In the U.S. and beyond, Dolly Parton is one of the most famous people around. Across generations, people know her as a perky, highly-stylized country singer, a legendary businesswoman, an actress and a TV personality.
But in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.? She’s a one-woman, hurricane-grade force. Her wildly successful amusement park, “Dollywood” and her nearby DreamMore Resort and Spa drive a lion’s share of the town’s economy — attracting about 3 million visitors annually.
And those hurricane winds show no sign of letting up. On Nov. 3, she launched her latest business, a second hotel for guests to stay in when they visit her theme park. It’s called The HeartSong Lodge & Resort, named after a 1994 song about the Smoky Mountain home where Parton grew up about 6 miles away.
Like many aspects of the Dollywood theme park, it’s meant to show guests a comfortable and fun time — but it’s also designed as a callback to simpler times and her rural roots. Parton herself described it to CNN as “high-fashion rustic.” The lobby has a four-story stone fireplace with a massive iron grate, but it also has plush velvet sofas for guests to fall into.
“I’m just a down-home person and all the people I grew up with are just likable, easygoing people,” she told CNN Travel. “When you grow up in a big family, you cater to one another, you cater to your neighbors, you cater to your friends, even on Sundays when the preacher comes over, you’re always kind of giving and we kinda have that spirit.”
Throughout the resort’s 302 rooms, there’s artwork depicting the changing seasons and the delights of rural life. Fireflies appear in the carpeting. A painting of Parton as a young girl chasing butterflies adorns the lobby, along with a giant screen with changing images to mirror the changing seasons. These are full of the natural wildlife, like bears, raccoons and owls, that populate the area. Many of the rooms come with balconies so guests can commune with nature.
The resort is designed to accommodate families of all sizes, with 12 different room and suite types. She’s made it a welcoming place for children, including books from her Imagination Library, the book-gifting program she established in 1995 to promote reading. (In honor of Parton’s illiterate father, the program gives over 2 million free books per month to children around the world.) HeartSong will also have a Camp DW program like the one at DreamMore which features kids’ activities throughout the resort.
The resort has an indoor and outdoor pool (with life guards) and a hot tub. In the winter months, guests can gather around a huge fire pit for singalongs. There are also smaller fire pits scattered around a large patio, and a wood-burning fire pit is set up for making s’mores, or as Parton calls them, “Roasties.”
Is it any wonder so many people adore this woman?
“Dolly is so popular today because she has become more than a singer/songwriter,” Ted Miller, vice chair of the Dollywood Foundation told the Washington Post. “While she has earned a place in history for being multitalented, she is truly loved for her kind and true heart.”
Room prices at the new HeartSong Lodge are slightly higher than at DreamMore, starting at $319 per night during the peak season. But prices do go down in the winter months when the theme park is closed.