Tennessee… The New Temporary Thrill Capital of The World?

Move over Universal Orlando’s Citywalk… step aside Disney Springs…  Tennessee reopens amusement parks in an effort to attract pent-up thrill seekers to a new destination for white-knuckle adventure! On Friday, May 15th, 2020, Tennessee officially announced that it would lift capacity restrictions on shops and restaurants in an effort to move forward with reopening large non-contact attractions, including theme/amusement parks, water parks and theatres. These constraints are set to be raised as soon as this week.

This is certainly exciting news, as Tennessee is home to several parks, including Anakeesta, Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, Adrenaline Park, Dollywood, The Island, NASCAR SpeedPark, Sir Goony’s Family Fun Center, Wild Bear Falls, and Nashville Shores.

Comprised in the next phase of reopening are racetracks and auditoriums, as well as recreational parks and large museums. However, restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people will continue for the foreseeable future. Regardless, this seems to be a small step in the right direction.

“We’re able to allow restaurants and retail businesses to operate at greater capacity and large attractions to open in a safe and thoughtful way,” stated Gov. Bill Lee. In addition, the Gov also encouraged the continuance of safety measures such as face coverings and diligent hand washing.

Tennessee Reopening Amusement Parks = Tennessee Tourism for the Win

The news is undoubtedly a much-needed relief for the state, as tourism is the staple of its economy. As Tennessee reopens, its leaders are tasked with making sure the reopening process goes smoothly. Naturally, safety is of the utmost importance. City and county leaders are meeting on a daily basis with the hopes that guests will come if they’re comfortable.

“We do want you to come and enjoy the mountains,” Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said. “We want you to know that we’re going to do everything we can to make your stay here enjoyable and safe.”

Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, said they resumed advertisements in nine media markets as of Monday.

Tennessee’s decision to re-open is guided by standards provided by the White House, as reported cases of COVID-19 illnesses and hospitalizations continue to head in a downward trajectory.

Tennessee reportedly tests 2 per cent of its population per month for the novel coronavirus.

Davidson County (where Nashville is located), has reported a total of 3,795 coronavirus cases and 41 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data.

Tennessee Reopening Amusement Parks… Dollywood Waits In The Wings

While theme/amusement parks are being given the thumbs-up to reopen, it is up to the discretion of each individual location to decide whether or not it should resume operations at this time. For example, Anakeesta (a theme park located in Gatlinburg, TN) has officially confirmed that it will reopen this week. On the other hand, Tennessee’s biggest ticketed tourist attraction, Dollywood, has yet to set a date in stone.

Pete Owens, a spokesperson for Dollywood, shared: “We are excited and are working on our reopening plans.”

The theme park (jointly owned by entertainer Dolly Patron and Herschend Family Entertainment), located in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, hosts nearly

3 million guests in a typical season – mid-March to the Christmas holiday, was originally scheduled to reopen in March but delayed its season opener due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Current season passes were extended through June 2021.

According to the Dollyworld’s latest update, as of April 29th, 2020:
Dollywood Parks & DreamMore Resort Temporarily Closed. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins are Currently Open. We continue to consult with medical experts and monitor the situation to determine when it may be safe to reopen Dollywood and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. The safety of our employees and guests remains our highest priority. Dollywood will continue to watch the conditions within our region, consult with our medical experts and follow CDC guidelines to determine the re-opening date for the parks and resort. We will continue to communicate any additional changes as they occur.

Virtual Thrills

In addition to rides, Dollywood also features traditional crafts and music of the Smoky Mountain area. The park hosts a number of concerts and musical events each year, including appearances by Dolly Parton and her family as well as other national and local musical acts. It is also the site of the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.

Owens did not provide a reopening date for the park, but said, “We will announce our intentions soon.”

Until then, we’ll just have to rely on living vicariously through our iPhones. Thanks to the theme park’s blog, which recently provided fans with a little video treat of its roller coasters, this plan of attack isn’t half-bad. That’s right, now you can take a virtual roller coaster ride without leaving home.

So, whether you’re missing the Mystery Mine, the Tennessee Tornado, Dragon Flier, Firechaser Express, White Eagle, Lightening Rod, Thunderhead…  Dollywood’s blog has enough twists and turns (and drops) to keep white-knuckle thrill ride enthusiasts busy for quite some time.

According to the blog, “It’s best experienced on a device other than a desktop—a device like a smartphone or tablet you can move to “look” around as you ride.”

So, are you excited to see Tennessee reopening amusement parks?