I love a good mystery.
I love piecing together evidence and trying to figure out the big twist of a “who done it” movie before it’s revealed.
Perhaps that’s why I’m always dreaming about what might be next for Dolly Parton’s Pigeon Forge empire.
And I’m drawn to wild internet theories, rumors and predictions like a moth to a flame.
Some theories are more evidence-based than others. But each is as tantalizing as the next.
And so, I thought it might be fun to share some of those rumors in this article.
But before we begin, I want to make one important note.
None of these rumors have been confirmed by The Dollywood Company or employees. Zero. Zip. Nunca.
In fact, during our latest trip to Dollywood, we tried to confirm some of these rumors with park employees. Most hosts didn’t seem to know anything more than we did about what Dolly and fam might have in store.
So for the time being, the following are in fact, simply rumors and fan-favorite predictions.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in.
1. A major expansion for Wildwood Grove (Likelihood: High)
In 2018, CoasterForce interviewed Pete Owens, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at Dollywood. The interview took place at a preview event for Wildwood Grove.
A relatively forgotten detail from that interview is Owens’s mention of Wildwood Grove, phase two.
“This is phase one. With phase one and phase two, it’s about 13 acres total. So it’s a big area,” said Owens in the interview.
For reference, Wildwood Grove’s current footprint is only about six acres.
This means that additional expansions to this area are capable of more than doubling that current footprint.
And an expansion would undoubtedly include new rides and new attractions.
2. A new dark ride at Wildwood Grove (Likelihood: High)
One of the hottest rumors regarding a possible Wildwood Grove expansion includes the addition of a new dark ride.
This theory comes from numerous Dollywood fans who claim to have received a park survey in 2019.
Screenshots that appear to be from that survey have been shared in multiple places on the internet. You can view those images in the video below.
The screenshots detail a variety of potential high-level concepts for the would-be ride.
Potential names for the ride include Tennessee Thomas and the Legend of Mystery Map, Spelunking in the Smokies, Greenbrier Cove Gold, Blackbear Mountain and Firefly Frenzy.
And it makes sense. Aside from Blazing Fury, dark rides are rather lacking in the park. If you can really consider Blazing Fury a “dark ride”, that is.
Dark rides are also growing in popularity at other theme parks across the nation with a varying degree of thrill level.
Dark ride examples include Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal, Men in Black (also at Universal) and Disney’s Avatar River Ride.
A new dark ride would also give guests a ridable attraction that can remain open when it rains. And it rains a lot in East Tennessee.
Recent comments from park officials following the Heartsong Resort announcement confirm that a new ride (or rides) are in fact coming to Dollywood as early as 2023.
Phrases like “multigenerational coaster” and “record-breaking attraction” have been thrown around in interviews. But honestly, they could be referring to anything.
This brings us to our next theory.
3. A new roller coaster (Likelihood: Low/Moderate)
This theory seems to be more lacking in evidence than the previous two. Regardless, the internet seems to think they’re onto something.
But then again, the internet also rebirthed flat-earth theory. So we can’t really say there’s a great track record for accuracy.
Regardless, this is what the internet thinks it knows (so far) about a possible new Dollywood roller coaster.
An attendee from the closed-to-the-general-public Virtual No Coaster Con this year held by American Coaster Enthusiasts reported on Twitter that a “new ride at Dollywood [is] coming from a manufacturer they haven’t worked with before.”
While that new ride might also be a reference to the aforementioned Wildwood Grove dark ride – we’re looking at you Sally Dark Ride – some speculate it might also mean that another coaster could be in the works.
A logical location for that coaster would be either in the massive spot held by the defunct Slidewinder or in the new Wildwood Grove expansion.
Theme Park Predictions speculates in the video below that Dollywood might be building either a new Intamin Coaster (similar to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts) or a Mack coaster (like Silver Dollar City’s Time Traveler) or a Hyper coaster.
4. Dollywood switching to a year-round schedule (Likelihood: Low)
This one comes from a recent tweet that caught my eye.
Out of all of the rumors and predictions listed in this article, I think it’s safe to say this has the lowest probability of coming to fruition. And almost no basis in actual fact whatsoever.
But it feels so good to dream, we couldn’t help but include it in this list.
“A new Dollywood survey was emailed to me about Leisure Attractions, including questions about a festival between Christmas and spring-themed to Dolly. I wonder if this means that they will be open year-round starting as soon as 2023,” reads the tweet.
While this tweet reeks of either being fabricated or breaking an NDA, it’s still an incredible idea.
What makes this theory unlikely
For the uninitiated, Dollywood is a seasonal theme park.
Their regular season runs from March-December. They are typically closed from January through the second week of March.
Breaking that tradition would fundamentally change not only park operations but the face of tourism in the Smokies altogether.
Those of us who stick around for the “off-season” in January and February know that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg nearly turn into ghost towns during the week.
Several attractions follow Dollywood’s suit and close altogether. Other attractions switch to a weekend-only schedule.
If Dollywood were to go full-time, they could instantly increase tourist traffic to the area by a significant margin. This would also make way for other area attractions and restaurants to expand their seasonal operations to match.
And who wouldn’t love a Dolly Fest?
But even if the park was seriously considering such a feat, I doubt it would happen anytime soon. A change like that won’t happen overnight.
We’d likely see a slow ramp-up (with an extended season) to start. It would be a smarter way to test out the viability of a winter season before diving in head first.
What do you think of our predictions? Would you love to see Dollywood be open year-round? Let us know in the comments section below.
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