Dolly opens the park every year in March. And they hold a parade through Pigeon Forge with her as the Grand Marshall (the Dolly Parade!) every year also. She is incredibly well-loved in this area and her rags to riches story - she was one of 11 children born here and grew up in a 2 bedroom cabin - is legendary.
My sister and I went to Dollywood on a Friday morning during The Festival of Nations, the largest international festival held in the Southeast. When we were planning the trip, we weren't even sure we would be going to Dollywood. But then we thought, "We're here. Why not?"
Dolllywood isn't an incredibly large theme park. Like other theme parks, it's divided into areas or "lands". It was incredibly clean, probably the cleanest theme park I've been to. Another unique feature to Dollywood is the age of it's employees. Almost all the employees that I encountered were of retirement age. Some even using canes. And friendly, friendly, friendly. Everyone from the lady handing out caramel corn samples to the train engineer went out of their way to greet you and help if needed.
As I mentioned, we were there for The Festival of Nations which features shows with performers from all around the world. (Other months feature Southern Gospel music, Barbecue and Bluegrass, Great American Summer and Smoky Mountain Christmas) We were able to see Mariachi Divas from Mexico,a Grammy winning all-female Mariachi band, and the National Dance Troupe of Ireland performing a River Dance style show. Both were excellent!
We also rode the train, ate some fantastic food (we had the nachos with homemade chips representing Mexico), rode some really cute cars modeled after those from the 1950's including fuzzy dice and enjoyed a short movie presentation with Dolly highlighting the Smoky Mountains. One of the unique things to Dollywood is the museum representing Dolly's life and career - which was surprisingly interesting and impressive. It highlights her climb to the top and showcases her many awards. Then you can take a tour of her tour bus.
I realize that Dollywood isn't for everyone. It plays up the Smoky Mountain location and backwoods style alot. But then that's what's unique about it. It's a theme park about a particular person and a particular location.. I don't feel the need to go back but I did enjoy my day there - quite frankly we ran out of time to do everything we wanted. So for those of you thinking about visiting Dollywood, know that if you arrive after 3pm and pay for admission, the next day is free. And if you go, go hungry - there's plenty to eat!
For more information on visiting Dollywood, go to www.dollywood.com
Per usual, I am linking up for Travel Photo Thursday with Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels.Click on the link and go check them out!