Pumpkins and Coasters Galore at Dollywood Harvest Festival 2023
Dollywood’s annual Harvest Festival is an autumn lover’s paradise. The theme park is filled with over 12,000 pumpkins (many of those being real), seasonal food and drink offerings as well as a huge offering of live music. By night, the Great Pumpkin LumiNights event begins, with the illuminated pumpkins and other lighting displays blanketing the park in a warm glow.
I visited the park last week to check out the pumpkins and other fall decor.
Harvest Festival — and even more so the nighttime (scare-free) Great Pumpkin LumiNights — is one of the busiest times of year for Dollywood, as tourists and locals alike flock to the park to take in the fall ambiance.
The park is brimming with fall colors.
While I was excited to see the pumpkins and other fall decor, my priority for this visit was to ride Lightning Rod one more time before it closes on Oct. 30 to have its launch removed and replaced by a chain lift.
I was able to get two rides in on the coaster before it closed mid-afternoon (it had not reopened by the time I left). Unfortunately, due to the one-train operation, the line was too long for the marathon ride session I would have liked.
Much of the “Adventures in Imagination” section of the park was cordoned off as the park reimagines the Chasing Rainbows exhibit and surrounding buildings for the 2024 season. According to a blog post on the park’s website, the Dolly Parton Experience will be an “interactive, newly-reimagined approach to telling Dolly’s story…a one-of-a-kind immersive storytelling experience that will offer visitors an overview of Dolly’s journey and epic achievements with an up-close look at Dolly’s most-treasured things: family keepsakes and career mementos.”
Dolly Parton is a national treasure, so this is of course a very fitting and well-deserved upgrade. I can’t wait to see the finished product next season.
I didn’t notice this during my last visit to the park in June, but a canopy structure has been added over a portion of the former tunnel bypass connecting The Village and Craftsman’s Valley areas. I’m not sure if it’s finished (there’s no roof), but perhaps it will be a green canopy.
Sadly, the Dollywood Express train is closed for the foreseeable future due to a minor derailment last week. The park revealed the following in a comment posted to the park’s Facebook page:
“Park officials have completed their investigation and identified a mechanical issue with the switch track. A specialized replacement for the switch track will be manufactured, installed and tested before the train returns to service. We will share a reopening date as it is confirmed.”
Hopefully the popular attraction will be able to reopen before the end of the season.
Thunderhead, with its relatively new track, is still very smooth compared to the old track.
The new-for-2023 Big Bear Mountain is still a hit. While I know this wasn’t intentional, the coaster does have a very pumpkin-esque color scheme.
Perhaps a pumpkin-themed overlay is in order? I kid — nothing will beat joining Ned Oakley in his search for the elusive Big Bear.
Now, for the pumpkins:
Each pumpkin on the “Wall of Pumpkins” features a (seemingly unique) floral design.
The friendly spider is back again.
Picasso the Pumpkin was very focused on his art.
This display, named “Ambercup,” is relaxing in the shadows of Wild Eagle’s towering lift hill.
The park is also home to one of the largest displays of colossal pumpkins. And yes, they’re real.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dollywood event without the butterflies.
This display greets guests as they enter the Timber Canyon area from the park entrance side.
One of my favorite displays is the “pumpkin disco,” featuring a disco ball, disco music and a group of dancing pumpkins.
The disco area also features a few funny headstones.
A bonfire made of pumpkins? Sign me up.
It makes sense that these sinister-looking pumpkins would be so close to the also-sinister Mystery Mine.
I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen a carved pumpkin design spread across multiple pumpkins — that takes some impressive precision.
I still think the owl pumpkin is the cutest display at the park.
The pumpkin tree was of course a popular spot to grab a photo.
If you’re hungry and a fan of all things pumpkin flavor, the park has a plethora of pumpkin-inspired and pumpkin-infused offerings (as well as many other general seasonal entrees, treats and drinks).
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was perfect with mild temperatures and no rain. The crowds did start to increase later in the day, but lines were still manageable, ranging from 15-45 minutes (aside from Lightning Rod’s 60+ minute wait).
Dollywood’s Harvest Festival and Great Pumpkin LumiNights runs every day (except Tuesdays) now through Monday, Oct. 30.
Have you visited Dollywood’s Harvest Festival this year? Let us know what you thought about the event in the comments section below.