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Welcome to the Dollyverse: How to do Tennessee the Dolly Parton way

Here’s how to road trip through the twinkly Dollyverse.

By Zoey Goto

Nashville Dolly Parton mural
Nashville Dolly Parton mural (Image: TN Vacation)

“In my Tennessee mountain home, life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh” Dolly Parton fondly reminisced, in one of the many love-letter odes to her Tennessee birthplace. 

Few superstars have kept it real like Dolly. The entertainer could easily have pointed a long acrylic nail at pretty much anywhere on the map and shimmied off to live the high life. Instead, the songbird migrated just three hours down the highway, from her Sevierville birthplace in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee, to the bright lights of Nashville. And what did she do once she’d found fame and fortune? Well, she headed right on back to the Great Smoky Mountains, opening up a theme park that would attract millions of fans from across the globe and help support her local community.

Which is great news for fans of the majestic singer, as Tennessee’s Dollyverse provides an ideal road trip itinerary – taking in a rich patchwork of Dolly destinations that throw light on her fabulous rags-to-rhinestones life. Author and mega-fan Zoey Goto rounds up Tennessee’s can’t miss hotspots, from a freshly opened Dolly tribute hotel to sleeping overnight in her legendary tour bus. 

Dollywood during the holidays in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Dollywood during the holidays in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. (Image: TN Vacation)

Dollywood Theme Park, Pigeon Forge

No trip to Tennessee is complete without a visit to Dollywood, Dolly’s Disney-gone-country theme park in the foothills of the Smokies. Attracting over 3 million visitors a year, the beauty of Dollywood is that it offers something for everyone. 

Thrill seekers can loop-the-loop on vintage wooden rollercoasters, while those interested in the local Appalachian culture can watch fiddles being whittled up and musicians playing bluegrass. And Dolly fans will not leave disappointed, as her mythical story is sprinkled lavishly across the park; from a replica of the humble two-room cabin that she shared with 11 siblings, to the Chasing Rainbows Museum, jam packed with Dolly’s more-is-more costumes.

Dolly Parton's Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Dolly Parton’s Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. (Image: TN Vacation)

Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction, Pigeon Forge

Star-spangled costumes? Cowboys doing outrageous things on horseback? Audience members chasing live chickens? Tick, tick and tickety-tick! Dolly’s Stampede dinner and entertainment show has all the ingredients for a boot-stomping riot of a night out. Just a short drive from Dollywood, this Wild West extravaganza takes place in a 1000-seater arena. 

Arrive hungry and banish all thoughts of calorie counting, as the four-course meal includes a whole rotisserie chicken – eaten with your bare hands, just like little Dolly did as a kid. As you chow down on the feast, cowgirls leap through rings of fire, buffalos stampede and miniature piglets in tiny jackets race around the stadium. It’s the most weird and wonderful dinner attraction out there!

Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville, Tennessee. (Image: TN Vacation)

Dolly Parton Statue, Sevierville 

When Dolly graduated from Sevier County High School, she stood before her classmates and proudly declared that she was hotfooting it to Nashville to become a star. Somewhat predictably, her peers greeted this confession with ridicule. But dear Dolly had the last laugh, when she swiftly became country music’s most adored performer. 

And as the ultimate symbol of triumph over adversity, Dolly was later honoured with a life sized statue, situated smack bang in the centre of her hometown for all to see. Dolly’s father was so proud of the statue, at the dead of night he would sneak to wash the pigeon poop off Dolly’s shoulders.  

Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee.
Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee. (Image: TN Vacation)

RCA Studio B, Nashville 

Dolly devotees arriving in Nashville should head straight to RCA Studio B on Music Row. It’s here that the sparkly songstress laid down her ‘Coat of Many Colors’ track, recounting her humiliating childhood experience of being mocked for wearing a coat made from rags. 

Visitors can now book onto a tour of the studio and should keep their eyes peeled for a patch of wall where the bricks look a little different. This is the very spot where, on her first day at the studio, Dolly accidently ploughed her car right into the wall. “Bricks were still falling onto the hood of my car as I walked nonchalantly into the recording session, as if nothing bad had happened” the living legend recalled.

Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. (Image: TN Vacation)

The Ryman Auditorium, Nashville 

Book onto a tour of the Ryman and you’ll stand on the exact spot where 13-year-old Dolly fulfilled her childhood dreams, making her debut at the fabled Grand Ole Opry music show. Even as a schoolgirl, sassy Dolly knew how to make an entrance and was introduced by none other than Johnny Cash. 

“As I heard the band play my introduction, I lifted my head and looked up toward the lights. I smiled at the people in the balcony and then let ‘er rip” the Iron Butterfly later reminisced.

Graduate Hotel, Nashville.
Graduate Hotel, Nashville. (Image: TN Vacation)

Graduate Hotel, Nashville

This recently opened hotel pays homage to the queens of country music, so expect Minnie Pearl to welcome you at check-in, overlooked by a canvas of Loretta Lynn. But the main event here really is Ms Dolly Parton, who is love-bombed throughout the hotel’s kitschy cool interiors. 

Many of the Graduate Nashville’s 205 guest rooms have floral canopied beds framing portraits of Dolly in all her disco diva glory. But the hot ticket room for true fans has to be the 9-5 suite, which includes the Dollyism ‘it cost a lot of money to look this cheap’ written across the wall in hot pink neon. There’s also a mirror ball ceiling and a plush shag carpet, for a dose of granny-chic.

White Limozeen Bar and Restaurant, Nashville.
White Limozeen Bar and Restaurant, Nashville. (Image: TN Vacation)

White Limozeen Bar and Restaurant, Nashville

The Graduate Nashville continues its Dolly crush with its Parton themed White Limozeen rooftop pool and restaurant area. Named after Dolly’s 1990 anthem about a down-home country girl becoming the toast of Hollywood (sound familiar?) this ultra grammable hangout is like stepping into a pink prism. 

Pour yourself a cup of ambition – or better yet, request one of the many fuchsia-hued cocktails from the bar – and retreat under a frilly rose umbrella for some poolside downtime. Thankfully, the food at the White Limozeen restaurant is as on-point as the décor, with an indulgent menu that includes nods to Dolly’s OTT persona, including the millionaire’s twinkie, flecked with edible gold, no less!

Maggie Rose performs at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
Maggie Rose performs at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. (Image: TN Vacation)

Grand Ole Opry, Nashville

Dip your toe in the stream of country music, with a visit to the celebrated Grand Ole Opry show, now housed in a purpose-built new theatre. To celebrate 50 years of Opry membership, Dolly recently brought her A game to the stage, treating the audience to a medley of her greatest hits. 

If the stars align, your visit might just coincide with one of Dolly’s rare appearances onstage. Otherwise, take solace in listening to the young bucks who have taken Dolly’s musical baton and run with it.

Country Music Hall of Fame, Gold Record Wall.
Country Music Hall of Fame, Gold Record Wall. (Image: TN Vacation)

Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville

Discover the roots of Dolly’s beloved country music, at the Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville. This impressive museum, shaped to look like a musical note from above, is home to one of the world’s largest music research centres. 

Dolly was finally granted country music’s highest honour in 1999, when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Take a snap of her prestigious plaque, before admiring the bling-tastic stage wear of Porter Wagoner, Dolly’s former duet partner.

The Five Spot, Nashville.
The Five Spot, Nashville. (Image: TN Vacation)

The Five Spot, Nashville

Reminding everyone that she’s one of country music’s more enlightened stars, Dolly recently said, “Of course Black Lives Matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No!” This quote has since been immortalised in artist Kim Radford’s vibrant street mural, which can be found on the side of The Five Spot, a popular music venue in East Nashville.

Dollys bus at DreamMore Outside of bus.
Dollys bus at DreamMore Outside of bus. (Image: Zoey Goto)

Dolly’s Tour Bus Sleepover, DreamMore resort 

It doesn’t get more rock and roll than staying overnight on Dolly’s tour bus and waking up in her dinky, fuchsia bed. Parked at the front of Dolly’s DreamMore Resort in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, the bus toured Dolly and her entourage throughout the US for 15 years, becoming her home on wheels. Dolly was heavily involved with designing the interiors, sprinkled with rhinestones and there’s even some of her razzle dazzle stagewear still in the closet. 

At $10,000 for a two-night stay, it’s not cheap, but all profits go to Dolly’s Imagination Library charity and the experience also includes a meal cooked by her private chef, tickets to Dollywood and a tour of the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a hot pink jeep.

For further Tennessee trip ideas see: