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SNEAK PEEK: Look inside Suite 1986, Dolly Parton’s former tour bus

Dolly Parton came from humble beginnings. Her rags-to-riches story has truly fascinated the world.

Luckily for us, Dolly is a storyteller. But she doesn’t just want to tell you her story. She wants to show you.

For example, look no further than her namesake theme park Dollywood.

Dollywood grew quite a bit as it transformed from Rebel Railroad to Goldrush Junction to Silver Dollar City. But no transformation was as great as when Dolly took over in 1986.

Since then, the park has become a glimpse into Dolly’s life.

Wildwood Grove functions as an idealized version of the mountains of her youth. Jukebox Junction is a recreation of 50s era Sevierville.

Dolly made her vision clear in Rivertown Junction, where Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home sits. 

But one of the newest things from the company will not be one that most of us can afford. Still, for some elite few, there’s a truly unique experience next door to DreamMore Resort and Spa.

Read Also: Where is Dolly Parton’s childhood home? Is it still there?

Dolly's Suite 1986 sign
A sign for Suite 1986, a new experience offered by the Dollywood Company (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

What is Dolly Suite 1986?

Suite 1986 is Dolly Parton’s former tour bus. Now, guests can stay overnight in Dolly’s former home away from home.

The 1986 Tour Bus Experience showcases another facet of the icon’s life, a free-spirited traveler.

Dolly Parton often refers to her tour bus as the “Gypsy Wagon”.

In the years that it served Dolly, it traveled about 360,000 miles throughout North America, making trips to Nashville, Los Angeles and more.

1986 Suite at Dollywood
Dolly Parton often opted to stay on her tour bus instead of a hotel room (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

When did Dolly Parton use the bus from Suite 1986?

The bus that is now Suite 1986 served as Dolly Parton’s tour bus from late 2008 through March 2022.

In 2016, it served Dolly during her largest North American tour in 25 years, the Pure & Simple Tour, where it traveled to more than 60 cities in the United States and also in Canada.

While she’s on the road, Dolly spends most of her time writing. The bus is a unique sanctuary for Dolly where she wrote dozens of songs and a number of projects.

She wrote albums like “Backwoods Barbie” and “9 to 5 the Musical” and also wrote books, television shows and movies.

According to Dollywood officials, Dolly enjoyed taking care of the people who traveled with her on the tour bus, including her friend and personal assistant Judy Ogle and bus driver Tim Dunlap.

She would make them sandwiches and talk to them about life and family during their travels.

Additional beds
Dolly’s bus had fewer bunks than other tour buses to make room for her closet (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

How does Dolly Parton travel?

Dolly notoriously does not enjoy flying, so the Prevost tour bus was Dolly’s home away from home.

But of course, Dolly still knows how to travel in style.

She made a number of customizations and upgrades to the bus, including a full-size refrigerator, which is an uncommon sight on most tour buses.

The country music star also requested electric doors, a bathtub and other custom details to best fit her needs.

For example, to accommodate her show wardrobe, the bus had three bunk beds instead of the standard six to make room for a closet. The Prevost tour bus was Dolly’s home away from home.

The bus also has special hand-painted murals and unique paintings of wayfaring wanderers, wagons and crystal balls to represent life on the road for the singer.

The bus also has a wig cabinet. Dollywood officials say that she almost always stayed on the bus instead of a hotel room.

Dolly has said that this bus was her favorite home because she’s a true gypsy at heart.

In March 2022, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa acquired the bus and created the Suite 1986 Tour Bus Experience as an authentic Dolly Parton experience.

Read Also: The Dolly Parton tour bus: A look at how our Appalachian queen travels

Suite 1986
The bus also has a custom tub (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

What type of tour bus is Suite 1986?

The bus is a 2008 Prevost motorcoach that has been customized by Dolly Parton.

It is 45 feet long and served as Dolly’s tour bus from 2008 to 2022.

How many people can stay at Suite 1986?

The tour bus sleeps two guests.

However, the stay also includes a DreamMore Resort guest room to accompany up to four additional guests.

The suite has a dedicated concierge service for the entire length of the stay, as well as a number of exclusive Suite 1986 items that guests can take home as a keepsake from the experience.

Guests will have special accommodations as well as additional experiences which can be added to the stay. And they will also have a chance to indulge in culinary creations from the award-winning staff of the resort.

Hall of Suite 1986
The tour bus has unique design features custom fit for Dolly Parton (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

How much does it cost to stay at Dolly Suite 1986?

The tour bus experience requires a two-night minimum and starts at $10,000. For context, that’s more expensive than the immersive Star Wars hotel in Orlando.

But, it’s important to note that a portion of the proceeds from each stay will benefit the Dollywood Foundation and the Imagination Library.

Requests for bookings are now available at dollywood.com/suite1986.

1986 Suite
The new Suite 1986 will feature a variety of accommodations (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

Where is the Dollywood Suite 1986?

Suite 1986 is located outside of Dollywood DreamMore Resort and Spa in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

It is parked on a gated bus pad which was created for Dolly to use during her visits to the Dollywood theme park.

Other new attractions and features at Dollywood

Our staff was able to tour the new suite as part of an event that showcased construction progress on the new HeartSong Lodge, the latest addition to lodging from the Dollywood Company. HeartSong will offer an event center for family reunions and beautiful balconies with views of the Smokies.

The lodge will be a 300-room hotel set to open in the fall of 2023. The all-new resort will accommodate the continued growth of the Smokies, and it will be located across from Dollywood’s flagship resort, DreamMore Resort and Spa in Pigeon Forge.

There are more future developments coming soon for the Dollywood Company as well, including additional resorts and a record-breaking coaster planned for 2023. Details have not yet been announced for the other developments.

Dollywood is one of the most popular attractions in the eastern U.S. And It is located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Dolly Parton Company includes the Dollywood theme park, Dollywood Splash Country and a series Dollywood cabins and resorts.

The 150-acre Dollywood theme park is an award-winning park with roller coasters like the Wild Eagle, Tennessee Tornado and Lightning Rod.

It has family-favorite attractions like the steam train, Dollywood Express. It features shows that sometimes even feature members of Dolly’s family.

What do you think of the Suite 1986 experience? Do you think it would be worth it? Let us know in the comments.


The secret tunnel under Clingmans Dome that you never knew existed

Nearly everyone who has visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is familiar with Clingmans Dome, located along the state line of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Completed in 1959, the Clingmans Dome observation tower is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains. It stands over 6,000 feet tall and offers 360-degree views.

On clear days, guests can see almost 100 miles in any direction from the top of the tower. Sadly, according to the National Park Service, air pollution usually limits the views to only 20 miles.

Still, it’s easily one of the most visited landmarks in the national park.

But have you heard of the secret abandoned hiking tunnel below Clingmans Dome?

Read Also: Clingmans Dome controversy, the tower that weathered a media storm

Clingmans Dome with ramp
The Clingmans Dome observation tower is an iconic landmark, but it was once a source of controversy. It’s located along the state line, but the visitor center is on the North Carolina side (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

Is there a secret tunnel under Clingmans Dome?

There’s an old tunnel near Clingmans Dome, but it’s not exactly “under” it.

You won’t readily find this old hiker’s tunnel on Google maps. It pre-dates the tower itself.

It’s a former hiker’s underpass most commonly known as the Thomas Divide Tunnel.

But it is also referred to as the “Thomas Ridge Tunnel”, the “Old Mule Tunnel” or simply “The Hiker’s Tunnel”.

The tunnel was constructed in the mid to late 1930s by a group of young men known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. The tunnel is made of locally sourced stone and features an ornate archway on either side of the road.

According to the Great Smoky Mountains Association, it is speculated that the tunnel is a relic of a section of the Thomas Divide Trail that connected the Appalachian Trail on the far side of Clingmans Dome Road.

The completion of Clingmans Dome Road required rerouting the trail. One option could have been rerouting the trail to cross Clingmans Dome Road on the roadbed. However, engineers decided to build the tunnel under the road.

Alternatively, the Association also speculates that it’s possible the tunnel was constructed for equestrian use. Some records show that it was used as a mule trail tunnel.

Clingmans Dome Tunnel
The tunnel is not difficult to find, although it is no longer part of the main trail (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

What was the Mission ’66 initiative?

In the 1960s, the tunnel was cut off from the original trail and stranded due to the Mission ’66 initiative.

It was the initiative’s mission to improve infrastructure across the entire national park system.

That led to the rerouting of several old roads to improve overall driving conditions, including the upper section of Newfound Gap Road. This rerouting cut off the old trail, forcing the trailhead to be relocated further south.

That’s why you won’t happen upon it unless you’re looking for it. It’s no longer part of any regular path or hiking trail.

It simply leads to a cliff with a beautiful view where the other side of the trail once existed.

Today, it serves as one of the hidden gems around the Smoky Mountains that hikers enjoy finding.

It’s an iconic landmark, a forgotten relic that is fun to discover, like the old springhouse from the Voorheis estate or relics from the ghost town in the Elkmont area.

Read Also: Where is the House of the Fairies in Gatlinburg? A landmark lost to time

A look inside the Clingmans Dome tunnel
The tunnel has been cutoff from the main trail, but visitors can still find it if they know where to look (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Where is the secret tunnel in Clingmans Dome?

But just because you are unlikely to happen upon this secret tunnel on accident doesn’t mean it’s difficult to find if you know where to look.

To find it, take Clingmans Dome Road until you reach the access gate. From there, simply park your car and walk approximately 0.2 miles up to the far side of Clingmans Dome Road.

When you reach the large stone bridge that you’d normally drive right across from your car, walk down the hill. Lo and behold, you will spot the tiny abandoned tunnel.

Pro-tip: It might be a bit easier to access in the off-season when you know traffic won’t be an issue. Clingmans Dome Road usually closes from December-April.

This will also make it harder to miss the gate landmark since the gate will be blocking vehicle access.

Did you know about this secret tunnel in the Smokies of TN and NC? What are some of your favorite secret spots in the park? Let us know in the comments below.