Dollywood Theme Park

Dollywood Earns Three Golden Ticket Awards

Published September 14, 2022 / Last Updated September 14, 2022
Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Team Dolly

Most-honored park wins theme park industry’s top awards for guest experience, kids’ area and Christmas event

Following the recent news that Dollywood is Tripadvisor’s top American theme park, the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, landmark earned three of Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards during a ceremony held September 9th at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. Dollywood earned finalist placement in seven total categories and won more Golden Ticket awards than any other park in the world.

“We don’t do what we do to win awards, but they sure are nice,” Dolly said jokingly. “Seriously though, we’re proud of the recognition we receive because it means we’re doing well at what we want to do—take care of the great folks who come to visit our park year after year. I’ve always known that the Smokies are a very special place, and for the park to be just one reason why so many people come visit this little part of Tennessee warms my heart. To hear that they think so highly of their time at Dollywood really does this Smoky Mountain girl a lot of good.”

Best Guest Experience

Dollywood continued its clean sweep of the Best Guest Experience category, which was first created in 2019. This marks the third-consecutive Best Guest Experience award for Dollywood. Golden Tickets were not awarded in 2020. The Best Guest Experience award combines several attributes—including friendliness, cleanliness and value—into the judging criteria for the award. Dollywood is the only park to ever win the award, a nod to its friendly and welcoming hosts, as well as its clean appearance and overall atmosphere.

Every day, Eugene Naughton, President of The Dollywood Company, places much emphasis on the guest experience and gives credit to Dollywood hosts and park guests for the park’s third win in that category.

“The Golden Tickets award ceremony is one of my favorite events of the year,” Naughton said. “I appreciate Amusement Today for hosting the awards because they serve as a good gauge to help us understand how our guests are feeling about their experience. We’ve really put a lot of focus the last few years into ensuring that when our guests are inside our park, they are having a great time and are busy creating those memories they’re going to cherish for years to come. Our third-consecutive Best Guest Experience award is a tangible representation that the hard work our hosts put into the park really does matter to our guests. We are proud of these awards and they only make us want to work harder to win them again next year.”

Best Kids’ Area

Dollywood’s Wildwood Grove also earned its third consecutive award for Best Kids’ Area. The park first won this award in 2019 after that season’s opening of the expansive new area. Dollywood guests should expect this great area to become even better next season, as the recently-announced Big Bear Mountain roller coaster opens in Spring 2023. The new ride, manufactured by Vekoma, is nearly 4,000 ft. long and becomes the longest roller coaster at Dollywood. With three launches, on-board audio, plenty of air time and a number of thrilling moments, a fourth Golden Ticket category win could be in the cards for 2023.

Best Christmas Event

One of the park’s stalwart events, Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana, earned its 14th consecutive win for Best Christmas Event. Dollywood remains undefeated in the Christmas category due to the effort of the park’s hard-working hosts who plan for the iconic event year-round. Dollywood’s Christmas festival is so prevalent that it has been showcased in several movies, including Hallmark’s “Christmas at Dollywood” and the upcoming Dolly Parton’s “Mountain Magic Christmas” which premieres on NBC later this year.

Additional Recognition

Due in large part to its idyllic location in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood earned the runner-up position for Most Beautiful Park, while the park’s creative and talented culinary team took home a second-place finish for Best Food, thanks to their varied and extensive menus of high-quality items. The park also finished second in the Best Park category to Europa-Park in Rust, Germany, making Dollywood the top-placed American entry. Dollywood’s thrilling Thunderhead remained ranked in the Best Wooden Roller Coaster category, finishing as the number 10 wooden coaster in the world.

The Golden Ticket Awards

Tim Baldwin, Communications Coordinator for Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards, explained how Dollywood has transformed itself during the last two decades.

“When the Golden Ticket Awards were introduced in 1998, Dollywood didn’t even appear on the list,” Baldwin said. “Flash forward two decades later and the park’s decisions are clearly evident. Dollywood appears as a finalist on the charts more than any other park and took home the most wins. The Southern hospitality begins with [Dolly] herself and is carried throughout the many staff members at the property. With the addition of award-winning rides and special themed areas over the past 20 years, Dollywood has not only become a national destination, it has also become an exciting global destination.

“This is what happens when you pay attention to what makes the guests happy. Fantastic food, crowd-pleasing entertainment and a commitment to signature attractions that make a park one-of-a-kind. Dollywood is a treasure.”

Calculated from an international poll conducted by Amusement Today, the industry’s leading trade publication, the Golden Ticket Awards are the results of a detailed survey sent to a database of hundreds of experienced and well-traveled amusement park fans, industry journalists and ride manufacturers around the world in balanced geographical regions. Voters are asked to rate the “best” in a number of categories such as best parks, roller coasters, water rides, food and more.

The Golden Ticket Awards are the most sought-after awards in the business of amusements and attractions. The awards have become the subject of much discussion by park aficionados the world over and have garnered mentions in such notable media outlets as USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and by the late radio newsman Paul Harvey. The awards were also the topic of a one-hour Travel Channel documentary.

Plan Your Visit

With two great festivals ahead this year, there’s plenty of fun still to be had during Dollywood’s 2022 operating season. Dollywood’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana, featuring Great Pumpkin LumiNights presented by Covenant Health, takes place Sept. 23-Oct. 29, while Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana—now the 14-time winner of Best Christmas Event—is slated for Nov. 5-Jan. 1.

For more information, please visit Dollywood.com or download the Dollywood app.

Team DollyDollywood Earns Three Golden Ticket Awards

Dollywood Earns Four Golden Ticket Awards

Published September 16, 2021 / Last Updated September 29, 2021
Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Team Dolly

Dollywood wins theme park industry’s top awards for guest experience, kids’ area, Christmas event and most beautiful park

Dollywood continues to illustrate why it is one of the nation’s top theme park destinations, as it earned four top awards during the Golden Ticket Awards virtual ceremony on September 9, announced from the National Roller Coaster Museum & Archives in Plainview, Texas. Dollywood earned finalist placement in nine total categories and won more awards than any other park. No awards were presented in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Best Guest Experience

In 2019, Dollywood became the inaugural winner for Best Guest Experience of any theme park in the world. The Best Guest Experience award combines two discontinued categories, Friendliest Park and Cleanest Park. Dollywood earned its second-consecutive Best Guest Experience title this year, a nod to the park’s friendly and welcoming hosts, as well as its clean appearance and overall atmosphere.

Best Kids’ Area and Best Christmas Event

Dollywood’s Wildwood Grove won Best Kids’ Area for the second time in a row. The park won the award in 2019 after that season’s opening of the expansive new area. One of the park’s stalwart events, Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana, earned its 13th consecutive win for Best Christmas Event, and Dollywood remains undefeated in the Christmas award category.

Most Beautiful Park

Due in large part to its idyllic location in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood earned the Most Beautiful Park award for the first time this year, after many seasons of finishing in the runner-up position. The award is further validation of Dolly’s original vision for Dollywood and her Tennessee mountain home. Dolly shared,

“As a little girl growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains, I always thought about how this was a place that folks from around the world would love to visit. Ever since we opened Dollywood in 1986, people have told us how special this place is because of the friendly people and the beautiful mountains that God has blessed us with. We make sure to take all that beauty that surrounds us and bring it right down into the middle of the park. We’re truly surrounded—all the way around—by the Smokies! But I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish here, and these awards show that our guests think we’re doing the right thing. We love the awards, but of course we don’t do what we do just to win awards. We want families to come spend time with us, enjoy one another and hold on to those memories forever.”

The Golden Ticket Awards

The Golden Ticket Awards are the most sought-after awards in the business of amusements and attractions. Calculated from an international poll conducted by Amusement Today, the industry’s leading trade publication, the Golden Ticket Awards are the results of a detailed survey sent to a database of hundreds of experienced and well-traveled amusement park fans, industry journalists and ride manufacturers from around the world. Voters are asked to rate the best in a number of categories, such as best parks, roller coasters, water rides, kids’ area, food and more.

According to Eugene Naughton, President of The Dollywood Company, the guest experience is crucial for any park’s success. He credits both his staff and the support of guests for Dollywood’s second win in the category.

“We are proud of our second consecutive Best Guest Experience award,” Naughton said. “We place a lot of focus on ensuring our guests have the best possible time when they are here. I’ve said it many times, but we have the friendliest employees in the entire industry—we won the Golden Ticket Award for Friendliest Park seven years in-a-row before the award ended. Additionally, both our landscaping and our house and grounds teams do a phenomenal job to ensure the park is clean and that our flowers and landscaping are always green and pristine! Both teams worked exponentially harder to deliver us through a very difficult 2020 season, so this award is a testament to their hard work. Not only are host friendliness and park cleanliness both considered as part of this particular award, but we’re also constantly evaluating our facilities to determine what we can do to provide the best visit for our guests. During this past off-season, our crews undertook a number of construction projects designed to enhance the guest experience. We widened pathways, created new sitting areas for some of our most popular restaurants and completed a number of other projects that kept our guests top-of-mind. We want to take care of all the small things, because those are the items that—many times—become the big things if not attended to and made right.”

Additional Recognition

Dollywood was also a Top 10 finalist in five additional categories:

· Best Park, second place
· Best Food, second place
· Best New Show (Sweet Summer Nights), third place
· Best Steel Coaster (Lightning Rod), seventh place
· Best Wood Coaster (Thunderhead), tenth place

“Dollywood continues to demonstrate crowd-pleasing decisions,” said Tim Baldwin, Golden Ticket Awards Communications Coordinator. “From the rides it adds to the entertainment it offers, the park positively charms guests who visit. Being a finalist in nine categories is evidence that Dollywood has grown from a regional destination to a national one, if not global. It is a joy to visit—and for those who know the amusement industry, it’s a treasure.”

The Golden Ticket Awards have become the subject of much discussion by park aficionados the world over and have garnered mentions in such notable media outlets as USA Today and the Chicago Tribune, as well as by the late radio newsman Paul Harvey. The awards were also the topic of a one-hour Travel Channel documentary.

Plan Your Visit

With two great festivals ahead this year, there’s plenty of fun still to come during Dollywood’s 2021 operating season. Dollywood’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana, featuring Great Pumpkin LumiNights presented by Covenant Health, takes place September 24 – October 30, while Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana, now the 13-time winner of Best Christmas Event, is slated for November 6 – January 2.

For more information, please visit Dollywood.com or download the Dollywood app.

Team DollyDollywood Earns Four Golden Ticket Awards