The Ultimate Guide To Dollywood
Dollywood, the most popular theme park destination in the southeast US!
Dollywood, one of the Nation’s most unique theme parks nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, features rides and shows but most importantly, the park celebrates and reflects the culture and heritage of the mountains!
Dollywood, named after its co-owner and country music superstar and famous entertainer Dolly Parton, is a large family entertainment park featuring a plethora of rides, live performances, dinner shows, resorts, and the Dollywood’s Splash Country, a waterpark located adjacent to Dollywood! However, what makes Dollywood unique are its southern charm and hospitality, the reflection of the mountain’s cultural heritage in its museums, folk music, and traditional craft demonstrations, and of course, the spectacular vistas of the Smoky Mountains!
Dollywood, located in the quaint mountain town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, started as a small tourist attraction in 1961, Rebel Railroad, featuring a train ride and enactment of a train robbery. Since its opening, the Park had three different names and owners – Rebel Railroad, Goldrush Junction, and Silver Dollar City, before it was bought by Dolly Parton and finally becoming the Dollywood in 1986. The Park is now owned and managed by Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment company, offering a fun, culturally rich, and family-friendly environment, with a motto of “Love Every Moment.”
Undeniably, Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg are the area’s mainstream attractions, but Dollywood is equally charming!
Most visitors come to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and are often caught up with the mainstream attractions, and are overwhelmed with the several family-friendly entertainment options in Gatlinburg. However, Dollywood is supremely fascinating and entertaining and is a destination on its own! I highly recommend visiting Dollywood on a trip to the Smokies or Gatlinburg and spending a couple of days exploring this massive Park, with several themed sections and each section featuring unique rides and shows!
Here is my ultimate guide to Dollywood, featuring essential trip-planning information, things to do in Dollywood, nearby attractions, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants near Dollywood!
Planning Your Trip To Dollywood
Flying into Knoxville, Tennessee, staying in one of Dollywood’s properties, spending a minimum of a couple of days to enjoy all of the Park and the fabulous dinner shows is the best way to get the most out of your Dollywood trip!
Best Time To Visit Dollywood: Dollywood is open from mid-March through the first week of January, and Dollywood’s Splash Country water park is open only during the summer months, mid-May through the first week of September. Summer and fall are the peak seasons in Dollywood, with the highest visitation occurring in the months of June, July, and October. Unquestionably, warm summer months are great for enjoying the Park, but summer and fall are also the busiest time in Dollywood, and you may experience extended wait times at several attractions and rides. So visiting Dollywood during the shoulder months, November, December, March, and April, is a great way to beat the crowd at the Park.
Time Required At Dollywood: While it’s possible to see the Park’s major highlights and a few popular shows in a day, I highly recommend spending at least a couple of days at Dollywood, which would give you enough time to explore the entire Park, see several live performances, and enjoy one of the spectacular dinner shows at the Dollywood. However, if you’re planning to visit Dollywood’s Splash Country water park, I would recommend adding an additional day to your Dollywood trip itinerary.
Getting To Dollywood: Dollywood, located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is pretty far from all the major international airports, making the regional and domestic airports the best choice to get to the Park. There’s no direct Amtrak train service to Pigeon Forge, but Greyhound offers bus services to Knoxville, Tennessee, which is just 35 miles from Dollywood.
- Flight: The McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), Knoxville, Tennessee, about 36 miles from Pigeon Forge, and the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), Asheville, North Carolina, around 98 miles from Pigeon Forge, are the closest major domestic airports to Dollywood. The international airports are pretty far from Dollywood and require a good amount of driving – Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), Charlotte, North Carolina, approximately 202 miles from Pigeon Forge, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 255 miles from Dollywood, Pigeon Forge.
- Train: There’re no direct Amtrak train services to Pigeon Forge, and the closest Amtrak station to Dollywood is located in Greenville, South Carolina, approximately 145 miles from Pigeon Forge.
- Bus: The closest Greyhound bus stop near Dollywood is located about 35 miles from Pigeon Forge in Knoxville, Tennessee, where you could rent a car and drive to the Park.
Transportation & Parking In Dollywood: Dollywood offers paid parking and tram service that picks you from the parking lot and takes you to the main entrance of the Park. If you’re staying in one of the Dollywood properties, you will have access to shuttles that would take you to the Park. However, if you’re staying in the town of Pigeon Forge, you could also leave your car at your hotel and take the Pigeon Forge Trolley to Dollywood. Once inside the Park, you mostly would have to walk to get to the different sections of the Park, however, Dollywood does offer a scenic old-fashioned train ride, Dollywood Express, offering a quick overview of the Park.
Ticket & Passes: Dollywood offers one, two, and three-day theme park passes and combo tickets providing access to both Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country water park. You would also need to buy additional tickets for the dinner shows, which I highly recommend attending on a trip to Dollywood. Tickets and passes for all Dollywood parks and dinner shows can be booked online on the Dollywood Website or bought in person upon arriving at the venue.
Lodging Options In Dollywood: While you could stay in a hotel in the town of Pigeon Forge, Dollywood also offers a few great lodging options, including a resort and a few mountain cabins. Here’re my top picks for resorts and hotels near Dollywood –
- Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa
- Dollywood’s Luxurious Smoky Mountain Cabins
- The Inn at Christmas Place
- Riverstone Resort & Spa
Dining Options In Dollywood: There’re several restaurants and cafes located inside the Park, including The Grill Mist – popularly known for their Cinnamon Bread, two great BBQ joints – Miss Lillian’s BBQ Corner & Hickory House BBQ, Crossroads Funnel Cakes for some delicious funnel cakes ever, and many others. However, Dollywood features two exceptional dining experiences that you mustn’t pass when visiting Dollywood, where you get to watch live performances while enjoying a four-course meal – Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show.
Things To Do In Dollywood
Dollywood features eleven themed sections, each featuring rides, shows, restaurants, and park stores!
Dollywood is organized into eleven themed sections – Showstreet, Adventures In Imagination, Rivertown Junction, Jukebox Junction, Country Fair, The Village, Owens Farm, Craftman’s Valley, Wilderness Pass, Wildwood Grove, and Timber Canyon. To help you plan your day at Dollywood, below, I have listed the significant highlights, rides, shows, and eateries in every section of Dollywood.
Showstreet: One of the oldest sections of the park, Showstreet is the front door of Dollywood, featuring a glamorous theatre, a shopping district, beautifully manicured gardens, and many eateries. Showstreet also offers several guest services like – Ride Accessibility and Measuring Center, Stroller and Wheelchair Rentals, and a lost and found center.
- Popular Attractions & Rides: Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame & Museum, dedicated to the pioneers of Southern gospel music, features several artifacts and exhibits related to the history of one of the most beloved genres of Christian music.
- Shows & Performances: Several concerts and annual events in – DP’s Celebrity Theater and Showstreet Palace Theater
- Restaurants: Front Porch Cafe, Spotlight Bakery, Showstreet Ice Cream, and Showstreet Snacks.
Adventures In Imagination: Right across the Showstreet, Adventures In Imagination is the only section in Dollywood without any rides, but still very popular amongst the fans of the country music superstar Dolly Parton as it features a museum and a theater showcasing Dolly Parton’s personal artifacts, family belongings, and see her family members perform in the Dreamsong Teater.
- Popular Attractions & Shows: Chasing Rainbows® Museum and Dolly’s Home-on-Wheels showcasing Dolly Patron’s closet and family belongings. Dreamsong Theater featuring “My People,” a live performance by several talented artists, including close relatives of Dolly Patron.
Rivertown Junction: Rivertown Junction, located right next to Showstree, is where the thrill ride fun begins in Dollywood! Rivertown Junction features a replica of Dolly Patron’s childhood home, a river rafting ride, and a few great eateries.
- Popular Attractions & Rides: Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home – Replica of Dolly Patron’s childhood home in Locust Ridge, Tennessee. Smoky Mountain River Rampage – a fund river rafting ride.
- Shows & Performances: Back Porch Theater featuring various artists and genres.
- Restaurants: The most popular restaurant in Dollywood and a Nationally acclaimed theme park restaurant, Aunt Granny’s Restaurant serving all you can eat buffet.
Jukebox Junction: Relive the past in Jukebox Junction, a reproduction of the Dolly Patron’s hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, from the 1950s, featuring a theater playing several favorite shows from the 50s, a ride featuring replicas of classic cars, and classical storefronts and diners.
- Popular Attractions & Rides: Lightning Rod, a lighting fast steel rollercoaster, and Rockin’ Roadway, a ride featuring replicas of antique cars.
- Shows & Performances: Pines Theater featuring classic shows and plays from the 1950s.
- Restaurants: Red’s Drive-In, a retro diner serving comfort food and delicious milkshakes.
Country Fair: Enjoy the charm of good old times carnivals at Dollywood’s Country Fair, located just past the Rivertown Junction, with several classic rides, games, and eateries.
- Popular Attractions & Rides: Enjoy three thrill rides – Demolition Derby, Sky Rider, and The Scrambler, and several family and kid-friendly rides, including Piggy Parade, The Amazing Flying Elephants, Busy Bees, and others.
- Restaurants: Grandstand Cafe serving quick meals, Midway Market for snacks, and Blue Ribbon Cones for some delicious ice cream.
The Village: Located right across the Country Fair section of the Park, The Village is popularly known for its Dollywood Express Train Ride and the Village Carousel.
- Popular Attractions & Rides: Dollywood Express Train Ride, a scenic 5 miles train ride, is a must-do in the Park, and the Village Carousel featuring several beautifully painted animals, is a fun ride for all age groups.
- Shows & Performances: The Heartsong Theater playing a short 20 minutes film, where Dolly Patron gives you a virtual tour of the Smoky Mountains, which comes into life with live performers, and special effects.
- Restaurants: Victoria’s Pizza, serving sandwiches, salads, and some great pizzas!
Owens Farm: Owens Farm, located just north of the Rivertown Junction, is the smallest section of Dollywood, featuring a small garden, a pool, and one of the most famous rides of Dollywood – Barnstormer, popularly known as the monster swing and
Craftman’s Valley: The Craftman’s Valley, located north of Owens Farm sections, features several rides, a couple of theaters, but most importantly, this section showcases several traditional craft demonstrations, which makes Dollywood stand out amongst other mainstream theme Parks of the Nation.
- Popular Attractions & Rides: Craft demonstrations and shopping at Valley Forge Blacksmith, Valley Wood Carvers, Old Flames Candles, and Smoky Creek Leather. Several thrill rides, including Blazing Fury, Daredevil Falls, and Tennessee Tornado.
- Shows & Performances: Valley Theater, an open-air music venue, and Wings of America Theater featuring live bird shows.
- Restaurants: Several dining options, including two popular BBQ joints – Hickory House BBQ & Miss Lillian’s BBQ Corner, Granny Ogle’s Ham’ n’ Beans, and Grist Mill & Cinnamon Bread, famous for their cinnamon bread.
Wilderness Pass: One of the most beloved sections of the Park, especially for thrill-seekers, the Wilderness Pass, located in the northmost corner of Dollywood, features several roller coasters and thrill rides.’
- Popular Attractions & Rides: Two of the most popular thrill rides in the Park – FireChaser Express & Wild Eagle. The Plaza at Wilderness Pass, an entertainment venue that is transformed into a Christmas wonderland in winter.
- Restaurants: SkyView Snacks serving snacks & beverages, Splinter’s Funnel Cakes for some of the best funnel cakes ever, and The Dog House for some excellent hot dogs.
Wildwood Grove: The newest section of the Park and the most visited section in Dollywood, Wildwood Grove is home to some of the newer rides and attractions, located just south of Wilderness Pass.
- Popular Attractions & Rides: The Wildwood Tree, a beautiful glowing tree decorated with several multi-colored butterflies. Several great rides, including The Dragonflier, The Mad Mockingbird, Great Tree Swing, Black Bear Trail, and others.
- Restaurants: Till & Harvest Food Hall and Sweets and Treats.
Timber Canyon: The last section of the Park, just past Wildwood Grove, features a logging community and is popularly known for its hair-raising rides.
- Popular Attractions & Rides: Thunderhead – a wooden roller coaster, Mystery Mine – a thrill ride, and Drop Line – a drop tower.
- Restaurants: Lumber Jack’s Pizza and Drop Line Dippin’ Dots
Dollywood’s Splash Country: Dollywood’s Splash Country is a sister attraction of Dollywood, located about two miles from the theme park. Dollywood’s Splash Country, open only during the peak summer months and features several waterslides, floats, water rides, wave pools, and water play areas. Dollywood’s Splash Country is one of the most sought-after water parks in the US, and if you love water parks, you must definitely visit Dollywood’s Splash Country on a trip to Dollywood!
Dollywood Dinner Shows: While not in the theme Park, I highly recommend attending one of the two spectacular dinner shows offered at Dollywood (1) Dolly Parton’s Stampede, an extravaganza of live performances, music, and comedy paired with a four-course meal, and (2) Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, enjoy a delicious four-course meal while watching Blackbeard, a legendary pirate leads his crew through a battle on a life-size ship.
Other Tennessee Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Dollywood, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to Dollywood. You can find other attractions in Tennessee in my Tennessee Travel Guide.
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