DOLLYWOOD & Splash Country
Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Herschend Family Entertainment
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(9/21/21) Dollywood To Kick Off Harvest Festival and Great Pumpkin LumiNights This Friday (MORE...)
(9/11/21) Dollywood Takes Home Four Golden Ticket Awards (MORE...)
(8/31/21) Dollywood Already Hard At Work On Smoky Mountain Christmas Decor
(8/13/21) Dollywood Breaks Ground On New Employee Residence Hall (MORE...)
(8/10/21) Lightning Rod Suffering More Issues This Week and More (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 - (9/21/21) Dollywood will kick off this year’s Harvest Festival event this Friday, with the event taking place from Sept. 24 through Oct. 30, 2021. After dark the fun expands to include the return of Great Pumpkin LumiNights as well.
(8/13/21) Dollywood officials today announced a partnership with Wisconsin-based Holtz Builders, Inc., to develop an approximately $20 million residence hall-style building on-site at the Pigeon Forge park that will accommodate more than 750 employees. Holtz also will operate the facility as one of its accommodation locations, under the company’s International Residence Hall brand. The four-story, 136,000 sq. ft. building is scheduled for completion in May 2022 and offers a vital benefit to many seeking employment in Sevier County.
“Great Pumpkin LumiNights, one of the nation’s premier family-friendly harvesttime events, provides bushels of memories for guests, thanks to thousands of glowing and carved pumpkins throughout Dollywood. For those with small children—or anyone looking for a fun, not scary experience—this event is certainly the cream of the crop. Families can bask in the glow as they wander through displays in Dollywood’s Timber Canyon, Wilderness Pass and upper Craftsman’s Valley areas. Beyond the impressive displays, guests can find a number of exciting activities to create thrilling memories together.”
“Fall is a special time of year in the Smoky Mountains, because God’s handiwork is on full display for everyone to enjoy when they come to visit,” Dolly Parton, Dollywood’s Dreamer-in-Chief said. “It’s also the time when the heat of the summer fades and the crisp, cool evenings make it just right to enjoy the fresh mountain air. Some of my most treasured family memories took place during the fall, and I want our guests to make their own wonderful memories while they are here.
“No festival at Dollywood is complete without award-winning entertainment, and the Harvest Festival certainly delivers. With artists representing genres from Southern gospel and bluegrass to classic country and Americana, there is something to satisfy every musical taste. Performances take place on indoor and outdoor stages throughout the park, allowing the engaging sounds to echo through the surrounding hillsides and create a highly-engaging entertainment offering. Even more artists can be found roaming the park, literally taking the music to the streets!
Among the festival headliners are CeCe Winans (Oct. 9), Pam Tillis (Sept. 29), Jimmy Fortune (Oct. 2), Shenandoah (Oct. 20-21), Karen Peck and New River (Oct. 3), Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (Oct. 4), Taylor Red (Sept. 24), Rhonda Vincent and the Rage (Oct. 14-15), Janelle Arthur (Sept. 26) and the Lee University Singers (Oct. 17). A complete schedule can be found on Dollywood.com. Additionally, the new Night Time at the Back Porch offers some of the best up-and-coming performers from the Southeast an opportunity to share their talents during the park’s evening hours.”
(9/11/21) Congratulations to Dollywood for taking home four of Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards. Dollywood won awards for Best Kids’ Area, Best Guest Experience, Most Beautiful Park and Best Christmas Event of 2020.
(8/31/21) It may be the end of August, but Dollywood’s team members have been hard at work since July installing all the various Christmas lights and decor for the upcoming holiday season. Look for Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana to take place from Nov. 6, 2021 through Jan. 2, 2022.
“It has earned one of the industry’s highest awards—the Golden Ticket—for twelve years, and once guests enter the gates, they understand why Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana is the perfect place to get in the Christmas spirit. Wander through the park’s more than five million holiday lights, enjoy the festive holiday performances and warm Christmas atmosphere or taste the holiday-themed food, and it is easy to see why it has become a family tradition for so many. From the cheer and joy of traditional holiday shows like Christmas in the Smokies to the excitement of watching Santa at work, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas helps families create memories to share for a lifetime. Guests also can enjoy Dollywood’s signature rides and attractions that operate in this merry environment. From the award-winning shows and elaborate holiday decorations to the twinkling lights and Christmas-themed menus, Dollywood captures the essence of Christmas.”
Residents would include temporary seasonal hosts who are employed at Dollywood through a variety of hiring programs. Those eligible for housing in the new complex include students taking part in the U.S. Summer Work Travel program; students taking part in U.S. college campus organizations like Campus Outreach, Navigators and Young Life; Dollywood college interns who are working on specific assignments that provide educational credits; and employees of other area businesses in similar programs through organizations like Sevier County’s Southern Hospitality Internship Program.
We partnered with Holtz Builders, because they have proven successful at helping similar destinations create housing options to support the needs of their growing communities,” said Tim Berry, Dollywood Vice President of Human Resources. “The Smoky Mountains region has proven to be one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country, and with the growth of businesses and attractions in the area, we need more employees ready to support all of those jobs. Employee housing is a crucial piece of the employment equation in this area, and we are glad to partner with Holtz to create this new opportunity here at Dollywood.”
Holtz Builders has earned a stellar reputation for creating partnerships in resort communities to create safe, efficient and affordable housing for seasonal workers. The group has developed housing complexes in other tourist destinations in Wisconsin and Tennessee, as well as facilities that will soon be underway in Maryland. Dollywood provided the tract of land to Holtz for the project. Holtz will construct, maintain and manage the new property, offering an affordable housing alternative for eligible hosts.
“We strive to provide safe and affordable housing for seasonal guests that come from around the world and from the U.S.,” said Dan Bullock, President of the Holtz Companies. “We hope we can have a positive impact on the overall experience they have here in this beautiful community in the Smoky Mountains.”
Standard rooms accommodate four residents with four beds, individual lockers, a private bathroom, a large refrigerator, study desk, and a self-contained heating and air unit. ADA accessible rooms have space for two individuals and contain the same amenities as the standard rooms. Additionally, a common kitchen, gathering space and laundry facilities are included. Wifi is included and available throughout the building.
The ground floor of the U-shaped building will be unfinished when residents move in next year, but will be completed soon after to provide additional office space and other facilities designed to support Dollywood Hosts.
(8/10/21) A reader tells us that Lightning Rod at Dollywood seems to be acting up once again. According to the report the coaster has been closed for at least the past week so far, with no indication of when it might reopen.
In other news, Dollywood will also break ground on a new housing project for their seasonal workers later this week. With on site housing as an option, the park is hoping to attraction more labor to stay in the area. While I don’t know exactly WHERE this housing will be, I do have to wonder if this news is connected to our story from last week about the new land clearing along Dollywood Lane.
(8/9/21) Dollywood’s Everyday Heroes Appreciations Days are returning from now through to September 22, 2021. “As a thank you to frontline workers, first responders and public employees who work tirelessly every day to serve our country and communities, Dollywood’s Everyday Heroes Appreciation Days returns in 2021 and provides qualifying guests the opportunity to buy a one-day Dollywood admission ticket online for just $45 plus tax.”
“The online-only offer can be purchased now for a limited time and is valid for use Aug. 8- Sept. 22. 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—located at Dollywood.com/DWHeroSignUp—to request a redemption code for their company.”
“Everyday Heroes may purchase up to six $45 one-day admission tickets to Dollywood Theme Park as part of the program. Additionally, they can receive rates up to 30% off per night at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa. The resort discount is available Aug. 8- Sept. 22 for stays any night Sunday- Thursday and is subject to availability.”
(8/2/21) While we don’t know what is going on, a reader reported that the there is a good bit of land clearing along Dollywood Lane where the park’s original entrance used to be, but the road is now used just for employees now to get to their parking lot. Our source says that Dollywood owns the land here, so one wild thought is that this could possibly be used for new park office space. Another thought… this could possibly be part of the park’s long term plan to address parking issues. Part of this could be to build a new parking lot or structure for employees out there, and then find a way to convert the existing employee lot into possible use for guests.
Either way, the park confirmed that by their projections, by 2027 the current parking lot would no longer be sufficient for Dollywood’s needs. Anyone who has visited Dollywood would confirm that the park’s parking lot is rather odd and in an area that there are going to be very few “easy” solutions to solving this problem, so I’d expect this to be a long-term project that they are going to have to start sooner than later in order to get it all sorted out before they simply run out of space.
(7/25/21) Dollywood’s prime summer season will soon be coming to an end and while the summer fun will continue throughout August, the park’s operational schedule will be changing a little. While this may be initially taken as a cut in hours, as we’ve seen at other parks elsewhere in the nation, this odd-looking shift in operations at Dollywood in August is actually normal and was taking place long before the pandemic arrived.
For those wanting to visit Dollywood’s Splash Country, know that the waterpark’s last day of the season is Labor Day, Sept. 6th, 2021. However, starting on August 9, 2021, Splash Country will be closed for Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two weeks and then move to weekend only operations for the next two weeks before the final extended Labor Day weekend brings the season to a close.
Dollywood itself takes an opposite schedule starting August 9th that will see Dollywood closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the rest of August and September, with the exception of Thursday, Sept. 30th as the park ramps back up with almost daily operations through to Halloween for the Harvest Festival and Great Pumpkin LumiNights.
(7/20/21) A fun video from Dollywood gives us a behind the scenes view of how the park’s current Drone light show is made. This includes a view of the drone’s airfield, how they charge, how they launch into the sky and more.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve got until July 31st before the show goes away for the season.
(6/26/21) Dollywood sent out some footage of the new Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights aerial drone light show to enjoy. Gotta say it looks amazing and can’t wait to see it in person later this season.
(6/22/21) Just a reminder that Dollywood’s Summer Celebration will begin on June 25 with the new Intel Drone Light Show. “Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights is a multi-sensory drone light show that creates a symphony of light in the sky above the Pigeon Forge park. Intel Drone Light Shows plans to launch hundreds of drones each evening for a spectacular nighttime experience representing a true evolution in traditional theme park entertainment. The sensational show uses up to 400 drones to animate the spectacular Dollywood-exclusive story. The drone performance is integrated into a musically-choreographed fireworks show, creating a visual and audial event of epic proportions.”
(5/30/21) Each evening, from June 25 through July 31, as part of Dollywood’s Summer Celebration, the park will be putting on the Intel Drone Light Show, launching hundreds of drones into the night sky to put on an aerial spectacle.
“Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights is a multi-sensory drone light show that creates a symphony of light in the sky above the Pigeon Forge park. Representing a true evolution in traditional theme park entertainment, the sensational show uses nearly 400 drones to animate the spectacular Dollywood-exclusive story. The drone performance is integrated into a musically choreographed fireworks show, creating a visual and audial event of epic proportions.”
(5/14/21) Dollywood’s Splash Country will open on May 15th and feature the return of the Water Park Dining Pass for season passholders. Season passholders can purchase the season-long dining pass for just $40 that will give them a meal and a snack every day they visit during the 2021 season.
(5/7/21) Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark is now set to open for the season on May 15th and if you haven’t seen what Splash Country is like, then be sure to check out Screamscape’s highlight video of the park below. Without a doubt, Dolly’s Splash Country is one of my all time favorite waterparks.
And while we’re on the subject of Splash Country, there is currently a special waterpark package available to guests looking to stay at Dolly’s DreamMore Resort that comes with four free tickets to Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark good for the 2021 waterpark season (May 15 - Sept. 6) that is worth checking out.
(3/13/21) Dollywood has announced a few more details about what guests can expect this summer as part of Dollywood’s Summer Celebration event, taking place June 25 through July 31. “New during Summer Celebration is a groundbreaking, multi-sensory experience that paints the night sky above Dollywood with stunning animations and superior storytelling to create a symphony of light that represents a true evolution in traditional theme park entertainment.”
”Taking place every night during Summer Celebration, this sensational show features hundreds of drones flying high above the Smoky Mountain destination to create stunning 3D animations that tell a dynamic, Dollywood-exclusive story. As seen at some of the biggest events around the world, the drones—which are accented by a musically-choreographed fireworks show—create a visual and audial event of epic proportions.”
“As part of the half-a-million-dollar production, a hyped DJ and energetic dancers bring the fun to the streets in Wildwood Grove and make guests part of the action during a 30-minute party that ensures every member in the family is on their feet. As the dancing nears its finale, the party takes to the sky when the drones launch into the air for an unforgettable end to the evening.”
Later in the year the park will put on Dollywood’s Harvest Festival (Sept 24 through Oct 30) along with Dollywood’s Great Pumpkin LumiNights after dark. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas will then take place from Nov. 6 through Jan. 2, 2022.
Before all that Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival will kick into gear from Apr 23 through to June 7, featuring amazing floral displays throughout the park the return of the popular Umbrella Sky display from last year and a wide assortment of special foods and culinary treats to enjoy.
(2/27/21) Dollywood released a few more details about what’s going on right now at the park on their blog. As expected, the Festival of Nations event will not happen in 2021 once again, as international travel restrictions for the various performance acts will not allow it. Instead the park will focus on more domestic performers, including some of Dolly’s own family members who will hit the stage in Harmonies of the Heart.
During the Flower & Food Festival event (April 23 - June 7) the park will introduce several contemporary Christian and Southern gospel groups as part of the Melodies of Spring concert series that will include over 25 different bands. Oh, and Dollywood will offer a Dining Day Pass for the Festival, for $29.99 you can choose any fire entrees to sample from the festival menu throughout the day!
Regarding the coasters, it seems like most of them have been getting some TLC over the winter. We’ve been reporting on Lightning Rod replacing most of the previous “Topper Track” with new IBox track from RMC, but according to the blog “the same team is also working on Blazing Fury for us. We plan to keep this ride for a long time, so trackwork is very important!” So Blazing Fury is getting work done by RMC? Consider me very curious now! Of course longtime readers know that Blazing Fury, as one of the park’s oldest rides, has been the subject of countless upgrades over the years to both the ride system as well as updates to the scenery and lighting within.
The park also confirms more work has been done to Thunderhead, which once again has been a process taking place every off-season for many years now. While Thunderhead got a little rough around the time Lightning Rod opened, it was wild, crazy and fun in 2020 so I can’t wait to enjoy it again in 2021 after the latest batch of improvements.
Dollywood has confirmed that Mystery Mine wont be ready to open with the park however, as it takes a little longer to get everything they need from the manufacturer (Gerstlauer) overseas, so they expect Mystery Mine to “open a few weeks after Dollywood opens for the season”. As we reported last time, new track for the outdoor portion of the ride has now arrived on site, as this section of the ride will be getting rebuilt to make it smoother and more enjoyable.
Elsewhere in the park, they’ve been working on widening several of the park’s more narrow pathways (especially in Craftsman’s Valley) and to add more dining space for guests to enjoy at various food stands and eateries, including the Dogs N Taters stand and a new covered eating area for Hickory House.
One more big change is the removal of the park’s old blacksmith shop, which is being relocated and upgraded into a bigger facility that will give guests the opportunity to make your very own knife. The new blacksmith shop will be ready to open with the park, but various other interactive elements will be added to it later in the season.
(2/17/21) Dollywood has posted an update to their Blog this week showcasing the official list of in-park Entertainment and Shows you will find when the park opens for the 2021 season. Yes, live entertainment is coming back to Dollywood this year, as they are sure to mention that all of the park’s theaters will be open once again. Make the jump on over to read all about what’s coming to the park when it opens and even more acts will be announced as the Flower & Food Festival begins.
(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.
2021 - Lightning Rod & Mystery Mine Upgrades - (3/12/21) Screamscape dropped into Dollywood on friday for the Passholder Preview event to get a first hand look at the latest developments in the park. Unfortunately Lightning Rod was not ready to open in the morning, so we hiked up the hill to enjoy Thunderhead and take a quick look at the changes to Mystery Mine.
As previously mentioned, some of the outdoor track for Mystery Mine has not only been replaced, but redesigned. The previous drop off the trestle crossing into the half-pipe style banked turn is now no longer connected to the ride. The half-pipe turn is still there, but as soon as the trains cross the bridge and head right for it, they make a suddenly left turn and drop down an all new hill into a rebuilt 180-degree turn back up into a mid-course brake before moving on to an old section of spiral drop track that sends the train back across the trestle bridge and back into the mine building.
While they could remove the half-pipe track in the future, the way things looked, I think they were leaving it there as a visual gag, and reminder of the old track design, as riders may not see the new turn until the last second. While I was in this area I snapped a few photos and video clips of it, but there was no testing going on. Looking on social media, it seems testing did take place later in the day however, which is a good sign that Mystery Mine will be ready to open to guests sometime in the next few weeks.
The good news is that Lightning Rod did open to guests later in the day, but within a very short time the line was said to be 90+ minutes, and there were significant delays between the dispatching of the train from the station. On a personal note… I do have to wonder if they have adjusted the restraint system at all to be more restrictive. While I have ridden Lightning Rod a few times in the past, and the restraints were always a bit of a squeeze for me, I’ve actually dropped about 20 pounds since the end of 2019 and was hoping for a much more comfortable ride today, but instead I found that the seat belt on the test seat in front was so short that I probably needed to still loose another inch before it would latch now. This was certainly not the case when first rode Lightning Rod at the end of 2016.
So just a word of warning to other riders of size, that you may have difficulty. While every body type is different, for comparison’s sake I will say that I rode the rest of the major thrill rides (Thunderhead, Dropline, Wild Eagle, Firechaser Express, Tennessee Tornado) without issues, though in the past the closed Mystery Mine has given me some issues as well.
(2/26/21) Good news, a special preview tour of Dollywood took place on Wednesday to shows off what’s going on in the park right now and what’s planned for 2021. (Sorry, I couldn’t make it myself…)
The good news is that it looks like the work on Lightning Rod is finished and they are currently testing it once again with the new iBOX track, with the plan to have the coaster ready for guests on the opening day of the season.You can see a video of the train FLYING down the final hills towards the station and it is just seriously MOVING! Looks like Lightning Rod may very well be more intense than ever before this year.
(2/21/21) According to what I’ve been told some new track pieces for the rebuild of Mystery Mine’s mid-ride outdoor track section are currently sitting up in Dollywood’s Preferred Parking lot area along with signs of construction activity already taking place on the attraction itself. Since the park is closed, there is no good way to get a good view of it unless your staying in a cabin on the hillside overlooking the park, but with the 2021 season set to start on March 13th it wont be long until we get a close up look at what’s going on.
(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?
2022 - Dining Enhancements - (6/20/21) For the 2022 season Dollywood seems focused on upgrading some of the park’s Restaurant offerings. Park president Eugene Naughton confirmed that the park would spend $15 million on upgrades to park restaurants. This will include the closing of the Hickory House in August to begin some extensive renovations, along with two other unnamed restaurants that will be upgraded over the off-season. This plan will continue into the 2023 season with the addition of a brand new restaurant somewhere in the park.
2023 - New Roller Coaster - (6/20/21) According to comments from Dollywood’s new preside, Eugene Naughton, the park is working on a “multigenerational rollercoaster” project for the 2023 season along with a brand new restaurant. If you are curious about just what this means… you are not alone. In many ways, this sounds like it could be a more disguised way of saying that they are planning on adding a new ‘family coaster’, in terms that the coaster should provide just enough thrills for everyone to enjoy, without being too crazy or over the top that the older parents or the very young might be too intimidated to ride.
In my experience, perhaps the best example of just such a ride that is popular with every member of the family would be something akin to Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain. Dollywood has been without a ‘mine train’ style roller coaster experience ever since the park removed the short lived Thunder Express coaster (1989 - 1998), which was replaced by the Tennessee Tornado (which reused the former’s station building).
Dollywood has a good space for this new project already in place i believe, as it could fit right into the backside of the Wildwood Grove land which was already designed for the family dynamic and has an assortment of themed attractions. Adding a highly themed mine train to run off into the woods from here could be a great addition, but lets hope they plus this experience with some modern tricks and unexpected additions, such as a trip into a dark cave where perhaps a surprise drop-track could be waiting in wait.
So what else could it be? I’ve got a few other ideas that might fit the bill. A Mack Inverted Powered Coaster would also fit the bill. Much like the Arthur coaster at Europa Park that was the prototype for the concept, the powered inverted coaster is really more of a dark ride system that can move slowly and even rotate the seats as riders move through themed scenes, and then kick into a high speed more thrilling coaster ride experience as needed, moving both through indoor and outdoor areas. Thus far Mack has installed three of these unique rides, with Dragon Gliders (themed to Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon) added to Motiongate Dubai in 2017 and the third one will open in the coming weeks as the Jurassic Flyers as part of the Jurassic World land at the new Universal Studios Beijing. In each case, these are highly themed ride experiences good for the entire family, and once again, it would fit well into the cute animal theming of Wildwood Grove.
Of course, I’d love to see Dollywood add a Hyper/Mega coaster to the park as well in the future, this could also possibly something that could fit the bill here if they opted for a Junior Hypercoaster style experience that really just focused on fun airtime hills rather than record breaking thrills. Of course they could also opt for something similar in nature to Disney’s Slinky Dog Dash coaster that combines launches with low to the ground airtime hills and fun turns through a themed landscape. Instead of Toys, they could theme a ride like this to go with a country mine-train concept. Another wild idea may be to add a themed bobsled train coaster from Mack, that could ride up and down the hillside as a replacement for the removed Slidewinders attraction, which would add a much needed new thrill ride to the other side of the park. Either way, I’m just spitballing random ideas, though I did mention quite a few Mack ride concepts here as previous rumors from 2020 seems to indicate that Dollywood’s next planned coaster would be from Mack. Those rumors however also indicated a more Hyper style coaster experience, so perhaps this is for a different project.
The “multigenerational” comment is just the latest hint about their 2023 plans, as earlier this month they also mentioned that their 2023 project would be a “record breaking” new attraction in some fashion. Beyond that the rest of the presentation was focused on the park’s future resort expansion plans, and confirmation that Dollywood was looking into ways to improve how guests are transported between the park and parking lot.
Naughton also mentioned an interesting comment, that if the park hits the growth numbers they are projecting, Dollywood’s parking lot will not be big enough for the park’s needs by 2027, so they will need to find a way to add more parking spacing. If you’ve visited Dollywood, you’ll know right away what he is talking about, as Dollywood has perhaps one of the most ‘unique’ parking lots I’ve ever seen at a major theme park that results with most guests parked quite a good distance from the park entrance, requiring the use of an army of parking lot tram units. No timeline was given for the parking lot improvements, but I’m guessing they may get some of them under way in time for the opening of this 2023 coaster project.
(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 and Rumored Dark Ride - (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.
(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.
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.
(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.
2023 - Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort - (6/3/21) Dollywood made a huge announcement earlier today, confirming their plans to add a second major hotel near the DreamMore Resort to be called Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort. And yes... this is the big announcement that the park was trying to maker in March 2020 before they canceled the announcement on Season Passholder Day due to the arrival of COVID-19.
Tucked away in a mountain cove not far from the DreamMore, a new and “reimagined’ lodge experience. The five story resort will offer 302 new rooms, with themed suites and loft-style rooms and 26,000 sqft of indoor and outdoor meeting space. HeartSong Lodge & Resort offers guests a one-of-a-kind getaway with themed suites, epic indoor and outdoor pools, an outdoor cove with family gathering spaces and more. According to the press release, the goal is to open the new resort in early 2023.
In other news, Dollywood also announced the intention to spend over $500 million on new investments for the property over the next ten years, starting with the HeartSong Lodge & Resort. They also dropped a few hints about future projects, such as a “record breaking” new attraction on the way for 2023. They also confirmed that master planning is also under way for a 3rd, 4th and 5th Resort as well as a new campground resort. (We hear some rumors about this campground resort just a couple of weeks ago, so check it out below).
(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.
???? - Dollywood Future Resorts Plan - In Development - (6/19/21) Last week we mentioned that Dollywood briefly mentioned they had plans for several more resorts down the line, and today we’ve learned a bit more. Prior to the announcement a Screamscape source reported in that they had seen a graphic map showing off a future resort plan that would include camping and possible RV park opportunities, but the announcement of Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge was for a more traditional style resort.
Jump ahead to this week and a picture was sent my way of a new Master Plan resort layout for Dollywood that will feature five planned resorts and an area marked as “Outdoor Resort” which I’m assuming may be for RVs. I took a part of the masterplan drawing and overlaid it on top of a Google Map aerial image of the area, with Dollywood’s Splash Country in the lower left and the existing DreamMore resort just above it, half blocked from view behind a gentleman’s arm.
There are a number of interesting items we can make out from the rest of the map, including the location of the announced HeartSong Lodge labeled as “Resort 2”. The gentleman’s finger is pointing at an unknown Resort 3 concept that appears to include a horse-shoe shaped resort building. Resort 4 however is very different and shows a main building surrounded by numerous large buildings placed along a winding circular road. Before you suggest those could be cabins, I’d say no as there are already two other new roads listed on the map labeled as “Cabins” and those buildings are much smaller. With that in mind, the larger structures scattered around Resort 4 may be more the size of Houses or perhaps some kind of luxury style home resorts. Along the right side of the image is REsort 5, which once again looks like a more typical resort building, but a little smaller than the building drawn up for the HeartSong Lodge. Along the top edge of their property is a purple area outlined and simply labeled as Outdoor Resort, which could be for a possible RV or camping park. Speaking of camping however, not far from one of the groups of new Cabins is another street marked off for “Glamping”, with a cluster of about 22-24 of the luxury-oridentel camping structures. A second similar sized Glamping area can also be see between Resort 4 & 5.
Between Resort 4 and 5 is an interesting green space with a yellow star labeled as “ICON HUB EAST”. I’m not quite sure what is intended to go here, but it is worth noting that two pathways depart from here, one represented by a series of yellow dots listed as a Vehicular Tour Trail that runs around the southern side of the resort property, and a similar trail marked by green dots that mostly runs around the northern side of the resort property. I can only assume these will be used as off-road pathways for the local Pink Jeep Tours attraction.
It’s also fun to note that just south of Resort 2 (HeartSong) they also show plans to build a road labeled as “Park Connection” that will run back the Resort 2 parking lot and down the hill and into the Dollywood’s Splash Country parking lot. This is important as currently the DreamMore runs shuttle busses of guests from the hotel to the theme park and back, but has to travel on public roads to do so. Providing this new private access road will allow these same resort trams to travel directly from the resorts into the Splash Country parking lot, which is then connected by an underpass to the main Dollywood parking lot, moving all internal resort traffic off public roads entirely.
(5/16/21) According to a Screamscape source, Dollywood may be working on new plans for their next resort. From the sound of things, this is not the anticipated big-hotel sequel to the popular DreamMore Resort we were expecting them to announce in March 2020 before the pandemic shut down most of the world for a time. Instead our source tells us that the park may be planning a different kind of resort expansion first that will come in the form of an official Dollywood RV Resort. From what I’m told they may be taking some inspiration from Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort campground at Walt Disney World for this one, so expect it to feature some themed smoky mountain themed amenities.
I am curious about the location of this, if it comes to pass, and if Dollywood is building this from scratch or if there was an opportunity to purchase an existing campground nearby and upgrade it with new theming and amenities.