Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, inside Dollywood theme park, the Chasing Rainbows Museum is a museum celebrating the life and accomplishments of park founder and country singer Dolly Parton. In 1961, Grover and Harry Robbins opened a small Civil War-themed amusement park in Pigeon Forge called Rebel Railroad.
Throughout the 1970s, the park changed management several times, eventually being purchased by Jack and Pete Herschend and rebranded as Silver Dollar City, a sister park to their existing branch in Branson, Missouri. Country singer Dolly Parton, a native of the Smoky Mountains area, expressed interest in the park in 1986, citing a desire to create jobs and give back to her community following her success. The park was reopened as Dollywood for the 1986 season as a joint venture between Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment.
Today, Dollywood is the most-visited ticketed attraction in the Smoky Mountains, hosting more than 2.5 million annual visitors. Since its opening in 1986, the park has doubled in size, now encompassing 150 acres of thrill rides, restaurants, theaters, museums, and traditional craft stores. The park is also the home of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, established in 1997. It serves as the anchor attraction for the 295-acre Dollywood amusement resort, which also includes the Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark, Dolly’s DreamMore Resort, and the Dixie Stampede dinner theater. In 2010, Dollywood was awarded with the Liseberg Applause Award, the highest international honor given to amusement parks.
Chasing Rainbows is the second museum in Dollywood’s history dedicated to Parton’s life and accomplishments. The first museum, Rags to Riches: The Dolly Parton Story, was located in the park’s Craftsman’s Valley area. In 2002, the museum was moved to the park’s Adventures in Imagination expansion, into the former Silver Screen Cafe building.
The museum holds a large collection of personal and professional memorabilia connected to Parton, chronicling her upbringing in the Smoky Mountains and her accomplishments in music and acting. Interactive exhibits give the museum a behind-the-scenes feel, in the hopes of inspiring visitors to follow their own goals and dreams.
Personal items from Parton’s childhood are displayed in several exhibits, including Tennessee Mountain Home, a replica of Parton’s family cabin, and Dolly’s Attic, which includes a video presentation of Parton discussing her favorite childhood possessions. Exhibits feature replicas of Parton’s famous Coat of Many Colors, which her mother made for her as a child, as well as the dolls that inspired her first song, “Little Tiny Tassletop.” Visitors can also tour recreations of local establishments from Parton’s upbringing, including a one-room schoolhouse and a church house displaying items that belonged to Parton’s grandfather, Reverend Jake Owens.
Reflections on Parton’s career span from her early songwriting achievements through her biggest industry awards and blockbuster films. Parton’s history of television performance is chronicled in several exhibits, from her first appearances on the Cas Walker Show at the age of 10 through her career-making turn on the Porter Wagoner Show, and later, her own variety show, Dolly. Costumes from these appearances are on display, as are costumes and memorabilia from her notable films, including 9 to 5, Steel Magnolias, and Straight Talk. A two-story case holds Parton’s Grammy Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, and other major songwriting awards presented to her throughout her career, as well as plaques commemorating her hit records. Exhibits such as Imaginary Library also detail Parton’s extensive history of philanthropy.
Several interactive exhibits allow visitors to engage with Parton directly through multimedia presentations. Visitors can watch collections of Parton’s interviews, performances, and other screen appearances or listen to a number of Parton’s most memorable hits at the Listening Station. The touch-screen exhibits Family and Friends and Ask Dolly also allow visitors to virtually “interview” Parton and those closest to her.
Outside the museum, visitors can climb aboard Parton’s former tour bus in the Dolly’s Home-on-Wheels exhibit. The 1994 Prevost coach, designed by Parton’s longtime road manager Don Warden, features handcrafted German leather seating and cherry wood cabinet and fixture detail. The three clocks aboard the bus are set to Los Angeles, Nashville, and Pigeon Forge time zones. Guests may bring their own cameras to take pictures aboard the bus or have park photographers take professional photos.
Nearby, at the Dreamsong Theater, visitors can see performances by a cast of several of Parton’s family members as part of the daily show My People, included with park admission. Parton’s brother Randy, sister Cassie, and other friends and family members perform songs related to Parton’s career, their family’s Christian background, and the Smoky Mountain area.
2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, Phone: 800-365-5996