Tucked away in the beautiful Smoky Mountains is a place filled with southern charm and thrills for the whole family. Dollywood is the pride and joy of Pigeon Forge Tennessee and an amazing place to take your family. Opened in 1986 by Tennessee's most beloved daughter, Dolly Parton, Dollywood is 160 acres, home to 50 rides in addition to world-class entertainment and the best cinnamon bread I have had in my life.
We have lived in Charlotte for 20 years and never took the trip to visit Dollywood, what a mistake on our part. So you don’t make the same mistake, here’s everything you need to know to plan a trip to Dollywood.
How to get there and where to stay
Dollywood is an easy drive from the Charlotte area, it is just under 4 hours. If you are heading to Dollywood from an area that is not within driving distance, Knoxville is the closest airport, and then an hour drive to Pigeon Forge. We ended up renting a house but when we go back I will stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa. The perks of being attached to the park are worth it not to mention after a long day of playing at the park, you can treat yourself to the spa while your kids hang out in the game room or at Camp DW. Staying on property gives you access to free time saver passes, transportation to the parks, and more.
How to tackle the park
When we hit amusement parks, we always have a plan, it’s the Type A in me but I can’t just walk in and wing it. Dollywood is broken into 11 different themed areas each with its own vibe and activities. Here was our plan to see as much as we could during our visit.
Rivertown Junction: We started our day here, we wanted to ride the Smoky Mountain River Rampage and knew we would get wet (like really wet) and figured this would give us time to dry out as we explored the rest of the park. Don’t miss Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain home in this area.
Country Fair and The Village: We headed to this area next because it is a little tucked back in the park and we knew we could knock it out before we moved on. This area is home to Dizzy Disk, I was too chicken to go on this one but my husband and kids went and loved it! I hit up Lemon Twist and then made my kids go on the Flying Elephants with me. Country Fair had some of our favorite rides in the park and is where you will spend a good deal of time if you go with little ones.
Owens Farm: Here is where you can get the world-famous cinnamon bread, make sure you swing through here it's worth the wait! Owens Farm also has a nice little playground where you can sit for a few and let the kids burn off some energy.
Craftsman’s Valley: As you leave Owens Farm and head towards Craftsman’s Valley, take the time to visit the eagle sanctuary. This 30,000-square-foot aviary is home to eagles that are not able to be released back into the wild. If you’re a roller coaster fan, don’t miss The Tennessee Tornado, with speeds passing 70 MPH, this one is not for the faint of heart! My son and husband rode Blazing Fury, an indoor coaster, and loved it, this is one ride I regret not going on! It was by far their favorite. Make some time for shopping when you are in this area, there are beautiful locally made products for sale.
Wilderness Pass: This area was an easy one to get through quickly for us, we hit the Firechaser Express which is so fun! But if you don’t like coasters that go backward this is not one for you. Wilderness Pass is also home to Wild Eagle, the only wing coaster in the country. Reaching 21 stories high, Wild Eagle is a must for anyone who loves roller coasters.
Wildwood Grove and Timber Canyon: These adjoining areas are packed with rides and places to eat. Dragonflier, a super fast coaster, was my favorite ride! I would have ridden it 5 times if my family would have let me. Little ones will love Black Bear Cove where they can hop on the back of a black bear and ride through the backwoods. My teens were pretty bummed they were too big for it! Wildwood Grove is also home to Wildwood Creek, where kids can cool off in the creek. In Timber Canyon, we rode Whistle Punk Express, a cute coaster for little kids. I have one kiddo who is pretty roller coaster averse and this is the only kind he will ride, so we all pile in for some fun!
Jukebox Junction: Welcome to the ’50s! Jukebox Junction is a step back in time and the area is set up so authentically and the attention to detail is unmatched. You’ll see nods to Dolly’s hometown of Sevierville and some storefronts that are original from Sevierville’s downtown, We ended our day with burgers, fries, and milkshakes at Red’s Drive-In and then hit the Rockin’ Roadway for one last ride before we headed out. Rockin’ Roadway pops the rider into a Thunderbird, Cadillac, or Corvette for a ride back in time.
- If you don’t stay on property, it’s worth it to pay for the preferred parking and the time saver passes. Both really help you enjoy and maximize your time at the park.
- Get the refillable cup. There are ample drink machines throughout the park. For $15 for the day we were there it was worth it to be able to have access to Powerade and sodas. Dollywood does an excellent job of making ice water accessible throughout the park for free so you’ll have no problem finding cold water.
- Stay for the shows, I wish we had made more time for the shows. The ones we saw were excellent. The talent at Dollywood as you’d expect is top-notch.
- Go for the special events. We were there for the Smokey Mountain Summer Celebration. The park was decorated with colorful exhibits and photo spots. There was also a firework display that could be seen all over Pigeon Forge. In addition to summer, Dollywood has special events for Fall and Christmas.
- Check their YouTube channel, we were able to preview several of the rides ahead of time. This was helpful to give us an idea of what we were getting into with some of the roller coasters.
- My final tip, GO! Dollywood is not only fun for the whole family, it’s one of the few parks that I felt really made an effort to make sure there are plenty of places for little ones to stretch their legs after waiting in lines, there is plenty of shade and the staff is beyond accommodating.
Special note about Dollywood:
If you have a child with special needs, Dollywood is very special needs friendly. There is a calming room equipped with weighted blankets, sensory toys, and teepees. In addition, Dollywood has a social story that you can read with your child ahead of time to help prepare them for the park. Learn more at this link.
Tickets for Dollywood start at $84 for one day and $104 for a 2-day pass, children under 10 and adults over 61 qualify for discounted tickets as well as members of the military. You can add on tickets to Splash Country (the adjacent water park) as well.
Dollywood is worth the drive from Charlotte, your family is guaranteed a great time in a safe and family-friendly environment.
- My family and I were guests of Dollywood, all views and opinions expressed are my own.