PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Dollywood is wrapping up construction work and making updates to several iconic attractions as they prepare for the 2021 season.
Dollywood reopens March 12 for season passholders, and March 13 for the general public.
Thrillseeker park guests may notice some of Dollywood’s roller coasters have a different feel as track structure materials are updated – including the Lightning Rod coaster.
Pete Owens, Dollywood’s vice president of marketing and public relations, said the new hybrid track structure includes both wood and steel for an improved ride.
“Guests are going to feel a smooth ride, the same speed and acceleration, and excitement that they had before. It’ll just be a much more comfortable experience, and they’ll have many more opportunities to ride than they have in the past,” said Owens.
Thunderhead, Dollywood’s traditional wooden roller coaster, is also being retracked as part of a four-year process to create a smoother ride.
Dollywood staff say they’re gearing up for a big 2021, kicking off the season by bringing back last year’s Flower & Food Festival. The festival runs from April 23 to June 7.
“We’re adding music to that this year, but the flowers, and the decor, and everything that you see is going to be amazing,” said Owens.
On Wednesday, Dollywood’s culinary team showed off food items for the festival. Menu items include fish and chips, lobster rolls, funnel cakes with lavender honey, and more. A new dining day pass option will allow guests to sample five dishes of their choosing for $29.99.
This spring, park guests will be able to experience more indoor attractions that were previously closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, including museums and concerts.
“We’re really excited, because that allows us to do more entertainment. We brought it all out on the street last year. We’ll continue to do that, but we’ll also be able to expand our offerings inside the theaters,” Owens said.
Social distancing will be required in theaters. A full lineup of concert performers, featuring several contemporary Christian artists, is already booked.
This season, the park also plans to host Dollywood’s Summer Celebration (June 25 – July 31), Harvest Festival (Sept. 24 – Oct. 30), and Smoky Mountain Christmas (Nov. 6 – Jan. 2).
When the park reopens to the general public on March 13, the same COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place from last year.
“We will open in 2021 the way we closed in 2020. So masks will be required. You’ll be health screened as you come in, with temperatures taken,” said Owens. “We’ll have to see what the CDC does, and what recommendations that they change. As they continue to evolve, then we’ll re-evaluate what we’re doing.”
Around the theme park, crews are using about five miles worth of lumber to update roofs, siding, and flooring on various structures.
One of the park’s most famous spots, the Robert F. Thomas Chapel, is also receiving new wood and roofing.
“It was something that struck me as really needed to get a little love. Because of what it represented, what faith represents to our company,” said Dollywood President Eugene Naughton.
Naughton said no matter how much work is done through the years, the park aims to keep its familiar feel.
“Dollywood is a special place. It’s really a very intimate feel when you come in here. And it’s something that, no matter how life changes around us, that we always have to maintain that sense of intimacy,” said Naughton.