There’s a certain level of logic for theme parks to build their own hotels or resorts.
Without a resort, you’re bringing large groups of people to an area only to see a certain amount of their disposable income being given to various innkeepers whose establishments pop up on the outskirts of your facilities like mushrooms.
But there must be a tipping point, right? Certainly, a certain level of business is needed before expanding into the hospitality realm. It must make financial sense otherwise Dollywood would have done it sooner.
Disney, which never misses a trick, saw this potential early. Therefore I am surprised that it took the folks at Dollywood – which has been one of the best-managed parks in the world for decades – so long to follow suit.
When you factor in the competitive advantage like special offers, Dollywood tickets, unique access and transportation, a theme-park-affiliated resort can really position itself ahead of the market. That makes it a one-of-a-kind family destination. One that capitalizes on the popularity of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And also, Dollywood itself.
Does Dollywood have its own hotel?
You betcha. But it took a surprisingly long time for Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort to open in the rolling foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. I don’t think when the Dollywood theme park was born in 1986 having formerly been known as Silver Dollar City, the park could have supported a hotel.
However, the DreamMore resort didn’t open until 2015. The massive expansion of the Dollywood parks – including Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark – certainly could have supported a resort much earlier.
Still, few people ever got rich second-guessing Dolly Parton and the Dollywood Company. With this in mind, maybe the timing was all for the best.
So just the one resort?
For now, yes. However, that is quickly changing with multiple new resorts either in the planning stages or actively under construction.
Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge is expected to open in 2023. The 302-room lodge will be a showplace for the region, tucked away in a beautiful mountain cove, surpassing even the impressive DreamMore Resort.
We can only surmise that the DreamMore Resort has been massively successful. Dollywood company officials have indicated that HeartSong will be followed by another resort. That resort’s construction will begin as soon as HeartSong is finished. They have also indicated a fourth and fifth resort will likely follow in a similar fashion.
In addition, company officials have indicated a campground resort – ala Disney’s Ft. Wildnerness – is in the consideration phase. When Dollywood is done, it may well have changed the face of family vacations in the region once again.
Every year or so, it seems Dolly and her team have new ideas, new dreams if you will.
What do we know about the third resort?
Other than it’s coming down the pike right after HeartSong is finished, not a lot. However, with HeartSong set to open next year, we expect more information on the third resort will be released in the spring or summer of 2023.
What about the first resort, DreamMore?
DreamMore is a resort and spa, a refreshing escape from the more traditional hotels found down along the Pigeon Forge strip.
The thing is, you could have a pretty good family vacation at the DreamMore and never set foot in either of the parks.
The full-service spa is perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway.
The room options are well suited for a variety of family needs. For example, the Junior Suite bunk rooms come with bunk beds and sleep up to six.
The standard rooms are comfortable and the larger family suites are great if you need a little more space.
The resort’s lavish 20-acre property features a seasonal outdoor pool and hot tub as well as an indoor pool. Rocking chairs are strategically placed around the property for those who want to sit for a spell and enjoy the majesty of relaxing in the mountains.
Kids’ experiences include Camp DW – a way for families to engage in a creative and fun environment, providing a unique experience for even our littlest traveler; a family game room; a playground and a bedtime story every night around the wood-burning fire pits.
In addition to being great for families, DreamMore is perfect for events or even corporate meetings. From traditional meeting rooms to large porches or verandas, DreamMore can accommodate a variety of occasions.
You don’t even have to leave the facility to eat, shop or work out.
In addition to a top-notch fitness center, the resort has a nifty little gift shop called Pokeberry Lane filled with Southern-style treasures. If you’re hungry, DreamMore offers Song & Hearth: A Southern Eatery, which offers family-style dining while The DM Pantry is available for a quick bite to go.
How much does it cost to stay at Dolly Parton’s hotel?
That’s not as easy a question to answer as it could be.
It depends a lot on your needs, when you’re traveling and supply and demand. In the off-season, I’ve found rooms in the $160 range. In season, I think you can expect to pay at least $100 more.
I priced a handful of fall dates and generally found the rooms range from the $270s up to the $330s. However, the junior suites with bunk beds were not available for any of the dates I selected.
What about the HeartSong?
A proper Smoky Mountain Lodge, the lobby will be bright, open and airy with lantern-inspired windows, high ceilings and Dolly’s famous butterfly motif.
According to a Dollywood release, the lodge will feature “epic” indoor and outdoor pools. The pools can provide guests with a refreshing escape in all seasons – something short of an indoor waterpark, I think.
There will be a “picture-perfect” outdoor cove with family gathering spaces, a communal fire pit and a screened-in porch.
With 26,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space, the property can accommodate gatherings of several hundred guests.
The two-story HeartSong Event Center, spacious outdoor meeting spaces and event lawn will give guests numerous options to provide a unique and inspiring setting for groups.
Each room will honor Dolly’s Uncle Bill – whose great passion was saving the American Chestnut Tree. The American Chestnut Foundation presented Dolly with the Chestnut Conservation Champion Award in honor of her Uncle Bill.
Uncle Bill and the American chestnut tree also will be remembered by an American chestnut tree in a mural in each HeartSong Lodge & Resort guest room.
How much will the rooms at the lodge cost?
That hasn’t been revealed yet. It’s a fairly safe bet they will be similar to the DreamMore but we’ll all find out closer to the lodge’s opening.
Are you excited about Dolly’s new resorts? Let us know in the comments below.