At the Dollywood theme park, change is a constant.
It is a nearly 40-year project in successful visioning. The former and somewhat cheesy Silver Dollar City in East Tennessee is now one of the best amusement parks in the world. But that hasn’t come without the willingness to close some old favorites. The Flooded Mine? Gone. Thunder Road? Gone. Mountain Sidewinder? Gone. Stagnation is not an option. But some attractions, like Chasing Rainbows, don’t fade completely. Sometimes, they get a major facelift.
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What happened to Chasing Rainbows?
Currently, the Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood is still closed. Last season, officials said the museum in the Adventures in Imagination area of the Dollywood park was closed to be “reimagined” for future possibilities. The Chasing Rainbows Museum was the second museum themed around Dolly to close in the park.
Previously, Rags to Riches: The Dolly Parton Story was located in the old Inventor’s House and the now-gone pedestrian tunnel. It featured personal items and glamorous gowns, but it was never what you’d consider a fascinating attraction. Eventually, Dolly and her team created the Chasing Rainbows Museum, which offered the story of her life and career.
What is replacing the Chasing Rainbows museum?
During the season-opening event, the legendary songteller and country music singer Dolly Parton revealed plans for a state-of-the-art attraction that will feature her legendary life and career in a whole new way. The experience is planned for a 2024 opening in the area surrounding – and including – the former Chasing Rainbows museum. During a video that teased the new feature, the Dolly Parton Experience says it will thrill “even the most devoted” Dolly Parton fan. I take this to mean it will include some never-before-seen features.
What is the new Dolly Parton Experience at Dollywood?
Ok, all that sounds great. But what does it actually mean? Essentially, it means the new attraction that is taking the place of Chasing Rainbows expands beyond just the museum. It will feature four parts, which include:
1. The Immersive Experience
The anchor of the new experience, which appears to be in the location of Chasing Rainbows, will be the new museum. Similarly to the old museum, it will likely track her life from humble beginnings in Sevier County in the Great Smoky Mountains to her early career as a music, television and movie star and finally to one of the biggest celebrity icons in the United States and the world. While the old museum featured interactive elements, behind-the-scenes collections and keepsakes, the new one will include an up-close look at Dolly’s most cherished things, including family keepsakes and artifacts.
The experience begins with a special glimpse into Dolly’s dreams, which is inspired by a young Dolly looking into the night sky. As guests continue, they will see her guitars and hear her music, and in the center, a guitar neck will break through a star-filled sky, surrounded by butterflies. The new feature will be a full, multi-media experience with imagery and sound. And guests will hear Dolly’s story in her own words.
2. Her Tennessee Mountain Home
In the video, the famous Tennessee Mountain Home also was mentioned as part of the new experience. Dollywood’s replica of Dolly’s childhood home may also receive a bit of a facelift, or at least potentially a new feature. We don’t know much about this part of the experience yet, but the teaser video indicated that visitors will hear stories from Dolly’s childhood from the songteller herself.
3. The Faith and Family Experience
The new Faith and Family Experience will be featured in the Dreamsong Theater. It will be themed around the circle of love that is Dolly’s family and faith, which supported her in her life and career.
4. The Wardrobe Experience
Last but not least, the new Wardrobe Experience will showcase Dolly’s one-of-a-kind collection of costumes, outfits and gowns.
“[The experience] is gonna be something I’m real proud of,” said Dolly Parton at the event. “Everybody missed the museum, but we had to take it down so we could do something different, and something better.” She also said that more would be shared about the new experience later in the year.
Remembering Chasing Rainbows
Dollywood’s Chasing Rainbows Museum opened in the 2002 season. It was part of the Adventures of Imagination area of the park. In other words, it’s the area of the park that serves as a shortcut to Jukebox Junction when the main street is too crowded. The building debuted in 1996 as the Silver Screen Cafe for a season before being converted to DJ Platters.
But I have little memory of either if I’m being honest. In my life, the only reason to go to the area, other than to avoid crowds, was the once heavily popular Thunder Road attraction next door. Thunder Road was a state-of-the-art motion theatre synced with a film about moonshine runners and their hotrods in the Smokies. It was fun – if a little nausea-inducing. And for a time it was the most popular ride in the park. Changed to White Lightning in 2009, the facility now hosts the Dreamsong Theater.
I don’t have access to Dollywood’s internal numbers. But my guess is that Adventures in Imagination is one of the least trafficked areas of the park, even though it is located next to the main entrance. It is only natural that Adventures in Imagination – which is neither adventurous nor terribly imaginative – is receiving a big change.
What else is coming to the theme park?
Fortunately, Dollywood fans do not have to wait until next year to have a new experience at the park. The newest roller coaster, Big Bear Mountain is now operating. It’s the largest single-attraction investment in the park’s history.
Also, the newest lodge, HeartSong Lodge and Resort opened in November of this year. If you’re planning a trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, check Tripster for discounts. Families can also make countless memories by getting a season pass. To learn more or to view special offers or additional details, visit the Dollywood website.
What do you think about the new plans for the Dolly Parton Experience? Let us know in the comments below.