We visited Dollywood three years ago, and a subsequent visit was long overdue. As we were there the week of the park’s 35th Anniversary, we got to enjoy the inaugural Dollywood’s Flower and Food Festival. Similar to the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival in Disney World, the theme park comes alive with larger-than-life plant sculptures, specialty food items, and Insta-worthy unique displays.
As guests of Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, our park privileges included:
i. COVID pre-screening at the resort
ii. Tram to the park’s entrance
iii. TimeSaver Passes
iv. Early Saturday entry
v. Complimentary package delivery
Unlike most theme parks, Dollywood’s identity is not tied to a movie or a character. It is rooted in Dolly Parton’s childhood and career. There are personal touches throughout the park. We’ve already covered the significance of butterflies at the resort, and it is the same at Dollywood. The motifs are everywhere. The Country Fair area in the park is inspired by Parton’s school trips to the country fair. And known as Aunt Granny to her neices and nephews, this is the name of one of the park’s restaurants.
Fun Fact: Parton inherited The Robert F. Thomas Chapel on property when she purchased Goldrush Junction (now Dollywood) 35 years ago. The chapel is named for the physician who delivered Parton.
Dollywood’s Flower and Food Festival
Features unique to the festival include the Picture Perfect Umbrella Sky, plant sculptures, and pop up festival kitchens. Ever wondered how plant sculptures are made? Click here.
Masks are required in the park, and on rides. The exception is if you are stationary and eating. Anywhere people could gather (stores, lines, shows, on the train), social distance protocols were in place. There are hand washing and hand sanitizing stations everywhere, along with rest areas for those needing a break from their masks. Of course, Hosts were seen constantly disinfecting high-touch surfaces between guests.
There are multiple shows still being offered. One of my favorites was the Wings of America Bird of Prey show. The American Eagle Foundation works with the park toward education, exhibition, rehabilitation and breeding multiple species under permits from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.
Miss Lillian is a roaming character. Lovingly known as “The Chicken Lady,” she is the proprietress of Miss Lillian’s Smokehouse and Fried Chicken. She loves to sing and tell stories. If you’re lucky, she’ll show you a magic penny. We saw her multiple times from the train, so never could get a decent photo. I borrowed this one from Dollywood.
Dollywood has a great selection of rides for thrill seekers, littles, and everyone in between. Between our two visits, we did them all. Here’s a poll of our favorites:
The DH – Dollywood Express/Smoky Mountain River Rampage
Stinky – Wild Eagle
Blinky – Dizzy Disk
Me – Smoky Mountain River Rampage
The Dollywood Express is an authentic 110-ton coal-fired steam engine that takes you on a 20-minute, five-mile journey through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Three years ago we did this at night and it was pitch black. This time, it was nice to see the scenery. 😉
At one point in the late afternoon, Blinky sat on a bench and must have disturbed a wasp that flew up and stung her on the leg. A Host passing by stopped to find out what happened. Blinky was in too much pain to walk to First Aid, so the Host radioed for a medic to come to us, and stayed with us until the medic arrived. After an application of insect bite relief, Blinky was mostly better.
Like the rest of our stay, we felt perfectly safe and comfortable the entire visit. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, Dollywood Splash Country, and Dollywood prioritized guest and host safety, and went above and beyond to ensure we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Already, we can’t wait to go back!
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