Wildwood Grove Dollywood Construction Update March 2019
Dollywood officially opened for the 2019 season this past weekend. At a kickoff media event on Friday, Dolly Parton herself announced that Wildwood Grove, the park’s largest expansion to date, will open on May 10, 2019.
On Saturday, I was able to tour the very active Wildwood Grove construction site. The record rainfall this winter left the ground soupy in spots, but that hasn’t slowed construction. I was amazed at how much progress was made since I last visited the park in early January.
We entered the area from the back, behind the Dragonflier suspended coaster. The track is complete, and its 20-seat train is already in place.
I was surprised by just how close to the ground the ride is. Being suspended below the track will offer Dollywood guests a totally new experience.
The station’s exterior is nearly complete.
It won’t be long before this building is full of guests.
The coaster’s first drop will take riders through an underground tunnel.
The train will emerge from the tunnel into this very eye-catching overbanked turn. It will no doubt make for a great photo. Water jets in the pond below (which won’t be so murky come opening day) will add even more action to the element.
Here you can see how much of the coaster’s 1,486 feet of track hugs the ground.
Dragonflier’s two-tone green color scheme works very well and will look even more fitting once all the landscaping is complete and the trees have bloomed.
Speaking of the trees, Dollywood is investing $1 million in landscaping alone, and it shows. And although the trees will eventually provide plenty of shade, most if not all of the queues will be covered to provide relief during those scorching summer days.
In fact, ride queue shade structures were popping up across the area.
Even while we were traversing the construction site, workers were hauling trees into the area for planting. And these aren’t just measly seedlings — they were much larger than I expected. Once these trees have time to mature, Wildwood Grove will become even more immersive and secluded.
The building housing the Hidden Hollow interactive (and air-conditioned!) playground was one of the first structures to be completed.
A local artist has begun painting the facade of the building.
The play structures inside are situated against the perimeter of the building so that parents can more easily watch the little ones without having to worry about them sneaking off to another side.
Portions of the play equipment are adult friendly, so mom and dad can join too.
“Gobo” lights will project stencil-like illustrations of trees onto the walls.
Wildwood Grove will extend (for now) roughly to where the construction vehicles in the background are parked.
Not far from the Hidden Hollow building, the very large base for the Wildwood Tree is nearing completion.
The Wildwood Tree will stand 50 feet tall and stretch 50 feet wide.
While the living foliage will be true to East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains, the tree will take on a magical identity of its own, especially at night.
The Till & Harvest restaurant will offer Mexican-inspired fare, a cuisine not currently found at the park. The interior will feature traditional counter service, but there will also be a walk-up counter outside.
The restaurant will also feature an outdoor seating area.
The open-air retail building features a real tree trunk in the middle.
It’s worth mentioning that Wildwood Grove isn’t necessarily a land built around fantasy. It’s designed to mimic how a child might see the lush landscape of the Smoky Mountain region. There will certainly be a majestic allure found throughout the land, but it will be grounded in nature. I think the ambiance will be uniquely Dollywood.
A counterpart of sorts to the tree, Wildwood Creek is located on the hillside that overlooks the area. The Wildwood Grove design team traveled to a nearby rock quarry and hand-selected the rocks for the creek. It’s that attention to detail that makes Dollywood so great.
(Also, be on the lookout for a rock shaped like a guitar case near Dragonflier’s overbanked turn — so fitting for a park with rich musical roots.)
The water flowing from the creek will gather in a splash area near Dragonflier.
For those who aren’t interested in a soaking, a dry play area will be situated adjacent to the splash zone.
The Black Bear Trail track is complete, and you can see the bears loaded and ready to go in the background.
The ride is already beautifully landscaped. In a few years, it will look more like an East Tennessee forest where you might actually see a real black bear.
This structure will house meet-and-greets with Wildwood Grove’s cast of original characters including Flit & Flutter, Benjamin Bear and Franklin Frog.
The Great Tree Swing (formerly named the Sycamore Swing) provides Dollywood with another classic amusement park staple, but one that is smartly incorporated into the overall Wildwood Grove theme.
The Mad Mockingbird flying scooter ride — another classic — features hand-painted “scooters.”
Fun fact: the mockingbird is Tennessee’s official state bird.
Treetop Tower is also complete. It will provide great views of the area, especially for those not quite ready for the nearby Drop Line tower.
Pictures don’t do the size of Wildwood Grove justice. It could stand on its own as a small theme park.
But despite its sprawl, the close proximity of the attractions and structures makes the area feel very cozy.
Large planters are popping up throughout the area. These will provide additional spaces for landscaping and shade-providing trees.
The entrance to Wildwood Grove is across from Mystery Mine in the Timber Canyon area of the park. Yes, it’s a bit of climb, but the hike will be worth it.
Work has begun on Wildwood Grove’s entry portal, which is designed to look like the hollowed trunk of a fallen tree. I was surprised to learn that there will be two “tunnels” leading into the land.
I imagine the view after exiting these tunnels will be breathtaking.
This photo puts into perspective just how much room the park has available for expansion. I’m sure it will be unrecognizable within 10 years.
The Dollywood Express train also provides a great view of the area, at least until the leaves return
Stay tuned as we share more Wildwood Grove updates as its May 10th grand opening approaches!
Save on Dollywood tickets!
Use the promo code “DWINSIDERS11” for $10 off general admission when you buy tickets online at Dollywood.com!
This is offer is only available for the 2019 season.
In the meantime, share your thoughts about Dollywood’s biggest expansion in the comments section below.