(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

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. 





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!



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




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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!


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.