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Listen to this episode of the “Coastin’ the Country with Marcus Leshock” podcast in the player above (Can’t see it? Click here). Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
It’s the biggest expansion in Dollywood history – and the one and only Dolly Parton was there to kick it all off.
The 6-acre Wildwood Grove opened to the public last weekend, featuring 11 new attractions geared towards young families. The area is inspired by Dolly’s life growing up in the Smoky Mountains. You’ll see references to the bears, the dragonflies, the butterflies and the frogs – all the nature country kids grow up around. A team of hundreds of people worked on this $37 million project for four years.
At the center of it all is the giant Wildwood Tree. It has dozens of butterflies that can light up and be choreographed to music. At night, the tree has special programs designed to bring families together after a long day at the park. There will be different themes for different seasons, the program in the summer will be much different than what you’ll see during the Christmas season.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Dolly for a few minutes to talk about everything Dollywood. We talked about how she got into the theme park business way back in 1986, how she feels when she walks into a project like Wildwood Grove for the first time, what vision she has in store for Dollywood’s future, and if she would muster up the courage to take one ride on Lightning Rod with me! Here’s our video story:
You can hear our full interview in my Coastin' The Country podcast in the player above.
Now, let's get to some of the rides. Dragonflier is the brand new roller coaster debuting in Wildwood Grove. It's a suspended coaster made by Vekoma. The train hangs underneath the track, taking riders down a sloping drop through a tunnel, then whipping around tight turns. It's what I like to call a "bridge coaster" - a step above the baby coasters smaller kids are getting too big for, but a step below the giant rides they're just not ready to ride yet.
But that doesn't mean this ride will have adults yawning. I was surprised at just how fun that first drop was. I recommend riding this one in the back. You really whip down that drop and get pulled around the turns! The idea is to feel like you're flying through the grove like a dragonfly. Here are my initial thoughts after my first rides:
And hey, even an adult can have fun on some of the kid rides in the park! I took a ride on the Black Bear Trail. Kids get to ride their own bear that slowly bobs up and down while gliding along a track. Hold on tight!
If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen my LIVE tour through Wildwood Grove during the press preview. Here's that video:
And I was there when Dolly Parton made her debut under the giant Wildwood Tree and sang a few songs. Take a look at that video:
As I mention in the podcast, Dollywood is truly a special place unlike any theme park I've ever been too. If you enjoy getting in the car and experiencing new parks with your family, I recommend putting them on your list. My advice? Stay at the Dollywood Dream More Resort. They have a convenient trolly that takes you right to the front gate of the park free of charge. Plus, you can store your stroller in the back of the trolley without have to break it down! And by staying at the resort, each guests gets their own Time Saver pass free of charge. That will save you a ton of time waiting in line for rides like Lightning Rod. Here's more information about the park:
Dollywood | Pigeon Forge, Tennessee | Open through January 4th | Tickets start at $74 | Dollywood.com for more info
Dolly DreamMore Resort & Spa | 800-365-5996 | Dollywood.com/Resort