Queen of Country Music, Dolly Parton herself recently kicked off the new season at Dollywood with surprise appearances and two parades through the Pigeon Forge theme park. It seems we were just enjoying the light displays and hot chocolate at Smoky Mountain Christmas, and here it is already, a brand new season, filled to overflowing with new experiences for all guests to enjoy throughout the entire year!
This is the first year in a while that we haven’t seen a new multimillion expansion at one of the parks, but we’re pretty sure you wouldn’t notice unless we told you. Last year saw Drop Line debut, which was soon followed by Tailspin Racer at Dollywood’s Splash Country. Lightning Rod raced into the park at the start of 2016, 2015 gave us DreamMore Resort, and 2014 introduced Firechaser Express. This was all part of Dolly’s pledged $300 million expansion to transform the park into a full-fledged destination resort, and while it appears that much of that has already been used, Dolly asked Dollywood President Craig Ross in front of a packed Celebrity Theater for even more funds for further expansion in the coming years. Work has already begun on an entirely new area behind Timber Canyon that will be the largest expansion in park history. While no official word has been given by Dolly, it is rumored to feature multiple rides, another award-winning restaurant, and a new family rollercoaster. Is 2019 here yet?
In the meantime, visitors can enjoy several new upgrades and new experiences throughout the park. Showstreet has a fresh new look, as the Victorian storefronts have received a much-welcomed facelift with new coats of paint. Down the street in River Town, Aunt Granny’s has been completely transformed. An all-new interior adds light and space to the formerly cramped restaurant. Dollywood has partnered with Lodge to sponsor the restaurant, and the Tennessee-based company’s signature cast-iron cookware can be found throughout the dining experience. Complementing the new look are new additions to all parts of the menu, from chicken and dumplings to apple cobbler and Dolly’s fabled Stone Soup.
Dollywood has pulled all the stops this year when it comes to entertainment and the festivals which now seem to come on a monthly basis. First up, of course, if one of our absolute favorites: Festival of Nations. Guests experience the excitement of traditional music, dance, food, and crafts from a wide array of countries while also enjoying internationally-known performing groups. Three new groups are featured this year. National Dance Company of Siberia hails from the frozen lands of northern Russia and features dozens of dancers and traditional Siberian music. The Flamenco Kings starring Los Vivancos features the six Vivancos brothers from Spain. These musicians and dancers have shown their talents on Dancing With the Stars and across the world at hundreds of prestigious venues. Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a heartfelt homage to the song and dance of Africa.
Favorite performers return as well, such as the Invaders Steel Orchestra, JigJam bluegrass band from Ireland, and Atahualpa, who fill Showstreet with the sounds of South America. Don’t forget the other main attraction at Festival of Nations: FOOD! Front Porch Cafe offers the widest variety, with Chicken Samosas from South Africa to amazing Cuban Sandwiches. Spotlight Bakery features several great desserts, Grecian Baklava, German Apple Strudel, and Tres Leches cakes from Mexico. Market Square has even more options for those who can’t get enough of the wonderful foreign cuisine offered at the festival. It’s no wonder Dollywood won the Golden Ticket Award for Best Food yet again last year!
Just two days after Festival of Nations ends on April 9, Dollywood’s all-new Spring Mix music series kicks off an entire month of concerts. The first week features classic country talent including Crystal Gayle, Suzy Bogus, and Shenandoah. Amy Grant headlines the second week, with many other performances throughout the month including Orleans, The Drifters, Carman, and Debby Boone. All these are included free with the price of admission. Check out the full concert schedule at dollywood.com/themepark/Festivals/Spring-Mix.
Dollywood’s Barbecue and Bluegrass adds another entire week this year, giving bluegrass fans even more great talent to enjoy during this kickoff to summer. An impressive bluegrass lineup will feature a total of 350 concerts from such award-winning artists as Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Daily & Vincent, and the Grascals. Of course, don’t forget the amazing BBQ to be found throughout the park, from saucy pulled pork to barbecued chicken and ribs by the slab, it’s a carnivore’s delight! The festival will run from May 25 to June 10.
The sounds of banjos will scarcely fade before Dollywood’s Summer Celebration (June 16-Aug 5) will begin! This summertime event is marked by extended park hours from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. every single day, giving families even more time to enjoy everything Dollywood has to offer. Two new shows debut this summer, iLuminate, stars of the hit show America’s Got Talent, and DRUMline Live!, a synchronized musical masterpiece based on the hit 2002 movie Drumline. Of course, it wouldn’t be summer at Dollywood without a magical fireworks show to complete each fun-filled day. Also highlighted during the summer season will be Thrills in the Hills, a two-day event for coaster aficionados that will feature exclusive ride times on Dollywood’s biggest thrill rides as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes tours! Rock the Smokies closes out the season on August 25 with some of the biggest acts in the Christian music genre, including Toby Mac and Crowder! Check out the park website for more info on all these events!
Dollywood’s Harvest Festival, presented by Humana, stretches across two months from Sept 28 to Nov 3. The new guest-favorite Great Pumpkin LumiNights will expand to provide even more new experiences and fun! During the day, over 600 performances by award-winning Southern gospel acts take place, while each night, thousands of carved pumpkins will illuminate Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass. Guests can enjoy the spectacular artistry of visiting crafters from across the country, or sample the special harvest-themed food items.
Closing out the year is the Best Christmas Event at any theme park worldwide, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas (Nov 10-Jan 5). Over four million lights adorn almost every surface throughout the park, transforming it into a wintry wonderland as night falls. Holiday performances you know and love will be featured every day, with the return of It’s a Wonderful Life for its second year, as well as holiday-themed food favorites. This year marks the debut of a brand new holiday-themed area in Wilderness Pass. Glacier Ridge will sit on the site of the former River Battle attraction (yes, it’s now gone, unfortunately). While Dollywood has yet to release further details on the new area, we can expect it to be a fun and unique experience for the whole family!