Dolly Parton had a humble beginning in life, as one of 12 children belonging to Avie Lee and Robert Parton. Born into poverty in a tiny cabin in the Tennessee mountains, Parton had big dreams of breaking free and becoming a star.
Those dreams came true, and Parton has now established herself as one of the greatest artists to ever grace country music. In addition, she has experienced a successful career as an actress, record producer, and author.
But despite all of her fame and fortune, Parton has never lost sight of where she came from. As she said during an interview, “I always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area.”
That something wonderful became her Dollywood theme park, which opened under that name in 1986. Since then, the park has grown to become the largest employer in Parton’s hometown community. It is also one of the most-visited amusement parks in the country, with as many as three million visitors passing through its gates each year.
We’re sure that plenty of you have visited Dollywood a time or two before. But as many times as you’ve been there, we bet there’s still a few things about the park that you don’t know!
Want to learn seven fascinating facts about this Tennessee tourist attraction? Then you’ve come to the right place! Head on down below to get started!
1. The Park Wasn’t Originally Parton’s
Few people know this, but Dollywood was actually open for 25 years before Parton came on board. The park’s website explains its history, revealing that it first opened in 1961 under the name Rebel Railroad. At that time, the park featured a steam train, general store, blacksmith shop, and saloon.
The park experienced a series of name and ownership changes over the next few years, going from Rebel Railroad, to Goldrush Junction, to Goldrush, to Silver Dollar City Tennessee.
Parton finally came on board in 1986, which is when she bought an interest in the park. Part of the deal was that the park would be renamed Dollywood. It was, and now Dollywood is jointly owned by Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment.
2. The Park’s Opening Backed Up Traffic
To say that people were excited about Dollywood’s opening would be a major understatement. A Mental Floss article about the park states that within the days following its opening in May 1986, traffic leading into the park was backed up for six miles down U.S. 441. Imagine sitting in that line!
The park’s popularity didn’t waver within the first few months of being open. After only five months, Dollywood was happy to announce that it had welcomed one million visitors. Who knows how many millions of people have visited there since then!
3. The Chapel Is Named After An Important Person In Parton’s Life
As anyone who has visited Dollywood would know, the park is deeply rooted in Parton’s personal history. So when Parton had a chapel built at the park, she decided to name it after someone who played an important role in her life.
If you’ve been at Dollywood on a Sunday, you may have had the chance to attend a service at the Robert F. Thomas Chapel, a one-room church with wooden floors and pews. But did you know that the structure is named after the doctor that welcomed Parton into the world? That’s right…the church’s namesake was Dr. Robert F. Thomas, the doctor who delivered Parton on January 19, 1946.
4. You Can Warm Your Baby’s Bottle At One Of The Park Restaurants
Dollywood hasn’t overlooked anything when it comes to accommodating families with infants and small children. There are multiple restrooms with nursing stations, and there is also the Baby Care Center, which functions as a diapering facility and private feeding area.
The employees are also able to help out parents who are bottle feeding. As the park’s FAQ states, if you have a bottle that needs warmed, just ask any restaurant host for help and they will warm the bottle for you. That’s a bit of information some parents are probably happy to know!
5. There’s A Place For Dogs To Stay
While the main Dollywood park does not allow any pets except for service animals, there is a special place for your canine companion to stay. This place is appropriately called DoggyWood, which serves as a temporary boarding house for your dog to stay in while you enjoy everything Dollywood has to offer.
For a daily fee, parkgoers can rent a kennel or a more luxurious “cabin” for their pooch to stay in while they are in the park. The Dollywood website highly suggests making a DoggyWood reservation to make sure that a kennel or cabin is available during your stay.
6. Wednesdays Or Thursdays Are Usually The Least Busy
When getting ready to visit a theme park, one question always seems to come up…which days are the least busy? In other words, which days should you steer clear of the park to make sure you avoid the crowd?
Luckily for those planning to visit Dollywood, the park has a pretty good idea of which days are the best ones to visit. The park FAQ states that these dates change depending on the season. For instance, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to visit in the summer, and Thursdays are the best day to visit in the spring. As for the Christmas season, Dollywood says that weekdays are the least busy. So plan your trip accordingly!
7. You Can Send Your Souvenirs Somewhere For Safekeeping
You’re probably familiar with this typical theme park dilemma. You walk through some of the shops and a souvenir happens to catch your eyes. Not wanting to forget about it, you buy it, but then realize you have to carry it around with you all day and find somewhere safe to put it when you ride the attractions.
But you don’t need to worry about such things at Dollywood! The park has a system in place called the Package Pickup service so visitors don’t have to lug their souvenirs or Christmas presents around with them all day. When purchasing an item, all you have to do is tell the cashier that you’d like to use the Package Pickup system. They’ll give you a card with a time showing when you can go pick it up at the Package Pickup counter.
The counter remains open all day so you can pick up everything as you leave. It’s nice to know that your purchases are safe and sound while you enjoy the park!