Plan an amazing trip to Dollywood during your visit to the smokies with this Moms Guide to Dollywood. Find all the info you need about food, rides, shows and hours of family fun!
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Living just north of Knoxville puts us in super close proximity to the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Sevierville and yes, Dollywood. I confess, we are faithful season pass holders. We LOVE Dollywood. I even love it with six children, but I do have some tricks that keep me sane while we are there.
When we travel, we usually take my parents with us. They turn our family of eight into a party of ten, with an age range from four to sixty-three years old. The beautiful thing about Dollywood is there is something there for everyone from my parents, to my teens, to my toddler, and everyone in between.
I should also mention that we have two medically fragile kiddos, and Dollywood is still one of our top choices for a fun day out with the family.
Not only is Dollywood super fun, the Dollywood folks go out of their way to make sure the park has every convenience to make your trip a family success. However, there are still some things that you, mom, can do to make your trip even better! You need to be prepared. The kids are just there to have fun. Dad is just praying he lives through the day and no one gets lost. It’s a different story for us moms. We do the behind the scenes work to make sure everything runs smoothly, and we can never be too prepared.
So here it is, the real survival guide to Dollywood, the Mom’s Guide! (You can find Part 2 here when you are ready.)
Mom’s Guide to Dollywood – Planning
Dollywood Visit Planning Tools
Download the App – The Dollywood app tells you everything! With the app you can find your way around the park using the interactive map. You can create a profile to get alerts and even special offers. My favorite features of the app for planning purposes are the show schedule and ride times features. With these two features, you can plan your show stops with your route through the park. You can also check ride times on the same day of the week and time you will be visiting to see what typical wait times are.
Print a Map – Print a map from the website during your planning process. You can plan your route through the park to make sure you hit all the rides, shops and shows you want.
Tip: I use this printed map to orient myself to all of the bathroom facilities, first aid stations, and park offices. This helps when traveling with special needs children.
Plan Your Budget
Without some significant planning, a trip to Dollywood can be quite expensive. Setting a realistic budget for several things can help. You should know how much you can spend on tickets, parking, meals, souvenirs, travel and lodging if you are staying over night.
Ticket Prices for both the Dollywood Theme Park and Dolly’s Splash County Water Park can be found on the website. If you are planning to visit more than one day, purchasing a season pass will save you money. Also, if you plan to stay more than one day, purchasing one gold pass per family will give you free parking and savings on park purchases.
Souvenirs are an expense that can be limited or eliminated. We avoid souvenir purchases but allow our children to spend their own money if they choose.
The new Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa is now open and located on the Dollywood property. When you choose to stay at the resort, you are provided with complementary door to door shuttle to both the theme park and splash county. Staying at the resort also provides you with a free time saver pass for rides and early ride time on Saturdays.
If you choose to stay off of the Dollywood property, there are numerous accommodations in Pigeon Forge. You can find a listing at the Pigeon Forge Chamber of Commerce Website.
Our favorite hotel is the Park Tower Inn. It is an independently owned and operated hotel right in the middle of Pigeon Forge, which makes it easy to explore the beautiful sights and excitement of the area.
Plan Your Meals
Plan your Meals – I know I am a meal planning fanatic. I plan meals a month at a time. Trips to Dollywood are no exception. Kids will always be hungry, and if you don’t have a plan when you walk through the gate, you will either be miserable, starving or both.
Important Note: Dollywood does not allow outside food or drinks to be brought into the park. (*Exceptions are made for those with medical needs. Please call the park prior to arrival to make arrangements.)
You can check out a list of restaurants in the park on the Dollywood website. However, eating in the park does get pretty expensive, especially with a large family.
Here are a few options to save money on meals:
- Eat before you enter the park. There are lots of restaurants in pigeon forge and many of them open quite early, especially the pancake houses. If you are staying locally at a hotel that offers breakfast, eat there.
- Get a Gold Pass. If you purchase season passes, make one of them a gold pass. Gold passes offer a 20% discount on all purchases made in the park.
- Purchase the Refillable Mug. With each new park season, Dollywood offers a refillable mug that comes with unlimited refills of cold drinks for $0.99 and hot drinks for $1.99. For our large family, we purchase four and share. These mugs can be used every time you visit Dollywood in a particular season.
- Picnic Outside the Park. Though there are no designated picnic areas on the Dollywood property, you can leave the park and picnic beside your vehicle if you park close to a grassy area, or you can leave the parking lot and drive just down the road to a public park or even drive just a few miles to the intersection of Veterans Boulevard an Dolly Parton Parkway where there are several fast food restaurants.
Plan Your Day at Dollywood Theme Park
There is so much to do at Dollywood, I can’t imagine trying to see and do it all in one day. To get the most out of your visit, you should first decide if you want see shows, ride rides, sample foods, see special attractions, or all of the above.
I would start with shows since they have specific show times. You can always find a list of current shows and their daily times on the Dollywood website. Make a list of the shows you want to see, then use the map printed from the website to find the rides you are interested in close to the shows you want to see.
There are lots of things to think about when considering which rides to ride, and when to ride them. First, if you are at Dollywood on a busy day and you want to ride a lot of rides, I would definitely invest in a time saver pass. The time saver pass provides expedited entrances ten times throughout the day at your choice of TimeSaver attractions. Your combination of ten rides can include ten different TimeSaver attractions, or you can ride your favorite rides up to ten times. For theaters, enjoy unlimited daily show reservations.
You can find a detailed description of all of the Dollywood rides on the website. The description includes the height requirements and all restrictions.
Events and Attractions
Several times throughout each season, Dollywood hosts special events and attractions. Among our favorite are the Festival of Nations and the Harvest Celebration. Be sure to check the park calendar to make sure you visit during the event you would most like to see.
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