The way we’ve built our society, summer is our reward.
We learn from a young age that 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.
Summer is the carrot at the end of the stick.
Even as we get older and our lives are no longer built around school and most of us keep plowing ahead with obligations, summer remains a mystical, somewhat mythical time of euphoric release, escape and blessed freedom.
The summer of 2022 is not different, but somehow completely different.
The need to release months of pent-up stress may be greater than any summer in several generations.
In short, we need this summer. We need it something fierce.
That’s where Dollywood, located in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, steps in.
It’s clear that park officials spent the downtime in planning mode.
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 former favorites.
For the first time in five years, The Gazillion Bubble Show Aurora is back in 2022 with more bubbles than ever before. This show was brought back by popular demand and features millions, billions and gazillions of bubbles.
This year, it will even feature a never-before-seen fantasy segment that pays homage to Dolly Parton and her mountain home.
Also in 2022, the drone and fireworks show will be even bigger and brighter with 500 high-tech drones.
Also, all-new interactive shows “Liquid Beats” and “Hydro Jive Junction” will have guests splashing and singing along during refreshing performances.
Guests will be able to cool off on a hot summer day in the wonderful garden hose fountain installation found in Market Square during “Liquid Beats.” The interactive performance brings together dozens of garden hoses to create a colorful fountain that delivers bursts of cooling excitement to guests of all ages.
A landscaping-themed percussion troupe maintains the natural beauty of the Smokies, as they bring this new entertainment vision to guests.
In Jukebox Junction, “Hydro Jive Junction” features a musical maintenance worker trying to repair a faulty, spraying fire hydrant. Dancing ensues as the fire hydrant turns into a refreshing sprinkler for guests to enjoy, as the cast sings and dances to familiar favorites such as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Splish Splash.”
Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights Drone Show
Dollywood’s 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 drones that illustrate a unique Dollywood story.
Described as a multi-sensory drone light show that creates a symphony of lights in the 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.
This year, the park is bringing larger drones and new illuminated scenes.
The show is the centerpiece of several show offerings across the park this summer.
In a press release, Dollywood’s marketers called the effect “epic” and is one of the family-favorite shows.
And while I typically cringe at press-release hyperbole, having seen the drones sync up to form a butterfly flapping its wings to Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You”, 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 night time events.
It truly is something to amaze the entire family.
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 at 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.
Additionally, jumping water jets will be featured in Rivertown Junction.
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.
Live performers will take to the streets and stages of Dollywood to bring the joy and sounds of summer throughout the theme park.
Be sure to look for musical gardeners who turn ordinary trashcans into musical moments, or the Singing in the Rain troupe who transform spontaneous rain showers into fun-filled performances.
Good Vibes will 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.
Fried fish and hushpuppies, BBQ pork nachos, Southern fried corn and an open-faced grilled cheese are just a few of the savory items guests can enjoy during the festival.
Sweet treats include peanut butter candy liege waffles, s’mores funnel cake and an orange Fanta float. Guests also will be able to visit the Food Truck Neighborhood in Adventures in Imagination for a variety of road trip treats.
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 $34.99 plus tax or $31.99 plus tax for gold and diamond passholders. The tasting pass is available each day of the festival.
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. 7, 2022.
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. 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!