All Things Dollywood
We recently spent the day at Dollywood and had the best time! Nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains with gorgeous views there’s something for everyone. From live music to rides, and of course all the food, everyone from young to old will be entertained. We visited in early October 2020, so this was all during the pandemic with Dollywood’s guidelines in place.
When we visited, Dollywood was operating at a limited capacity, which meant a limited number of tickets were sold each day. So be sure to purchase your tickets online ahead of time. In fact we saw a car in front of us that had waited forever in traffic, only to get to the parking window and be told there were no more available tickets for the day. When you arrive to the parking window they ask everyone if you already have your tickets purchased. If you are visiting during peak season and you plan to ride the large roller coasters, go ahead and add on the timesaver passes, with rides operating at half capacity, you may be waiting a while. They do only sell a limited number of timesaver passes for each day, so you may want to purchase those in advance as well.
We stayed in Gatlinburg for 3 nights, not far from the park. Dollywood also has the DreamMore Resort next to the park which is a great place to stay and includes a timesaver pass for 10 rides. There are many nearby resorts and cabins to stay in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Dollywood is also not far from Knoxville if you wanted to make a quick daytrip.
Depending on the time of day, and time of year you visit, you may have a little traffic if you are coming in from Dollywood Ln. from the main highway, one thing we learned on this past trip, thanks to Waze is to go past the main entrance and go down to Jayell Road and enter around the back. It is more of a circle but it saves time from sitting in stand still traffic with kids!
Regular parking is $15 and they do offer a tram from the parking lot to the main entrance. The preferred parking is $30 and the lot is located next to a separate entrance. The day we went the preferred parking was with the extra money. There were longer lines for the tram for arriving and leaving the park, so it was nice to be able to save time and walk directly in. We were also able to leave jackets and other items that we needed later in the day in our car and walk back without losing much time.
Things to Know
You do have to wear a mask. Everyone over the age of 3 does have to wear a mask around the park, with the exception of water rides and when eating. They also have mask free zones set up around the park where you can sit in a designated area and take your mask off. I loved how the Wildwood Grove area also had charging stations in the mask free zone.
The ride times may be a little longer because the rides are operating at half capacity. So while a ride may have six seats if there is a single, only one person will ride. And on other rides they usually leave a row open in between parties. This is why if visiting on a busy day, the timesaver pass is worth the extra money.
One thing to do when you arrive to save time is to go the child height stand. Someone will measure your child and give them a wrist band showing which rides than ride for the day.
Guests are allowed to bring in one bottle of water per person, so we always bring in backpack with a few waters to save time and money.
Where to Eat
There are many great places to eat around from the park, from pizza to home cooked fried chicken. Again depending on the time of year you visit, if it’s a peak day, be prepared for long lines for food. Some of the lines can take up to 30 minutes. We ate lunch at the Front Porch Cafe and it was great. They did have a 45 minutes wait, but we were able to put our name on the list and go ride a ride and come back, and actually sit down and enjoy a meal.
I would also recommend Red’s Drive in for burgers and milkshakes, and Aunt Granny’s restaurant for home cooking. Don’t forget to try the cinnamon bread at the Grist Mill, it’s soo good!
Another great option is to grab your food an find a spot in front of one of the stage to enjoy the live music. There is great music all around the park. And if you visit on Sunday there’s even a church service.
If you are visiting in October you will see over 15,000 pumpkins around the park, even a pumpkin weighing over 1500 lbs. After dark the park becomes lit up with jack-o-lanterns and fog to make an extra fun experience.
Dollywood is a great park for everyone. It’s also clean, which is a big deal for me, and feels safe with security walking around the park. Most of all enjoy your day and have fun!