PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) – Dollywood’s largest and most expensive expansion “Wildwood Grove” officially opened to the public Friday.
Wildwood Grove adds 11 new experiences to the Dollywood theme park, including six new rides.
Wildwood Grove is said to be inspired by Parton’s childhood in East Tennessee and draws on the natural beauty of the area. It will feature 11-themed attractions like Blackbear Trail, Hidden Hollow, Sycamore Swing and The Wildwood Tree which will host live performances, light displays and fireworks.
“When I was a little girl growing up in the hills of the Smoky Mountains, I’d often let my imagination just run away—something I still do now—dreaming these big dreams about what it’d be like to venture off with a family of bears in to the woods or how fun it would be to hitch a ride with the butterflies and dragonflies,” Parton said. “All us kids would splash and play in the creeks and ponds around home and have these daydreams about the world around us, and that’s what’s so special about Wildwood Grove. We’ve been able to create a new area to allow families to experience some of those exact dreams we all had when we were little.
The park will feature a new suspended rollercoaster called ‘The Dragon Flier’.
With a price tag of $37 million, Dollywood President Craig Ross said in August at the Wildwood Grove announcement that the expansion cost more to build than the entire park when it opened.
“Without doubt, this is one of the most exciting days in the history of our company,” Ross explained. “It is rare in our industry that a park adds a completely new land in its entirety, and as we continue to grow and set attendance records, we needed to add more area to give guests more room to spread out and explore. Additionally, we were able to take many of Dolly’s childhood dreams and create experiences that are uniquely Smoky Mountain-themed and really help tell the story of this beautiful area.
The 52-foot-tall and 52-foot-wide Wildwood tree sits at the center of the new ‘land’ and features nearly 650 lighted butterflies and almost 9000 leaves.
“‘Wildwood Grove is so imaginative’, Dolly Parton said at the August announcement. ‘I remember when I was a kid and I used to pretend I had frogs and butterflies as my friends. Now, children of all ages really ride on the back of a bear and a take a ride on a dragonfly'”.