PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. – Dolly Parton donned her best park ranger outfit to unveil Big Bear Mountain, Dollywood’s newest and longest roller coaster, opening in spring 2023.
The attraction, an expansion of Wildwood Grove, will bring thrills to an already popular, family-friendly area of the park. Big Bear Mountain is the largest single attraction investment in Dollywood history, with a cost of $ 25 million.
Dollywood revealed a virtual ride-along Friday that shows the roller coaster taking visitors through a cave and waterfalls. It’s the park’s first ride with on-board audio, including music and words from Ned Oakley, the fictional caretaker of Wildwood Grove mascot Benjamin Bear.
The journey with Oakley to find the elusive “Big Bear” will last nearly two minutes as it circles Wildwood Grove on 3,990 feet of track, reaching speeds up to 48 mph and a maximum elevation of 66 feet. It will include “three separate launches, multiple airtime hills, high-speed carousel turns and tunnels, including a pass behind a waterfall,” according to a news release.
“You know I’m not gonna get on that,” Dolly Parton said during a media event at Dollywood.
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Big Bear Mountain and the park’s existing Dragonflier roller coaster both require guests to be 39 inches tall, but the new attraction will raise the thrills by roughly 8 mph.
Both coasters were designed by Vekoma, which has also manufactured multiple rides for Disney parks, including Expedition Everest at Walt Disney World.
“I would say arguably, and with all humility, I believe that attraction will be up for the best new attraction in 2023 and will be known as one of the best of its kind in the world,” Pete Owens, vice president of marketing and public relations, previously told the USA TODAY Network about the coming coaster.
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Dollywood is investing half a billion dollars over the next 10 years in its quest to become a year-round, premier destination.
In addition to new rides, the park is building the 302-room HeartSong Lodge and Resort, set to open in fall 2023.
The resort is inspired by Parton’s love for the Great Smoky Mountains and will feature a mercantile store, restaurant and a grab-and-go food spot. It also will include a music room, activities for kids and family gathering spots.
Dollywood plans to open another resort in 2027.
“The Smokies are all about adventure and going exploring,” Parton said in a release on Big Bear Mountain. “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! Whether he’s out there or not, I’m sure they’ll find a lot of memories along the way that they’ll keep forever. ”