Dollywood in Pigeon Forge Tennessee - 20 Tips for Vacation Planning
Going to Dollywood? Here I bring you 20 Tips for a successfully happy family vacation at Dollywood Amusement Park. Dollywood Park has been growing in size and coolness factor for years now, and currently has so many adventures to offer for its price that it's an absolute family bargain.
There's four full-sized roller coasters including one wooden monster, plenty of other thrill-rides like Timber Tower and a Dizzy Disk, all the great old carnival rides -a nice big carousel and ferris wheel, Scrambler, spinning cups, 'waltzing' swings and all the rest of the old favorites. During the hot months they open the water rides at Dollywood Park, and getting wet on a hot summer day is definitely part of the fun.
Sept. 13, 2010: Once again in 2010 Dollywood wins the amusement industry's Golden Ticket Awards for Best Shows and Best Christmas Event!
Dollywood Amusement Park Thinks Big
But Dollywood keeps getting better, offering innovative new adventures like a zip lining course (at additional cost) and a huge, multi-level rope challenge course which offers challenges for every skill level (and cop-out options as well). These hands-on, interactive, physically involved approaches to entertainment attractions at Dollywood Amusement Park sets it apart from other amusement parks as an excellent family vacation destination.
Even without this exciting new real-life-adventures aspect Dollywood brings to the Pigeon Forge park, it still stands amongst the best amusement parks in the country for its variety of rides and attractions, very good setting, theme and park maintenance, family-friendliness, great food, multiple daily live performances and shopping. Dollywood is effectively 150 acres of fun-filled, good memory-making experiences, perfect for the family, couples, children of all ages, and also fun for older visitors.
But to get the most out of your Dollywood visit, let me help you with some of your family vacation planning. My family has been visiting the park yearly for about a decade now, and I've got some useful Dollywood vacation planning tips that will help make sure your visit to Dollywood is a truly enjoyable experience for you.
Dollywood Amusement Park Hours of Operation
Dollywood opens every year in the early spring, and the season lasts generally through New Year's Day. Open daily during the summer, the park is closed on various days in the spring in fall, so be sure to check the yearly Dollywood calendar before making trip plans.
Splash Country has a shortened season and is open during the warm months only.
Hours of operation for Dollywood vary by season as well, staying open later during the summer and Christmas season, opening later during the colder months, and offering extended weekend hours as well. Check the Dollywood calendar to confirm operating hours during your visit.
Take a Real Train Ride at Dollywood
Dollywood Q2Q Q-bot Compatible Rides and Attractions
- Mystery Mine
- Timber Tower
- Smoky Mountain River Rampage
- Imagination Cinema
- Sky Rider
- Dizzy Disk
- River Battle
- Tennessee Tornado
- Shows at Celebrity Theatre
- Shows at Showstreet Palace
- Shows at Pines Theatre
Ride the Rides at Dollywood Amusement Park
Dizzy Disk at Dollywood
River Rampage Family Water Ride at Dollywood - You Will Get Wet!
Daredevil Falls at Dollywood - She Gets Wet Too!
20 Tips for a Great Dollywood Visit
Dollywood is big. 150 acres big. And Dollywood is still growing, expanding the park and adding new rides, features and areas to the park every year lately. And they still have plenty of room to grow.
So any Dollywood vacation planning tips would have to start with:
- Wear Comfortable Shoes and Seasonally-Appropriate Clothes. That said, a few of the rides feature water and like the sign says -you will get wet! Wear quick drying clothes and shoes during the warmer months, exceptionally comfortable sandals or light-weight sneakers are ideal.
- Wear Sunscreen, Hats and/or Sunglasses on Bright Sunny Days. This is especially true for children and those who burn easily, or those whose eyes suffer in the harsh summer glare. Much of the park is shady, and much of it isn't.
- Whatever Time of the Year You Visit, Weekdays Will Generally Be Less Busy. Aim for the center of the week, but remember to confirm which days the park will be open in the spring, fall and winter.
- Consider the Value in Choosing Multi-Day Admission Tickets, Season Passes or Upgraded Gold Passes. The prices are surprisingly affordable. Also keep in mind that if you arrive later in the day (after 3:00 in the summer, after 6:00 in late fall and December for the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival) you get free admission to the park for the next full day.
- Strongly Consider Renting a Q2Q Q-Bot. A Q-bot unit will let you reserve several of the park's more popular and busy rides, saving you long waits in line. This is such a great feature to utilize, with a Q-bot the fun never has to stop. It really lets you get the most out of your Dollywood visit. The price is very reasonable at just $15.00 for the first person, and $5.00 extra for each member of your party up to six per Q2Q reservation. Keep in mind, you really only need to pay to cover as many people in your group as will be reserving spots on the rides. Also keep in mind that not all the Dollywood rides and attractions are available for Q2Q reservation. A list of current 2010 Q2Q reservable rides is shown to the right.
- If You Do Rent a Q2Q, Reserve a Show Before Leaving Guest Services. They will help you to do so. Q-Bot show reservations are available for shows playing at the larger of the Dollywood theatres, and grant you preferred seating as long as you arrive more than five minutes before the show is scheduled to begin. Again, you save time by not having to arrive early to get good seating, and it's even nicer since you don't just get good seating, you get some of the best seats in the house!
- Strongly Consider Renting a Stroller. Even if you don't have a baby. They fit toddler-sized children as well, giving the little ones a break from walking, and can also hold any bags you carry, or other items like wet shoes. The rental fee is $10.00, or $15.00 if you'd prefer a double-seater, and keep in mind they are only available on a first come, first served basis. On busy days when the supply runs short, you can try checking back later in the afternoon after early arrivers have returned their's before leaving. Stroller Parking areas are provided throughout the park, but bring a clip-on doodad of some sort to easily identify which one is your's.
- Bring Quarters for Locker Rentals and Cash for the Carnival Games. There's also an arcade. It and most of the games are tucked away in their own section of the Country Fair area, so if you wish to avoid them entirely, you can. Lockers are located by the stroller rentals at the front of the park, and additional lockers for rent are located at rides where they might be needed such as Adventure Mountain. More or less supervised cubby-holes are available at other rides, but you are responsible for your own items. Each time you use a locker you will need a dollar in quarters to retrieve the key to open it again.
- Go Right for Fun, Left for High-Thrill. When you enter the park, traffic is herded to the right by the setup of the buildings. This takes you down Show Street from which you can access stroller rentals and Q2Q rentals. Then you can start your day off continuing in that direction working your way up to the more high-thrill rides. Or you can turn around and go left. A bit of a trek awaits you, including a rather long and winding section that's rather barren and not yet fully built-up. And if it's hot out -be forewarned, there's no shade in Timber Canyon. It's not a great choice for young children who have been standing in lines all morning already and just want the fun to begin. But it's the right choice for those seeking the roller coasters. Go west, young man. Okay I don't know if it is actually west, but it is left. There in you will find the wooden Thunderhead Rollercoaster, followed by haunting Mystery Mine, and through Wilderness Pass you'll encounter the twisting terror of Tennessee Tornado and as you dip back around into the far end of Craftsman's Valley you'll find Blazing Fury just waiting to finish you off. So right or left, you pick.
- To Beat the Heat, Plan for a Cooling Late Afternoon at Dollywood. Watch a show or two. They're pretty good. Better yet, make sure it's a long show at one of the indoor, air-conditioned theatres such as Showstreet Palace, Celebrity Theatre or the Pines, preferred seating for all of which can be reserved on your Q2Q. If shows just aren't your thing, be sure to ride a water ride or two to cool off. Late afternoon is also a great time to take in a relaxing sit-down meal and choose your early dinner from a wide range of food and dining options available in the park.
- Save Money By Sharing Street Snacks and Purchasing Refillable Drink Cups. Sure the cup isn't worth the price, but the savings you get on discounted refills are, especially if you have a Gold Pass and will be returning. Buy sharable street food to snack on, like pork-rinds, funnel cakes, kettle corn, sugared nuts and plenty more.
- Plan Ahead Where In the Park to Eat At. Dollywood Park has a lot of great dining choices. Several different snack choices are featured throughout the park, as well as a selection of counter-service food stands with outdoor seating and some good choices for indoor sit-down meals as well. You can get street-fair food like chili-dogs and hamburgers at the Grandstand Cafe, along with chicken tenders making it a great choice for picky young eaters or a quick snack. Other choices throughout the park include plenty of barbecue, Philly cheesesteaks at Market Square, Papaw's Flatbread, Victoria's Pizza House, and a couple of home-style buffets offering a nice selection for everybody and air conditioned indoor seating. So if you have picky eaters amongst your group, or you just want to get the most out of your Smoky Mountain Dollywood experience, browse the many good dining choices available at Dollywood at their website, and plan your day at Dollywood accordingly so as to be nearby your preferred eatery at about the time your crew will start demanding some serious sustenance.
- Benches Are Provided, Use Them. There are plenty of benches scattered all throughout the park, as well as planters and such where one can perch. Be sure to take a break now and then. A break goes nice with one of Dollywood's many tasty street food offerings, and it gives you a chance to catch your breath, relax and soak in the atmosphere. Designated separate smoking areas are provided throughout the park.
- Water Is Provided As Well, Use It, Drink It, Wear It. Especially important in the hotter summer months is that you stay hydrated. Food stands throughout the park big enough to have it offer a cup of ice water complimentary upon request, and bottled water is for sale throughout Dollywood. To cool off frequently walk slowly through the cooling moisture of any of the many mist sprayers, or get wet on one of Dollywood's conveniently spread out water rides.
- Let Your Kids Cool Off at Dreamland Forest Play Area. When our children were smaller, they used to love spending time playing at this get-wet playground area with a multi-level adventure 'treehouse'. Dollywood has wisely installed misting fountains throughout the park, but the water squirting fun in Dreamland Forest lets the kids really cool off and let it all out. Plenty of surrounding seating is provided for parents. Grab yourself a snack, find a seat and send the kids off to play.
- Shop On Your Way Out of The Park, Not Your Way In. Most of the shopping is located towards the front of the park, and up into Craftsman's Valley. As your day at Dollywood begins to wind down, send the older kids off to ride the roller coasters a few last times while you check out the Hillside General Store and blacksmith's shop, see Glass Works and the hand-blown offerings of the glass factory, browse through Dolly's Closet and the White Water Nature Shop. And don't forget to stop by the Sweet Shop and/or Spotlight Bakery for a treat. When you're done shopping, meet up with the rest of your party inside the Dollywood Emporium, the official exit for the park. (Where you will find more shopping.)
- Put Off Playing any Carnival Games Until Later in the Day. Cause who wants to carry around a purple, 6-foot tall stuffed glitter-horsey all day?
- Skip the Tram and Walk Back to Your Car. I know, crazy right? Who feels like walking even more after a day spent at an amusement park. You definitely have a point. But if you arrived early enough to be parked in the first parking lot, and if you're leaving the park at a time when the line for the tram is backed up 100 yards long, and if your group is feeling up to it, walking back to your car will probably get you there a lot quicker. That said, there are plenty of trams, and Dollywood does a good job keeping the line moving and getting people back to their cars as quickly and smoothly as possible. I would only make this suggestion under the above stated circumstances. Cause otherwise you might end up stuck halfway back to your car with three crying children unable to take one step further, cursing me out for telling you to the "Skip the Tram!"
- Don't Skip the Tram, It's a Long Walk Back and Your Feet Are Already Going to Be Throbbing.Yeah, don't do that. The line moves pretty quickly as the trams come and go, and as they say, another one will be along in a few moments.
- Plan on Doing Nothing for the Night. While the many attractions of Pigeon Forge await you, let them lure you out another evening. A relaxing evening at your hotel, maybe a dip in the hot tub, and an early bedtime is what you'll want after a full day of fun at Dollywood! Keeping this in mind, you may also want to plan your day prior and after accordingly. You may not wish to take that 5-mile hike in the Smoky Mountains the day after Dollywood.
Number 1, Single Most Important, Best Dollywood Vacation Tip
Relax and have fun. Dollywood is perfect for family, couples or group vacations because it offers something to indulge the child in all of us. Dollywood is a place to escape the responsibilities of the daily grind and have some fun. Let your inner child out and be your kids' best buddy as you spend your vacation time at Dollywood taking in all the adventures the park has to offer.
Laugh, play, challenge yourself. Scream in thrilling terror, then laugh some more. Shop to your heart's content, and enjoy great music, entertaining performances, and lots of yummy food. Get wet. Squirt somebody. This is Dollywood. Laugh some more.
And don't forget to take pictures!
Bonus Tip - Buy Music CD's to Bring Out the Musical Side of a Dollywood Vacation
Article Copyright 2010 Anesidora and not to be copied or reprinted without author permission.
Additional photo courtesy of Public Domain, Creative Commons and Dollywood Amusement Park under the Fair Use act.
Opinions expressed herein are based on personal experience and thorough research. Author is not affiliated with Dollywood in any way.
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