Dollywood

Something “Big” Coming to Dollywood

If you follow Dollywood news at all, you likely know the park is scheduled to make a major attraction announcement this coming Friday. Billed as the largest single attraction investment in the park’s history, this new attraction is expected to be part of the long-rumored phase two of the wildly popular Wildwood Grove area of the park.

So what’s the attraction?

We’ll get there in a sec.

Leading up to Friday, Dollywood has been teasing bits and pieces of the new attraction’s backstory. While you can read all about it on the park’s official blog, the gist of it revolves around a legendary “Big Bear” hunt that guests will likely be engaged to join and aid in solving the mystery. Dollywood is doing their part in the operation by building a “Smoky Mountain Adventure Outpost” that will be used as a home base for the hunt.

While serving as marketing for the new attraction, this tease also helps begin to underpin the new attraction’s story and better explain how it fits into the over-arching Wildwood Grove narrative. It also informs what we can expect regarding tone and visual aesthetic of the new ride. It’s not really “needed” per se, but the pre-announcement effort lends itself to what you might expect to see from Disney or Universal and is yet another “bar raise” for Dollywood.

Speaking of bar raise, the trend of recent Dollywood investments (e.g. Firechaser Express, Lightning Rod, Wildwood Grove) would lead you to believe this attraction will set a new standard for the park when it opens in the spring of 2023.

What will be announced?

I don’t think we’re going out on a limb to say it will likely be a Vekoma-built, multi-launch, family-style coaster. I expect the ride experience to be somewhere in-between the thrills of Hollywood Studio’s Slinky Dog Coaster and Busch Garden Tampa’s Cheetah Hunt. We know from leaked site plans that it will have a pretty large footprint with the station just behind Vekoma’s other Dollywood coaster – Dragonflier – with track circling around the majority of current day Wildwood Grove. Speculative renderings here and here.

Is this the right next attraction for the park? Well, it’s hard to go too wrong if your adding a low height requirement roller coaster. I kind of land on the idea that any expansion of the best land in the park – Wildwood Grove – is a positive in my book. I’m also interested to see if we get any bonuses alongside the new attraction in the way of flat rides, dining locations, etc. with this footprint expansion.

With regards to show elements, I’m not exactly sure what to expect. The investment amount lead me to believe we’ll see something beyond a bare-bones roller coaster experience, but I’m not sure to what extent. I can definitely see video-based effects in pre-show, load, or launch areas being a strong possibility. I don’t anticipate we’ll see a “Big Bear” animatronic – but I’m happy to be wrong.

Either way, all will become clear around 11 CST this Friday. Stay tuned.

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