Winter getaway: HeartSong, an ode to the Smokies, joins DreamMore as second lodge at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Photo by Anne Braly / Floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby allow beautiful views of the surrounding woodlands at HeartSong Lodge & Resort at Dollywood.
Photo by Anne Braly / Floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby allow beautiful views of the surrounding woodlands at HeartSong Lodge & Resort at Dollywood.

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — From the moment you walk in the front door of the new HeartSong Lodge & Resort at Dollywood, you discover that Dolly Parton left a piece of herself behind. The beloved entertainer co-owns the lodge, the theme park and several other properties that have helped turn her native Sevier County into a mecca for fans and other thrill seekers.

(READ MORE: Winter getaway: Sandestin, the standout destination in Florida's South Walton County, promises blissful relaxation)

At HeartSong, guests are greeted with a large framed photo nestled against a floor-to-ceiling rock wall of the legendary musician/actress at her guitar. To the left, Acoustic Lobby welcomes guests to enjoy a cocktail or a bite to eat surrounded by glass cases housing pieces of Parton's life — her signature guitars, clothes and even the original copy of "9 to 5," which she wrote in pencil on pieces of notebook paper.

It's a welcoming approach to a relaxing experience in Parton's world, one that in many aspects mirrors the nearby DreamMore Resort and Spa, the original retreat. Guests will find food and comfort, activities for the kids and lots of Southern charm with "honey's," "darlin's" and "bless your hearts" echoing through the air.

But there's a difference when it comes to the energy and the atmosphere that courses through the 302-room HeartSong Lodge and its 300-room predecessor.

"DreamMore Resort's design was a tribute to Dolly — a place inspired by the global entertainment icon herself," Jennifer Webb, senior publicist at Dollywood Parks & Resorts, said. "HeartSong Lodge's design was influenced by the Smoky Mountains, the place that inspires Dolly the most."

(READ MORE: Dollywood's new coaster, lodge helping Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain dreams come true)

HeartSong Lodge touts itself as a lodge that blurs the lines between indoors and outdoors.

The lobby with its soaring ceiling offers a space with lots of seating to simply relax or read a book, a large fireplace of mountain stone to warm your bones on a cold day and a massive wall of windows that brings nature inside.

The design includes guest rooms in soft mossy green with natural wood accents, many of which have balconies that immerse families in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains just outside the door.

"We hope guests who stay here will feel inspired and connected to nature, which has been incorporated into every detail, blurring the line between outdoors and in," Webb says.

(READ MORE: You don't have to drive across the country to live like Dolly Parton on tour)

 

EAT YOUR FILL

There's never been any question about how much food one can consume at the park or the resorts. And at HeartSong Lodge, things are no different. The deliciousness continues right down to that famous cinnamon bread you can pick up at Songbird Market or order for your morning's in-room coffee via room service.

Songbird also has a good selection of coffees and teas, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, pizza, ice cream and even a chicken potpie. There's limited seating in Songbird, but ample room in the lobby or the Acoustic Lobby.

The main restaurant, Ember & Elm, serves sit-down breakfasts and dinners and mouthwatering feasts for your mountain retreat.

Begin your day with a big Southern breakfast — a tall stack of flapjacks; gravy and biscuits; country ham biscuit Benedict made with Benton's country ham; or perhaps a more healthful avocado toast.

Begin your evening repast with a stop in High Note bar and a glass of wine or hand-crafted cocktail and maybe an appetizer such as the Pork Rind Nachos. High Note also has a serving window to the outside pool area for drink and food orders poolside.

The parade of deliciousness continues with dinner at Ember & Elm and its menu that showcases the fare that makes overnight stays at the resorts of Dollywood so memorable.

Go light with soup and salad, or indulge in a Sweet Tea-Brined Pork Chop with collard greens and apple-cranberry compote, one of several entrees served in a cast-iron skillet. The bone-in rib-eye garnished with a dollop of chimichurri butter is a mouthwatering piece of beef large enough for sharing and served with naturally sweet fire-roasted carrots and hot crispy potato wedges.

DURING THE OFF SEASON

Though the hotels are busiest when Dollywood is open, the fun goes on during the few weeks the park is closed to prepare for the 2024 festival season.

A lot of area attractions remain open in Pigeon Forge, and room packages that include some of the attractions, such as Pink Jeep Tours, Dolly Parton's Stampede, Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud and Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show are available.

But you don't have to go outside the property for entertainment. Enroll the kids in Camp DW where they can watch movies and create crafts. There's family game time and Imagination Library time, too.

The outdoor pool with its big central waterfall is beautiful but closed during the off season. But pack your suit and jump in the large heated indoor pool — it's in the same area as the well-equipped fitness center where you can work off all the calories as memories of that cinnamon bread linger. At night, enjoy sitting around the campfire for a round of s'mores or, in inclement weather, an indoor version of the same.

Lodge guests also may visit DreamMore Resort's dining options, The Spa at DreamMore Resort or purchase tickets to DreamMore Resort's Winter Music Series on weekends in January and February. Entertainers include Ronnie McDowell, Jan. 26-27; Aaron Tippin, Feb. 2-3; Bryan White, Feb. 9-10; T. Graham Brown, Feb. 16-17; and Linda Davis, Feb. 23-24.

Don't forget to pick up a calendar of weekly events at the front desk when you check in. There's always something going on.

DOLLYWOOD'S 2024 SEASON

The dates of festivals at Dollywood this year are ready to add to your calendar. And being a guest at HeartSong Lodge and DreamMore Resort has benefits that include discount tickets and specials at the park.

"We are excited to be able to provide families with another incredible lodging option here at Dollywood Parks & Resorts," says general manager Kevin Osborn, HeartSong Lodge general manager. "We know that 2024 is going to allow us to continue to create memorable moments for our guests."

Here's how the 2024 season is shaping up.

— March 8: Season pass holder preview day.

— March 9-April 14: I Will Always Love You Music Festival.

— April 19-June 9: Dollywood Flowers and Food Festival.

— June 15-Aug. 11: Dollywood Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration.

— Sept. 9-Oct. 28: Dollywood's Harvest Festival.

— Nov. 1-Jan. 5: Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas.

For reservations at HeartSong Lodge and DreamMore Resort or for tickets to the park, visit dollywood.com.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or annebraly.com.

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