Nearby amusement park named one of the best in the world

Thrilling rides, entertaining shows, delectable food and Dolly Parton; wsbtv.com recently headed to Tennessee for a visit to Dollywood.

The theme park features 40 rides, 15 shows, a wide variety of food and festivals along with other offerings that make a trip to Dollywood unique.

"I think the entertainment along with the rides and then our Smoky Mountain craftspeople that are here all year, and I think maybe one of the things we're proudest of in combination with that is we've been named friendliest park," Dollywood's Ellen Liston told wsbtv.com's Nelson Hicks.

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Dollywood has won the amusement industry's Golden Ticket award for friendliest park the last six years, best shows for nine years running, best Christmas event for 10 years running, best food four out of the last seven years and was ranked as the third-best park in the world.

Its rides are award-winning, too. Lightning Rod is themed after a 1950s hot rod and is the fastest wood coaster in the world, hitting speeds of 73 mph. Across the park is Wild Eagle, America's first wing coaster. Whip through the Great Smoky Mountains 21 stories above Dollywood on Wild Eagle.

"There's a lot of rides for (my young daughter) to ride and enjoy and then, there's enough for me to go on because I love roller coasters, so I don't want to ride the kiddie rides all day," frequent Dollywood visitor Destiney McAdams said.

More than a dozen shows put guests right in the middle of all the action. Whether it's the Birds of Prey show featuring eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and more, or one of the daily concerts across the park.

The Season of Showstoppers is Dolly's theme for Dollywood in 2018. The season encompasses several festivals over the course of the year. There's the Festival of Nations, followed by the Spring Mix music event, which includes classic country that Crystal Gayle kicks off, inspirational music that Amy Grant headlines and classic rock and pop that includes the Atlanta Rhythm Section. That's followed by the Barbecue and Bluegrass Festival, Summer and Harvest Celebrations and a Smoky Mountain Christmas.

"Dolly (Parton) is Dollywood's dreamer in chief," Liston said. "So, she comes up with great ideas and likes for whatever we do to incorporate something in the Great Smoky Mountains."

And no trip to Dollywood would be complete without a walk down memory lane about the park's namesake and owner -- Parton. The Chasing Rainbows Museum is the crown jewel, featuring outfits, photos, awards and much more.

"If you know Dolly Parton, it's everything Dolly is about," visitor Erin Massman said. "It's just about fun, Southern, I mean great rides, great food, things to do if you love culture. It's really perfect for any age. Kids will have fun. My 85-year-old grandmother has a great time."

The food is something everyone will love. Here's a tip: Don't miss the cinnamon bread. It's incredible. After eating, watch one of the many tradespeople who work right there at the park.

Make it a three-day weekend or combine a Dollywood visit with a trip to one of Parton's dinner shows, a visit to Dollywood's Splash Country, a stay at the Dollywood DreamMore resort or a Dollywood cabin and make a week out of it.

"You have to come," McAdams said. "People that have never been, like I'll go to Georgia and they don't know what Dollywood is, I'm like, 'You have to go to Tennessee and see what it's about.' Dolly, I mean, she has done an amazing job."

This story is sponsored by Dollywood.

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