Unpredictable weather, wildflowers galore, and the chorus of spring peepers are a sure sign that spring has arrived here in East Tennessee. That means we also can welcome the reopening of our favorite theme park, Dollywood, for its thirty-second season. This year promises to be just as exciting as the last with two new events added to the park as well as the coming of three new rides both to Dollywood Theme Park and Dollywood’s Splash Country!
We were lucky enough to visit the park on passholder preview day on the 17th of this month and enjoy the launch of Festival of Nations. Park crews were hard at work throughout the winter months working on a multitude of projects throughout the park. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised, as a lot of work was put into sprucing up areas that hadn’t seen much TLC in the past few years. Sagging roofs have been replaced, pathways paved, and new scenery added.
As you walk down Showstreet, the catchy tunes of the Ecuadorian group Atahualpa welcome visitors back to another season of fun. Here you will notice a bittersweet change, as the Backstage Restaurant has been completely rethemed to become the Front Porch Café. Brightly colored walls are adorned with scenes and items reminiscent of life on the farm, and the new menu has a variety of choices sure to satisfy anyone’s tastes. The restaurant prides itself on using locally-sourced products wherever it can. The menu contains many healthier choices, and most importantly, the staff will try their very best to accommodate meals for any food allergy. Grilled chicken salad, great sandwiches, and an amazing clam chowder are all staples on the menu. Be sure to stop by on your next visit.
All the wonderful foods and shows are back for Festival of Nations, with the hit Mother Africa returning for a second year in a row. We were sad to learn that the Argentinian gauchos were not present, but a new show hailing from Poland serves as a great alternative. Slask features traditional Poland music and dance that ranges from romantic to quirky, and is a great introduction to a culture that is new at Festival of Nations. Other shows include the Swiss band Streichmusik Alder, the steel drum orchestra from Trinidad and Tobago, and the talented British duet Dearbhail and Robin.
Festival of Nations leads the lineup of wonderful events and festivals Dollywood has planned throughout the year. Spring Break is an all-new celebration from April 10th to the 22nd which will feature extended park hours so families can have more time to spend together on their spring vacations. A high-energy show known as enra will make its debut at the park as well. Featuring dance, light, music, and video all combined into one thrilling package, this hit show starred on America’s Got Talent in a recent season.
Dollywood’s Barbeque and Bluegrass returns again, and who can say no to those amazing ribs or the sounds of banjos drifting throughout the park? Summer at Dollywood replaces Great American Summer as the park’s annual summer event. Extended park hours (sometimes up to midnight!), the Gazillion Bubbles Show, and nightly fireworks all return for another season. Rock the Smokies closes the summer with powerful music from leading Christian music bands around the country. Dollywood’s Harvest Festival will now also include extended hours to 9:00 P.M. every evening so guests can enjoy the creative Pumpkin LumiNights displays. Lighted pumpkins placed throughout the park will be sculpted into beautiful works of art and breathtaking arrangements. Lastly, Smoky Mountain Christmas will wrap up the year with all of our favorites returning, from Rudolph and all his friends to the Parade of Many Colors which debuted last year.
As billboards and commercials across the state will attest, Dollywood will be receiving not one, or two, but three new rides this year! The newly-renovated Timber Canyon will be home to Drop Line, a new freefall tower which will plunge riders from a height of 230 feet above the canyon floor. Whistlepunk Chaser, a new junior coaster, has found a home next to Thunderhead and replaces the smaller Sideshow Spin coaster which was just removed from the Country Fair area. Slightly higher and longer, the new coaster will give kids a great opportunity to train as up-and-coming thrill seekers alongside their families. Both rides are set to open in summer, with Memorial Day weekend being the obvious window. Tailspin Racer is also set to open that weekend over at Dollywood’s Splash Country. The seven-story waterslide will allow up to six guests to all race to the finish line along the towering structure.
Photo: Guests can now dine at Dollywood’s new ‘Front Porch Cafe’, formally known as Backstage Restaurant, with an all new menu to fill any appetite.