Dollywood – Tennessee

Dollywood!                                                                                                                         By:  Suz Pisano

The world’s reigning Applause Award winning theme park adds the Barnstormer, revives the popular Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival and debuts a Christmas ice skating show for guests visiting the Smoky Mountains in 2011.  Nightwire just returned from a road trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and we totally recommend that you plan a trip to Dollywood and visit the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee!

The Applause Award is the most prestigious award within the amusement and theme park industry, honors a park whose maagement, operations and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with its foresight, originality and sound business development.  The award is presented every other year by Liseberg amusement park located in Gothenberg, Sweden.  Dollywood is like no where I’ve ever been- we absolutely loved it there, so much so we are already planning our return trip for next year and can’t wait to tell you why……..

Dollywood is Southern hospitality at its finest.  The Southern charm envelops you the moment you arrive.  The atmosphere is electric, the shows are dazzling, the rides are thrilling, the food is great, and the shopping is surprisingly affordable!  Dolly Parton purchased a small amusement park 25 years ago and literally turned the local economy around.  She’s a true champion for her people and everyone, absolutely everyone loves her!  Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is now a destination with over 250,000 Dollywood season pass holders and visitors of all ages coming from near and far.  Country charm is very attractive, even if you’re not a fan of country music.  We’re fans of success and Dollywood is a shining example.

The Barnstormer, Dollywood’s newest family thrill ride, takes flight for the 2011 season.  We were there for the kick-off and were excited to be some of the first to give it a try.  Passengers are seated back-to-back on two giant pendulum arms that reach over 80 feet in the air.  The journey to the treetops reaches a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour and 230 degrees of rotation.  We loved it but I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not for everyone!  Dolly herself told us that she’s scared of the new ride and would leave the riding up to us daredevils.  Barnstormer is definitely an exciting and thrilling ride! Barnstormer is located in the Owens Farm area, a heartfelt tribute to her roots.  To add to the authenticity of the farm area, Dolly partnered with the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative.

We really didn’t know what to expect visiting Tennessee for the first time, but we were so excited to be going to Dollywood.  Everyone we encountered was proud of their region and the surrounding Smoky Mountains.  The country charm is authentic and people are very friendly, warm and genuine.  The employees inside the park are helpful and really make you feel like you are their guest.  The park is immaculate and the décor is fantastic.  Dolly seemed to have spared no expense in getting these things right.  You’ll be amazed at the quality and talent of the craftspeople demonstrating their work throughout the park.  The glassblowing set-up rivals the Pittsburgh Glass Center!  I was totally fascinated by the train that travels through the park and the amount of theatres with so many choices and types of entertainment.  We saw Samaia: Legend of the Caucasus, performed by a cast of singers & dancers from the Caucasus region of the Georgian Republic.  Culture abounds throughout the Festival of Nations.

Dollywood is also home to the South’s largest festivals, Dollywood revives its popular Barbeque & Bluegrass festival August 19th through September 5th.  Free concerts by the biggest names in Bluegrass get under way with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder August 19th & 20th with 2 shows a day.  Kidsfest takes place June 17th til August 7th.  The Festival of Nations kicks off the opening season & runs now until May 2nd featuring performers and craftspeople from all areas of the world.    Dolly explained that “When I think about all of the fascinating places my travels have taken me, my heart is always moved by the beautiful music and dance and what I’ve learned about other cultures.  My Festival of Nations celebrates the sights and sounds that unite us all, from the far corners of the world to right here in my Smoky Mountain home. “

Dollywood’s season runs from March 26th through December 30th.  Dollywood offers more than 40 rides and attractions; award-winning live entertainment featuring country, bluegrass, gospel & mountain music; and a dozen crafters authentic to the East Tennessee region.  It’s a solid easy 8 hour drive from Pittsburgh, perfect for a road trip!  For more information call 1-800-DOLLYWOOD or visit  You can even find it on Facebook!