Founded by Jack and Pete Herschend of Branson, Missouri, in its early years HFE was simply known as Herschend Enterprises. In the 1980s the name was changed to Silver Dollar City Inc., and in 2003 the company gained the current name. HFE is currently headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The company's mission is to "Create Memories Worth Repeating."
Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation obtained a long-term lease to operate Atlanta, Georgia's historic Stone Mountain Park (1998). They have introduced several themed attractions including an area named Crossroads, an 1870’s themed entertainment and craft village. In nearby Valdosta, Georgia HFE has recently purchased the Wild Adventures theme park and Splash Island Water Park. The reported purchase price was $34.5 million.
In November 2007 HFE acquired controlling interest in Newport Aquarium located in Newport, Kentucky and Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey. Both aquariums feature interactive encounters with marine life like sharks, sea turtles and seals. Other animals that are included range from penguins to hippopotamuses.
In 1986 Dolly Parton became a co-owner and the park's name was changed to "Dollywood", reflecting her involvement. At this point the Pigeon Forge park was branched off into a separate division of HFE called The Dollywood Company, which oversees all the properties that Dolly Parton has interest in. Along with the Herschend family Dolly Parton co-owns the Dixie Stampede dinner attraction chain, which has locations in Pigeon Forge (1988), Myrtle Beach (1992), and Branson (1995).
In 2001 a new water park was opened adjacent to the Dollywood theme park called "Dolly's Splash Country".
The 4,000 seat Grand Palace theatre opened in 1992 by the Herschends. The theatre was co-owned by singer Kenny Rogers. Along with Rogers headliners were Glen Campbell, Louise Mandrell and Barbara Mandrell. In 1994 HFE entered into a ten year contract with Radio City Entertainment. The Grand Palace Theatre would be the first to host the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the world famous Rockettes outside of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. The shows were successful and led to Radio City Entertainment launching tours of their shows in other cities throughout the United States.
HFE built the $10 million Grand Village shops with Kenny Rogers adjacent to The Grand Palace theatre in 1993. Ozark wares and English China filled the twenty six New Orleans themed shops. HFE later bought out entertainer Kenny Rogers and sold The Grand Palace in 1996 and The Grand Village in 2005.
American Adventures, a children’s theme park opened alongside White Water Atlanta. The Park was sold to Six Flags in 1999.
In 1994, The Dollywood Company constructed a large music theatre in Pigeon Forge called "Music Mansion". Headlined by James Rogers, the highly successful theatre was operated by HFE until 2001, when it was sold to Anita Bryant. In 2005 the theatre was sold again and converted to a WonderWorks location. A Music Mansion Theatre was planned for Myrtle Beach, but never materialized.
In 2003 the Dollywood Company opened a new Dixie Stampede location in Orlando, Florida along Interstate 4. The location operated until early 2008, when the property was sold to an adjacent outlet mall for an undisclosed amount. HFE has plans to build another Dixie Stampede in the region at some point, though specific plans have not been disclosed.
Due to unreliable peak season water access Ride The Ducks in Memphis closed in 2007.