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Dollywood, the theme park in the wild, plans $300-million expansion

August 22, 2013|By Amy Hubbard

Dollywood -- the Pigeon Forge, Tenn., theme park that dates back to 1961 -- has big plans that will take the park beyond what it's best known for, award-winning live music.

"We're finally building our resort," Dolly Parton told the Associated Press.

The singer became a partner in the enterprise in 1986. She told AP that a 300-room resort is in the works as part of a $300-million expansion to take place over the next decade. Included are a fishing pond and fire pits where guests can make s'mores.

PHOTOS: Top 10 Dollywood rides and attractions

As the L.A. Times' Brady MacDonald reported last year, the theme park is set in the Great Smoky Mountains and has a wilderness feel amid hardwood trees. Dollywood has gained critical acclaim, winning the industry's highest honor, the Applause Award, in 2010 from the International Assn. of Amusement Parks & Attractions.

Dollywood traces its roots to the 1961 Rebel Railroad, a five-mile steam-train ride with staged attacks and train robberies.

The park features live country, bluegrass, gospel, rock and Appalachian music. Its top rides: The Wild Eagle coaster, where riders sit on either side of the track in a winged formation on trains themed as bald eagles in flight; Thunderhead, a wooden coaster, has 14 bridges, 22 turns and 32 crossovers; and the Mountain Slidewinder, the only ride of its kind in the U.S., is a water toboggan with high-banked turns that has riders navigating in tandem-seat rafts.

The park plans to add shows and more rides as part of the expansion. First up is the Fire Chaser Express, set to open in 2014. It reportedly will be tamer than the Wild Eagle, so younger children will be able to ride.

A new website will track the Dollywood developments.

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