Christmas at Dollywood Starts… Now?

Christmas in July has become a popular concept, and it makes me so happy to celebrate my favorite holiday and that special time of wonder and joy. We especially need it right now when the thermostat here in the Smokies in NO way resembles crisp air, hot chocolate and snowflakes falling on my nose. The Hallmark Channel devotes its entire movie lineup to Christmas movies in July – no surprise that “Christmas at Dollywood” is at the top of my “must see” list! (If you haven’t heard, it’s an actual movie. We wrote a blog to separate the fact from the fiction- Fact Check “Christmas at Dollywood” Movie.)

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Scene from “Christmas at Dollywood” movie on Hallmark Channel.

At Dollywood, Christmas in July is definitely a “thing” as evidenced by two facts: the start of putting up more than five million lights has begun on the exteriors of buildings at the theme park, and the Christmas shop is now open. Time to start picking out new holiday ornaments for my trees at home and for folks on my holiday shopping list!

Christmas Lights Are Going Up

Dollywood’s Senior Manager of Special Events Kris Houser recently told me about some of the preparations that are already underway. “When our guests see the special events team already working putting up lights here in the heat of summer, they’re often surprised. But to make our Smoky Mountain Christmas festival its most beautiful and have it have the most impact for making memories, it takes time and precision is lights being attached to our structures and trees ‘just so.’”

During August and September, the park is closed two days each week, and on those days, the Dollywood elves are busy with countless strands of twinkling lights and staples, beginning four months of precise efforts to transform the park into the winter wonderland of this award-winning holiday event. Fun fact about our festive festival: Smoky Mountain Christmas has won the Golden Ticket award for Best Theme Park Christmas Event for 13 years in a row. The Golden Tickets are like the Oscars of the theme park world, and Dollywood actually is the only park to have ever won in this category!

Here’s a few more reasons why Christmas preparations begin at Dollywood in the dog days of summer. It takes an estimated 15,000 hours by our 18 light crew hosts (that’s what Dollywood employees are called!) to install the more than 100 miles of Christmas lights. That’s at least half a dozen people working 24/7 in some cases every day of the week to get everything done in time. Approximately a half million staples keep those twinkling lights in place on everything from ride structures to trees to buildings, and the lighting experts utilize around 500 rolls of tape, thousands of black-out caps, specific colored cords and good ole intuition to make everything look just perfect for the opening of the festival on Nov. 5. Who knew that the installation of was so meticulous?! Well, you do now!

Dollywood Becomes a Movie Set!

And, there’s more! A Christmas movie starts filming at Dollywood in early August! If that doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, what will? I love Christmas movies, and when it stars Dolly and it’s set at Dollywood – well, it just doesn’t get any better than that for my “I love Christmas movies” soul. You may have been under a rock and not heard about this latest Dolly film – it’s called “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas.” Airing on NBC sometime this November, the movie is about the making of a network TV special and features Dolly and lots of her friends in a “modern-day movie musical” filmed entirely at Dollywood.

To have the Christmas movie ready for the holiday season, parts of the park are being transformed here in late summer to look like we’re in the middle of a Smoky Mountain Christmas. (Crews are already building the sets. See below!) The wonder of Christmas and the joy that Dolly brings everywhere she goes combine with the special setting of Dollywood for what we think will become an East Tennessee Christmas classic. Just another reason to look forward to the calendar turning to the most wonderful time of the year! Stay tuned for the air date of “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas” on your local NBC station.


So, it’s not just beginning to look a lot like Christmas, it’s feeling a lot like Christmas here in July, then in August, in September and October as Dollywood gets closer every day to this most special season. Now, I’ve got another Hallmark holiday movie to watch. Hopefully, “Christmas at Dollywood” is on this evening’s viewing schedule! Happy holidays y’all!