12 Fun Facts About Dollywood

George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

Few musicians are famous enough to have an entire theme park dedicated to them, and Dolly Parton has proven herself to be one of them. Her Dollywood theme park (and water park and resort) in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, attracts millions of visitors each year. In addition to the rides, Dollywood is also a place to come for live entertainment, Appalachian culture, and a closer look at the life of the beloved country singer behind the park. Here are some facts about Dollywood you should know.

1. Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

The town was named for an iron forge owned by Isaac Love in the 1820s. The forge, in turn, was named for the Little Pigeon River, which got its name from the flocks of passenger pigeons that used to live in the area (the birds are now extinct).

The park is located on 150 acres near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and is themed around the history of the Smokys, life there, and preservation of the mountains. There's even a "multi-sensory musical experience" dedicated to the area, called Heartsong.

2. Dollywood is more than a theme park.

McDoobAU93, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 

Dollywood is often listed among the greatest theme parks in the country. In 2019, it received three Golden Ticket awards, which recognize excellence in the amusement industry. But the tourist destination is so much more. In addition to Dollywood’s Splash Country water park and Dollywood proper, the 150-acre complex includes cabins, space for rodeos and dinner theater, and a resort and spa. It’s also the location of the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.

3. The theme park had many names before Dollywood.

Parton didn’t just decide to build a theme park from scratch one day. When she bought an interest in the park that became Dollywood in 1986, it had already been around for decades. The site first opened under the name Rebel Railroad in 1961. It featured a steam train, saloon, blacksmith shop, and other attractions themed around the history of the Smoky Mountains. In 1970, it was rebranded as Goldrush Junction and kids’ rides were added, and in 1977, it became Silver Dollar City. Parton entered the story in the 1980s and became part-owner of the park along with Silver Dollar City’s existing operators. When the park reopened as Dollywood in 1986, attendance for the year spiked by 75 percent.

4. Dollywood is the most popular ticketed attraction in Tennessee.

On some of the days soon after its May 1986 opening, traffic to get into Dollywood stretched for six miles down U.S. 441. The park had its one millionth visitor after being open for just five months; during the first season, it had 1.34 million visitors. These days, nearly 3 million people visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, each year, making it the most-visited ticketed attraction in the state. It also consistently ranks among fan-voted lists of Tennessee’s best tourist destinations.

5. Dolly Parton wanted Dollywood to bring jobs to her community.

Parton grew up in the economically depressed area of Sevier County, Tennessee, and after she found success, she wanted to give back to her childhood home. She created Dollywood as a way to bring jobs to the community. She told the Associated Press in 2010 that she "always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area.” Today, according to Mashable, Dollywood is the biggest employer in the region.

6. Visitors to Dollywood can learn about Dolly Parton’s life.

Terry Wyatt/Stringer/Getty Images

Not every part of Dollywood directly relates to its namesake singer, but there are plenty of attractions that celebrate her. There’s Chasing Rainbows, a museum featuring prestigious awards and elaborate costumes from Parton’s career. For a more intimate look at her life, guests can visit her tour bus or the replica of her childhood home where she grew up in the Tennessee mountains. Dolly grew up in Sevierville, Tennessee, with her parents and 10 siblings. "We had two rooms, a path, and running water, if you were willing to run to get it," she once said. The replica—which was built by Parton's brother, with the interior created by Parton’s mother—is filled with many authentic items from her old home. The original cabin still stands.

7. Dollywood is home to one of the country’s largest eagle sanctuaries.

Dollywood isn’t just a place for thrill-seekers and music buffs—it also has something for animal lovers. The park is home to the country’s largest sanctuary for non-releasable bald eagles. Guests can walk along the edges of the 30,000-square-foot aviary and catch a glimpse of its inhabitants, or wait for a show with live birds and their handlers in the exhibit’s open-air theater.

8. Dollywood has its own church.

Want to take a Sunday trip to Dollywood without missing church? There’s a chapel on the property that holds weekly mass. The Robert F. Thomas Chapel, now named for the doctor who delivered Dolly Parton, was constructed in 1973 when Dollywood was still Goldrush Junction. It’s only several decades old, but it was designed to look like a late 19th-century Appalachian church.

9. Dollywood’s grist mill operates just as one would have in the 1880s.

Though it was built in 1982, the park's grist mill was constructed—and operates—as it would have in the 1880s. According to the Dollywood website, "Great care was taken to build the mill in a manner that would honor tradition and utilize Dollywood’s craftspeople. Lumber was sawed in the park’s steam powers sawmill, logs and shingles were split by hand, blacksmiths forged the hardware, and glass blowers made the windows. Later an electric grist mill was added, and either or both mills might be working when you visit." Each season, the mill grinds 10,000 pounds of three types of corn: yellow, white, and popcorn.

10. Dollywood also has “Doggywood.”

You can't bring your pups into Dollywood (unless they're service animals), but you can leave them at Doggywood, which opens half an hour before the park does and closes 15 minutes after Dollywood. Pets will need proof of a rabies vaccination in order to stay.

11. Dollywood hosts a number of festivals.

They include festivals devoted to BBQ and bluegrass, summer and harvest celebrations, the Festival of Nations, and Smoky Mountain Christmas. During the 2013 Smoky Mountain Christmas, the park put on Dollywood's A Christmas Carol, which featured a hologram of Parton as the Ghost of Christmas Past. “When they told me they were going to make a hologram out of me, I thought they were crazy,” Parton said. “But when I saw how real it looked on stage, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure this world can handle two Dolly Partons, but I’m excited folks will be able to see ‘the other Dolly’ reminding families that it’s not what you have but who you have, just like ole Scrooge figures out in the end.”

12. Dolly Parton hasn’t ridden any of Dollywood’s rides.

Dollywood has a number of rollercoasters and water rides, but unfortunately, Dolly hasn’t ridden them. “I don’t ride the rides. I never have,” she told The New York Times. “I have a tendency to get motion sickness. Also, I’m a little bit chicken. With all my hair I got so much to lose, like my wig or my shoes. I don’t like to get messed up. I’m gonna have some handsome man mess it up, I don’t want some ride doing it.”

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

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Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

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Instant Pot/Amazon

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Sony

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Microsoft/Amazon

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Apple/Amazon

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10 Little Facts About Louisa May Alcott

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Born on November 29, 1832, Louisa May Alcott led a fascinating life. Besides enchanting millions of readers with her novel Little Women, she worked as a Civil War nurse, fought against slavery, and registered women to vote. Here are 10 facts about the celebrated author.

1. Louisa May Alcott had many famous friends.

Louisa's parents, Bronson and Abigail Alcott, raised their four daughters in a politically active household in Massachusetts. As a child, Alcott briefly lived with her family in a failed Transcendentalist commune, helped her parents hide slaves who had escaped via the Underground Railroad, and had discussions about women’s rights with Margaret Fuller.

Throughout her life, she socialized with her father’s friends, including Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Although her family was always poor, Alcott had access to valuable learning experiences. She read books in Emerson’s library and learned about botany at Walden Pond with Thoreau, later writing a poem called "Thoreau’s Flute" for her friend. She also socialized with abolitionist Frederick Douglass and women’s suffrage activist Julia Ward Howe.

2. Louisa May Alcott's first nom de plume was Flora Fairfield.

As a teenager, Alcott worked a variety of teaching and servant jobs to earn money for her family. She first became a published writer at 19 years old, when a women’s magazine printed one of her poems. For reasons that are unclear, Alcott used a pen name—Flora Fairfield—rather than her real name, perhaps because she felt that she was still developing as a writer. But in 1854 at age 22, Alcott used her own name for the first time. She published Flower Fables, a collection of fairy tales she had written six years earlier for Emerson’s daughter, Ellen.

3. Louisa May Alcott secretly wrote pulp fiction.

Before writing Little Women, Alcott wrote Gothic pulp fiction under the nom de plume A.M. Barnard. Continuing her amusing penchant for alliteration, she wrote books and plays called Perilous Play and Pauline’s Passion and Punishment to make easy money. These sensational, melodramatic works are strikingly different than the more wholesome, righteous vibe she captured in Little Women, and she didn’t advertise her former writing as her own after Little Women became popular.

4. Louisa May Alcott wrote about her experience as a Civil War nurse.

In 1861, at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War, Alcott sewed Union uniforms in Concord and, the next year, enlisted as an army nurse. In a Washington, D.C. hotel-turned-hospital, she comforted dying soldiers and helped doctors perform amputations. During this time, she wrote about her experiences in her journal and in letters to her family. In 1863, she published Hospital Sketches, a fictionalized account, based on her letters, of her stressful yet meaningful experiences as a wartime nurse. The book became massively popular and was reprinted in 1869 with more material.

5. Louisa May Alcott suffered from mercury poisoning.

After a month and a half of nursing in D.C., Alcott caught typhoid fever and pneumonia. She received the standard treatment at the time—a toxic mercury compound called calomel. (Calomel was used in medicines through the 19th century.) Because of this exposure to mercury, Alcott suffered from symptoms of mercury poisoning for the rest of her life. She had a weakened immune system, vertigo, and had episodes of hallucinations. To combat the pain caused by the mercury poisoning (as well as a possible autoimmune disorder, such as lupus, that could have been triggered by it), she took opium. Alcott died of a stroke in 1888, at 55 years old.

6. Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women to help her father.

In 1867, Thomas Niles, an editor at a publishing house, asked Alcott if she wanted to write a novel for girls. Although she tried to get excited about the project, she thought she wouldn’t have much to write about girls because she was a tomboy. The next year, Alcott’s father was trying to convince Niles to publish his manuscript about philosophy. He told Niles that his daughter could write a book of fairy stories, but Niles still wanted a novel about girls. Niles told Alcott’s father that if he could get his daughter to write a (non-fairy) novel for girls, he would publish his philosophy manuscript. So to make her father happy and help his writing career, Alcott wrote about her adolescence growing up with her three sisters. Published in September 1868, the first part of Little Women was a huge success. The second part was published in 1869, and Alcott went on to write sequels such as Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

7. Louisa May Alcott was an early suffragette.

In the 1870s, Alcott wrote for a women’s rights periodical and went door-to-door in Massachusetts to encourage women to vote. In 1879, the state passed a law that would allow women to vote in local elections on anything involving education and children—Alcott registered immediately, becoming the first woman registered in Concord to vote. Although met with resistance, she, along with 19 other women, cast ballots in an 1880 town meeting. The Nineteenth Amendment was finally ratified in 1920, decades after Alcott died.

8. Louisa May Alcott pretended to be her own servant to trick her fans.

After the success of Little Women, fans who connected with the book traveled to Concord to see where Alcott grew up. One month, Alcott had a hundred strangers knock on the door of Orchard House, her family’s home, hoping to see her. Because she didn’t like the attention, she sometimes pretended to be a servant when she answered the front door, hoping to trick fans into leaving.

9. Louisa May Alcott never had children, but she cared for her niece.

Although Alcott never married or had biological children, she took care of her orphaned niece. In 1879, Alcott’s youngest sister May died a month after giving birth to her daughter. As she was dying, May told her husband to send the baby, whom she had named Louisa in honor of Alcott, to her older sister. Nicknamed Lulu, the girl spent her childhood with Alcott, who wrote her stories and seemed a good fit for her high-spiritedness. Lulu was just 8 when Alcott died, at which point she went to live with her father in Switzerland.

10. Fans can visit Louisa May Alcott's home in Concord, Massachusetts.

At 399 Lexington Road in Concord, Massachusetts, tourists can visit Orchard House, the Alcott family home from 1858 to 1877. Orchard House is a designated National Historic Landmark, and visitors can take a guided tour to see where Alcott wrote and set Little Women . Visitors can also get a look at Alcott’s writing desk and the family’s original furniture and paintings.