DOLLYWOOD & Splash Country
Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Herschend Family Entertainment
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(12/16/20) New Lightning Rod Update (MORE...)
(12/13/20) Lightning Rod Renovation Update (MORE...)
(12/8/20) Smoky Mountain Christmas and Lightning Rod Updates
(11/29/20) New Leadership Coming To Dollywood (MORE...)
(11/22/20) Dollywood Confirms IBox Track Addition To Lightning Rod (MORE...)
Dixie Stampede (2016) Review
FireChaser Express - Grand Opening & Review
Dolly’s Splash Country Waterpark - Official Screamscape Review
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort - Official Screamscape Review
General Park News - (12/8/20) I took some of the Screamscape crew out to Dollywood the day before Thanksgiving for a quick look around the park at the Smoky Mountain Christmas lights, and for a quick look to see what’s going on over at Lightning Rod for 2021. (Click here for Lightning Rod photos). In addition to our photos from the visit, Dollywood has also sent out a video featuring one of Santa’s elves who tells us about the kind of experience with Santa guests to the park are getting in 2020.
(11/29/20) Dollywood has announced the park’s longtime leader, Craig Ross, will be depart Dollywood to take on a new corporate role of COO at the Herschend Family Entertainment main office. So our congratulations to Craig Ross in his new leadership role!
Replacing Craig Ross at Dollywood will be Eugene Naughton who joined the park back in late 2019 as a VP of Park Operations. Naughton came to Dollywood with over 30 years of experience in the theme park biz, serving at other parks for both Six Flags and Paramount Parks over the years.
(11/8/20) It’s time to get caught up in the glow of 5 million Christmas lights as Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas event has now officially begun and will last through to Jan. 3, 2021.
“Dollywood guests are immediately enveloped in the illumination of millions of holiday lights, which create a festive Christmas atmosphere that has become a cherished family tradition for generations. While the lighting itself remains familiar to guests, brand new area-based themes and lighting designs throughout the park provide a sense of wonder and discovery around each turn. Guests will find themselves strolling through a literal winter wonderland, as more live lighted Christmas trees will adorn the park than during any Christmas festival before.”
“Just one of the new experiences guests can enjoy this season is an end-of-the-evening event that will add a little sparkle to the “Dolly-days” this year. A Christmas fireworks display called Merry & Bright! celebrates the season with a colorful and energetic show featuring a number of contemporary holiday songs that will add a little cheer for guests. Performance dates will be available on Dollywood.com and the Dollywood app.”
“The spotlight also shines brightly on the park’s award-winning entertainment this season. Christmas in the Smokies—a heartwarming tradition that families have enjoyed for 30 years—returns indoors to center stage at DP’s Celebrity Theater. Guests also can enjoy a new show, called Heart of the Holidays, which features several members of Dolly’s family and includes a mix of some of her holiday favorites alongside songs from her new Christmas album, A Holly Dolly Christmas. Heart of the Holidays takes place in the DreamSong Theater. Another returning guest favorite, Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs, can be found at the Pines Theater.”
Add in tons of other live entertainment throughout the park, and the Glacier Ridge arctic experience that stretches through Timber Canyon, Wildwood Grove, Wilderness Pass and Upper Craftsman's Valley. This features exciting display items align the way such as the “Wonderful Christmas!” tree show with a 50 foot animated tree, and the Wildwood Tree which tells Christmas stories each evening.
“For the kids—and kids at heart—wondering what Santa is up to this year, Dollywood will shine a little light on Old Saint Nick’s home away from home. When he isn’t hard at work at the North Pole, Santa likes to visit East Tennessee and his favorite Smoky Mountain songstress, Dolly! Thanks to a brand-new experience, guests literally can see inside Santa’s cabin in the Smokies as he reviews…the list! Kids discover whether their name is on the naughty or nice list, and they even have their photo made as they peer through the window during this once-in-a-lifetime chance to catch Santa at work.”
Plus you can’t forget the one thing Dollywood is known for year round… the food, and during the Christmas season they take their culinary skills to an entirely new level.
(10/20/20) According to the local news one of Dollywood’s historic steam train engines caught fire on Sunday evening. The fire started while Engine #70 (aka: Cinderella) was in the backstage maintenance area when some grease on the side of the engine started a small fire. The good news is that the fire was put out quickly and no one was injured.
As of Monday, the Dollywood train is closed to guests as the park’s other Engine, #192 (aka: Klondike Katie) is currently out of service, awaiting a repair on a wheel bearing. According to the statement from Dollywood, they are hoping to be able to finish the repairs on Klondike Katie with the goal of having it ready to run by Wednesday.
(10/17/20) I have a confession to make… and maybe I’m not the only one, but as someone who has been to Dollywood a fair number of times the announcement that came out the other day surprised me. I’m not talking about a new ride but rather an announcement that the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame exhibit inside Dollywood would be leaving, as the park is not renewing the museum’s lease and will be close at the end of 2020.
My confession is… I had no idea such a thing was inside the park. Looking at the picture in the post, I was even more flabbergasted, because I know this location is just to the left after y ou enter the park. Even more… I don’t think I’ve ever seen the door to this building open… ever… so I always assumed it was some kind of backstage area for the Showstreet Palace Theater. I guess this is probably the reason I never tried to go up the steps to look, that and at this point I was probably in mid-travel up the hill to Thunderhead, but it is interesting that this space will soon be vacant.
Nothing has been said about what kind of plans Dollywood has for the space. I suppose the building could be expanded into the backstage area to make a space big enough for a dark ride, but not without blocking access to the backstage access to the Showstreet Palace Theater. Size wise it could easily be turned into some kind of new restaurant I suppose as well. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what is in the works. Oh, and don’t assume this will actually be any kind of public addition at all… at theme parks office space is always at a premium and the building could very well be used for internal staff purposes as well simply because expansion options here are limited due to the theater access and railroad tracks behind it.
In other Dollywood news, I’m told that the park will add something new this year for Christmas… fireworks. Every Friday and Saturday during the Smoky Mountain Christmas event the park will host “Merry & Bright”, a new fireworks show in the sky over the park that will play to Christmas holiday music. A collection of Holiday shows will also be performing in the park indoors once again, but with limited capacity. The list includes Christmas in The Smokies, Kingdom Heirs Christmas and new at the Back Porch Theater, “Heart of the Holidays”.
(10/10/20) While Dollywood may not require reservations anymore, they are still a good idea to have to ensure you are admitted into the park in case they get crowded. Case in point… Dollywood was swamped by guests on both Wednesday and Friday, hitting capacity and forced to close the gates in the middle of the day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have the same issues this weekend. The weekday closures sound a little strange, but I believe many of the local schools districts in the region were taking these days off for a variety of reasons (teacher conference days, etc…) creating an unofficial holiday of sorts.
So if visiting Dollywood this weekend, get yourself a reservation and follow allow with the park on social media for notifications if they have to close the gate again. According to Dollywood, this has been the first time the park has actually hit their COVID related capacity limits so far this year.
(9/23/20) We’ve got a couple of Dollywood updates to share this morning. For starters, while Lightning Rod is said to have been closed for the past several weeks, a reader visiting the park inquired with a ride op as well as the customer service desk at the park where they indicated that Lightning Rod will hopefully be up again in the next couple weeks, and hopefully stay running through the rest of the season.
Our other note is a reminder that the Harvest Festival Presented by Humana starts this Friday and includes the Pumpkin LumiNights displays that really come to life after dark. Follow the link for all the official details.
(9/18/20) Sounding similar to some of the surveys Dollywood did not long ago, the park has released a 2021 renewal plan for current passholders. According to a post on the site starting Oct 19 passholders will be offered the chance to expand their current passes that end on June 15, 2021 through to the end of 2021 for $79 + tax, or convert them into 2-Park Super Passes for $99.
Extra perks to be added also include a Christmas 2020 Bring a Friend Ticket, three flexible 2021 Bring A Friend tickets, a free souvenir mug good for .99 cent refills through the end of the 2021 season, and the ability to spread out your payments over a 10 month period.
Follow the link for the official details.
(9/4/20) Dollywood tells us that their hard-working Special Events team is already preparing the park for this year’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana (Sept. 25 through Oct. 31) that will also feature the fantastic Great Pumpkin LumiNights presented by Covenant Health. Guests can stroll through displays featuring thousands of pumpkins, including special ‘larger-tha-life” sized displays. This year the event will expand into new territory, moving into the Wildwood Grove section of the park, which will feature new stacked pumpkin “sunflowers” that will stand between 6 feet to 9.5 feet tall.
Look for the operations schedule of the park to change with the addition of the Harvest Festival, starting on Sept. 25, when the park hours will shift to 10am to 9pm each day (closed Tuesdays and Thursdays). You can see some great footage from previous years events below.
(8/21/20) Dollywood has a special offer for guests staying at the DreamMore Resort. According to the website they are offering a 10% off per stay stay at the DreamMore Resort offer than also comes with FOUR complimentary tickets to Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark good for the following dates: Aug. 22-23, Aug. 29-30, Sept. 5-7, 2020. Sounds like a fun way to finish the summer on a high note, so click here for the official details.
(8/19/20) Dollywood is hosting a special “Homeschool Days” promotion from now through Sept. 21st, where students K-12 can purchase a ticket to the park for $37. Adults who will accompany them can get in for $47. Tickets must be bought at least 72-hours in advance by calling 888-428-6789. There is also a special rate available at the Dollwyood DreamMore Resort with rooms starting at $129 per night (Sun through Thursday only). For more information click here.
(8/15/20) According to Screamscape sources, Dollywood has been hitting up some of their current Annual Passholders with a survey asking questions about what would make them more likely to renew their passes. Current 2020 Dollywood passholders have already had their passes extended beyond 2020 to now be valid through to June 15, 2021. According to the survey being offered, Dollywood is feeling out the best way to get this group to re-new their passes, with the main idea focusing on the concept of a renewal giving them the rest of 2021 and all of the 2022 season.
The survey goes on to ask passholders which extra “perks” and incentives would make them more likely to do so. Options being asked about include more free bring-a-friend passes, the offer of free meals, lower prices, Time-Saver passes, free parking passes, free souvenir refill mugs, or the option of longer payment plans to decrease the monthly price point. According to our source, the initial price point they seem to be suggesting right now to extend the passes for the additional 18-months may be around $125. Of course, this is just a survey and is only an indication of ideas that Dollywood may be thinking about, and not an indication of an actual offer or plan of action at this point. Nothing is official until Dollywood releases their plans, but this does give us an indication on the current thought process going on behind the scenes right now.
(8/5/20) Dollywood officials have created a new campaign designed to recognize the hard work and commitment of essential workers. In celebration of the many frontline workers, first responders, public employees and military who faithfully serve our country and communities, Dollywood’s Everyday Heroes Appreciation Days provides qualifying guests the opportunity to buy a one-day Dollywood admission ticket online for just $39 plus tax. The online-only offer can be purchased now for a limited time and is valid for use now-Sept. 21. Frontline employees need a special redemption code—available from their employer—to complete the transaction. Eligible employees interested in the program should encourage their employers to fill out an online form (Dollywood.com/EssentialSignUp) to request a redemption code for their company.
(7/23/20) Dollywood has announced that their new Flower & Food Festival will be coming to an end on August 2nd. The park’s landscape team has outdone themselves by keeping the displays alive and vibrant long into the hot summer season, much longer than the event and displays were originally intended to last. If you haven’t made it out to see it yet, you’ve still got a few days left, and are now aided by the fact that Dollywood is no longer requiring reservations to visit. You can see some of the unique new displays in our video from the park posted on July 3rd below.
(7/12/20) An incident was reported to have taken place at Dollywood yesterday where a piece of “themed decoration” in the park’s Wilderness Pass area fell on three guests, who were transported to the hospital while they were walking by. According to the statement this is not a “ride-related incident” but the article does mention that “Mystery Mine is currently closed”, which seems to indicate that the accident may have taken place near there and a section of the themed attraction does pass very near and even over the main pathway in that area. (Update: A metal chain attached to the themed structure of Mystery Mine where it passes over the pathway is what broke free and struck the guests.)
All three guests are reported to be in stable condition.
In other news it appears Dollywood has revised their future operating schedule starting in August. This was reported by one of our readers who had a previous reservation in place to visit on August 12, only to discover on the website now lists that starting on August 11, Dollywood will be closed every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and open only from Friday through Mondays. At about this same point in time the waterpark also moves to a mostly weekend only schedule. Things stay this way until September 30th when Dollywood will open again on Wednesdays, but stay closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Please check the official calendar if you have a visit planned, as you may need to make adjustments to any hotel accommodations you may have schedules at the time if you wish to visit the park. As always, remember that park hours are always subject to change.
(7/3/20) According to a reader who just visited Dollywood again this week and reports back that while the crowds were still very light, it appears there has been a slight change to the park’s mask wearing policy. They noticed that the ride ops had changed their procedure and were now asking riders to wear their masks while on the rides.
If you haven’t had a chance you read my detailed report about what a visit to Dollywood is like in 2020, make the jump over to BlooLoop to give it a quick read. I’ve also finally put together my video report from the day as well so you can get a look around the park for yourself.
(6/18/20) A great report that goes into much detail about what’s going on at Dollywood can be found over at Coaster101. While the park is allowing guests to remove masks during select thrill rides still, it does look like they have set up the park well in all other aspects of guest safety in a COVID-19 world. The article goes into detail about how distancing is working out on most major rides and attractions, and mentions that guests are being given sanitizer on their hands just before boarding any coaster, so everyone rides with the cleanest hands possible. Then once an hour they pause operations to clean and disinfect the trains before opening up once again.
(6/16/20) Dollywood reopened for passholders on Monday, and while the park policy says that masks are to be worn, the reports sent in so far show that the mask rule does not appear to be heavily enforced. This included a photo of a loaded Tennessee Tornado train in the station where every single rider had apparently pulled their mask down around their neck, or had taken them off completely. As per Dollywood’s earlier safety statement, they did say that guests may be allowed to remove masks to ride certain rides, so this isn’t unexpected, but from what we’ve seen from other park’s who have opened so far, this is the rate exception, as most others are requiring them to be worn at all times. As for the rest of the park, as this was just the first day I’m sure they’ll get their procedures worked out to enforce the policy throughout the park soon. After all, this is all new to everyone, so lets wait and see, as typically Dollywood has pretty high standards.
(6/4/20) Dollywood has announced that they will reopen Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark to the public on June 17th. The parks will also open on June 15 and 16, 2020 for Season Passholder exclusive days. They have also confirmed that Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa will also reopen to guests starting June 10th.
Reservations are required in advance to visit the park, face masks are to be worn at all times within the parks (except when told you can remove them to eat or ride select attractions) and all guests must pass a temperature screening before entry.
(5/28/20) While Dollywood has not yet announced anything about a possible reopening date, I suspect we should hear something one way or the other between now and early June. That said, the park did make an update to their festival plans for the year. Previously the park had planned to premier a new “Flower & Food Festival” event that would take place from May 8 to June 14th. According to the update on the website the event has now been rescheduled to take place “This Summer”. The site also lists the Summer Celebration event (extended night hours, fireworks, etc..) taking place June 20 through Aug. 2, 2020.
(5/17/20) While Dollywood has still not set an official date to reopen the theme park, the Tennessee government has set May 22nd as the start of the next phase of reopening in the state that will allow for race tracks, large museums and theme parks to reopen, as well as allowing further capacity for on-site dining at restaurants in the state.
I would imagine that Dollywood will make a statement about their own future plans, one way or the other, later this week as the relaxed rules are put into effect.
(4/29/20) While Dollywood isn’t ready to list a possible reopening date for the theme park, they did announce that current season passholders will now be able to use their 2020 passes through to June 1, 2021.
This next part is just speculation on my part, but since Dollywood didn’t open for the season in March as intended, one might assume that the June 1st, 2021 extension date for season passes may be an indication that the park might be hoping to reopen around June 1st, 2020 if all goes well. Just a theory, and nothing more...
(4/26/20) Dollywood fans… I know that if there is one thing you are missing right now, other than the chance to see Dolly herself, you are likely having a serious need to stuff some of Dollywood’s famous cinnamon bread into your mouth. Travel + Leisure has come to the rescue, claiming that they were able to secure the decadent recipe from Dollywood. Follow the link to try your hand at making your very own Dollywood Cinnamon Bread at home.
(4/25/20) It has been confirmed that the Pigeon Forge area is set to be the first major attraction area to begin to reopen to tourists starting on May 1st. I had a discussion a week ago with a few people about how I felt the area could very likely be the first to reopen with Tennessee set to end restrictions on April 30th. The Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg area is fairly remote and located a good distance away from any area of urban density, which is where the coronavirus thrives, so much so that the local area has been relatively untouched by the virus thus far.
As much as I hate to say it, all eyes in the industry will be watching this area, as it will serve as a major test case to determine when and how other attractions should re-open.
Dollywood itself will stay closed, but will also be watching with great interest and if things still look positive as the weeks go on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dollywood itself try to open 4-6 weeks later. There is one big thing to keep in mind when it comes to Dollywood that sets it apart from most other theme parks, the average age of the staff. Unlike most parks who hire mostly high school and college age students, Dollywood has a huge percentage of staff who are much older who not only operate a number of the restaurants and gift shops, but also most of the arts and crafts stands throughout the park. So expect Dollywood to go the extra mile to protect their highly valued staff who could be at higher risk from the virus.
(4/20/20) Dolly has posted a new video aimed at the park’s season passholders over the weekend. While the message is that “brighter days are ahead” and to be patient, the local news also reports being told that Dollywood will begin furloughing their staff starting Monday.
(4/14/20) While Dollywood hasn’t posted a status update in awhile on their website, the park did speak with the local news in Knoxville and reported that the park was going into “hibernation mode”. Until they have a clear reopening-date the park is keeping minimal staff to maintain “business continuity” with all employees remaining active doing so at a 50% salary reduction. All additional staff are being put on furlough but the company will continue to pay their health care premiums.
In other news, one of the two Bald Eagle eggs hatched on Easter Sunday. You can try to catch it on the webcam or see some photos and details posted here.
(4/8/20) Dollywood currently has a live webcam focused on their Eagle Mountain Sanctuary where two rare Bald Eagle eggs are expected to hatch sometime this week. You can view the webcam yourself night or day by clicking here.
(4/3/20) If you haven’t seen it yet, Dolly Parton has begun a series of new programming last night where she will be reading bedtime stories to children from the Imagination Library. This will take place every Thursday evening at 7pm EST for 10 weeks, with the first reading having taken place last night. You can watch Goodnight with Dolly on the official Imagination Library website or check out the first episode embedded below.
(3/23/20) Dollywood has posted a new update saying that based on the current state of things, they now don’t expect to be able to open Dollywood for the season until sometime in May. In addition they are now suspending operations of the Dollywood DreamMore Resort as well.
(3/17/20) A few readers asked if Dollywood’s Festival of Nations event would still continue if the park is able to reopen before the original slated end of the event on April 20th. According to Dollywood, many of the musical groups asked to be released from their contracts so the performers could return to their home countries and Dollywood granted these requests. So while it was not every group, the end result will essentially see the Festival of Nations event canceled for the 2020 season.
(3/13/20-UPDATED) While Dollywood did open today for their Passholder Preview Day, the park has just announced that they too will delay their grand public opening for the next two weeks. The plan is now to open for the season on March 28, but as always, those plans could change between now and then.
The nearby Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Pirates Voyage dinner shows will also close starting March 16. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa and Dollywood Smoky Mountain Cabins will remain open however.
(3/13/20) Dollywood is still opening today for Passholder Preview Day, and is holding fast to their plans to open to all guests for the season on Satuday. But due to “an abundance of caution” they did postpone the planned media day announcement and activities that were scheduled to happen today.
As best said by Dolly herself, “The exciting economic news we planned to share does not seem appropriate based on what is going on. It doesn’t feel right,” Dolly said. “We need to focus on good health and praying for those who are affected. We know brighter days are ahead.”
Well said and we look forward to hearing the news when the time is right.
(3/11/20) Guests to Dollywood this season can expect to enjoy Thunderhead a little more, as it was reported that about 800 feet of the coaster’s track was replaced over the off-season. In addition to the 600-700 feet of track that was replaced during last year’s closure, this means just under half of the ride’s 3,230 ft of track has been replaced so far, and they plan to continue the work over the next few years until it has all been done.
(3/4/20) An interesting post was made on Facebook late last week by nearby attraction, Parrot Mountain. According to the post, “We’re sad to say that our Parrot Mountain sign on the mountain will no longer be up.. We were leasing the property where the sign was located & Dollywood has purchased that property & would not let us keep the “Parrot Mountain “ sign on the mountain. We’re saddened about it but nothing has changed at Parrot Mountain & we’re excited to be opening for our 19th Season this upcoming Saturday”
If you have visited Dollywood, I’m sure you’ve seen the Parrot Mountain sign near the top of a nearby mountain on the left as you make the turn into McCarter Hollow Rd. The sign essentially looked over the Splash Country parking lot, but is located up on a hillside where there are many other rental cabin properties. Down the hill, to the left of the sign is the predicted location for the second Dollywood Resort Hotel, so it would make sense for Dollywood to look into buying all the undeveloped property around this area for future development, or the addition of their own self-contained rental cabin property perhaps in the future.
(2/27/20) Dollywood has announced that at a presentation on March 13th to kick off the park’s 35th Anniversary Season Grand Opening, Dolly Parton will be on hand to make a special announcement. Dolly will unveil the details about “the largest investment plan in Dollywood history” as well as to go over what’s happening for the park’s 2020 season, and the start of this year’s Festival of Nations event.
Now before all the fanboys and girls start to dream of a giga coasters in the hills, I’ve got to point out a few important things. For starters… Dollywood has frequently used the phrases “biggest investment” and “largest investment” over the years for many projects, including Wild Eagle, Wildwood Grove and more. That said, if you carefully read the quote from the park, it says “largest investment plan” in the park’s history, and a plan is much more than a single year’s new capital expansion. In fact the last time that I can find that this exact phrasing was used was back in 2013 when Dolly announced that they would be undertaking a 10-Year / $300 million investment plan into Dollywood.
While we haven’t quite finished the 10-year term mentioned, the previous $300 million investment plan has resulted in Firechaser Express, the DreamMore Resort, Lightning Rod, Drop Line, Whistlepunk Chaser, Wildwood Grove, RiverRush, TailSpin Racer and a slew of other improvements to both Dollywood and Splash Country.
So with all this in mind and the fact that Dollywood has already begun to file planning documents to the local agencies for a second resort property, I’m expecting that this announcement could very well be to announce an early start to another long-term investment plan into the Dollywood resort of new attractions for both parks as well as the second resort. So the question is, how much will they spend this time? $350 million? $400? Maybe even $500 between now and 2030? Either way, I think we may be able to call this the Dollywood Decade!
(5/15/19) This week I shared my latest thoughts all about the Dollywood Resort and how their mission of putting the “family experience” front and center in everything they do, and decided to share this vision with our friends over a BlooLoop as well. Read on and learn what drives every new experience at the Dollywood Resort.
2020 - 35th Anniversary - (10/22/19) Dollywood has announced a few more dates for other returning special events coming to the park in 2020 for the 35th anniversary season.
The season will begin on March 14 - April 20 with the return of the Festival of Nations event that will feature a stage productions of Namaste India, Ole!, Drumstruck, JigJam and Invaders Steel Orchestra, plus the return of popular International Food items.
Next is Dollywood’s Barbeque & Bluegrass presented by BUSH’S from April 24 through May 3, followed by the return of The Gazillion Bubbles Show from June 20 through Aug. 2, and Rock the Smokies returning on Aug. 22. This will be followed by the return of the Great Pumpkin LimiNights and Southern Gospel Jubilee events in the fall and then Smoky Mountain Christmas.
(10/19/19) Dollywood is planning a new five-week long festival to take place at the park in Spring 2020 called Flower & Food Festival. This will take place between May 8 and June 14, 2020 and coincide with the park’s 35th anniversary.
Look for colorful displays of blooming spring flowers and stunning 10-15 foot tall topiaries to be found throughout the park along with an assortment of ultra drool-inducing Smoky Mountain dishes to try at every turn.
Dolly describes it best, “When I was just a little girl, spring was a wondrous time,” Parton explained. “Everything came to life – flowers bloomed in the meadow near our house, and the Dogwood, red bud and fruit trees blossomed with the sweetest smells. I imagined having my own special field of flowers that were a fragrant home to my favorite animal friends in the woods. Now, my Dollywood becomes that special place with everything made of flowers – I can’t wait to share it with everyone just in time for our 35th season!”
2021 - Lightning Rod & Mystery Mine Upgrades - (12/16/20) A new set of photos on Twitter show off even more of Lightning Rod’s track exchanged for the RMC IBox track system, including the entire launch hill.
(12/13/20) Construction crews are hard at work at Dollywood working on replacing the track on Lightning Rod with new RMC IBox Track. A reader dropped by the park and sent in three new pictures of work taking place near the end of the ride’s layout.
Also, I believe it was relayed somewhere along the way that Lightning Rod will likely not be ready in time for the opening of Dollywood’s 2021 season, but was expected to be ready to reopen before the start of the summer season, so look for the updated version of Lightning Rod to be ready to roll sometime in mid-Spring 2021.
(12/8/20) While at Dollywood late last month I took a few pictures of the work taking place on Lightning Rod. You could see the old Topper Track transition into I-Box track shortly after leaving the station, which means the launch hill will be converted as well. It is nearly impossible to see the majority of the layout for Lightning Rod but workers were also working on converting the finale track elements just before the break run and I could just barely make out some of the downhill track coming out of the mountains where it looks like they have already removed all the old rails from the track.
(11/22/20) The transformation of Lightning Rod at Dollywood has officially begun. In pictures shown in a Tweet from Behind the Thrills you can see RMC crews on site who have begun the process of replacing sections of the coaster’s track with new brown RMC IBox track. According to what has been confirmed by Dollywood’s Pete Owens, about 2,160 feet of track on Lightning Rod will be replaced with the new IBox hybrid coaster style track when it reopens for the 2021 season.
For those doing the math… Lightning Rod is listed as being 3,800 feet long, so they are replacing about 57% of the ride’s track. If we guess that they are unlikely to replace the existing brake-run and station track (which I’d estimate to be about 400 feet in length), then you can see the percentage of conversion of the remaining layout actually rises to about 63.5%. If they opt to keep the Topper track on the track from the station to the top of the launch hill then that adds up to about another 400 feet of track which raises the possible conversion to about 72% of the layout from the top of the hill to the start of the brake run to be replaced.
(11/16/20) According to a post on Facebook by ACE Southeast, during an event at Dollywood this weekend it was revealed during a Q&A session that the plan for Lightning Rod for 2021 would be to use a combination of Topper Track and IBox track, with some new sections of IBox track used to make the coaster “more reliable and improve maintenance issues going forward. The layout will remain the same with no changes.” This last part is interesting, given that some of the land near the ride’s finale was just cleared, though perhaps while the layout will remain the same, maybe they feel that the track support system needs to be changed in certain spots.
An additional note says that it was also mentioned that Mystery Mine would have some track work done to the “helix area” after the trestle section of the ride, shortly after the cars first venture outside following the first lift hill. Additional work is also slated to be done to the structure of the trestle bridge to allow it to be rethemed. It should be noted that virtually all theming on the trestle bridge was removed earlier this year after a piece of theming fell and struck a guest.
(11/11/20) Coaster Crew posted some interesting new pictures of Lightning Rod at Dollywood to their Facebook channel this weekend. While there are some yellow tarps over a small section of the launch hill, this is likely to keep something exposed from getting wet. The interesting aspect to me is that the park has now cleared the trees just behind the entrance to the brake run, as well as looking like they have fenced off and cleared a section just to the left of the coaster.
This makes it appear as if the finale element just before the brake run may be getting modified or transformed into something new.
(11/7/20) While we don’t know exactly what Dollywood has planned for the upgrade to Lightning Rod in 2021, something very odd was reported to be spotted in the woods behind the coaster. I really can’t say how legit this is, or what it could really mean, but if you watch this video they claim two pieces of blue RMC style iBOX steel track were supposedly spotted in the woods behind Lightning Rod.
Before all the fan boys freak out, let me point out a few things. Based on how they are painted, I’m not sure exactly how “new” these track sections are, as the blue paint is darker in sections and very light or faded looking in others, along with some blotches of either red/orange which could perhaps be primer. I suppose it is possible that they could have just set these up in the woods to try out some different colors to see how visually it would look in the ride’s setting, but I guess we need to address the idea as a whole.
Does this mean Lightning Rod, which is currently still a true wooden roller coaster experience, could possibly be transformed into an RMC Hybrid coaster through the replacement of the existing track with the iBOX style track? While that is a possibility, the current layout of Lightning Rod also makes it completely unnecessary, especially as Lightning Rod has no inversions. But “Ah-ha!” you may be saying aloud right now… yes, it would be a possibility for Lightning Rod to go under the knife with an even more serious agenda to add new track elements, and possibly inversions.
However, none of these options really fit in with the hint Dollywood put on the sign outside the ride, claiming that “In 2021, lightning strikes twice.” That bit has bugged me more than you know to determine the meaning, because the only thing that make sense to me would be to either add on to Lightning Rod with an extra section of track and new elements at the very end. If you’ve seen Lightning Rod, you know that it comes blazing down the mountain at top speed and hits that final hill and the brake run with more than enough momentum that they could easily add on to the ride. Another fun idea would be to create an double-tracked experience, Twisted Colossus style, allowing with another lift up the mountain and a whole new section of track with different thrills that could interact with the original track layout.
The problem with all of these ideas is that it is now November… and the guests are going to be expecting the new Lightning Rod to be ready for the 2021 season when the park opens, which is usually around March. Even with a late opening in May or even June, I don’t believe Dollywood has the time to make those kind of massive alterations. This brings me back to square one… scratching my head about just what in the world Dollywood really has planned, because swapping out the current Topper Track for an iBOX track system just doesn’t seem like a needed upgrade, unless the intensity of Lightning Rod has just been tearing up the old track to the point where the new beefy iBOX track system appears to be the best solution. Keep in mind that iBOX track does not mean it has to have inversions either, as the first RMC conversion to IBOX track was The New Texas Giant at Six Flags over Texas which also has no inversions.
In the end however, and I’m going to say this in the nicest way, we don’t know that the photo of the blue iBOX track was even really taken at Dollywood. The entire video post could be a big fake out. There are a couple of still images of blue track sitting in the woods in the video, and then it jumps to footage of Lightning Rod, but at no time did I see a picture of Lightning Rod or any part of Dollywood in the background of the track photos. So for all we know this picture of blue iBOX track could have been taken at Six Flags over Georgia while they were putting together Twisted Cyclone. So until I see some kind of proof otherwise that can accurately place the location of the track at Dollywood, I’m saying we should all be skeptical of this rumor for the time being.
(9/27/20) Bad news for Dollywood fans, as the park has now confirmed via signs up in the park that “Lightning Rod is closed for the balance of 2020 as it receives an upgrade from manufacturer Rocky Mountain Construction”. Keep in mind the word “upgrade” was used and then the next part gets interesting, as the sign says that “In 2021, lightning strikes twice.”
To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of that last bit, because I don’t think they are going to send the train around the track twice, nor is there a place in the layout to add a second launch (and nor is one needed, Lightning Rod is fast enough already). So anyone else have any idea just what the “lightning strikes twice” mentions could be in reference to?
2021/2022 - Wildwood Grove Dark Ride - Rumor - (2/28/20) We’ve been sent a couple of interesting tidbits that seem to point towards a possible new dark ride coming to Wildwood Grove in 2021 or 2022. First of all some new whispers on the Screamscape Spy Network report that the park may have been in talks with Sally Corp to bring this new dark ride project to life, though this doesn’t mean Sally is the only one involved. For example a team of companies, including Sally, all worked together to bring the Justice League dark ride to life for Six Flags, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this project also a mix of sorts.
Also tied into this rumor is a new guest survey Dollywood is sending out, asking guests about a new family ride experience in development where 6-riders would compete against each other to collect ‘items’ during the ride. I think they may be pitching a few different name variants on this one, but so far I’ve heard “Undergrove Quest” and “Cryrstal Cavern”.
The plot is you are enlisted to help a “rock-hound” character in search of the long-lost “Hidden Crystal Cavern” that is full of rare gems. Guests will use an on-board device to collect these gems and see who can get the most by the end, but beware… you never know what hidden dangers you might encounter along the way!
Quite a few other dark ride concepts were pitched in the various new attraction surveys we posted about below, but this one seems to be a mix of some of the various elements of those rides, but given it’s own unique story instead.
2022/2023 - New Roller Coaster - (2/29/20) Time to look into the Magic 8 ball regarding the future of Dollywood. While I reported the rumor about a dark ride in the works for the park, I can’t ignore all you roller coaster loving people out there, and neither will Dollywood. If the rumors are true, Dollywood is working on plans for their next big coaster, and from the sound of things it will be a crowd pleaser. This is something that many have been dreaming about for some time now, and it looks like Dollywood is looking into adding a Hypercoaster style coaster to the park, their way… which can only mean they’ll go the extra mile like they did with Lightning Rod and Wild Eagle, and make this sucker fly through the hills and trees, leaving as much of the natural smoky mountain landscape as possible intact.
While everyone will assume they would go to B&M for this, there is the issue that Dollywood sits within the area exclusive range of Carowinds and Six Flags over Georgia, and neither Intimidator or Goliath are 20 years old yet. Of course I’d love to see something unique, like the first Hyper-Inverted, or perhaps they could work a loop-hole and make it a floorless coaster with a Hyper style layout, and maybe add an inversion or two. The other rumor, once we’ve actually heard whispers start mentioning, is that Herschend could tap Mack Rides once again after opening Time Machine at Silver Dollar City, but ask them to create something more like DC Rivals.
Again… just rumors about possible developments at this point, but I wouldn’t expect to see anything until 2022 or 2023 at this point, so stay tuned!
(Feb 2019) 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.
Future Developments - New Attractions Survey - (4/10/19) Screamscape sources tell us that Dollywood is looking into more than just ideas for a new coaster… the park is also conducting guest surveys asking about a variety of dark ride themes and concepts (see images) they are considering for the park, as well as a Flying Theater attraction and even a “interactive walk-through immersive experience”... for the later one they show images from Universal’s Poseidon’s Fury.
(4/6/19) Screamscape sources tell us Dollywood was sending out guest surveys again this week to get reactions to a variety of new attraction concepts. One of the most exciting to all your thrill ride nuts out there may be for a new “Indoor Coaster” experience, one that would offer a “2 - 4 minute thrill experience” along with a high level of themeing that would mix slower scenes with animatronics, lighting effects and projection mapping with the high-speed thrill sections in order to tell a story.
They also ask about other new coaster concept as well however, including an out & back traditional Hypercoaster (over 200ft tall, 60mph, full of air-time hills) with an on-board soundtrack, as well as a Spinning Coaster experience, in which the intent is to make something similar to Time Traveler from Silver Dollar City, which came from Mack Rides.
The other concepts are more entertainment related, including a possible Summer Daytime parade concept that would include Macy’s style balloon floats as well as a Christmas Candlelight Nativity show experience.
???? - Second Dollywood Hotel - Planning - (11/27/19) Screamscape first reported that Dollywood was preparing plans to add a second resort hotel a little over a year ago (see below) and now we finally have an update on the project. According to the local news the theme park submitted a preliminary site plan to Pigeon Forge showing a 310-room hotel project with a 325-seat restaurant as well as conference space that would be located somewhere between the current DreamMore Resort and Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark.
When approaching the current DreamMore Resort, as you reach the top of the first drive-way segment, you have to make a left turn to get into the DreamMore parking lot, but you may have noticed that the drive-way road continues on straight for another 10-15 feet before ending in the brush. That road will be extended to lead up to a round-about that will split traffic between the meeting space and guest room ends of the new resort property.
(11/12/18) During an interview with the local news Dolly Parton where they discuss a new Netflix series she is working on as well as the new Glacier Ridge addition to Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, Dolly let another interesting detail slip out. While discussing meetings they have each season to go over what guests like, don’t like, and what people would really like to have added to Dollywood, they decided that they need to build another hotel. According to Dolly, "…just like we’re going to build a new resort because our resort stays busy all the time!”
If you haven’t seen it yet, Screamscape has stayed at and reviewed Dollywood’s Dreammore Resort and we loved it! You can see our official review and photos here.