What a year. I don’t know how else to say it. But as much as things have changed, I’m glad many things have stayed the same…or in some cases, have even strengthened. For one, I always knew how much I enjoy spending time with my kids. But after spending so much time at home with them during the first few months of the pandemic—much like many of you—when I came back to work, I realized how much I really crave that time with them.
My wife and I took every opportunity we could to create special opportunities for them, while also staying safe during the early days of the pandemic. It meant a lot to us as a family to be able to do this, so I was very proud when we were able to reopen Dollywood with more than 700 operational changes made to keep our guests safe. We’ve heard from you—and my own family has experienced—how a day at Dollywood has a special way of helping you forget everything going on outside the gates and lets you focus on time together.
With Christmas quickly approaching, I’m sure your calendar is beginning to fill up just like mine. I’m going to suggest you add one more thing—a trip to our Smoky Mountain Christmas festival (Nov. 7-Jan. 3, 2021). It isn’t because I work here, but because it really is a great opportunity to create those special memories you’re going to have long after your kids have grown up and left hom—I AM NOT crying; my eyes are dry from looking at the screen.
Anyway, with five million Christmas lights even the biggest Scrooge is immediately in the Christmas spirit. I remember coming to the park with my parents and grandparents, and now my wife and I plan when we’ll bring our kids and their grandparents. It definitely is a well-steeped tradition for so many. One thing you’ll notice different this year is how each area has a unique lighting design that immerses you in a different atmosphere as you walk throughout the park. You also may notice a lot of lighted Christmas trees. That’s because we will have more than during any Christmas festival before.
The spotlight will shine brightly on award-winning entertainment this season (see what I did there). One of the questions we know you’ve been waiting to hear answered… Yes, Christmas in the Smokies returns indoors at DP’s Celebrity Theater. We have worked diligently to create measures to keep everyone safe in this indoor environment and you can find more info about that HERE.
In fact, two more shows will be indoors as well. Heart of the Holidays—which features several members of Dolly’s family and includes a mix of some of her holiday favorites alongside songs from her new Christmas album, A Holly Dolly Christmas— takes place in the DreamSong Theater. Another returning guest favorite, Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs, can be found at the Pines Theater.
Heartfelt entertainment abounds during the festival, including O’ Holy Night, Appalachian Christmas with the Smoky Mountain String Band, Holiday Wild Roots, The Mistletones and the Candlelight Carolers, a new choral group which can be found performing on the steps of the Robert F. Thomas Chapel.
There are several other new experiences this year, including a Christmas fireworks display called Merry & Bright! which celebrates the season with a colorful and energetic show. Merry & Bright! is scheduled for select evenings, and you can find more about it HERE.
Another question we’ve received from you—oh wait, maybe it’s the question I’ve been getting from my kids. Either way, we know you’ve been wondering what Santa is up to this year. Well, we’re going to shine a little light on Old Saint Nick’s home away from home. Did you know that when he isn’t hard at work at the North Pole, Santa likes to visit East Tennessee and his good friend, Dolly? Well, thanks to a brand-new experience at Heartsong Theater, you will be able to literally see inside Santa’s cabin in the Smokies as he reviews…the list! Your kids will discover whether their name is on the naughty or nice list! I know where my wife would suggest Santa place me, but luckily this one is about the kids!
And if you’re like me, no trip to Dollywood is complete without food. Well, our team of chefs have created a few culinary treats that may just surprise you. I’m just going to scratch the surface, but you will be able to find beef tenderloin medallions in a cabernet demi reduction, seared trout with sweet Cajun glaze, or a glazed ham steak topped with pineapple chutney at Front Porch Café.
Market Square offers a variety of options to tempt your taste buds thanks to a number of hearty sandwiches and soups. Guests can choose from a three-cheese panini, a shaved ribeye panini, or a panini with heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella, which can be paired with tomato bisque, beef barley soup or the soup of the day.
Spotlight Bakery feels like Christmas at grandma’s (or mamaw’s as I would say) with so many rich, sweet baked goods. Guests can choose their favorites from a variety of beautifully-decorated holiday cookies, gingerbreads and cupcakes or warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. Families also can take some of the holiday fun home with a gingerbread house or family-size cookie kit, both complete with icing and decorations!
And you can still ride all of our world-class rides amidst the hustle and bustle of the park during the holidays. Trust me, nothing compares to racing quickly through the night sky with millions of lights twinkling below.
To sum it up, no matter what activities are on your family’s Christmas list this year, Smoky Mountain Christmas is sure to shine a familiar light on holiday traditions that you will share and cherish for years to come.