For those who have been with us since the beginning, you know there are two places which we love to visit more than anywhere else: our beautiful national and state parks as well as the myriad of theme parks which dot the Eastern half of the United States. Luckily for us, East Tennessee is home to two of the best, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Dollywood Theme Park both only a short drive from Tri- Cities. Next year Dollywood has big plans in store which will combine the wonder and beauty of the Smokies with the fun of rides and rollercoasters. This magical land will be known as Wildwood Grove.
Only a few short weeks ago we were at the park’s Celebrity Theater, watching as Dolly herself presented the beautiful new land to the hundreds of guests and news media which had squeezed inside the building. She was joined by Alyvia Alyn Lind, the starry-eyed actress who portrays the Queen of Country Music on NBC’s Coat of Many Colors and the following sequel. Together, they sang a wonderful song introducing us to the many rides, characters, and animals guests can expect to find once it opens next spring. Dolly’s excitement was hardly held in check as she shared the secrets of this massive expansion with us.
Wildwood Grove will sit in the back of the park in an area which until recently was steep mountainside covered with forest. Visitors will enter through a huge hollow log which leads from Timber Canyon. Immediately on the right will sit a new table service restaurant, Till and Harvest, which will feature southern dishes with a dash of southwestern flair. While we don’t know much else about the menu, it just makes us more excited for its opening so we can discover it for ourselves.
Dollywood is known for family thrills, and while the last few years have seen more intense rides open such as Lightning Rod and Drop Line, Wildwood Grove will truly appeal to all members of the family. Rides abound that will delight both kids and their parents. Frogs and Fireflies features a parade of happy frogs that children can bounce around with as they chase the twinkling fireflies. Nearby, Hidden Hollow will feature a giant indoor play area that has climbing areas, slides, and ball cannons. No doubt it will be a popular hangout for all ages who want to escape the heat that summer in Tennessee brings. Wildwood Creek will also allow visitors to cool off as it flows through the land. Erupting geysers, fountains, and a splash pad make it easy to get soaked.
Sycamore Swing is your classic carnival pirate ship, with a unique twist. Visitors will board a giant leaf and ride it as it rocks back and forth in the wind. Those who have fancied climbing to the treetops will
have those wishes come true, as Treetop Tower whisks acorn-themed cars into the sky for a fun spin in the forest canopy. Mad Mockingbirds is a Larson Flying Scooter, one of our favorite rides when we go to parks. The ride allows the adventurous to control their ride experience with rudders, causing
the cars to swing up and down. Black Bear Trail will no doubt be one of the most popular rides, as visitors can ride on the back of a friendly, rollicking bear through the woods! Lastly, the largest addition adds to Dollywood’s worldclass collection of coasters. Dragonflier is a suspended family coaster which offers more thrills than one would expect as it soars through the forest.
Even with the addition of all these new rides, Dollywood has even more in store. The centerpiece of Wildwood Grove will be the Wildwood Tree, a massive structure standing over five stories tall. Evenings will see the tree comes to life with hundreds of butterflies as a lighting show wraps up a fun-filled day at the park. It will also be the home to multiple shows at its base during the many festivals Dollywood has each year. In addition, park officials have stated that the new land will be filled from one end to the other with plant life. Millions are being spent to bring in mature trees, shrubs, and flowering plants to ensure it truly feels like a magical forest. Spring of 2019 can’t get here soon enough!