Dollywood Is Reopening ‘Soon’—Until Then, Explore The Park Virtually And Make Its Signature Food At Home
The entrance to Dollywood
In the past two weeks, all eyes have been on reopening announcements. Earlier this week, Spain announced it would reopen its borders in July, and Greece has moved its reopening from July 1 to June 15. Cyprus has even announced it will cover the vacation costs of anyone who contracts Covid-19 while visiting the country.
For a certain group, no announcements have been more hotly anticipated than the reopening of theme parks. Universal Orlando announced last week that it would open to the public on June 5, and Walt Disney World released its opening dates—July 11 for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, and July 15 for Epcot and Hollywood Studios—just yesterday. (The Disney fervor was so dramatic that eager vacationers crashed the park’s reservation system, and the company then put a temporary hold on future bookings for hotels, tickets and restaurant reservations.)
One park we’ve yet to hear from, though, is Dollywood. Dolly herself has been in the news recently for her Goodnight With Dolly video series, wherein she is releasing videos reading children’s books from her Imagination Library literacy initiative. The only news we’ve heard of the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee park’s reopening is spokesperson Pete Owens saying that, in light of Governor Bill Lee’s recent guidance on reopening large attractions, they’ll announce plans “soon.”
Dolly Parton’s Chasing Rainbows Museum
Until the park reopens, there are plenty of ways to explore Dollywood virtually. The park has a Vimeo channel full of first-person-view ride experiences, like the intense Wild Eagle roller coaster, which seats four people across a row suspended as though they’re hanging from an eagle’s wings, and the Lightning Rod, which tops out at 73mph and which the park claims is the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster.
Every amusement park has roller coasters, though. What makes Dollywood unique is, well, Dolly. Parton’s heritage is everywhere in the park, from the Tennessee Mountain Home, a walk-through replica of the two-room cabin she grew up in just outside Pigeon Forge in Sevier County, Tennessee, to the country and bluegrass performances throughout the park. The entire place was created to represent Appalachian mountain culture. In Craftsman’s Valley, there are artisans crafting leather goods and blowing glass. The park blog has videos of craftspeople hand-dipping candles, fashioning horseshoes in a forge, and whittling logs into intricate wood carvings in 19th century traditional Appalachian methods.
Dolly Parton’s costumes at the Chasing Rainbows Museum
True fans of Dolly Parton, though, will want to explore every corner of the Chasing Rainbows Museum, which tells the story of the singer’s rise to fame. Outside is an old tour bus you can walk through. Inside are the actual Coat of Many Colors from one of Parton’s best-loved songs, and display upon display of her costumes from movies like 9 to 5 and concert tours. An entire room is dedicated to gold and platinum records. Archival footage of Parton singing on The Porter Wagoner Show, where she got her start, plays on a loop in a special memorial to him. This walk-through video gives you an up-close look at some of the memorabilia in the museum. The upside of doing it virtually: no one blocks your view of the exhibits. The downside: the Dolly Parton hologram that greets every guest doesn’t make an appearance.
The Dollywood Grist Mill houses the bakery that makes the park’s iconic cinnamon bread
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
And then, there’s the food. Dollywood is known far and wide as having some of the best amusement park food in the country. The park has won Best Food from the Golden Ticket Awards — something akin to the Oscars of amusement parks — four times. (A writer once attempted to eat everything in the park in a single day, with delicious, if somewhat painful, results.)
The most beloved food, by a mile, is the pull-apart Cinnamon Bread baked fresh in the Dollywood Grist Mill. The working grist mill, which often has a line out the door, can sell up to 350 loaves an hour when the park is full. This recipe, straight from the park itself via Travel + Leisure, comes with a sweet glaze on top of the bread — but the Dollywood apple butter is another popular choice as a topping.
So if you really need to scratch the Dollywood itch between now and the park’s grand reopening, start baking — and then eat your reward while watching Steel Magnolias, or this iconic 1987 sketch from The Dolly Show.