February 3, 2024, 6:51 PM ·

I have yet to meet a person who visited Dollywood and did not love the place. And yet, Dolly Parton’s theme park never cracks the list of Top 20 most-attended theme parks in North America. This is a park that deserves to be counted among America’s most popular. And so, we offer eight reasons why you should consider a trip to Dollywood in 2024.

Dollywood starts its 2024 season in just a bit over a month from now, on March 8. That’s the earliest start ever for the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee park, kicking off a 280-day season, more than three weeks longer than last year’s. Those extra operating days should provide an attendance boost, as should…A more reliable Lightning Rod…Theme Park Insider readers have voted this Rocky Mountain Construction roller coaster as Dollywood’s top ride and among the Top 10 coasters in the world. But a troublesome launch has limited uptime since Lightning Rod’s 2016 debut. For the 2024, Dollywood is replacing the launch with a high-speed chain lift, which should help increase uptime and, one hopes, decrease wait times for this highly rated coaster….leading a solid line-up of fun coastersLighting Rod tops our reader rankings, but please do not overlook Dollywood’s other great coasters, including Thunderhead, a GCI woodie; Wild Eagle, a Bolliger & Mabillard wing coaster; and Tennessee Tornado, a classic Arrow looper in a delightful wooded valley setting. Dollywood is also building a great line-up of family coasters, including last year’s well-received Big Bear Mountain.A new Dolly Parton ExperienceDollywood’s new attraction for 2024 is The Dollywood Parton Experience, debuting in May. This new showcase for Dolly’s career will take over the area surrounding and including the former Chasing Rainbows museum and include plenty of wonderful items curated with Dolly’s help. Live musicYou would expect Dolly’s theme park to be filled with live music, and Dollywood never disappoints. Line-ups change by season, but Dollywood consistently delivers a collection of performers and productions that delight a wide range of music fans – and not just Dolly’s.

FestivalsDollywood does not have a huge local fan base from some big nearby city (more on that in a bit), but the park nevertheless mixes it up throughout the year with a strong program of music and food festivals. The 2024 line-up starts with the Dolly-themed I Will Always Love You Music Festival on March 9 through April 14, continuing all the way to the season-wrapping and award-winning Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana on November 1 to January 5, 2025.Our final reasons for visiting Dollywood this year include the park’s outstanding food, including fried chicken, skillet dinners and the park’s iconic cinnamon bread. It’s always served up with Dollywood’s industry-leading hospitality, with friendly customer service and associates who work hard to help when you need it.And when you day in the parks is over, Dollywood now offers two on-site hotels, with 2023’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort joining Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa for its first full season this year.So what’s the problem? This is how a blessing can, at the same time, become a curse. The Smoky Mountain valley that provides such as beautiful home for Dollywood also can make it a challenging park to visit, for some. The nearest airport stands an hour away – without substantial traffic – and that’s in Knoxville. The nearest major airport is in Charlotte, more than three hours away and on the other side of the Smoky Mountains.That means that you will be driving a good distance to get to Dollywood, no matter from where you are coming. And a Los Angeles native and resident who also has driven the roads in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Smoky Mountain National Park, allow me to tell you that I gladly will take LA traffic over those routes in the summertime. Even if you are staying at Dollywood’s official hotels, you’ll need a fair helping of patience on your way to the park. But Dollywood will reward that effort once you get there.For a complete line-up of attractions, and our Theme Park Insider reader rankings of its roller coasters, please visit our Visitors Guide to Dollywood.And to keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider’s weekly newsletter.

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