Dollywood’s dreamer-in-chief is keeping her stiletto-clad foot on the gas pedal.
While construction of Dollywood’s second resort continues, Dolly Parton and her team already are working on the third, fourth and fifth resorts that will play a critical role in the company’s $500 million, multi-decade vision
to become the top U.S. destination for family vacations.
Much like HeartSong Lodge & Resort
will illustrate Parton’s love for the Great Smoky Mountains, each of those properties will be themed around a part of the icon’s life.
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“We do still own a lot of land,” Parton told the USA TODAY Network. “We do always have room for expansion. There is always some new dream that pops up, some new dream that’s going on. (Things like,) we have to have a bigger waterpark, we have to have an indoor waterpark, we have to have this or that. So you’re always thinking like that. I just hope it always continues to go and grow through the years, long after I’m gone.”
Along with resorts, Parton and company will continue to dream up new experiences and activities for guests. She said she’d like a campground and a large music venue for big concerts.
Visitors are responding to the never-ending expansion of the brand. Dollywood was named
the top U.S. theme park in 2022 by Tripadvisor users. Despite the economic stressors many Americans are facing, reservations at DreamMore Resort & Spa are higher than they were in 2019, the resort’s record year, said Dollywood Parks & Resorts President Eugene Naughton.
HeartSong, when it opens in fall 2023, will give the Dollywood brand 600 hotel rooms a stone’s throw away from Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country.
“It becomes a real powerhouse, and it gives us the ability to reach out for our goal of becoming the best family destination in the United States, and that’s what we think about every day,” Naughton said during a tour of ongoing construction last week.
Inside progress HeartSong in Pigeon Forge
HeartSong is beginning to take shape on the hill just above DreamMore in Pigeon Forge, including the frame of the massive four-story atrium with a towering stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the woods.
The 302-room lodge will feature a pool that’s 50% larger than the one at DreamMore, balconies on half the suites, and, of course, a stunning Dolly suite that’s available when she’s not using it.
See renderings: A look at Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge and Resort – coming 2023
Guests can start making reservations sometime in early 2023.
Inside the sprawling hotel, there will be a mercantile store, signature restaurant and a grab-and-go food spot. It will feature an acoustic music room, activities for kids and family gathering places.
“We’re building a 26,000-square-foot convention space, and I was excited to do that, because I don’t know if you know how big Dolly’s family is, but it’s impossible to find a space that’s big enough to host (them),” Naughton said.
Creative input from dreamer-in-chief
Parton is always a part of the creative process, weighing in on everything down to the fabrics. She said she’s excited about the warm mountain colors that will bring an outdoor feel into HeartSong, a contrast with the high-class Southern flavor of DreamMore.
“(The designers) make me feel like a part of it, although they’re the ones that have the good taste,” Parton said. “And I’m the one that has the good sense to let them do it.”
Parton, who showed off the resort’s progress to media last week, said seeing it made the project feel real for her.
“The anxiety comes more on deciding what to do, deciding on colors and designs or that kind of thing, or just deciding on the details,” she said. “But the true excitement comes when it’s done and you’re going to really get to deliver it.”
Parton said many of her best ideas come when she wakes up around the wee hour of 3 a.m.
She credits the creative people in the Dollywood company for their collaboration.
“It’s just a dream in progress, actually,” she said.
Business Growth and Development Editor Brenna McDermott can be reached at email@example.com. Support our local news efforts by becoming a Knox News subscriber.