The Dolly Parton Experience at Dollywood is designed to let people get as close to the icon as possible. / Courtesy photo

The Dolly Parton Experience Celebrates the Life of the Country Icon

Dolly Parton never gets too far from her roots in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her story is well documented, growing up in a poor family with little access to the big city lights. The lights haven’t shined much brighter than they have in recent years. In 2023, she was estimated to be one of the richest women celebrities with a net worth said to be higher than $400 million. It’s no longer just her being a singer, actress, or writer. None of that even considers her main source of making money. Her big money comes from the 160 developed acres about four hours northwest of Atlanta — Welcome to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. If you haven’t been, you’re missing out on what people refer to as the amusement park that’s “clean.” Here at Dollywood, co-workers refer to Parton as the “Dreamer in Chief.” At age 78, the dreams aren’t slowing down — not at all.
Her most recent feather in the cap (or wig) is The Dolly Parton Experience. It just opened before the summer season and includes multiple buildings that focus on everything Dolly. It’s designed to let people get as close to her as possible. They get to see her different looks, the custom wardrobe displays, the wigs, and her “signature style.” One of the notable spots where people can step onto includes one of her tour buses. People can see how she lived and walk past the different bunks, bathrooms, and her own bedroom on the road.
For Dolly, this was an easy move.
“Our old museum really needed a facelift, but instead of a nip-and-tuck, we just decided to start all over! There are a lot of interactive elements and technology all through the area, but there are no holograms of me in there anywhere. I think the last thing this world needs is a bunch of ‘Dolly-grams’ running around everywhere,” Dolly said with a laugh. “Seriously though, I’m so proud of the work our people have put into this new experience to make sure it is something our guests will enjoy for many years. It’s been almost three years in the making, and it’s three times larger than anything like this we’ve ever created before, so it really is something! For me, the most special part is the area called ‘Precious Memories,’ because it’s about my family and everything they have done to support me through the years.”
Dolly has long been a supporter of gay rights, despite her efforts to keep the conversation from ever getting too political. She’s never shied away from her LGBTQ fans.
“You’ve got to stand up for what you believe in,” she said. “If you’re trying to pretend to be someone other than you are, then it’s a fake. Whoever you are, be that.”
Each year, about three million people visit Dollywood in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Pigeon Forge. And the list of accolades that comes with that popularity is growing. In June, Dollywood was named “favorite amusement park” by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. Dollywood was named number 27 on Forbes’ first-ever Top 300 Best Companies for Customer Service in 2024. Dolly comes here a few times a year and keeps an apartment at one of her resort hotels to make the visits that much easier. Her fans are rabid about her presence and hope for a glimpse of her whenever there are rumors of the country star being anywhere near the theme park. For Parton, it’s about having a place to celebrate her world and her family — then and now.
“Hopefully, people will be moved by [the Dolly Parton Experience], the stories, and things about my family,” she said. “I’m very proud of my family.”
To learn more about Dollywood and the Dolly Parton Experience, visit dollywood.com/themepark/rides/dolly-parton-experience.