Photo: The Dollywood Company

The Luxurious New Heartsong Lodge and Resort: An Ode to Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountains

Tennessee Theme Parks Epic Stays
by Katie Riley Dec 4, 2023

Singer, songwriter, philanthropist — it seems like there’s nothing Dolly Parton can’t do. The same can be said of her success with her theme park, Dollywood, and resort, DreamMore Resort and Spa. Now the singer has further expanded her hospitality empire with the opening of her latest hotel, Heartsong Lodge and Resort.

A longtime Dolly fan, I jumped at the chance to stay at the brand-new resort just two weeks after opening. I couldn’t wait to experience the hotel’s live music, nightly singalongs, festive decorations, and, of course, visit the park during its annual Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. After my stay at Heartsong Lodge, like seemingly everyone else who travels these parts, I left believing there’s nothing Dolly can’t do.

Dollywood’s second act

heartsong resort dollywood aeral

Photo: The Dollywood Company

Since opening in 1986, Dollywood has attracted millions of visitors each year to its 165-acre theme park. Located just 10 miles from Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited National Park in America, Dollywood is ideally situated for exploring a number of nearby attractions. When Dollywood opened DreamMore Resort and Spa in 2015, the resort fulfilled a longtime need for luxury accommodations in the area.

“After the success of Dollywood’s first resort, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, there was both need and demand for a second full-service resort property for guests who want to spend multiple days in our parks and region,” says Kevin Osborn, general manager at Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge and Resort.

heartsong resort dollywood pool

Photo: The Dollywood Company

Since opening on November 6, Heartsong Lodge and Resort has sold out every weekend, an indicator that travelers are more than ready for Dollywood’s second act. Though Dollywood Resorts and Parks is co-owned with the Herschend family, who oversee much of the business aspects of the organization, Parton is still referred to as the “Dreamer in Chief” and her vision is foremost when designing guest experiences.

“Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge and Resort takes me back to when I was a little girl exploring my beautiful Smoky Mountains,” Parton said recently at the resort’s opening. “I have so many fond memories of the days when us kids spent hours playing in the creek and chasing fireflies after supper. I hope families who come to my HeartSong Lodge discover what makes these mountains so special to me, while creating their own precious memories.”

Named for her 1994 hit, “HeartSong,” Heartsong Resort and Lodge is meant to evoke the Smoky Mountain experience of Dolly’s upbringing. Details throughout the property pay homage to the area’s natural beauty. In the lobby, a screen behind the front desk plays a rotating display of seasonal images, such as falling leaves or a rushing mountain brook. Flying buttresses in the soaring atrium are designed to look like illuminated fireflies, and the two-story stone fireplace features an iron screen with an image of Dolly as a girl sitting on a tree branch.

Smoky Mountain elegance

heartsong resort dollywood heartsong lodge exterior

Photo: The Dollywood Company

A dramatic stone and timber Porte cochere greets guests upon arrival at Heartsong Resort and Lodge. The spacious reception features a large portrait of Dolly playing guitar, while the soaring 4,000-square-foot atrium has a two-story fireplace with multiple seating areas designed for gathering. The adjacent Acoustic Lobby is an intimate pair of rooms showcasing Dolly memorabilia. Leather banquettes line plum-hued walls framed with some of Dolly’s handwritten lyrics, guitars, and performance costumes, and a guitar-shaped chandelier hangs overhead.

Outside the atrium, the massive Heartsong Fire Pit is the setting for nightly s’mores and singalongs. A half-dozen smaller fire pits with seating are also spread throughout the property. The Cove, the resort’s lagoon-style outdoor pool with waterfall and splash pad, also has a large heated outdoor hot tub that remains open year-round. A nature playground, walking trails and lawn games provide plenty of outdoor entertainment.

Photo: Heartsong Lodge and Resort

Heartsong Lodge has a large indoor pool with a lifeguard, and an area called The Porch where movies are shown every night. While I visited, The Porch screened holiday classics and had puzzles and board games set up daily. Camp DW offers weekly programming for kids like crafts, games, and pool parties during the summer months.

The Heartsong Events Center has 26,000-square-feet of meeting space for conventions and special events, while the resort’s compact fitness center offers state-of-the-art equipment and seasonal fitness activities. Honeysuckle and Pine Storied Goods and Mercantile sells a selection of Dolly-themed merchandise, in addition to locally made gift items.

Accommodations at Heartsong Lodge

heartsong resort dollywood king room

Photo: The Dollywood Company

Rooms at Heartsong Lodge carry the Smoky Mountain theme throughout, and include details that evoke the natural setting. Bathrooms have barn-style sliding doors, warm wood flooring, and backlit mirrors illuminated with fireflies, leaves, and flowers. Room décor is done in tones of gray, brown, and green, with natural accents like leather and wood headboards, and lantern-style lighting. Every room has murals of the forest, waterfalls, and wildlife of the surrounding area. Rather than a traditional sound machine, guest rooms come with EZValo white noise machines with eight different sounds that can be mixed by volume to create a symphony of sounds like rain, crackling fires, and chirping birds while you sleep.

Standard king bed rooms also have queen sleeper beds and walk-in showers, while larger rooms have two queen beds and a shower/tub combination. Family suites are spacious, with a king bedroom and twin bunks. Suites have seating areas in addition to king or double queen bedrooms, bunk areas and sleeper sofas. More than half the guest rooms at Heartsong Lodge have balconies, some with Smoky Mountain views.

Food and drink at Heartsong Lodge

ember elm at heartsong resort dollywood

Photo: The Dollywood Company

The resort’s signature restaurant, Ember and Elm, serves elevated versions of Dolly’s favorite comfort foods. I loved the sticky short ribs, Brussels sprouts, and Springer Farms fried chicken, but the cast iron skillet meals, like the tender short rib over polenta with broccolini, are where the menu really shines. Dollywood resorts are known for country breakfasts, and guests lined up each morning to try hearty menu items like the ham biscuit Benedict and the hash brown skillet. The restaurant makes a great choice for a stick-to-your-ribs meal before heading out to the park.

For quick-service dining, The Songbird Market Grab and Go Eatery serves Starbucks coffee products, breakfast items, sandwiches, and made-to-order pizzas. Guests can even order some of Dollywood’s famous cinnamon bread, usually only available in the theme park.

The casual restaurant High Note serves craft cocktails, beer, wine, and flatbreads and sandwiches. During the warmer months, High Note offers an open-air dining experience adjacent to the outdoor pool complex.

Visiting Dollywood

To get the full Dollywood experience, one must visit the theme park. Guests at Heartsong Lodge receive complimentary transportation to the theme park on the resort’s trolley, early entry on Saturday mornings, and TimeSaver Passes for priority boarding on some park rides.

Though Dollywood has a reputation for its thrilling coasters and award-winning food, it is truly a park for music lovers. With seven theaters and outdoor stages, there is a show or theatrical performance happening at any time, making it a great theme park for visitors of all ages. TripAdvisor voted Dollywood the #1 Theme Park in America in 2022.

Dollywood is open mid-March through early January, and I was lucky to be there during the park’s annual Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. During the festival, Dollywood is decorated with more than six million lights, dozens of Christmas trees, and has a full schedule of holiday performances, including a nightly drone show.

The magic of Dollywood at Heartsong Lodge

After a day at the park eating my weight in cinnamon bread and listening to some fantastic live music, I headed back to Heartsong Lodge. Walking into the pine-cone draped lobby to a blazing fire, it’s hard not to feel a sense of nostalgia. Couples gathered in the atrium to listen to an acoustic guitar player sing classics by John Denver. Outdoors by the fire pit, hotel employees laid the fixings for s’mores in anticipation of the nightly singalong.

If it all sounds a bit quaint, that’s because it is. The magic of Dollywood and Heartsong Lodge is that before you know it, you’re relaxing on a rocking chair, breathing in the mountain air, and envisioning a simpler time. It’s a Smoky Mountain reverie brought to life, exactly as the Dreamer in Chief imagined.

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