KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Is it really Christmas without a trip to Dollywood? The Pigeon Forge theme park continues to be one the best in the country and was awarded four Golden Ticket Awards, more than any other park, on Thursday. The awards were given out during the National Roller Coaster Museum & Archives in Plainview, Texas. 

For the 13th consecutive year Dollywood was named as winner of the Best Christmas Event, remaining undefeated in the category. Other awards bestowed on the theme park include Best Kids’ Area, Most Beautiful Park and Best Guest Experience. In all, Dollywood earned finalist placement in nine total categories.

“As a little girl growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains, I always thought about how this was a place that folks from around the world would love to visit,” Dolly Parton said. “Ever since we opened Dollywood in 1986, people have told us how special this place is because of the friendly people and the beautiful mountains that God has blessed us with. We make sure to take all that beauty that surrounds us and bring it right down into the middle of the park.

“But I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish here, and these awards show that our guests think we’re doing the right thing. We love the awards, but of course we don’t do what we do just to win awards. We want families to come spend time with us, enjoy one another and hold on to those memories forever.” 

In 2019, Dollywood became the inaugural winner for Best Guest Experience of any theme park in the world. Dollywood earned its second-consecutive Best Guest Experience title this year, a nod to the park’s friendly and welcoming hosts, as well as its clean appearance and overall atmosphere. No awards were presented in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Dollywood’s Wildwood Grove won Best Kids’ Area for the second time in a row. The park won the award in 2019 after the area opened to the public for the first time.

Other Top 10 finishes for Dollywood include:

  • Best Park, second place;
  • Best Food, second place;
  • Best New Show (Sweet Summer Nights), third place;
  • Best Steel Coaster (Lightning Rod), seventh place;
  • Best Wood Coaster (Thunderhead), 10th place 

“Dollywood continues to demonstrate crowd-pleasing decisions,” Tim Baldwin, Golden Ticket Awards communications coordinator, said. “From the rides it adds to the entertainment it offers, the park positively charms guests who visit. Being a finalist in nine categories is evidence that Dollywood has grown from a regional destination to a national one, if not global. It is a joy to visit — and for those who know the amusement industry, it’s a treasure.”

Calculated from an international poll conducted by “Amusement Today,” the industry’s leading trade publication, the Golden Ticket Awards are the results of a detailed survey sent to a database of hundreds of experienced and well-traveled amusement park fans around the world in balanced geographical regions, industry journalists and ride manufacturers.

Eugene Naughton, president of The Dollywood Company, credits both his staff and the support of guests for Dollywood’s success

“We place a lot of focus on ensuring our guests have the best possible time when they are here,” Naughton said. “I’ve said it many times, but we have the friendliest employees in the entire industry — we won the Golden Ticket Award for Friendliest Park seven years in-a-row before the award ended.

“Additionally, both our landscaping and our house and grounds teams do a phenomenal job to ensure the park is clean and that our flowers and landscaping are always green and pristine! Both teams worked exponentially harder to deliver us through a very difficult 2020 season, so this award is a testament to their hard work.

“Not only are host friendliness and park cleanliness both considered as part of this particular award, but we’re also constantly evaluating our facilities to determine what we can do to provide the best visit for our guests. During this past off-season, our crews undertook a number of construction projects designed to enhance the guest experience. We widened pathways, created new sitting areas for some of our most popular restaurants and completed a number of other projects that kept our guests top-of-mind. We want to take care of all the small things, because those are the items that — many times — become the big things if not attended to and made right.”

Dollywood’s Harvest Festival featuring Great Pumpkin LumiNights takes place Sept. 24 through Oct. 30, while Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas begins Nov. 6 and runs through Jan. 2.