There’s plenty to love about Dollywood’s myriad of exciting rides and entertaining shows, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as this unique theme park is concerned. Often, the park’s most impressive elements are the least expected. Such is the case with The Wildwood Tree, which, at first glance, might seem like little more than a visual cue for visitors rushing from one ride to the next. And yes, the tree can certainly serve this function; standing above many of the park’s rides, it provides an ideal landmark for those who are easily lost. But it also serves as a key gathering place for the many families that hit up Wildwood Grove — and a place of relaxation for those eager for a break from the hustle and bustle of theme park adventures.
As you stroll past The Wildwood Tree, don’t settle for a mere glance. Stop for a moment and take in the visual spectacle. As you examine the tree, you’ll notice over 600 beautiful butterflies shimmering in the sunlight and dancing in the breeze among the nearly 9,000 leaves. These butterflies represent every color in the rainbow. After the sun goes down, they light up to grant Wildwood Grove a sense of magic. Subtle decorations also abound — especially in the tree’s bark, where carvings of oversized instruments highlight the central role music plays at Dollywood.
The tree itself is gorgeous, of course, but that’s only the beginning. The landmark is surrounded by a nature-filled plaza, where you’ll find plenty of spots ideal for photographs. You’ll also note a slower pace of exploration surrounding the tree, which evokes a sense of calm that is often missing at amusement parks.
Ultimately, The Wildwood Tree represents the culmination of Dolly Parton’s long-held vision for her eponymous park. Creative director Patrick Brennan enthuses about “this beautiful big old tree, reaching out and embracing the area.” He hopes visitors will notice the tree’s graceful lean and how the branches stretch towards visitors. He’s proud of the work that went into this magnificent creation — especially the hundreds of butterflies, which represented “a real challenge.”
As you ponder the hard work that went into The Wildwood Tree, remember: the Dollywood experience is about more than rides alone. It’s about the loving spirit and natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains. These themes will be most evident as you gaze at Wildwood Grove’s most beautiful creation.
Be sure to walk all the way around the plaza surrounding The Wildwood Tree. On one side, you’ll find a variety of water elements, which are highly refreshing on a hot day — and entertaining year-round.
The Wildwood Tree may be beautiful up close, but when it lights up in the evening, it’s most impressive from a distance. If you visit Wildwood Grove earlier in the day, the beautifully-lit tree warrants a return trip.