In spring 2019, Dollywood opened Wildwood Grove, a kids’ land meant to capture the spirit of Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain childhood. According to Craig Ross, President of The Dollywood Company, “attractions included in this tremendous land were selected because they reminded Dolly of those same dreams and memories she had from her childhood.” Now Wildwood Grove has been recognized with Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket for Best Kids’ Area. Tennessee resident Mary Jo Collins recently took a trip to Dollywood’s Wildwood Grove, and she shares her experience below.
Article and photos by Mary Jo Collins
Skipping through the woods on a bright summer day, a precocious little girl admires the beautiful rhododendron and mountain laurel adorning the landscape of her grand backyard, The Great Smoky Mountains. Humming her favorite tune, she turns and almost stumbles upon an excavated tree trunk. As any adventurer would do, she crawls through the trunk to discover a cascading creek dancing before her eyes. The stage is set for a whimsical afternoon of daydreaming.
Fireflies, frogs, and foliage.
Butterflies, bears, and birds.
Coons, crickets, and creeks.
Sycamores, salamanders, and storytelling.
Welcome to Wildwood Grove. A fascinating new land at Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Inspired by Dolly Parton’s own dreams from her childhood. “When I was a little girl growing up in the hills of the Smoky Mountains, I’d often let my imagination just run away—something I still do now—dreaming these big dreams about what it’d be like to venture off with a family of bears in to the woods or how fun it would be to hitch a ride with the butterflies and dragonflies.” Luckily for kids of all ages, the wildlife has come out to play in a magical setting for the whole family. Dolly added, “we’ve been able to create a new area to allow families to experience some of those exact dreams we all had when we were little.”
Are you ready to take an adventure to Wildwood Grove? This beautiful butterfly is so excited for you to discover her new land.
As with most dream-inspired lands, you must enter through a secret portal. Our butterfly has fluttered her way through a giant fallen log. The Wildwood Grove entry portal takes you from Timber Canyon into Wildwood Grove.
At the center of Wildwood Grove, we find a spectacular tree covered in almost 9000 leaves and 650 lighted butterflies. The Wildwood Tree is indeed the main focal point of the land. Watch the butterflies play in its leafy canopy each evening during a nighttime experience that will change seasonally.
Next let’s meet Flit and Flutter, the official ambassadors of Wildwood Grove. Dancing and prancing around Wildwood Grove, the beautiful butterfly fairies love to say hello. Their friend Benjamin Bear is a good black bear. With his necklace of leaves and a big bright smile, Benjamin wants to play with you in Wildwood Grove. Do not forget to have your picture made with Flit, Flutter, and Benjamin. They meet guests of Wildwood Grove at scheduled times throughout the day.
Benjamin Bear is a very happy bear and loves welcoming kids of all ages to play with him in Wildwood Grove. He is also a very crafty bear. Don’t you just love his necklace of colorful leaves he made.
There is a ton to do in Wildwood Grove. Benjamin Bear has offered to show us all of Wildwood Grove’s attractions.
It shouldn’t surprise you, but Benjamin Bear’s favorite attraction is Black Bear Trail. His black bear buddies want you to hop on and take a ride. Bounce a little and your bear friend will bounce some too. Little cubs, momma bears, and papa bears alike love this gentle trollop around the bear track.
Looking for something a little more thrilling to do in Wildwood Grove? No need to worry.
Take a rousing flight on Dragonflier. The suspended roller coaster allows guests to soar like a dragonfly, dipping and darting along the gushing geysers and lush landscape of Wildwood Grove.
Time to board the Great Tree Swing. Guests rock back and forth just like a leaf falling from a giant sycamore tree.
Are you feeling musical? Gather your friends and head on over to the Deep Roots Band. Xylophone leaves and drum twigs are amongst the hands-on instruments to help you create a tune. Dance to the beat in the nearby Wildwood Creek splash pad.
All the kids are nuts about Treetop Tower. Gently twirl up in the sky in a giant acorn. Treetop Tower gives guests a sky-high view of Wildwood Grove as they soar in the air, seated inside giant acorns.
The Tennessee state bird is having all the fun in a thrilling attraction called The Mad Mockingbird. Take a frenzied flight in your own Mockingbird. Each rider controls his experience by moving a sail in order to rush above the ground in a high-speed circle.
Frogs and Fireflies is bound to make you giggle. Guests of all ages race around the lily pad aboard a very springy frog.
Inside Wildwood Grove, there is a secretive hideaway. Shhhh don’t tell anyone about this tucked-away gem. Step inside Hidden Hollow for a place to relax, cool off, and experience a high-tech fun zone.
After all the scampering around Wildwood Grove, one has stirred up an appetite. Benjamin has some recommendations for his favorite eats in Wildwood Grove.
Butterfly Pretzels…need we say more?
Till & Harvest is a delightful dinning location in Wildwood Grove that features what we have all been craving, Smoky Mountain Mexican. This is not a joke. Burritos, bowls, and nachos are never a joke. Try the southern chicken, sizzling steak, country pulled pork, just veggie, or create your own festive formulation.
Now for the best part of every meal in Wildwood Grove, let’s hop on over to Sweets and Treats for dessert. Choose from Flit & Flutters Sundae, warm churros, Benjamin Bear’s Brownie, or simply a soft-serve ice cream cone.
It has been an exhilarating day in Wildwood Grove. We have flown, twirled, hopped, laughed and munched our way through the fun. Night time is upon us and the only thing left is to watch the butterflies on the Wildwood Tree come to life with color and energy. What an enchanting time we have had at Wildwood Grove!
DISCLOSURE: Adventures by Daddy was invited by Dollywood to attend the opening of Wildwood Grove and all the attractions in the area. However, all opinions expressed are those of the author. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagram, twitter and “like” our facebook page too.