Families come from far and wide to visit Dollywood, Tennessee’s renowned theme park. Visitors of all ages love the park for the wide range of entertainment, from rides to shows to the delectable food. However, there’s far more to Dollywood than meets the eye. From secret apartments to bald eagles, you’ll be surprised by many of these intriguing facts about Dollywood.
1. Dollywood Wasn’t Always Dollywood
Before the iconic theme park gained popularity, it had quite the past. Originally a small tourist attraction named Rebel Railroad, the first iteration of the park had a coal-fired steam engine, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a saloon. The train drew visitors from all over and is still an integral part of Dollywood today.
In 1970, Art Modell (previous NFL Cleveland Browns owner) purchased the attraction and relaunched it as Goldrush Junction. Not long after, Herschend Enterprises bought the amusement park in 1976, renaming it Silver Dollar City. Yes, just like the theme park in Branson, Missouri.
Once Dolly Parton expressed interest in the park, Herschend Enterprises rebranded the park as Dollywood for the 1986 season. More than 30 years later, Dollywood continues to entertain guests daily.
2. Dolly Opened Dollywood to Give Back
Dolly Parton is known for her incredible generosity and love for all. You’ll find that many facts about Dollywood and Dolly Parton’s career are linked to her giving spirit.
Her interest in the theme park stemmed from her desire to give back to the Sevier County community. As she stated in a 2010 interview celebrating the 25th anniversary of Dollywood, “I always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area.”
In fact, Dolly has mentioned that her financial advisors thought purchasing the park was too risky. However, Dolly stuck with her gut feeling, bought the park, and turned it into the magnificent success we know today.
3. You Can Visit a Dolly Parton Museum
If you’ve ever had a desire to learn everything about Dolly Parton and discover more facts about Dollywood, visit the Chasing Rainbows museum inside Dollywood. Guests can browse through artifacts, pictures, and more, all detailing Dolly’s life and accomplishments.
4. Dolly Parton Won’t Ride the Dollywood Rides!
Did you know that Dolly Parton cannot ride the attractions in her own theme park?? She admits to suffering from incredible motion sickness, which means the last thing she wants to do is go on a roller coaster. I don’t blame her!
5. Dollywood is the #1 Employer in Sevier County
With more than 3,000 employees (and counting) on the payroll, Dollywood is consistently ranked as the top employer throughout Sevier County. It looks like Dolly’s dream of helping her community has come true and far exceeded expectations.
6. Dollywood Stopped Traffic for 6 Miles on Opening Day
When Dollywood first opened in 1986, the theme park was already so popular that it halted Pigeon Forge traffic to a complete stop for six entire miles on US-441. And you thought driving on the Pigeon Forge Parkway was bad!
7. Dolly’s Secret Apartment
Everyone needs a place where they can destress and relax. My happy place is a coffee shop, while Dolly Parton’s place happens to be a secret apartment in Dollywood. Above Apple Jack’s sandwich restaurant, you’ll find her hidden apartment. That is, if you can find the entrance.
8. Several Eagles Call Dollywood Home
Inside Dollywood, you can check out the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, which is the country’s largest presentation of bald eagles. These majestic birds live in a 30,000 square foot aviary house, as they are deemed non-releasable to the wild for their safety. Members of the American Eagle Foundation are onsite to teach visitors about the birds, their habitat, and show just how magnificent these creatures truly are. Talk about one of the more wild facts about Dollywood, right?
9. You Can Visit Dolly Parton’s Childhood Home… Almost
While the authentic Parton family cabin is still standing in Sevier County, you can visit a replica of the home during your Dollywood vacation. Both Dolly’s mother and brother helped to construct the exact copy of the family cabin. See what life was like for a young Dolly Parton as you tour the home.
10. Now You Can Stay at Dollywood
In 2015, Dollywood opened the DreamMore Resort with the intent of providing guests a fully immersive Dollywood experience from the moment they arrive. The resort is situated just a few minutes away from the theme park and water park and offers several different room types to accommodate all types of families.
Did You Know these 10 Facts about Dollywood?
I told you a few of the facts about Dollywood were surprising. Of course, there is always more to learn about Dollywood. And the best way to do so is by experiencing it first hand. Purchase your Dollywood tickets from Reserve Pigeon Forge and start planning your vacation in the Smoky Mountains today.