You’ll find plenty to dazzle the senses at Dollywood, but look a little beyond the biggest, shiniest, attractions to enjoy a few gems hidden in plain sight. These lesser-known attractions are probably worth a few minutes of your time–and you might just feel like your vacation has been leveled up when stop to enjoy a few features that most Dollywood visitors don’t even notice.
1. Hero’s Autographs
Going for a ride on the FireChaser Express? It’s a family favorite roller coaster for a reason. Most visitors don’t notice the fire hoses suspended above the vintage fire truck at the station where you start your ride. Those fire hoses aren’t just props. They’re real used fire hoses signed by over 1,300 firefighters from all over Tennessee. They were donated to Dollywood just for this ride. This is the type of thoughtful detail that you’ll find all over Dollywood–and it’s way cooler than the all-too-common mass-manufactured props most amusement parks procure for decoration.
2. Hidden Tributes to Dollywood Employees
At Dollywood, you don’t just get a behind-the-scenes employee-of-the-month plaque for outstanding service. Exceptional employees are honored with hidden tributes in the form of vintage signs all over the park. When you see signs like “Little Linda’s Chocolates” or “Dwight Puckett’s Music Shop,” those aren’t just cutesy names dreamed up to add atmosphere; they’re tributes to real employees who have made a big difference to the park’s operations.
3. Dolly’s DreamBox
Did you know that there’s a secret recording of a special Dolly Parton song that no one else has ever heard? It’s located inside Dolly’s DreamBox, a small display case in the DreamMore resort. The plan is to play the song for the world for the first time on January 19, 2046, which will be Dolly’s 100th birthday. The box itself also contains other time-capsule-like contents, and it’s crafted from the wood of a fallen American Chestnut tree. That chest itself is a nod to Dolly’s uncle Bill Owens, who spent much of his life working to preserve the American Chestnut tree.
4. The Water Clock
This water-powered clock has been around since Dollywood’s origin as Silver Dollar City, and it was modeled after another water clock at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Take a close look at this water clock, with its ever-flowing water ticking through troughs and over a water wheel to change the time, and you’ll notice that it always shows the correct day of the month–but in the year 1882.
5. Reminders of Bygone Silver Dollar City Days
The Water Clock isn’t the only remnant of Dollywood’s bygone days as Silver Dollar City. On the Blazing Fury coaster ride, the modern schtick is that you’re running from a raging fire, trying to escape before being overtaken by flames. But along the way, you’ll see signs that don’t fit that plot line; some of them say “Flooded Mine,” and “Danger, Keep out!” These are remnants of the Flooded Mine ride that used to exist at Silver Dollar City. The signs were placed here as a memory of the ride that once was.
There’s also a very real tribute to a miner who died during a real flooded mine in the late 1800s. In the cave walkway that connects the County Fair and Craftsman’s Valley, you can spot a sign that tells about a flood that kept miners trapped for days. A tombstone for Charlie Turner, who died in that flood, is located on the Blazing Fury ride, as well.
6. Tiny Mouse Friend
If you find yourself at the Artisan Woodcarver’s shop, peek just below the counter to find a hand-carved mouse hiding in the shadows. This little guy doesn’t get much attention, but it’s another fun detail that the designers (and real woodcarvers!) built into a very cool artisanal shop.
7. The Calming Spot
This is a different kind of hidden gem, located in Dollywood’s Splash Country. It’s a quiet, tucked-away spot with plenty of shade, benches, and–best of all–peace and calm. You won’t find vendors, music, or rides beckoning in this quiet corner of the park. Instead, you’ll find fidget toys, chalk and easels for kids to draw, rocking chairs, and lovely landscaping. It’s a great spot for young kids to take a wind down, for nursing mothers, or for anyone needing a moment of silence before diving back into the activities of the day.
These are just a few of the “Easter eggs” you can find if you pay a little extra attention during your Dollywood visit. There are many others. Keep your eyes peeled, and you never know what you might find. Possibly the ultimate Easter egg? Spotting an undercover Dolly Parton strolling the park like a visitor, getting a feel for what the average park visitor might experience when they’re walking through. Rumor has it she still visits the park incognito on occasion.