My family just got back from our third trip to Dollywood, and we had a BLAST! It was such a sweet trip, and I learned EVEN MORE about the do’s and don’ts of this very special theme park in the Great Smoky Mountains. So here are all of my tips and tricks compiled together in… A Mom’s Guide to Dollywood:
Where to Stay… The Dollywood DreamMore Resort
There are many reasons why you should stay at the Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa to make your Dollywood park experience even better, but here are just a few of them:
- Each Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa guest gets a TimeSaver pass that allows you 5 expedited rides per day per person in Dollywood. That means no waiting in line all day to ride the best rides. You get to go to the front of the pack! How to use your TimeSavers… at check in, you will get an orange TimeSaver card with the days you are staying at DreamMore. Bring this card to ride on the trolley and show it to the hostesses at the TimeSaver station before you enter the park. They will give each person in your party a wristband with a bar code. When you use the TimeSaver line at a ride, they scan your wristband. Each day each person gets 5 time saver rides per day.
- DreamMore Resort guests get to ride the trolley from the resort to the park and get dropped off at the front entrance.
- There is a story time every night that staff reads to the kids in the barn behind the resort from Dolly’s Imagination Library.
- There are s’mores every night around a fire pit.
- There is a beautiful indoor pool and outdoor pool.
- The Resort has a fun arcade.
- The Resort has a playground with slides and a climbing structure.
- The Resort has Starbucks Coffee! Plus it has a grab and go restaurant, DM Pantry, and a sit down buffet restaurant, Song and Hearth.
First To-Do BEFORE Getting to the Park… 1. Download the App
Download the Dollywood App before you go to the park. There is great information in the app like rides, ride wait times, the show schedule, dining, closest bathrooms, shops, and MORE! I also like a paper map, and you can pick those up in the park at the entrance.
First 2 To-Do’s When in the Park… 1. Get a Stroller and 2. Get Your Kids Measured
Dollywood sits on over 165 acres on the side of a mountain. In other words, you will walk a lot, sometimes up-hill, and you do not want to be carrying children if you don’t have to. So I recommend strongly that you either bring a stroller, or rent one from Dollywood which is super easy! We rented a double stroller when my kids were 4 and 6 years old, and I can tell you I am so glad we did! There is stroller parking at every ride and attraction, and it was very easy to get around in.
There is a measuring station right next to the stroller rental, which is to the left when you enter the park. The benefit of getting the little ones measured is they give them a colored armband and now you know exactly how tall they are and know what rides they can ride. SIDE NOTE :: If your child is not going to ride any rides, you can skip this to-do. The line can get long at the beginning of the day and if they are not going to ride anything then they don’t need to get an armband.
Best Areas for Kids
1. Wildwood Grove
This entire area was made for kids! Most kids (and adults) can ride all of the rides in this area. Have an older child that wants more of a thrill ride? Try the Dragonflier–one of my kids’ favorite rides! There are also character meet and greets. My daughter loved meeting Flit and Flutter and both my kids loved meeting the Benjamin Bear. Need a chill moment? Visit Hidden Hollow— a large indoor room with lots of play structures (think Let’s Play) with lots of cushioned benches for tired parents.
2. The Village
One of our family’s favorite areas of the park was The Village. This area includes the Dollywood Express Train Depot, which is a really fun attraction for ALL riders (babies, pregnant, etc.). The train engines are from the 1940’s, and is a 20 minute ride through the park and in the mountain. Be sure to check the times of departure in the app.
We also loved the The Village Carousel. It’s a great ride for all ages. And need a good show to watch in the afternoon when the kids (and adults!) are looking sleepy? The Heartsong Theater has a sweet movie of Dolly talking about her childhood in the mountains.
3. Country Fair
The Country Fair was one of our families’ favorites because we love playing the carnival games! They even have some games that are ‘throw till you win’ or ‘someone playing always wins’ so you don’t feel like you are wasting money. Our kids won some pretty cute stuffed animals (as if we don’t have enough already–haha!). This area also has some smaller rides that are great for kids and adults.
4. Craftsman’s Valley
If you have a boy or girl who loves firemen, you have to ride the Blazing Fury. The height requirement is 42″, so they have to be a little older to ride it. Our kids really enjoyed this indoor roller coaster and watching the animatronic characters with the sudden drops of the coaster.
Pan for gold, dip your own candles, watch iron being made into unique pieces, see glass blowing, and enjoy other crafters work their craft in Craftsman’s Valley. Also unique to this area—the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, a 30,000-square-foot aviary of the country’s largest presentation of non-releasable bald eagles. Attend the Wings of America Show and watch birds fly over your head in this fun and educational outdoor show located right next door to the sanctuary.
What to Bring to the Park
Here is a quick list of things to consider bringing to the park…
- Stroller (Or rent one as I mentioned above.)
- Hand Sanitizer (Every ride we went on provided hand sanitizer, but it never hurts to have more!)
- Change of clothes (This is theme park 101, but there are some water rides your family might want to ride. There are a couple of places for kids to jump around in water like in Wildwood Grove in the summer. A change of clothes is always a good idea!)
- Stroller hook (Someone suggested this to me, and now I have to share it with you… it’s much easier to use The Mommy Hook than putting everything in the basket under the stroller. It’s like a big karabiner that will hold even the largest mom bag).
- Money (This one’s kind of obvious, but you’ll need money for food and games. And believe me… you will want to eat the food because it is so yummy, and the smell alone will have you salivating.)
- Comfortable shoes (Wear comfortable shoes as you will do lots of walking!)
A Few Other of Tips
Refillable Mug: If you are going to the park for more than one day or even just for one entire day, buy the refillable mug. The Daily Refill Mugs are $10.99 + tax if you buy three or more, $13.99 if you buy two, $16.99 if you buy one. The mugs include unlimited refills on the day you buy it, and $1.99 for fountain drink refills and $2.99 for frozen refills for the rest of the 2023 season.
Season Passes: Season Passholders get tons of deals, and not just getting in the park for the entire season. With the 2023 Silver Season Pass you two bring-a-friend free tickets, $5 discount on one day tickets, and access to all of the Dollywood festivals throughout the season. To read more about the amazing Season Pass Benefits, visit the Dollywood website.
Food: The food is so good in Dollywood you’ll want to plan a meal there to enjoy the southern fare. One famous food item they are known for… Cinnamon Bread at The Grist Mill (you can also buy it at the Spotlight Bakery and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa!). SIDE NOTE… If the food lines are long (there was an hour wait at most food places one of the days we went!) then grab a snack at one of the small shops and plan on an early dinner. We ended up getting a turkey wrap, protein pack, and some popcorn at the big candy store on Show Street. There are pre-packaged sandwiches, snacks, and bottled drinks at several of the shops around the park.
One of our favorite meals at Dollywood was at Aunt Granny’s, named by USA Today as one of the top-10 best theme park restaurants in the country. It features an all-you-can-eat family style meal, and it was one of the best southern-style meals we ate all weekend.
Shows: There are fantastic indoor and outdoor shows at Dollywood. Some shows are in large open amphitheaters and some pop up under a small awning around the park. Stop and enjoy the southern gospel or country music when hear it!
A Few Things to Plan for Your Trip to Pigeon Forge…
While you’re in Pigeon Forge, you should check out some dinner shows! Dolly owns a few dinner shows that include the Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud, and the Pirates Voyage Dinner and Show. Our family has been to all 3, and we enjoyed them all!
If you love water shows with lots of action, then you’ll love the Pirates Voyage. In this show you will see aerial tricks, fire throwing, flips in the air, a sea lion named ‘Salty’, and So. Much. More! Our kids were mesmerized and loved every minute of it. The dinner was also great–creamy vegetable soup, southern fried chicken, ham, biscuit, potato, corn, and peach turnover for dessert. Get your tickets to Pirate’s Voyage early because it is very popular!
There are so many things to do in Pigeon Forge, but the dinner shows are a special treat!