Online Exclusive: Dreaming About a Great American Summer with Dolly Parton
Written by Colleen Ann McNally | Photo renderings courtesy of The Dollywood Company
Whether you visited Dollywood in your younger years or you’re still dreaming about going, now is the time to make a new family tradition. Begin with a scenic road trip through Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains to Pigeon Forge. Clocking in at four hours away from Atlanta, country music legend Dolly Parton herself made the trip – but in the opposite direction, to sit down with Points North Atlanta and talk about making dreams come true.
In Aug. 2013, Dolly announced plans for $300 million in capital investments in the award-winning The Dollywood Company over the following decade, resulting in new attractions, resorts and the creation of more than 2,500 jobs. The latter is perhaps closest to the hard-working buxom blonde singer’s heart; she humbly grew up in the area and has used her fame to give back to the community.
In less than year since the announcement, two innovative new rides opened: RiverRush and FireChaser Express. Located in Dollywood’s Splash Country, RiverRush is the first water coaster in the state and races through the trees four stories above the waterpark. Think you can handle more? Perched 12 stories above the park’s Wilderness Pass area, FireChaser Express is the nation’s first dual launch family coaster, blasting adrenaline junkies forward and backwards on a wild ride that honors the heroic spirit of volunteer firefighters. If all that isn’t enough to make you claim your spot in line, know that the coaster’s 39-inch minimum height requirement invites families to ride together.
“Little kids get frustrated because their brothers and sisters get to ride the roller coasters they don’t get to ride, so we’re trying to do things families can actually be together on,” Parton said.
All Together Now
Spending quality family time is exactly what Parton said her parks are designed for. Much more than a thrill-seekers playground, Dollywood provides plenty of space and time for you and your loved ones to connect heart and soul while making lasting memories. “We’ve always been tailor-made to families,” Parton said during the interview. “We’re really promoting the fact that this a true vacation destination for families because you can bring your kids. We’re hoping people can connect more.”
She said this ability to connect is more challenging these days since we live in such a high-tech world where we’re always looking at our phones.
“We’re trying to have things where people can come to park, and even if you do that after hours, and parents are just as guilty of it as the kids, so we’re just finding a way to have more heart, more soul and get the families more emotionally involved,” Parton said.
One of these is between June 14 and Aug. 3, when your family has extra time for togetherness as Dollywood celebrates the Great American Summer. Park hours are extended from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a schedule packed with the musical performances and shows you’d expect from Dollywood. As each day comes to an end, a spectacular fireworks display lights up the sky with during Dolly’s Nights of Many Colors. Synchronized to music, each evening features Paint Your Dreams across the Sky, an inspiring musical crescendo written specifically for the occasion by Parton, along with other songs that underscore this colorful summertime celebration.
By the end of your family-fun vacation, chances are you’ll already mentally be planning next summer’s. In that case, save the date for Dollywood’s 30th anniversary and the opening of DreamMore Resort in summer 2015. A long-time goal of Parton’s currently in construction, the 300-room resort rests on 100 acres adjacent to the theme park, but offers guests breath-taking views of the Smoky Mountains.
Specialty suites on the ground floor include private gated porches with outdoor access. Regardless of your planning a family reunion or a more intimate getaway, the resort has a variety of accommodations to suit parties of all sizes, such as the reunion suites with family parlors to serve as a gathering hub or bedrooms with bunk beds.
Parton said she has been involved with the creative planning of the resort. Inside the rooms, “I put some more of the personal elements in. Like a lot of the rooms have things from my childhood, or if it’s just the paintings or the pictures on the wall,” she said.
As for the exterior design, Parton and her creative team drew on inspiration from by the iconic Southern gathering spot – the front porch. DreamMore offers are plenty of rocking chairs, fire pits and hammocks inviting guests to breathe in the fresh air. A full-service restaurant, fashioned after an old farmhouse, includes a wrap-around veranda and all-glasses windows for uninterrupted tranquility. There’s also more than 8,000 square feet of indoor meeting space complete with state-of-the-art technology while outdoors, the property can accommodate groups as large as 500 and offers an amphitheater nestled in the rolling countryside for special entertainment.
Choosing the name of the resort was a natural fit for Parton, who wrote a book by the same name. The phrase is incorporated into the mission of one of her philanthropies, The Imagination Library. The Imagination Library, through its partnership with local sponsors, gives every registered preschool child a book per month from the time he or she is born until the child reaches kindergarten. Penguin Group (USA) has been the exclusive provider to the program since 2001 and the program has distributed more than 41.5 million books since then.
For the loyal fans and Tennessee natives that make the pilgrimage to Dollywood to pay respects to the Queen of Country, I suggest after an adventure-filled day at the park, pick up a copying of her book (proceeds benefit The Imagination Library), find a rocking chair with a great evening view and let your own imagination run wild.
Can’t wait to make your reservation? Join the DreamMore Resort Founders Club to stay ahead on updates and get access to unique offers. dollywood.com