PHOTO TOUR: Dollywood ramps up construction projects ahead of season opening

Ahead of the season opening on March 12, 2022, Attractions Magazine was invited to take part in a construction tour across the Dollywood property. The award-winning theme park destination is in an exciting period of growth. Over the next decade, half a billion dollars will be invested into expansions, including a new resort.

Photos courtesy of Dollywood

By Carly Caramanna

Our tour began on-site at the upcoming Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort, which will be the property’s second resort, and its entrance will be located to the right of Dollywood’s existing DreamMore Resort and Spa. A walking path will be constructed between the two resorts, and shuttle transportation will be provided to the theme park and water park.

HeartSong entry
HeartSong entry

At 28 acres, Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort is on track for a Fall 2023 opening. Implementing what they have learned at the DreamMore Resort, the new five-story property will take advantage of the natural mountain scenery surrounding it.

Executives shared that about half of the more than 300 rooms on property will have outdoor balconies overlooking the mountains. The four-story atrium in the lobby will be complete with a grand fireplace.

Dollywood HeartSong construction
HeartSong construction

While DreamMore was themed as a peek into Dolly Parton’s world, the HeartSong Lodge & Resort will tell the story of Parton’s origins and love for the Smoky Mountains.

The HeartSong is poised to be the first in town to cater to large groups of up to 900. A theatre will be part of the resort for both conventions, and will be used to amp up the entertainment offerings outside of the park. The DreamMore is currently experimenting with a concert series.

Dollywood Executives shared that the master plan is to have five different on-site resorts, including a campground.  

Artist rendering of completed HeartSong resort
Artist rendering of completed HeartSong resort

The tour next headed to Splash Country water park to see what was ahead for their 22nd season. New for this season, Little Creek Falls will be replaced with a splash pad water zone. This is a direct results of guest feedback, which indicated a need for more activities for small children.

Dollywood consulted with an ADA advisory panel to allow for this new structure to be wheelchair accessible. Geared towards kids ages six and under, the new splash zone will feature a dozen child-height pop jets; large, colorful leaves; and plenty of tree-like structures that embrace its mountain theme. Butterfly shading structures will be installed to offer respite from the sun.

Splash Country splash pad construction
Splash Country splash pad construction

Across Splash Country, 60 of the slides have been given updates during the park’s winter closure, including paint jobs and ongoing maintenance. Additionally, their landscaping team worked all winter to maintain the park.

We next headed to Dollywood theme park for a peak at their parking lot reimagining. If you have ever visited Dollywood on a busy day, you are aware of the traffic backups that are common. To combat this issue, the parking tolls at the entrance have been given an expansion. They were moved back, with more toll booths added. This should result in 40 percent more stacking space to relieve traffic. Having consulted with a traffic engineer, this should dramatically cut down the entrance time for guests arriving in vehicles as well as on the resort hospitality shuttle.

We then headed to the park entrance where we visited the Emporium, Dollywood’s flagship merchandise store. The store was given a dramatic update to reflect a more modern, open feel. 13,000 square feet of new tile has been laid, and an iconic park element will be added to the ceiling come season opening. This year will see the addition of several mobile check outs and more points of sale.

Our tour continued into the park as we got a first-hand look at the removal of the old mine tunnel, a structure that has been there since long before Dollywood. Replacing it will be a relaxation zone overlooking the Dollywood express train. It will be complete with seating and around 40 trees for shade.

Mine tunnel construction
Mine tunnel construction

While we weren’t able to visit the site because construction was on-going, Dollywood team members shared that Victoria’s Pizza was being extensively renovated. It will be reimagined into Iron Horse Pizza. The new quick-service restaurant will fix structural issues to create a more streamlined ordering process for both the staff and guests.

Our tour concluded with lunch at Front Porch Café. Here, we sampled eats from the upcoming festivals as well as learned about what the rest of the year holds.

Emporium construction
Emporium construction

Flower & Food Festival will extend up into Craftsman’s Valley this year, with three new mosaic pieces. Taking place Apr. 22- June 5, the festival will feature a new immersive attraction called Dolly’s Butterfly Garden, and a brand-new outdoor show with swaying pole artists.

Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration will return this year, bigger and better than last, from June 18- Aug. 7. The drone show, “Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights,” will return, along with new experiences including America’s largest bubble foam pit, Oodles of Noodles in the Sky exhibit, interactive water elements, and backyard style games.

Harvest Festival will also be returning Sept. 23 – Oct. 29 with a new display, Hoot Owl Hollow, featuring over 500 pumpkin owls.

Smoky Mountain Christmas will be returning Nov. 5, 2022- Jan. 1, 2023, with 30 percent more holiday lights.

Dollywood opens to the public for the season on Saturday, March 12. An exclusive passholder preview will be taking place on Friday, March 11.

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