Dollywood introduces biggest expansion yet: Wildwood Grove

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 8/8/18

PIGEON FORGE – Dollywood theme park, one of the nation’s premier vacation destinations, is growing larger through an expansion announced Friday, Aug. 3, by Dolly Parton herself, which involves …

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Dollywood introduces biggest expansion yet: Wildwood Grove

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PIGEON FORGE – Dollywood theme park, one of the nation’s premier vacation destinations, is growing larger through an expansion announced Friday, Aug. 3, by Dolly Parton herself, which involves the building of a brand-new area of the park called Wildwood Grove.

The largest capital investment in Dollywood’s 32-year history, Wildwood Grove is expected to open in 2019. This new land is accessible through a fallen log in Timber Canyon, and is described as a land of adventure, imagination and wonder.

“I’ve told you before about how I’d let my imagination roam free when I’d be out exploring in the hills around our home in the Smoky Mountains,” Parton said. “I’d pretend the frogs and butterflies were my friends. I’d imagine what it’d be like to fly with a dragonfly or to follow a bear through the woods. Now all these things are coming 'true' for our guests in Wildwood Grove.”

Fittingly, the new rides for the expansion revolve around Parton’s childhood imaginings. Six new ride attractions await guests eager to explore. They include the Dragonflier, a new suspended roller coaster that lets guests dip and dart with a dragonfly around the park; Black Bear Trail, which allows riders a leisurely romp through Wildwood Grove on the back of the Smokies’ most famous creature, a black bear; Sycamore Swing, a “leaf boat,” which swings back and forth just like a leaf falling from a giant sycamore tree; Treetop Tower, which sees guests climbing to the tops of the trees before gently drifting back to the grove’s floor like an acorn; the Mad Mockingbird, centered around Tennessee’s state bird — the mockingbird — gives visitors a high-speed lift around a tall tree and allows them the option of controlling their speed and height; and finally Frogs and Fireflies, where guests can ride frogs as they hop up and down chasing flickering fireflies on lily pads through the tall reeds.

“I think it’s funny how Wildwood Grove has a sign at Black Bear Trail that says ‘Don’t Feed the Bears.’ Don’t feed ‘em, just ride ‘em!” Parton said with a laugh.

In the center of Wildwood Grove is the massive Wildwood Tree, adorned in Parton’s signature butterflies. It grows from rock and boulders and offers a natural platform for musical performances throughout the day, as well as that much-needed shade during the summer months.

Citing the motto of her Imagination Library of “Dream More, Learn More, Care More, Be More,” Parton explained how just like her library encourages parents to read with their children, Wildwood Grove will be a place where parents can explore, play and imagine together as a family.

Wildwood Grove offers various options for fun aside from rides, including its climate-controlled play space for families called Hidden Hollow. This area of the expansion features climbing structures, slides and multiple games as well as a refreshing spot called Wildwood Creek, comprised of numerous pop jets and splashing pools for those hot summer days.

Craig Ross, Dollywood Company's president, described the addition as “epic,” just as Parton had wanted it.

“Theme parks around the world every year add rides and shows, but it’s rare to hear of a theme park adding a whole new area, and it just shows our commitment to constantly improving our family experiences,” Ross said. “We are also grateful for the beautiful natural environment we are located in that inspired this idea. The sheer scope of Wildwood Grove allows us to offer something for everyone. These are rides and attractions families can enjoy together.”

The total cost for the project is $37 million, meeting The Dollywood Company’s 2013 commitment of $300 million in investments over a 10-year period four years ahead of schedule. According to Ross, Wildwood Grove costs more than the park originally did when it was first built.

Concerning food, the expansion will feature a new dining establishment, Till and Harvest, offering a selection of Southwest fresh favorites, including burritos, salads and more, all with a Southern twist.

In keeping with the natural beauty of its location just like the rest of the park, Dollywood is investing nearly $1 million in landscaping the area, with more than 400 trees and 1,000 shrubs helping transform the space into a lush spot for relaxation.

Although Wildwood Grove isn’t expected to open until 2019, Dollywood guests can still attend any of the park’s various other festivals during 2018’s Season of Showstoppers. Dollywood’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana runs Sept. 28 to Nov. 3, and features the return of Great Pumpkin LumiNights — which doubles in size in 2018 — as well as the largest Southern gospel celebration in the world. The season ends with the 10-time winner for Best Christmas Event, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana, which runs from Nov. 10 to Jan. 5. Also in 2018, Wilderness Pass transforms into Glacier Ridge, a winter wonderland complete with a 50-foot tall video motion Christmas tree.

For more information about Dollywood, go to its website – www.dollywood.com – call 1-800-DOLLYWOOD or download the Dollywood app.

Mark your calendars and get ready, because the mountains are calling!

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