Year by Year History of Your Favorite Parks!


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Originally posted: 12/8/2002

Last updated: 3/14/2004



 By Chris Cowan

 Rebel Railroad

1961 Rebel Railroad, an “entertainment” park opens on the site in 1961. It includes a steam train, a general store, a blacksmith shop and a saloon.

 Goldrush Junction

1970 – The park is purchased by the Cleveland Browns football organization and renamed Goldrush Junction.  Between 1970 and 1975, several attractions are added, including: children’s rides, an outdoor theater, a sawmill, a grist mill, a woodshop, a church, a campground, and log cabins.


1976 – Goldrush Junction is purchased by Herschend Enterprises and renamed Goldrush.

 Silver Dollar City

1977 – The park is renamed Silver Dollar City.

1980 – A rides area is added to the park.

1985 Dolly Parton purchases a share of the park.  A “groundbreaking” ceremony for Dollywood is held in August.


1986Dollywood opens May, 1986.  Rivertown Junction, a new theme area, is added.  This expansion includes Smoky Mountain Rampage (a white water rafting ride), “Aunt Granny’s” restaurant and a 450 seat theater.

1987 Daydream Ridge, another new theme area, is added.  This expansion includes the Mountain Slidewinder (a water toboggan ride), the Daydream Diner, and a children's area with a playground, toy shop and candy store.

1988 Celebrity Theatre, which has 1739 seats, is added.

1989 Thunder Express, a steel mine train roller coaster, is added.  This ride was acquired from Six Flags Over Mid-America (St. Louis), where it had been in operation as the River King Mine Train since 1971.

1990 Imagination Station, a children's interactive learning area, is added. This is the first year for the park’s “Smokey Mountain Christmas” annual event.

1991 – The Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, an outdoor aviary, is added along with the “Wings of America” theater.  Also new this year was the Valley Theater (400 seats) in the Craftman’s Valley theme area.

1992 Showstreet, a $6.5 million dollar new theme area, is added.  This expansion includes a working radio station, the Showstreet Palace Theatre (1000 seats), a bakery, the Backstage Restaurant and the Friendship Gardens, which features over 35,000 flowers and plants.

1993 – The Fun Country area of the park is renamed Country Fair and includes the Wonder Wheel (ferris wheel), the Tennessee Twister (tilt-a-whirl) and the Twist & Shout (scrambler).

1994 – The Heartsong Theatre is added.

1995 Jukebox Junction, a $6 million dollar new theme area, is added. This expansion includes the Rockin’ Roadway (miniature car driving ride), the Pines Theatre (1000 seats) and Red’s Diner.

1996 Dollywood Boulevard, an $8 million dollar new theme area, is added.  This expansion includes Thunder Road (a $5 million dollar movie simulator ride), and a movie-themed restaurant.

1997 – No new rides added.

1998 Daredevil Falls, a shoot-the-chute ride, is added.  Thunder Express is removed at the end of the season and is eventually sold to Magic Springs and Crystal Falls in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where it opened in 2002 as Big Bad John.

1999 – The Tennessee Tornado, an $8 million dollar Arrow steel looping roller coaster, is added in the area vacated by Thunder Express.  The Southern Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame and Museum is also added.  Attendance this year is 2.3 million.

2000 Dreamland Forest, a $5 million dollar, 15,000 square foot interactive area for children, is added.  This section includes a treehouse, bee-hive, water-play area called Bullfrog Creek and the Ranger’s Cookhouse restaurant.

2001 Dolly’s Splash Country, a $20 million dollar, 25-acre water park opens.  It is not inside the main park and admission is not included with a Dollywood ticket.  Also this year, Dollywood welcomes its 30 millionth visitor on July 31, 2001.  Attendance this year is 2 million.

2002 Adventures in Imagination, a $10 million dollar new theme area, is added.  This section includes the Smoky Mountain Wilderness Adventure, a 4-D movie simulator ride, Chasing Rainbows, an interactive museum featuring Dolly Parton memorabilia and a fully operational donut factory. From 1986 through 2002, $110 million dollars is invested in the park.


The Mountain Slidewinder and parts of Dreamland Forest are closed after a fire causes damages to both areas on May 16th.


Thunderhead Gap, a new theme area, is added.

Thunderhead (GCI wooden roller coaster with Millennium Flyer trains) is added.


You Can Help!

Do you save park brochures?  We need scans of the front of park brochures to include with each park's timeline.  Any year, any park!  All are appreciated.  Please email us if you'd like to contribute.

Accepting Timelines

Have you created a timeline for a theme park that is not currently on our site?  We'd love to add it!  You'll be given full credit and if you have a site, we'd be happy to link to it in the timeline and on our Links page.  For further details, contact us.


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