Perhaps it’s largely personal bias. I’ve loved the mountains my whole life, and I’d give pretty much anything to move back someday. But Dollywood absolutely has to be one of the most authentically situated parks anywhere. Whereas many parks try to cater to a variety of interests, featuring wide-ranging themed lands and attractions, Dollywood is pretty much Eastern Tennessee mountains. That’s where it came from, and it’s stayed true to its roots over the decades. No need to build steel and concrete mountains here with the breathtaking vista of the Great Smokies all around. It’s even managed to remain isolated from the touristy, mini-Vegas fare that has saturated the once quaint town of Pigeon Forge.
Disney it’s not, however, so don’t expect completely immersive environments built upon rich backstories. But unlike the majority of regional parks, Dollywood’s designers have at least made some effort to sprinkle myth and reference behind several of their attractions. Take, for instance, one of the best Arrow loopers ever built—the Tennessee Tornado. Back in the 19th century, a legendary tornado tore through the area, disrupting the mine railway and carrying every bit of coal off to West Virginia. Left behind are the remains of the Tennessee Mining Company with pieces falling off and bits of equipment strewn about the grounds.
Guests just assume that the name Drop Line merely makes sense for the park’s recently installed Skyfall drop tower. But it doesn’t come from focus group surveys. Back in the early 20th century loggers needed a way to get large timbers down the steep slopes. They sent a “high climber” up the tallest trees to rig a pulley system that included a cable known as…wait for it…the drop line, which lowered the timbers down the mountain.
FireChaser Express, a dual-launch family coaster, is a wonderful tribute to firefighters with lots of thematic touches.
Dollywood attractions don’t really tell narrative stories, but they feature rich detail to give them a story environment. Kudos to Herschend Entertainment and Dollywood for making the effort to ensure a magical, memorable experience for their guests.