PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Dollywood opened its gates Friday to season passholders as the 2021 season kicked off.

Dollywood will open to the rest of the public on Saturday, March 13.

Theme park officials told News Channel 11 that despite the challenges 2020 brought, Dollywood had a good year and expects 2021 to be even better.

The park has undergone construction projects during the offseason to make improvements. Some of those projects included adding additional outdoor dining seating and changes to famous roller coasters.

“We spent a lot of time on our coasters in the offseason,” said Amber Davis with Dollywood Public Relations. “We retracked four big coasters, so Lighting Rod is practically brand new, Thunderhead has been retracked with new wood, Mystery Mine is going to have a great new experience and Blazing Fury has been retracked. So we really think our guests are going to love the ride experience.” 

Dollywood’s Flower and Food Festival kicks off on April 23. Until then, the park has booked a lineup of shows and entertainment for guests.

Park leaders say COVID-19 restrictions like face covering requirements and social distancing will remain in place for the time being.

“Even though it does look different with masks and everything else going on, we want folks to be able to come, enjoy that time together, make those memories and try to enjoy as much as they can what’s going on,” said Dollywood spokesperson Wes Ramey.

With the gates now open, people say they have a strategy for taking on the park.

“We go to the kids section first cause they’ll get tired and then the rest of us will go ride the adult rides while they’re crashed out in a stroller,” said Jeff Setser, who is visiting from Charlotte.

Jennifer Thrash, who is visiting from Alabama, said, “We’ve done all the shows and stuff too and if you want to do that too, I would say do it separate, like a separate day.”

While there are changes, people told News Channel 11’s Kelly Grosfield that they feel safe inside the park and are just happy to be back.

“They’ve just got everything worked out fine,” said Carolyn Wilson of Morristown. “If you get on the tram, everything is just spaced out fine.”

“I feel super safe here in Dollywood and I went all throughout last year, I just love coming here,” said Valentina Gonzalez, who is visiting from Johnson City.