of my favorite and very secluded areas, The Cascades... a highly themed 8,000 sqft lagoon that you can wade in, with a zero-depth entry point on one end for the kiddies with fun interactive elements, or play on the two kiddie sized slides in the middle, or wade out to the far side to hang out under the rocky waterfalls.
While The Cascades is surrounded by plenty of lounge chairs, the area also features a deluxe upgrade that can really up the relaxation factor of your day at Splash Country to the 100% satisfaction level. I'm talking about the Retreats and Canopies the park has available for rental. The Retreats are bigger (200 sqft) and offer you not only a shaded space where you can relax, but a safe place to keep your valuables (with a locker box) and your own sun-deck if you want to catch some rays. The Canopies are smaller (65 sqft) shaded spaces, perfect for couples, complete with two chaise-lounge chairs.
You will spy Retreats and Canopies scattered out around the park in various areas, though a large number of the Retreats are in The Cascades. While I've never been one to try out this kind of thing before at other waterparks, my family and I were able to try out a Retreat in The Cascades and I may never be able to go back to roughing it again. Ours also featured a nice table, a phone where you can order food to be delivered right to you, and a TV to watch if you so desired (so no missing the big game!). However sometimes the benefits of the Retreats are more than what is advertised... especially as a parent. The Retreat gives your group of kids a "base" where they can not only keep their stuff for the day, but your kids can venture off on their own, allowing the older kids to go wild and slide for a bit while you focus on the smaller kids, and everyone knows to come back to the Retreat to check in. The park also offers refillable drink bottles, which you can't take on the slides with you, but the Retreat makes a perfect place to take a break every so often, rest, get re-hydrated, maybe eat something and head back out for more fun in the sun. They are available on a first-come basis as you enter the park, so inquire about availability, it really will make your day.
With everyone's gear settled, sunscreen applied, its time to head out into the waterpark for some wet fun and wild thrills. I've already mentioned a few of the more mellow ways you can spend your day, so lets focus now on the more WILD times you can have. If you are near The Cascades or Mountain Waves I'm sure you've spotted the huge Fire Tower Falls slide tower, featuring a pair of near vertical dive slides that you wont soon forget. Not far from here is the Big Bear Plunge (big raft) slide that winds through twists and tunnels along with a big splashdown, or take on the parks newest thrill slide, RiverRush, which has Tennessee's first and only water coaster slide that will take you on a wild experience like no other.
Venture over to the other side of the park and you'll find a wild assortment of other slides like the Wild River Falls (raft slides) or the short but wild Butterfly slides that are themed to look like the Dollywood butterfly logo. Near here is the Raging River Rapids (big raft) slide, the three Mountain Scream body slides, the SwiftWater Run bowl slide, the Mountain Twist slides that you go down head-first on matt that are much wilder than they look, or venture up the valley to race your friends down the always fun Slick Rock Racer.
After visiting so many waterparks that are essentially giant concrete pool pads, roasting under the harsh sun standing in long lines, a day spent at the lush Splash Country waterpark where you are never far from the natural green landscape that surrounds the whole park will change your mind about how a great a day at the waterpark should really be. Check the park website for the official schedule, but it’s usually open from about Mid-May to Early to Mid-September. So treat yourself to an enjoyable and relaxing experience at Dollywood's Splash Country... you'll thank me later if you've never been.
DOLLYWOOD’S DREAMMORE RESORT -
Review by Lance and Kerry Hart
For years now, going back to the beginning of the theme park itself, one of the dreams of Dolly and the Dollywood theme park was to build their very own on-site resort. For some time now they had already offered mountainside holiday cabins scattered throughout the nearby landscape, but building a true on-site resort hotel experience next to the park was something that was key to take Dollywood up to the next level. It almost came to be back in 2008, but the financial crisis that hit the world put the project on hold once again, waiting until the time was finally right.
In Summer 2015 that long-time dream had become a reality and Dolly Parton was on hand to formally open the doors for guests to stay at the Dollywood DreamMore Resort, built right next door to their already impressive Splash Country waterpark, nestled into the hillside of the Smoky Mountains of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The 307-room resort is a sight to behold, mixing the features of a mega-resort experience built with the loving care of a Tennessee country mountain home, filled with plenty of southern comfort touches to give it a very warm, welcome and almost familiar feeling.
Back in December, I was invited to come down to the park with my family to not only see all of Dollywood’s brand new Christmas season attractions, as well as get a taste of the beyond fantastic Lightning Rod coaster, but to also experience the park’s DreamMore Resort first hand. At the time, the resort was all decked out for the Christmas holiday season, with extra special touches that really made it stand out as being a one of a kind experience, complete with visits from Santa Claus, seasonal arts and craft making opportunities for the kids, holiday dining dishes aplenty… the experience was enough to make me want to make an annual Christmas visit to the DreamMore Resort a future family tradition.
The Resort is home a selection of very tasty snacks, coffee and more at the “DM Pantry” near the lobby, but it is dining at the “Song & Hearth: A Southern Eatery” where the DreamMore culinary experience comes home. I didn’t have the time to try it for the Lunch or Dinner menus during my visit, but we did hit it up for a most wonderful breakfast buffet experience that offered about anything you could ever think to ask for, and about half a dozen more things that you never even imagined.
The breakfast experience was made even more special by the appearance of themed Christmas Carolers who performed throughout the restaurants many themed rooms, as well as the appearance by Santa himself to arrived to sing and play games with the children. As I said, you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Christmas seasonal vacation stop, especially if you have children, as they really went out of their way to make the entire resort shine for the holiday season, even with the addition of special holiday trees out in the outdoor pool area, with lights that was dance to holiday music every times each evening, along with small nearby fire pits where you roast SMOREs by the fire.
Not just wanting to report on how the resort was for the Christmas season, we also quietly returned for a second stay at the DreamMore Resort in April, to get a second taste of what the resort experience was like the rest of the year, as well as touch upon some features we didn’t get a chance to try the first time around, such as the The Spa at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort for my wife’s birthday.
The Spa at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort is a great way to add some pampering. The Spa menu offers something for everyone, including Dolly's youngest fans. After arriving at the resort my wife headed straight to the spa for a massage and facial and then on the last day which happened to be her 40th birthday she finished up with a Manicure and Pedicure. The spa has a very "glitzy and chic" appearance. They have 3 pedicure chairs, so perfect if you are on a girls trip, or mother daughter or even bridal parties, 3 treatment rooms, one of which can accommodate a couples massage. There is a beautiful outside sitting area where you can relax in between spa treatments and enjoy that mountain air too. You do not have to be staying at the resort to book spa appointments, but keep in mind that the Spa is not huge so I would book appointments prior to your arrival. The Spa is also closed on Mondays so keep that in mind if you plan to visit.
The standard guest rooms we experienced were about what you would expect, average in size and with all the normal in-room amenities, with options for a single king bed, double queens, in addition to some special options to add a double bunk bed to the single king, perfect for those with smaller children. Then there are also bigger Suite rooms available with other size options and connecting rooms for groups to sleep up to 8. The rooms are as nice as can be of course, but if there was one item I might be more critical of is the beds themselves are a bit “stiff” for my personal comfort, and I’d love to see them upgraded to something a bit more comfy.
As for the rest of the resort, there are a bunch of other great amenities including a heated indoor pool, a nice gym if you want to work out, free WiFi, free parking, a fun little arcade room that also offers tables and sitting space to pull out a few board games, and strolling about the resort during any given day you may come across various live musical performers setting up to perform a variety of music. As for the outdoor pool, as nice as it looks, we still did not get to try it. We were kind of shocked to see that even during the week of Spring Break, the outdoor pool had yet to open for the season.
All said and done the DreamMore Resort is a beautiful addition to the Dollywood property, turning it into a full fledged theme park “resort” experience. Even better for those visiting the Dollywood theme park… you’ll be happy to know that the queue-cutting TimeSaver upcharge perk offered in Dollywood is given away to all resort guests at the DreamMore Resort for free if they have park tickets or season passes which is a huge cost saver over buying TimeSaver access for your group inside the theme park. Even better, you will pick up the actual TimeSaver device at a special desk in the DreamMore Resort, avoiding the line to get one at Dollywood itself. Mix this in with the door to door shuttle service that takes you right to a special resort-guests only entrance into Dollywood itself, and you are set to be treated like a country music star for the day, with queue-free entry into most of the major park attractions and special reserved VIP seating at most shows.
In addition to the regular perks, for for those who visit Pigeon Forge often, you may want to look into the “Founders Club Premier” club. Right now it costs an extra $149 to join, but you get 20% off dining and spa services, a certificate to add a free second nights stay when you visit (subject to availability), a free one-day ticket into Dollywood or Splash Country, automatic room upgrades (again, subject to availability) along with other special offers.
Bottom line, if you are visiting Dollywood while in Pigeon Forge, it would be hard to go wrong by staying at the DreamMore Resort, as the perks are plentiful and you can’t beat staying so close to Dollywood and Splash Country. And while Dollywood was mum on the subject, I get the feeling that this won’t be the last resort we see with Dolly’s name on it in Pigeon Forge. I'd expect more great things to come for sure.