By Rachel Hoeing
When looking for fun family excursions, I came across the idea of visiting Dollywood. My children (ages 13 and 11) and I met up with another friend of mine and her kids (ages 13, 11 and 6) for a weekend getaway. We stayed in Pigeon Forge and enjoyed two fun-filled days in Dollywood. Neither of us had been to the park previously and were very impressed with all it had to offer.
Depending upon your exact location within the Triad, you can reach Dollywood between 3 1/2 and 5 hours. I thought this would be a fabulous trip idea to add to our travel category, especially because it includes fun activities almost all year round!
I was highly impressed with the cleanliness of the park, as well as the attentiveness and friendliness of the employees. All of the employees were happy, enjoyable, and always willing to answer any questions we had. I honestly had no complaints!
Below are my tips as well as other facts that I thought might help your family have an enjoyable visit.
- Dollywood Theme Park is open about nine months out of the year and includes holiday festivities as well. Click here for dates and hours.
- You could possibly squish everything into a one-day park visit if you didn’t plan to see shows, and if there weren’t long lines, but I would recommend either planning to go for two days, or using the “Free after 3” deal. Basically, just visit Dollywood after 3 p.m. using your one-day admission ticket, and with that same ticket receive FREE admission to the park during the next operating day!
- We went to the park on both Saturday and Sunday during the month of July, and the lines were honestly not bad at all. Our kids were able to ride some of their favorites three and four times in a row with minimal wait!
- Visit the ticket page here to see all of the different options for passes and choose the one that is best for your family. Don’t forget to check the group rates and military discounts!
- Dollywood recently opened a Calming Room, which was created for the purpose of helping guests with special needs who may have a sensory overload. You can read more about this here.
- There is also a water park, Dollywood’s Splash Country, which is open from Mid-May through Labor Day. Click here for dates and hours. We did not visit the water park due to time restraints, but if you have been, please comment below with any tips for our readers.
- I would suggest purchasing the souvenir cup for your drinks. These are approximately $15 for one, $20 for two, and $5 for each additional cup purchased in the same transaction. I bought one cup and refilled it all day for $1 per refill. Great deal when you consider it was 90+ degrees and we needed to stay hydrated!
- They do not allow food or drink to be brought into the park.
- Most of the restaurants on the grounds provide free cups of ice water on these hot days.
- Aunt Granny’s, Miss Lillian’s Chicken House, Hickory House BBQ, Grandstand Café, Red’s Diner and Victoria’s Pizza all offer kid’s meals.
- Banana split funnel cakes. Enough said.
For the Little Ones
- When you first enter the park, veer to your left to visit the “measuring station.” This is an amazing time saver! Smaller children can be measured by a park host and receive a wristband that coordinates with the colors assigned to different rides. No waiting in ride lines only to find out your child was too small!
- You can find lots of great areas for kids to play throughout the park, like Granny’s Garden and Firehouse Fun Yard. This is a great way to keep them entertained if you have other group members on the bigger rides.
- Dollywood’s Baby Care Center offers a private feeding and diapering facility. Escape out of the heat into this climate-controlled environment which hosts a private nursing area as well as two baby changing stations and a restroom.
- You can also find restrooms with nursing stations throughout the park.
- The County Fair section of the park is perfect for smaller children. They can enjoy rides like the ferris wheel, a smaller roller coaster, swings, the classic Scrambler, flying elephant ride, and other classic amusement rides that are slower-paced and perfect for children who might not enjoy the bigger thrill rides.
- If you have kids (or adults) who enjoy thrill rides, I would suggest entering the park and taking the pathway to the far left. This path twists and turns through a beautiful shaded area, which leads to the left side of the park. Here is where you can begin your day in order to knock out some of the bigger thrill rides before the park gets too crowded.
- Two of our 11 and 13-year-olds were all about the thrill rides, which meant that these were their favorites: Thunderhead, Mystery Mine, Wild Eagle, Firechaser Express, and Tennessee Tornado.
- The other two 11 and 13-year-olds liked some of the roller coasters, but said that Mystery Mine and Tennessee Tornado were a little “too much” for them. So, save those two for the kids who don’t get woozy or scared too easily.
- The six-year-old enjoyed Firechaser Express but did not venture onto other coasters!
- Rides that were great for all of us (including myself, a mom who is a scaredy-cat combined with a weak stomach) were Lumberjack lifts, River Battle, Daredevil Falls, Smokey Mountain River Rampage, Rockin Roadway, and Dollywood Express.
- River Battle looks like a tame little attraction, which it is, but fair warning – you will probably get soaked! This ride involves spectator opportunities where you can squirt those on the rafts. It is a lot of fun for both parties, but like I said, if you’ve got a lot of spectators ready to squirt – watch out!
- Dizzy Disk is in the County Fair area, which is geared toward younger kids, but this is a hidden thrill ride! My daughter loved it, while one of her friends who had enjoyed most of the other thrill rides felt really nauseous after riding. Just a warning to be careful on this one if you have a weak stomach.
- There were quite a few rides we never made it to because we ran out of time, but you can see the full list with descriptions here. *The newest ride “Lightning Rod” was closed during our visit.
- Be sure to plan ahead if you would like to see any of the shows while you are at the park. The park hosts will give you a schedule as soon as you enter, so check times and coordinate with your schedule before the day gets away from you.
- Dolly’s Nights of Many Colors, is an amazing synchronized fireworks show that your family will be sure to love. They will also enjoy Lite the Nite, which is a dance party prior to the fireworks!
- Each season features different headline shows, so be sure to check them out on the website.
- If you visit before August 7th, 2016, be sure to check out Chris Perondi’s Stunt DogExperience. This is something that all ages can enjoy!
If you’ve been to Dollywood, be sure to share your tips below. And if you’ve never been, I hope this post will offer you some ideas for a fabulous family getaway!