Dolly Parton is one of the world’s most endearing entertainers alive today. For that reason, a trip to her hometown in Sevier County Tennessee is an equally enjoyable experience. Although you can’t visit her birthplace, way out in the hills and hollers, you can visit her museum at Dollywood.
And it is as simple and charming as Dolly herself.
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Visiting Dolly Parton’s Hometown in Tennessee
Before you go to Dollywood, stop for a few minutes in Sevierville. As the county seat of Sevier County, it has the most beautiful courthouse. Walk around and smell the roses, check out a few local bakeries and restaurants. We particularly liked Graze Burgers for their fried green tomatoes and bourbon/banana cream pie. And, of course, take time to admire the statue of Dolly that her friends erected in her honor in 1987.
The next stop, of course, is Dollywood. Take time to look at a tiny log cabin near the entrance. That’s a replica of the house that Dolly was raised in, along with 11 brothers and sisters.
Dollywood has a lot of the great rides and attractions that make a day at a theme park so much fun. The park offers some great food (check out the 25 pound pie), indoor theatres with live entertainment, where occasionally Dolly will make an appearance. Tip: she loves being back home in the mountains at Christmas.
But here’s an attraction that you won’t find in many places —The Eagle Mountain Sanctuary. There, under the supervision of the American Eagle Foundation, you’ll be able to interact up close with American eagles and other birds of prey. Many of these birds have been injured and are unable to care for themselves in the wild, so they will live out their life here. But as baby eaglets are hatched, they will eventually be released in the wild.
Chasing Rainbows – the Dolly Parton Museum
Few theme parks offer such inspiration as the Chasing Rainbows Museum. This is where you learn about Dolly’s life. Remember her song “Coat of Many Colors” that also became a TV special and storybook?
You see Dolly’s hand-written lyrics scribbled on the back of a dry-cleaning receipt. Nearby is a darling little coat made of many scraps and colors, but it’s not the original.
That disappeared over the years, but when the song became a hit, Dolly Parton’s mother recreated it from memory.
The Chasing Rainbows Museum includes Dolly’s marching band uniform from Sevierville High School, her wedding dress when she married Carl Dean, and a quilt her Aunt Dora made from Dolly’s sparkling costumes. And of course, there are a lot of those costumes. And awards.
Outside is one of Dolly Parton’s tour buses. You’re allowed to go in and look around. We’re told that it could travel 2,000 miles on one tank of gas and that Dolly had a custom bath tub installed so that she could relax on the road.
But my favorite part of the museum is the little corner devoted to the Imagination Library.
Dolly Parton’s Charitable Giving
Even if you don’t care for Dolly Parton’s music or Dolly Parton’s many movies, you must surely appreciate her generosity and charitable giving. Through the Imagination Library, Dolly gives free books to children once a month from birth to five years old. She knows, like many of us do, that reading to a child early and often is one of the best things a parent can do for that baby.
The Imagination Library began by giving books to all children born in Sevier County. But now, the organization ships them all across the U.S., Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland. As of May 2019, the Imagination Library has given away 115 million books to children and their families. Audio and braille books are included in that number.
Every child in the state of Tennessee gets a free book once a month once they are registered. As I stood at the exhibit in the Dolly Parton museum, a woman standing beside me was smiling bigger than most around us. She told me that her grandson in Nashville gets books from Dolly Parton each month and how much she enjoys snuggling with him and reading those books.
And that made me smile. That’s why I love Dolly Parton.