2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Latitude: 35.795103 Longitude: -83.531186
This 125-acre theme park, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, is the namesake of Pigeon Forge's own hometown hero, Dolly Parton. The site originally opened as an amusement park in the 1960s and operated under several different names (including Silver Dollar City) until Ms. Parton and company took over in 1986. Since then, Dollywood has grown into the state's largest theme park and one of the top amusement destinations in the Southeast. It also happens to be the largest single seasonal employer in Sevier County.
The park is divided into a dozen different themed sections, each filled with an assortment of rides, attractions, shows, restaurants and shops. And there's something for every taste, from exciting roller coasters and water rides to nature- and kid-themed attractions. The stage shows also span the spectrum of entertainment, from country, bluegrass and gospel to rock and roll, children's shows and even magic. In between is a wide range of unique shops and studios, where visitors can watch mountain artisans as they shape pottery, blow glass and make soap, to name just a few crafts. Meanwhile, the restaurants at Dollywood serve up a satisfying lineup of Southern treats, including barbecue, fried chicken, a country buffet, burgers and pizza, and more. You can even get a deep-fried Snickers bar for dessert (if you dare).
Dollywood is open March through December, and throughout the year, the park hosts several different seasonal festivals, starting off with the Festival of Nations in spring. That's when Dollywood welcomes performers from all over the world to Pigeon Forge. There are plenty of interesting things for children to see and experience in summer during KidsFest, and in fall, the National Gospel & Harvest Celebration combines gospel music with festive autumn decorations. The year wraps up with a magical touch during Smoky Mountain Christmas.
Dollywood's Wild Eagle is the first wing coaster in America, so you can be sure that roller-coaster aficionados of all ages will find something to love about this screaming-fast thrill ride. Prepare to soar more than 20 stories above the ground then jerk to a stomach-turning drop before barreling into a heart-stopping corkscrew that will leave you breathless. Wild Eagle affords a gorgeous view of the Great Smoky Mountains - if you can keep your eyes open long enough to enjoy it.
Serious coaster fanatics will want to be first in line to experience the unique thrills this unusual ride offers. Wild Eagle seats you on the "wings" rather than in a car positioned atop the track. There is nothing but air rushing above and below you. The two-and-a-half minute ride with its plummeting drops and sudden turns will leave you feeling as if you've actually become an eagle on the hunt.
Flat spins, hairpin turns, and a "zero-G" roll all combine to make Wild Eagle a non-stop thrill ride you won't want to miss. With a top speed of more than 60 miles per hour and a dizzying drop of 190 feet, Wild Eagle offers all the thrills of a traditional roller coaster but with innovative wing seating to add to the excitement.
While you're winding down from your flight, take a stroll through Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, and meet the inspiration for Wild Eagle. This 30,000-square-foot exhibit houses the largest collection of non-releasable bald eagles in the country. Enjoy watching these magnificent birds of prey in their natural habitat. Be sure to stay for an entertaining and educational show put on by members of the American Eagle Foundation at the Wings of America Theater.
Wild Eagle might not be for the faint of heart, but there are plenty of other attractions at Tennessee's favorite theme park to keep the entire family happy. Professor Seymour Tricks Magic Show will mystify younger children, and older folks will enjoy taking a trip back in time with a visit to the county fair. Take a leisurely walk around the park, trot across the finish line on the back of a colorful carousel pony, or cool off under a tree with an ice cream cone while the youngsters play.
Whether you're in the mood for good old-fashioned family fun or for a screaming plunge through the trees at breakneck speeds, check out Dollywood this spring. One thing's for sure: you'll leave those winter blues far behind.
Dollywood offers a number of discounts and deals throughout the year, most of which you can learn about on the park's Web site.