Dolly Parton is a living legend. She’s an icon whose appeal circles the globe and crosses many lines—gender, race, age and origin. The fact that she was giving four concerts at her theme park over the weekend to benefit the Imagination Library was a draw. In fact, she raised over a half a million dollars for the organization that provides books to children from the time they’re born until kindergarten.
The program started out small in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee and now stretches across America and beyond—to Canada, Australia and England. Dolly claims to experience more satisfaction being know as “The Book Lady” than from any of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of accolades she has received for her entertainment career.
As we pulled up to her new resort, DreamMore, on Thursday, we saw her tour bus and a van with her signature “Dolly” scrawled across the side. They were parked within a fenced-in area beside the new resort, enclosed in a gate with butterflies. As we circled the parking lot, we were treated to a glimpse of the legend herself, dressed all in red, being driven to her bus in a golf cart. She hopped off and teeter-tottered on her high heels, making her way to her bus, disappearing inside. We wouldn’t see her again until her performance on Saturday night.
More than 30 years ago it started with a dream. First a theme park. Then a water park. And now a resort.
On the front porch of her family’s one-room cabin, entertainment legend Dolly Parton’s never-ending dreams were conceived and nurtured. A creaky old floor made of second-hand planks became a stage for little feet, and a tobacco stick with a tin can became a microphone and stand. She dreamed of sharing her beloved Smokies with the world beyond.
Today, you’re invited to lollygag and play on Dolly’s newest front porch – Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. Built around the rich traditions of storytelling, family and togetherness and just minutes from Dollywood’s award-winning theme parks, this hotel in Pigeon Forge near Gatlinburg upholds the spirit of the South in a fresh new way, as can only be imagined by Dolly and Dollywood.
“Come and visit a spell,” the ads beckon. We did. In fact, I rather enjoyed lollygagging on the front and back porches of the resort, sitting in a rocking chair, taking in the sights and sounds of the Great Smoky Mountains. While there were some expected quirks for a brand-new resort, the minor inconveniences will be overcome in short order. The friendliness and hospitality of the staff more than made up for the snag in our reservation and the fact that the restaurant is not yet open for dinner. We did enjoy the delicious breakfast buffet, and the lounge offered appetizers and wraps. The Pantry is without question a tremendous asset, offering Starbucks, ice cream, baked goods, and a variety of snacks and drinks, including salads, sandwiches and a fruit and cheese package for picnics.
The resort also comes with a few more perks, such as early admission to Dollywood, a time-saver pass to avoid lines at the park, and complimentary shuttle service to and from the attractions of both Dollywood and Splash Country. My favorite part of Dollywood was the Chasing Rainbows Museum, which features relics of an almost half-century career, including the original “Coat of Many Colors.” You can also catch the show “My People,” featuring Dolly’s brother, sister, cousin and niece.
Of course the highlight of the weekend was seeing Dolly live from the third row of the Celebrity Theatre on the property of her theme park. She entertained the crowd for over an hour and a half with her greatest hits. The show was called “Pure and Simple” and featured Dolly accompanied by three musicians. The stripped-down show was a real treat and likely serves as an amuse bush for an upcoming tour.
You can watch her encore, “I Will Always Love You” here: https://youtu.be/PWtnkaJC408
While I did “dream more” while in the Smokies, my wish of meeting the legend did not come true. Even with a close connection to her team, I still couldn’t pull it off. I guess that’s because those lucky enough to get a photo with the Queen of Country paid $5,000 for the opportunity. I guess it really does cost a lot to look that cheap!