Dollywood preps for 2022 season with reimagined Splash Country attraction, parking fixes
The friendly faces at Dollywood Parks & Resorts are making theme park, water park and resort upgrades ahead of the company's 37th season.
Dollywood will open March 11 to season pass holders and March 12 to the public.
"We selected a number of projects for this off season that we felt were crucial for the guest experience and for park infrastructure in general," Dollywood president Eugene Naughton said in a press release. "Guests will start to notice the changes as soon as they drive onto the property."
The park will lift mask requirements, social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols, a spokesperson said. Though reservations aren't required, making one ensures entry on the day of a visitor's choice.
Knox News got a tour of Dollywood to check out everything from small updates to major additions. Here's a look at what's coming this season and in future years.
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Smoother parking at Dollywood
This year, you hopefully won't be greeted by a three-mile line of cars to get into Dollywood.
The park has added and rearranged its parking lot ticket booths, allowing for more cars to enter the park at once. The tram and vehicle paths no longer intersect, so the new single-loop parking lot should make parking and leaving a lot smoother.
"The first thing that you experienced when you got here, the last thing that you experience when you leave, is going to be much improved," Naughton said.
Changes inside the park are minimal this year. Dollywood Emporium, the largest gift shop in the park, is being renovated and will feature new art and additional point-of-sale stations.
The Flower and Food Festival will return this year from April 22 to June 5.
Guests can expect the fest to feature floral sculptures, colorful umbrellas in the sky and the country's largest bubble foam pit. There will also be a new festival menu featuring spicy Korean meatballs and seafood macaroni and cheese.
Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration, held from June 18 to Aug. 7, will include the return of the Gazillion Bubbles Show, and a larger Sweet Summer Nights drone and fireworks show.
The Harvest Festival and Smoky Mountain Christmas will both be back later this year.
Dollywood's Splash Country
Scheduled to open May 14, Dollywood's Splash Country will also have some changes this season.
Guests will notice as they enter the waterpark that Little Creek Falls will look a little different. Crews are removing slides at that attraction and transforming it into a splash pad with more than 100 play elements for children of all ages. The zero-depth entry makes this attraction more accessible for more ages and abilities.
From small fountains to butterfly and tree structures, there will be something for all young kids to enjoy.
Dollywood's HeartSong Lodge & Resort
Though it's not opening until late 2023, the biggest Dollywood project underway is the construction of the new HeartSong Lodge and Resort.
The 302-room, five-story resort is being constructed on 20 acres. Naughton said it will bring a different experience from Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and will allow guests to enjoy the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Half the available suites will have balconies for guests to enjoy an outdoor view.
"When you go to DreamMore, it's like visiting Dolly's home," Naughton said. "This is our chance to show you what it's like when she goes to get refreshed in the Smoky Mountains."
A four-story atrium and large fireplace will be built in the center of the lodge and guests will have access to a trolley stop at the front, allowing for easy access to and from the park.
The resort is part of a 10-year, $500 million expansion plan Dollywood announced last June.
One-day, two-day and three-day tickets are available, as well as season passes. For more information on tickets, updates and events, visit Dollywood.com.