In May of 1986, country legend Dolly Parton partnered with brothers Jack and Pete Herschend, the owners of a Silver Dollar City theme park, to open Dollywood, a tribute to the Smoky Mountain region she called home.
The theme park is one of the most popular attractions in Tennessee, bringing countless tourist dollars to Parton's beloved Sevier County. But beyond the award-winning rides, mouth-watering food (cinnamon bread, anyone?) and multiple shops with gorgeous hand-crafted goods, Dollywood also serves as a museum of sorts for the living legend that is Dolly Parton.
If you're planning a trip to Dollywood, here are some of the must-see spots inside the park that pay homage to Parton's incredible life and career.
Dolly Parton's Cabin
One of the best parts of Dollywood is the replica of Parton's childhood home. Lovingly constructed by Parton's brother Bobby, the cabin gives visitors a glimpse into what life was like for Parton and her 10 brothers and sisters growing up in East Tennessee.
The interior of the cabin was recreated by Parton's mother, Avie Lee, and includes some of the family's real treasures.
"These mountains and my childhood home have a special place in my heart," reads a sign outside the cabin. "They inspire my music and my life. I hope being here does the same for you."
Chasing Rainbows Museum
The Chasing Rainbows museum, located inside Dollywood, allows visitors to see memorabilia from Parton's life and career. That includes clothes (lots and lots of fabulous sequined clothes), awards, notes and keepsakes.
Perhaps the biggest draw inside the museum is the recreation of Parton's real "Coat of Many Colors," the patchwork coat that became the subject of Parton's classic song. Parton's mother recreated the coat from memory, serving as yet another example of how Parton's family and childhood is showcased throughout the park.
Robert F. Thomas Chapel
The Robert F. Thomas chapel is a one-room church located in the Craftman's Valley section of Dollywood. The church, which holds services each Sunday, was named after the doctor who delivered Parton.
Robert F. Thomas was a minister and family physician who brought quality medical care to the residents of Sevier County, Tennessee, making house calls to families throughout the region. (After delivering Parton, Thomas was paid with a sack of cornmeal.) Parton admired the man so much, she wrote a song about him for her My Tennessee Mountain Home album.
According to the Dollywood blog, the chapel was built in the early 1970s when the park was known as Goldrush Junction.
No trip to Dollywood would be complete without sampling the incredible food. One of the many spots to fill up on delicious eats is Aunt Granny's, which features a menu filled with good old fashioned home cookin'. The name of the restaurant comes from a nickname Parton's nieces and nephews gave her. The country legend doesn't have children, but has said she's always loved her siblings' kids as though they're her own.
"I grew up in a big old family with eight kids younger than me and several of my brothers and sisters came to live with me early on in my life. I've loved their kids just like they're my grandkids, and now I've got great-grandkids!" Parton told People. "I often think, it just wasn't meant for me to have kids so everybody's kids can be mine."
So the next time you visit Dollywood, be sure to stop by the replica of Dolly's old home, stroll by to see what the Coat of Many Colors looked like up close, take in a quiet moment of reflection at the Robert F. Thomas chapel and grab some grub at Aunt Granny's. It's almost like spending the day with Dolly herself.
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