PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WFXR) — Spring is almost here, which means people are starting to think about where to go for spring break, family vacations, and weekend getaways. One place people flock to year after year is Dollywood!

With several projects that took place simultaneously during the winter “off season,” Dollywood says a number of new sights will greet guests when the park opens to all season passholders on Friday, March 11 and to the general public on Saturday, March 12.

Back in February, members of the media toured Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country, and the under-construction Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort. Eugene Naughton, The Dollywood Company president, led the tour and explained why the projects are crucial to maintaining the company’s growing reputation as a top national destination.

“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,” said Naughton. “Guests will start to notice the changes as soon as they drive onto the property. We’ve reconfigured our parking complex to better utilize the lots at both Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country to provide a more efficient experience for guests as they enter our property.”

Examples of the changes to the park will be the swapping of the guest traffic lanes with the tram lanes, removing previous points of intersection between the two; the use of a one-way circuit in the multi-property parking complex, eliminating the two-way traffic pattern of the old parking lot layout; and the addition of two extra parking toll booths and more staging lanes to reduce the amount of time spent waiting to enter the property.

Other projects throughout the theme park include the renovation of Ironhorse Pizza to include greater production capacity and more seating space for guests, as well as a complete makeover for the Emporium, providing a modern shopping experience as guests look for unique Dollywood keepsakes.

Since guests have continued to ask for more room to provide spacing in the park, officials say two buildings —the former Eagle Shop and the former Christmas Cottage in Rivertown Junction — have been removed to allow for wider walkways. The tunnel connecting lower Craftsman’s Valley to The Village has also been removed, providing guests a location to spread out and enjoy a better view of the Dollywood Express as it passes by.

“As our park continues to expand, we must regularly address the areas of the park that have been here longer,” Naughton explained. “We put much thought into every project we undertake, considering guest appeal, current practicality and future lifespan to determine what takes precedence. We know the mine tunnel was a popular landmark for guests, but its removal was necessary at this time. We feel the new widened pathway will offer a great place to watch the Dollywood Express—which is one of our most popular attractions—as it leaves and returns to The Village. I hope we’ll have generations of guests who make fond memories in this area.”    

However, the construction projects are not limited to Dollywood theme park. Little Creek Falls, one of the first attractions guests may notice when visiting Dollywood’s Splash Country, will be transformed into a splash pad by the time the park opens in May, making the area more accessible so people of all abilities can have fun.

Members of the media also visited the site of Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort — the first project in the 10-year, $500 million expansion plan announced in June 2021 — as construction continues toward its slated opening in fall 2023. The 302-room, five-story resort is expected to be a “one-of-a-kind getaway that welcomes the outdoors in thanks to high ceilings, exposed beams and natural layered textures,” according to Dollywood.

On Thursday, March 3, Dollywood Public Relations Manager Ellen Liston joined WFXR News’ Charmayne Brown on “Good Day Virginia” to discuss the park’s 2022 season.

Thanks to returning guest favorites, new experiences to enjoy, and the fun of one of America’s best theme parks, Dollywood says its 37th season will be filled with excitement, including the following events:

  • April 22 to June 5: Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival delights guests with hundreds of thousands of brilliant flowers, bringing spring to life in the Smokies throughout the park.
  • June 18 to Aug. 7: Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration is a festive summertime event that features unique family experiences that can only be found in the heart of the Smokies.
  • Sept. 23 to Oct. 29: Dollywood’s Harvest Festival celebrates the beauty of fall in the Smokies with thousands of carved pumpkins, spirited performances from talented artists, and the fun of Great Pumpkin LumiNights.
  • Nov. 5 to New Year’s Day: Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas helps you get into the holiday spirit as you wander through the park’s more than five million holiday lights, enjoy the festive performances and warm Christmas atmosphere, or taste the holiday-themed food

Dollywood has also created a new season pass structure featuring several new pass types — including the Silver Season Pass, the Gold Season Pass, and the Diamond Season Pass — in order to allow visitors more options for tailoring their experiences.

For more information about Dollywood’s 2022 season or season passes, visit Dollywood.com or download the Dollywood app.