Dollywood's getting bigger next year with a brand new $37 million section

J. H. Osborne • Aug 3, 2018 at 11:45 PM

PIGEON FORGE — A brand new section will open at Dollywood next year, and its $37 million price tag makes Wildwood Grove the largest capital investment in the theme park’s 32-year history. The official word on Wildwood Grove came Friday from Dolly Parton herself, but park visitors have for some time noticed work underway on the roughly five-acre site, situated behind the Timber Canyon area and easily visible from the steam locomotive ride.

The new section’s focus sticks with Dollywood’s overall goal of providing ample opportunities for families to enjoy time together, both Parton and The Dollywood Company President Craig Ross said.

“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 that the frogs and butterflies were my friends. I’d imagine about what it’d be like to fly with a dragonfly or to follow a bear family through the woods. Now all these things are coming true for our guests to experience in Wildwood Grove. ... It may be my new favorite part of Dollywood. This area is going to give families a place to explore, play and imagine together, but more importantly it’s a place where they can spend more time together. I believe everyone has a song in their heart that needs to be set free. Wildwood Grove will be a place where families can learn together about what their heart song truly is.”

Wildwood Grove is the first expansion of the park’s footprint since Wilderness Pass opened in 2008.

“It is rare in our industry that a park adds a new land in its entirety,” Ross said. “Attendance has continued to increase — we’ve set attendance records each of the last six years and we’re having a strong season this year — so this new area helps satisfy consumer needs as guests have more room to spread out, imagine and explore another chapter in the epic Dollywood story.”

The project’s total $37 million cost concludes The Dollywood Company’s 2013 commitment of $300 million in investments over a 10-year period — four years ahead of schedule.

“This is not just big for East Tennessee,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development Kevin Triplett, who was on hand for the Wildwood Grove announcement. “It’s big for Tennessee.”

Triplett noted Dollywood is Tennessee’s No. 1 ticketed attraction and the Dollywood Company could sit back and enjoy its success, but instead it is committed to constant improvement, and that helps drive tourism.

“To take 11 new attractions in a whole new themed area is just the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that continues to keep Dollywood on top and keeps people coming — and that is important to us. There are more than a dozen counties in this state with larger populations than Sevier County, but only two counties generate more tourism dollars. And a big reason for that is this kind of investment by The Dollywood Company. It is very typical of the way they do things and the way Dolly Parton does things.”

The design of Wildwood Grove’s entrance will give guests the impression they’re passing through a massive hollow trunk of a fallen tree. The Wildwood Tree — a tree unlike any other — will serve as centerpiece of the area, “growing” from a cluster of natural rock and boulders which will serve as a platform for performances throughout the day and night. The green, leafy canopy is adorned with thousands of butterflies that dance playfully in the breeze.

Wildwood Grove attractions include six rides:

⦁ The Dragonflier — This thrilling suspended roller coaster lets guests soar with a dragonfly as it dips and darts along the gushing geysers and lush landscape of Wildwood Grove.

⦁ Black Bear Trail — Riders hop on the backs of these friendly bears for a spirited trek through their natural habitat. Families will enjoy meandering through the woods of this unique Smoky Mountain experience.

⦁ Sycamore Swing — Guests aboard this thrilling “leaf boat” swing back and forth just like a leaf falling from a giant sycamore tree.

⦁ Treetop Tower — This family tower gives guests a sky-high view of Wildwood Grove as they soar nearly 40 feet in the air. Riders, seated inside giant acorns, spin around the top of a tall oak tree before gently drifting back to the grove floor.

⦁ The Mad Mockingbird — Tennessee’s state bird—the mockingbird—gives visitors a lift as it flies in a high speed circle around a tall tree. Riders control their ride experience by moving a sail as the birds rush above the ground.

⦁ Frogs and Fireflies —These friendly frogs hop up and down as they chase each other around the lily pad trying to catch the flickering fireflies fluttering from the tall reeds and grasses. Adventurous guests can hop aboard for this riveting race.