10 Facts About Dollywood You Didn’t Know

February 22, 2022

The smell of sweet cinnamon bread from Grist Mill, the down-home charm of the Great Smoky Mountains, and plenty of hair-raising roller coasters.

As far as theme parks go, Dolly Parton's Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is pretty darn close to perfect. Read on as we spill 13 fascinating facts about Dollywood.

An homage to the Queen of Country, this sprawling 160-acre establishment has been delighting visitors for over three decades.

While this world-class amusement park may bear her name and Appalachian sense of adventure, Dollywood is actually still owned and operated by the Herschend Family.

Tease that hair to the heavens, and settle in for a wild ride through the history, heritage, and tantalizing trivia of everyone's beloved Dollywood

Close up of the River Battle ride with people on it shooting water guns at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Dollywood via Facebook

Dollywood or Westworld?

Did you know Dollywood originally opened its gates in 1961 as the Rebel Railroad? The park consisted of a coal-fired steam engine, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a saloon.

Visitors from all over the U.S. were so intrigued by the Western way of life that in 1970, the attraction was rebranded as the Goldrush Junction.

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events at Dollywood

Silver Dollar City…in Pigeon Forge?

Everyone's favorite western-style attraction was briefly renamed Silver Dollar City when it was purchased by Herschend Enterprises in 1976. Thankfully, this confusing moniker didn't stick around for long.

Our lovely Backwoods Barbie expressed interest in giving back to the Smoky Mountains community, and by 1986 the institution had been rebranded as Dollywood.

Close up of the Tennessee Mountain Home, a replica of the cabin that Dolly Parton grew up in at Dollywood on a sunny spring day in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Dollywood via Facebook

Dolly Has Quite a Lot of Fans

Over 2.5 million people visit the theme park each year to check out everything from the Wild Eagle Roller Coaster to the talents of the local blacksmiths and artisanal glassblowers.

Country lovers of all ages delight in the kid-friendly attractions, southern-style cuisine, and award-winning festivals.

Related Post: Ultimate Guide to Dollywood Coupons, Discounts, and Deals

All aboard the Dollywood Express!

Today we know and love the Dollywood Express as the park's iconic locomotive ride, but did you know this historic train engine played an integral role in WWII?

These mighty steam engines were known as the "United States Army Transportation Corps S118 Class steam locomotives" and supported the American war effort by transporting essential supplies. 

Close up of the Dollywood Express in motion at Dollywood on a sunny day in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Dollywood via Facebook

Does Dolly Parton Visit Dollywood?

You betcha! However, you won't find this platinum songstress on any high thrill rides or exhilarating attractions. Dolly suffers from terrible motion sickness and is terrified of the park's nine roller coasters.

Her queasiness was so bad she would even get sick riding the school bus as a young girl.

Related Post: Insider's Guide to Dollywood

Aerial view of the countryside and Wild Eagle at Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USAAn Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

Satisfy your sweet tooth when you dig into one of the park's most renowned tasty treats, a 25-pound apple pie! This mammoth meal of buttery, flaky crust and tender apples cooked down with cinnamon sugar is made entirely from scratch.

One individual slice weighs three pounds and can easily feed four hungry adults. Those looking for a Dollywood keepsake will be thrilled to learn that the cast iron skillet that it's baked in is also available for purchase. 

Worship with Dolly

Seeking a holy refuge while you and your family are enjoying the down-home delights of Dollywood? Those looking to pray on Sunday need only head over to the Robert F Thomas Chapel.

This quaint one-room country church features wooden pews and hardwood floors and is named after the doctor who delivered Dolly! Sunday Morning worship is non-denominational and takes place at 11:30 a.m. each week.*

**Except during the Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration when service begins at 5:30 p.m.

Related Post: 10 Essential Tips for Visiting Dollywood with Kids

Fly Like an Eagle

Turn your peepers to the skies above because Dollywood is home to over a dozen Bald Eagles and over 60 other species of birds. Nestled in the rocky hillside of the Smoky Mountains, you'll find a 400,000 cubic sanctuary for these avian creatures.

Be sure to explore every inch of the largest exhibit of non-releasable Bald Eagles in the United States and soak in the theatrics of the live demonstrations by the open-air theater.

Close up of two eagles in their nest with their fledgling at the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: American Eagle Foundation via Facebook

Did Dolly stop traffic?

Our revered Jolene singer is certainly a showstopper, but did you know she can also stop traffic? On Dollywood's opening day in May 1986, traffic to the park reached a standstill when hoards of hungry Dolly fans were backed up for six miles down US 441.

The country's appetite for 'all things country' did not secede. Indeed, after a mere five months of being open, Dollywood had already welcomed one million people.

Black and white photo of Dolly Parton and the construction crew for Dollywood before opening day in 1986 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Dollywood via Facebook

Happy Hour at Dollywood?

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those seeking a shot of liquid courage before riding the fearsome FireChaser Express will have to search elsewhere.

As a family-friendly theme park with wholesome values, Dollywood does not allow the purchase of alcohol anywhere on the park premises. 

Related Post: Gatlinburg vs. Pigeon Forge: Where Should I Vacation? 

Yeezy at Dollywood? Yes, please!

Although a Kanye West and Dollywood collaboration would be music to our ears, we must denounce this fun fact as false news.

This crazy rumor was launched almost three years ago on April Fools Day 2019 when the Pigeon Forge website duped unsuspecting fans with a funny clickbait article. In their sensational story, they claimed Mr. West had purchased Dollywood for $130 million with the goal of transforming it into Yeezywood. 

Water, Water everywhere!

Visiting Dollywood during a sweltering Pigeon Forge summer? Then, take a break from the sun when you dive into adventure at Dollywood's Splash Country waterpark.

There are over one million gallons of water between the park's lazy river and wave pool! Too much fun in the sun? This watery oasis also contains a special 'calming area' for patrons who are feeling overstimulated. 

Aerial view looking down over Dollywood on a sunny day in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Dollywood via Facebook

Cinnamon Bread with a Historic Past

Munch your way through milling history when you devour everyone's beloved Cinnamon Bread from the Grist Mill. To this day, the Mill remains loyal to milling practices utilized over a hundred years ago and continues to grind its own wheat and corn through its massive water wheel.

This homemade flour bakes up sweet sugary delights such as the world-famous Cinnamon bread and cookies.

Adrenaline pumping twists and turns aboard the Lightning Rod, show-stopping Smoky Mountain String Band music, and the mesmerizing skill of leather workers and woodcarvers. 

Related Post: 2022 Guide to Spring Break in Pigeon Forge: Where to Go & Things to Do

With so many Appalachian-themed activities to enjoy, it's hard to believe this mammoth amusement park was once just a small Western expo! But, much like the Leading Lady of Country, Dollywood has had a lengthy and colorful career.

From majestic Bald Eagles to massive pies, so many unbelievable facts make Dollywood special. 

Ready to experience the eternal enchantment of the Smoky Mountains? Begin planning your own Dollywood vacation today!

Tell us, what's your favorite Dollywood memory?

Leave us a comment below!

isis with mural in background

Written By Isis Maya

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central America and her love o ...

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