The way we’ve built our society, summer is our reward.
In fact, the calendar doesn’t really begin in January. It really starts in late August or early September with a long road of confinement and responsibilities ahead.
Even as we get older and our lives are no longer built around school, summer remains a mystical, somewhat mythical time of euphoric release, escape and blessed freedom.
We need summer. And luckily for us, Dolly Parton and her team know how to do summer celebrations well.
So that’s where the Dollywood theme park, located in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, steps in.
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What’s new at Dollywood this summer? 
The leadership at Dollywood, which impresses each season with its vision and forethought, is at it again. The celebration continues this year with new surprises and familiar favorites.
For example, The Gazillion Bubble Show Aurora is back again by popular demand in 2023. The show features billions and gazillions of bubbles in a family-favorite show that guests of all ages love.
Also in 2023, the drone and fireworks show is returning as hundreds of drones take to the night sky to illustrate a unique Dollywood story with 3D animations and lights.
Also, if you haven’t been to Dollywood recently, you’ll get the special treat of being able to ride the brand-new coaster, Big Bear Mountain.
While Dollywood is known for offering thrilling adventures with coasters like Lightning Rod and Wild Eagle, Big Bear Mountain is now the record holder for Dollywood’s longest roller coaster.
And if you enjoy being the first to try new things, booking for Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort will begin booking on June 26 for dates this fall.
Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights Drone Show
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration is highlighted by the family-favorite Sweet Summer Nights Drone Show for guests who stay after sundown. The technological marvel features hundreds of high-tech drones that illustrate a unique Dollywood story.
Described as a multi-sensory drone light show that creates a symphony of lights in the summer sky above the Pigeon Forge park, the effect is something akin to living animation combined with a fireworks show.
Each night, weather permitting, Intel Drone Light Shows will launch hundreds of drones into the sky, each capable of producing a full spectrum of color. These drones will light the night sky in multiple formations that move in sync with a choreographed fireworks show.
Dollywood’s marketers call the effect “epic” and one of the guest-favorite shows.
And while I typically cringe at press-release hyperbole, having seen the drones sync up in the night sky, I think epic is the right word.
To be honest, the closing showstoppers have been one of the places Dollywood struggles.
The Dollywood parades have always felt, to me, a little chintzy. But this show seems to be part of a concerted effort, alongside the Great Pumpkin LumiNights, to create memorable nighttime events.
It truly is something to amaze the entire family.
In fact, if the drone show was the only new thing for the summer, it would be enough.
But there’s a lot more.
The Sweet Summer Nights Dance Party
That’s right, the dancing continues this year.
If you’ve ever been to Dollywood and thought, “It’s been a long, hot day. You know what I need? I need to DANCE!” then Sweet Summer Nights has the event for you.
Dollywood is once again bringing in a DJ and energetic dancers, which is significantly better than lethargic dancers, I suppose, to form a dance party on the streets of Wildwood Grove, immediately preceding the drone show.
The dance parties take place at 8:45 and 9:15 pm, weather permitting.
The Summer Soundtrack
In addition to the Dance Party, Dollywood will have a line-up of entertainment and new show offerings to celebrate the perfect summer day.
For example, be sure to look for musical gardeners who turn ordinary trashcans into musical instruments.
Good Vibes will also be at the Back Porch Theater. Guests are treated to a musical journey through the rhythms of classic and contemporary tunes.
“It’s about celebrating positivity, counting blessings, and simply enjoying life and happiness,” officials said.
The Valley Theater is home to Forever Country, an energetic look at the changing landscape of country music in the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s.
Guests can expect to hear popular hits from artists like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, as well as a nod to several popular dance songs and classic hits, including Dolly’s “Romeo” and Brooks and Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”.
Sweet treats for summer
Last but not least, Dollywood’s culinary team is cooking up summertime favorites full of flavor.
After the success of the Flower & Food Festival Tasting Pass, the tastes of summer are now available with a similar option for guests.
The tasting pass, which can be purchased in the park or online, is $36.99 plus tax or $33.99 plus tax for gold and diamond passholders. It is available each day of the festival.
Beverages include options such as Mountain Berry Lemonade, Blue Coconut Fresca and Peach Boba Tea.
Savory Bites include options such as Southern Fried Corn, Antipasto Salad and Pork Belly on a Stick.
And last but not least, some dessert options include a S’mores Funnel Cake, a Peanut Butter Cup Liege Waffle and the Festival Cannoli.
Look for these items in the seasonal booths and around the park. View the menu options and locations on Dollywood’s website.
What time does Dollywood close in the summer?
Dollywood will be open daily from 10 am to 9:30 pm. Dollywood’s Summer Celebration is running now through Aug. 6, 2023.
Get the most out of this unforgettable experience and check Tripster for discounts when you purchase a day pass.
How crowded is Dollywood during the summer?
The crowds can be a bit heavier when the kids are out of school.
In my experience, the holiday season is probably the most crowded at Dollywood. Also, try to avoid weekends and holidays if you’re trying to avoid the crowds.
Dollywood summer deals
There are two great ways to save on your next trip to Dollywood for the Summer Celebration.
Dollywood is currently offering a variety of specials including resort bundles and pre-purchased meal packages. For the latest deals, check out the special offers page on the Dollywood website.
Do you plan to experience summer’s best moments? Check out Dollywood’s Tripster page which sometimes offers deals and discounts on general admission tickets.
Have you been to this Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration? What did you think of the event? Let us know in the comments!