By Leif Palmer
Posted on March 11, 2023
Believe it or not, Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge kicks off its 2023 season in just a few days. On March 10, season passholders will be able to enter the gates for the first time this year, while the general public will be able to pass through the turnstiles the following day. Here's what to keep an eye out for if you plan to visit the park any time this year:
One of the most anticipated events is the premier of Big Bear Mountain, the park's newest and longest roller coaster. Measuring nearly 4,000 feet in length, this ride will spend nearly two minutes circling the newly expanded Wildwood Grove section of the park. It will also be the first coaster of its kind at Dollywood to feature onboard audio, which will include music and narration. At its peak, the track stands 66 feet above the ground, and the 20-passenger trains reach top speeds of 48 miles per hour. Because the height requirement for this ride is only 39 inches, Dollywood expects it to be a coaster that both parents and younger children can experience together.
The theme of the $25 million coaster is that a massive black bear has been roaming through Wildwood Grove but has never been spotted by humans. A wilderness explorer named Ned Oakley has been tasked with finding Big Bear, and he takes passengers along for the ride of their lives in specially outfitted four-wheel-drive SUVs (the coaster cars).
Another change for 2023 may be one most people won't notice. The park has added 15 days of operations this year, which will provide more opportunities for guests to have fun at the park. And Dollywood is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dolly's hit song “I Will Always Love You” with a special event that runs from March 11 through April 8. Several noted singers and songwriters will headline special performances throughout the festival.
Of course, Dollywood offers a full slate of festivals and special events throughout its season. Others include the Flower & Food Festival (April 21 through June 11), Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration (June 17 through August 6), Harvest Festival (September 22 through November 4) and Smoky Mountain Christmas (November 11 through January 6, 2024).
If you happen to be visiting Gatlinburg and want to work in a trip to Dollywood, you don't necessarily have to drive all the way to Pigeon Forge. Take advantage of our many Gatlinburg downtown parking opportunities and then take the Gatlinburg trolley to the theme park.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in Gatlinburg. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.