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She'll Be Comin' Round That Mountain - Big Bear Mountain in Dollywood
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Dollywood, located in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. is right on track – pun intended – for the planned spring opening of their new roller coaster, a major attraction called Big Bear Mountain.

Made by Netherlands-based manufacturer Vekoma, the coaster will have trains that look just like 4-wheel-drive SUVs. The cool cars provide a look for the ride that fits the story which themes the ride. The coaster will take riders and their guide, one Ned Oakley, off on a journey to find the big black bear, a legendary creature said to lurk outside of Wildwood Grove in the hills surrounding it.

Each of the specially designed train cars can hold as many as 20 guests. They'll have headlights and taillights that work, and onboard audio, a new feature for Dollywood.

The track was just completed, all 3,990-feet of it, for just over ¾ of a mile. The track's length is the longest coaster track in the park.  

Riders will thrill to elements that include three different launches, as well as multiple airtime hills. They'll hurtle through tunnels, pass behind a waterfall, and undertake high-speed carousel turns - all at speeds that can reach 48 miles per hour.

According to Eugene Naughton, the president of Dollywood Parks & Resorts, Big Bear Mountain is aptly named. He notes that it's “just that – big.” He describes the ride as a real game changer for Dollywood due to several major facts. “It's the largest coaster we've ever built and our first ride with on-board audio,” he attests. That onboard audio will include both music and announcements from exploration leader Ned Oakley.

The park is so pleased with the ride that they unveiled the coaster's vehicles along with manufacturer Vekoma at IAPPA this year. “We're excited about what Big Bear Mountain means for Dollywood, and we wanted to share this really special moment with the industry,” Naughton says.

Big Bear Mountain has a rider height requirement of 39” as befits a ride with the big thrills this new attraction promises. The track reaches up to 66 feet in height at its peak elevation.

Dollywood is delighted to say that construction on the coaster overall is progressing rapidly, with the final section of track laid January 11th.

The park's describes the attraction experience as “an unforgettable expedition in search of the elusive ‘Big Bear' in the hills just beyond Dollywood's newest area, Wildwood Grove.” It joins eleven other attractions of Wildwood Grove, continuing the park's story of a hidden land beyond a hollow log.

Big Bear Mountain is the largest investment in a single attraction that Dollywood has made to date, with a cost befitting the mammoth attraction. The price tag? $25 million dollars.

Naughton relates that “Things are going to get big at Dollywood in 2023, and we hope everyone will come share in the fun.” The long coaster will stretch across six acres of rolling land that traverses the border of Wildwood Grove. A park spokesperson describes the experience as “riders racing through the wilderness before soaring high above the forest on the search for the legendary bear.”

Dollywood founder Dolly Parton herself is excited about the expansive family thrill ride. “The Smokies are all about adventure and going exploring,” she says. I'm excited our guests will be able to head out on their own trip into the Smokies to see if they can find that Big Bear!” The ride is scheduled to open in time to welcome Spring guests.

While the coaster is the biggest news for the park for 2023, there are other projects afoot at Dollywood. At the end of last year, Parton described plans in place to open a second museum in the next several years, part of a complex located in Nashville that the multi-talented performer dubs Dolly Center. Parton has a museum already at Dollywood, but the Nashville location would be part of a larger focus.

The 160-acre theme park itself is also building another large project: the HeartSong Lodge & Resort. The new lodging option is the first project out of the gate in what the park has said is a $500 million investment plan taking place over the course of the next decade.

On a much smaller scale, the park has brought back its Winter Music Concert series at the DreamMore Resort. There are music series tickets and room package combo offers available for the events, which have a limited capacity. The music series is set to run through March 2023. The park's well received Food and Flower Festival will blossom again this spring, featuring living plant sculptures and over 500 different fresh flowers. The event will run April 21 to June 11.

One event has been discontinued, however. The winter seasonal fireworks show was terminated due to drought in the area, which made fireworks a potentially dangerous event because of the possibility of fire in the dry region.

The theme park holds over 50 major attractions and is owned jointly by Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment. A 2023 gold season pass costs $224, a silver pass $159, with senior and children's discounts available. Single day admission to the park is $89 for adults; two- and three-day ticket packages are also available priced at $109 and $119, respectively. Discounts for seniors and kids are also available for ticket purchases.
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