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I love a good amusement park. I consider myself something of a guru. But, until recently, I had never been to Dollywood theme park. So, when my husband found himself with vacation time to blow, we packed up our car and headed for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. 

 

 

 

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Dollywood Park in Tennessee is one of my top five family friendly amusement parks, and that's an honor I don't give out lightly! Check out why Dollywood is perfect for preschoolers to Grandparents. From rides at Dollywood to other things to do at Dollywood. Where is Dollywood? It's where you want to go!

 

 

Where is Dollywood?

 

Pigeon Forge is, I don't know how to put this, a weird city. There is a replica of the Titanic, a giant ferris wheel, and several wax museums. And that's before you even get out of the main tourist areas!

 

 

Picture of Alpine Mountain Coaster

Although Pigeon Forge wasn't our target destination, we did manage to squeak in a visit to one of Pigeon Forge's legendary alpine mountain coasters. You can't tell in the picture, but I was pretty scared!

 

 

When to Go to Dollywood

 

I'm a travel agent, so I like to think I know a thing or two about planning trips. But, sometimes even an agent's best guess is going to be wrong. I told my husband "Let's go on a Wednesday, there shouldn't be any crowds. It's a Wednesday in October." Well, guess what? Tickets to Dollywood sold out that day! I almost missed getting our Dollywood tickets. There were less than 100 tickets left for the day when I bought them the Sunday before. So, if you're going, especially during these times of reduced capacity, buy your tickets in advance! (She says in her most authoritative travel agent voice). 

 

 

Dollywood Fast Pass Tickets: Which Timesaver to Buy

 

Because Dollywood was at capacity, my husband and I decided to splurge for a timesaver pass. Dollywood offers two types of timesavers, a 10 ride pass, and an unlimited pass. I have to say, I think their system is one of the best. As much as I like theme parks, I'm a total chicken. I won't ride anything that goes upside down or is otherwise too crazy. So, we bought my husband an unlimited pass and I got the 10 ride pass. It was a perfect solution for us, he could ride all those nutty rides while I scoped out the snacks. The only downside to the 10 ride pass, besides only being able to use it 10 times, is that you only get 1 ride each on The Lightning Rod, the Dragonflier and the Firechaser Express.

 

 

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Dollywood Cinnamon Bread

 

 

Photo of Grist Mill

Get there early and get the apple butter for dipping the cinnamon bread in.

 

 

Our first stop, after checking in and picking up our timesavers, of course, was the Grist Mill. Dollywood is famous for the Grist Mill cinnamon bread and it did not disappoint. I would eat it every day for the rest of my life if I could. 

 

 

Picture of Cinnamon Bread

This picture doesn't do it justice, it was so good!

 

 

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Rides at Dollywood

 

After we were sufficiently sugared up, we hit the Village and County Fair section of the park, where I encountered my first and only disappointment. You see, Dollywood has a historic coal-powered train called the Dollywood Express, and it had a 2 HOUR wait to ride it! I couldn't believe it! 

The social distancing measures only allowed the use of every other car. So, if the Dollywood Express is a must ride for you, get there early! We couldn't do that wait so we decided to pass. The rest of the County Fair area features classic kid and chicken friendly attractions like bumper cars, swings, and other rides that spin. 

My husband's bummer moment arrived when he discovered  Lightning Rod was already closed for the season. I wasn't going to ride it. I have a policy that I don't ride any roller coaster that would get a speeding ticket on the Turnpike, but he was pretty upset. If Lightning Rod is a must ride for you, you should visit during the summer. 

 

Good to know: If you plan to visit Dollywood because you are a huge Dolly Parton fan and want to tour her bus and her museum, check to make sure they're open. Because, you know. COVID.

 

 

 

 

Craftsman Valley

 

Next stop was Craftsman Valley. Craftsman Valley is an area that really makes Dollywood unique. It's filled with different crafts and demonstrations. You can make your own candles, watch a blacksmith at work, and more. Many theme parks don't do a good job of having things for nonriders to do, but Dollywood really excels in this area. While we were walking through Craftsman Valley, I kept thinking how much my mom, who is afraid of heights and therefore doesn't ride much, would have enjoyed Dollywood. If you find something you just have to have while shopping, Dollywood will send it to the front of the park for you, free of charge. 

 

 

Photo of Daredevil falls

My husband realized I was in the splash zone when I was taking this picture of Daredevil Falls and he DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING. He said I should have noticed that the ground was wet.

 

More Rides at Dollywood

 

After Daredevil Falls and Craftsman Valley, the next section of the park is where most of the thrill rides and roller coasters are located. Again, total chicken here, but I really liked the Firechaser Express. The Firechaser Express is a roller coaster that features a section where it goes backward. It was the perfect amount of thrill for me. Just scary enough to be fun but not so scary that I was, you know, actually scared. Since Dollywood is built into the mountains, my husband encountered a unique problem on the Wild Eagle. He said he had never seen so many bees in his life as he did at the top of the first lift hill of the Wild Eagle. And my husband is not a city slicker. He and I both grew up playing in the woods and creeks, so if he says it's a lot of bees, it's a lot of bees. He heard the announcements warning oncoming riders of the bee problem, but still wasn't prepared for the swarm waiting for him. He did ride again at night and said the bees were nowhere to be found once it got dark. You might want to save the Wild Eagle for a night ride. 

 

 

 

Photo of Tennessee Tornado

The Tennessee Tornado is also built into the nearby mountain but was spared by the Bees.

 

 

Food at Dollywood

 

Then, we hit up Aunt Granny's restaurant for a super late lunch/early dinner. We always try to eat around 2-3 o'clock at theme parks. The lines for rides tend to be short during lunch and dinner, and the lines for food are shorter during nonmeal times, it's a win-win. The food at Aunt Granny's was really good. I was so busy eating that I forgot to take a picture! Aunt Granny's is an "all you care to eat" place. Right now they are serving the food family style, but it's usually a buffet. We had fried chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and biscuits. For not quite $20 (adults), which included a soda, I thought Aunt Granny's was a great deal. To say we were stuffed would be an understatement. 

 

After we had digested a bit, we walked around and looked at all the Halloween decorations and lights. Dollywood really went out of their way to decorate. I'd love to go back at Christmas time. I bet it's gorgeous. Dollywood is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful parks I have ever visited. The combination of natural beauty, charming buildings, and a sanitation team that really keeps up with keeping things clean made for a gorgeous park. I can't say enough about how beautiful Dollywood is. 

 

 

Photo of Spider made of pumpkins

Dollywood spared no expense decorating!

 

 

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Dollywood Is For All Families

 

Dollywood has earned a spot in my personal top 5 amusement parks, and that is an honor I don't give lightly. Dollywood had something for almost everyone. I think preschoolers up to grandparents would love a day at Dollywood. I would definitely recommend Dollywood to most families!

 

 

When You Go

 

The closest major airport to Pigeon Forge is in Knoxville, Tennessee, about 25 miles away. I would highly recommend renting a car. Pigeon Forge is a small town. It's unlikely you will be able to get an Uber easily. 

 

 

Where to Stay

 

My husband and I stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Pigeon Forge. I'm a big fan of Fairfield Inn's because they are budget-friendly (usually $100-200) and they have nice pools and free breakfast! Dollywood has a resort on-site, called the DreamMore, it's around $150-300 depending on the time of year, and it includes a free timesaver pass! If you don't mind people on the Ferris wheel being able to see you swim (you'll look like an ant anyway) then check out the Margaritaville resort! They have a rooftop pool, and lots of restaurants and shopping within walking distance. 

You can compare prices on hotels and get the best current rates at Booking.com

Or if you feel more comfortable renting a house you can search the area through VRBO or use this interactive map to put in your dates and see where your rental would be in relation to Dollywood.

 

 

 

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Dollywood Park in Tennessee is one of my top five family friendly amusement parks, and that's an honor I don't give out lightly! Check out why Dollywood is perfect for preschoolers to Grandparents. From rides at Dollywood to other things to do at Dollywood. Where is Dollywood? It's where you want to go!

 

 

Emily Householder-Stacey is a travel agent and writer based in Snowy Cleveland Ohio. She considers herself a theme park enthusiast, a trait she inherited from her dad, even though she is kinda chicken, a trait she inherited from her mom. When she isn't writing or working, she chases her toddler around.