Dollywood: Visiting Tennessee’s Most Popular Theme Park

by | Aug 23, 2021 | Attractions | 0 comments

Dollywood is the largest theme park in East Tennessee and one of the most popular attractions near the Smoky Mountains. We’ve gone many times and often get the season pass. Until recently, it had been a while since we’d gone. We bought season passes in 2019 for the 2020 season and rolled them over to 2021. This July, it was time to go back. 

Main Points

  • 11 areas
  • Rides
  • Shows
  • Food
  • Shops
  • Good cell coverage

Date visited – 7/19/2021

Parking

Dollywood

There is plenty of parking. There are several parking areas and you get to ride a tram to the park, so it doesn’t matter how far away you park. Parking does cost $20 unless you have a Gold Pass. In that case, it’s free. On the way back to your car, they do mention that if you have a dead battery, can’t get your car started, or locked your keys in your car, they will help you regardless of which ticket you purchased. I like that they do this. It’s an extra benefit and makes me feel better about paying to park.

Ticket Prices

Dollywood

Tickets are:

  • $79 per person for one day.
  • $99 for two days.
  • $109 for three days.
  • $149 season pass.
  • $199 super pass. (which is a season pass to Dollywood and Splash Country)

If you upgrade to a Gold Pass, you get free parking and 20% off at most of the stores and restaurants. Some of the crafts do not include the discount, but they do give you an extra gift. You also get discounts from other attractions around Pigeon Forge (including several not related to Dollywood) and even in other states.

Rides

There are lots of rides at Dollywood in many categories ranging from thrill rides, water rides, carnival rides, kids rides, etc. Most are far better than anything you’d see in a typical carnival or other theme parks.

The lines were between 10-20 minutes the day we were there. We didn’t go on a lot of them, but we enjoyed those we did ride. I talked to several people that rode the big roller coasters. They said they were some of the best roller coasters and they highly recommend them. I stayed on the smaller rides, because wimp. 

We tried to ride the train, but it ended up having to close for a while because of the rain. We could have ridden it when it reopened, but we would have missed the bird show, and I wanted to see that one. We’ll just have to go back. 

River Rampage

This is one of my favorite rides at Dollywood. It’s short but very fun. It’s a circled track of rapids with a few drops and a waterfall. It doesn’t have hard or fast rapids. It starts by taking you up a ramp and them dropping you into the rapids. It has maybe three smallish drops. There are 6 people on a raft and you will get wet. They make sure of that. This one is a must-try in my opinion. 

Blazing Fury

Inside roller coaster. Mostly in the dark with scenes lit up and sounds as you pass by. It only has a few fast drops and curves. I don’t like large roller coasters and this is one of my favorites.

Various Carnival Rides

We rode on several of the carnival rides including bumper cars, a car track with small cars, a small roller coaster, etc. Lucinda and I both love bumper cars. She always goes out of her way to ride them and I’m always willing to join. They did not disappoint.

Shows

Dollywood includes several shows. We didn’t get to see all of them, but we did see a few and we saw parts of most of the outside shows that were running the day we were there. Here are the shows we saw. 

Kingdom Heirs

Dollywood

The Kingdom Heirs is a quartet-style, southern gospel, band that includes a piano, drums, bass, and four singers. Each of the singers has smooth voices, and each got a spotlight in one song or another. I liked their songs and style. Lights were used to set the mood. I didn’t care for the light at the end and the power note, but it was done with skill. They had a merchandise table where you could purchase CDs, shirts, and more. It lasted about a half-hour.

Dreamland Drive-In

Dollywood

This is a story told over several years of the 50s and 60s with actors singing short and long clips of music from those years. It has very talented singers and musicians and was fun to watch. You’ll find yourself rooting for several of the characters. I lasts about an hour.

Birds of Prey

Dollywood

The Birds of Prey show includes several birds they bring out to the stage and let them fly between the two presenters. Each presenter walks around the first few rows to show the birds. They also tell the story of each particular bird.

It’s fascinating watching the birds fly around and I enjoyed hearing the stories and information about each one. I recommend sitting in the front to get the best view of the birds. I liked all the birds, but my favorites were the owls and the eagle. This show and the eagle sanctuary are run by the American Eagle Foundation.

Food

There are a lot of restaurants and food stands to choose from inside Dollywood. Some of the restaurants were closed the day of our visit, and a few others closed early.

As is normal for a park, the prices of the food were on the high side. Some weren’t too bad, but the drinks were outrageous. This is to push you into buying the souvenir cup, which gives you free refills for the rest of the day and a .99 discount the rest of the year, or purchase the more expensive cup and get free refills for the rest of the season. They do give you free water and you can fill a water bottle throughout the park.

Red’s Drive-In

We had lunch at Red’s Drive-In. The food quality was better than most amusement parks and fairs. We could eat inside or outside under a large roof. We chose to eat outside. Music from the 50s and 60s played over the speakers both inside and outside. We would both order the same meal again. The Gold Pass saved us $5.00.

I had the bacon cheeseburger with fries and coke from one of the three freestyle machines. We both got refills. The burger was charbroiled and tasted great. You get to choose what goes on it in the condiment bar. It was a large burger and they were not stingy with the fries.

Lucinda got the turkey wrap with grapes and a freestyle drink. It was a good low-fat choice. It only needed mustard, which was easy to pick up at the condiment bar. She wouldn’t make a special point to have it again, but she would order again if we ate there. 

Market Square Big Skillets

This is one of our favorites food shops in Dollywood and we almost always stop here. The flatbread was good and the potatoes were amazing. The meat had a good flavor. The onions were good. The peppers were the best part of it. The bread was good but could have been toasted or had more flavor. We would both buy it again. Refills are only included if you buy a large reusable cup.

Funnel Cake

Lucinda knows I like funnel cake, so she made sure I saw the funnel cake stand. The cake was hot and fresh, and it was easily one of the best I’ve had. I’d buy it again. It was $9, but the Gold Pass brought it down to $7.19 before tax.

Shops and Crafts

There are lots of shops throughout Dollywood. Most of the prices were on the high end, but there were some that were on the low-to-mid-range. Many of the shops included shirts, mugs, and nicknacks. The craft shops sold the crafts that they made there and many of them took commissions for work. All of the shops have excellent souvenirs. 

Tips for your Dollywood Visit

  • Grab a schedule and plan the shows you want to see.
  • Plan the rides based on the shows you want to see.
  • Arrive at the shows at least 15 minutes early.
  • Don’t try to do everything in one day.
  • Take a bottle to fill with water.
  • If you’re not buying season passes, consider a 2 or 3-day pass.
  • If you are buying season passes, buy one Gold Pass.
  • Don’t carry a large or heavy bag.

Randy’s Thoughts

Dollywood is fun. I didn’t do many of the rides, but those I did go on were fun enough to do again. I spent more time walking around and looking than anything else (6.8 miles according to my phone). I’m a fan of the shows. Regardless of which you prefer between large or small rides, shows, shops, pretty scenery, etc., there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.

Adding souvenir cups, snacks, renting a locker, etc., can add a lot to your cost. The cups do at least get you free refills. I’m glad that water is free and easy to get.

Do you recommend Dollywood? Yes, but not for everyone. There are a lot of things to do at Dollywood and I’ve had fun every time I’ve gone, but it’s expensive and there are a lot of inexpensive things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, and the Smoky Mountains is free. If you like shows and rides and plan to spend good money on your vacation, then go to Dollywood at least once. I’m sure you’ll go back.

Lucinda’s Thoughts

Dollywood is almost always fun (unless you try to do too much) and I really appreciate just how many of the pathways and waiting areas are shaded. River Rampage (weather permitting), bumper cars, the eagle sanctuary, watching the crafters, trying one new place to eat, and usually watching one of the shows are things I try to do each visit. While the food has the typically higher price of anyplace you pay to get in and stay a long time it tastes better than what I’ve eaten at a lot of fairs and theme parks.

It’s good for groups who enjoy different things on their vacation. You can eat together and find a few things to do together for part of your visit and then split up and enjoy what appeals to each smaller group most (rides, shows, shopping, carnival area, craft demonstrations).

Do you recommend Dollywood? For visitors from outside Tennessee, I’d say it’s the sort of place you would want to visit at least once especially if rides or musical shows and concerts is something you really enjoy. I’d recommend making a 2 or 3 day pass a large part of one trip to the Smokies. For those who live in East Tennessee, we’ve found season passes (bought at a discount before the season starts) every 2 to 5 years our best choice for both money and enjoyment value.

We try to visit once for each major seasonal program shift that year, make that our major staycation destination, and usually enjoy each trip. Not going every year means the park has more new things to see when we do go back and even the things we’ve done before are more enjoyable. It also gives us time to enjoy all the other wonderful things to do in East Tennesse without feeling like we need to get our money’s worth from our season passes to Dollywood.

Who Should Visit

Dollywood is a great choice for families on vacation that are not on a low budget. 

There’s plenty to do for adults and children.

Anyone that likes rides, concerts, or craft events will like Dollywood. 

More information

Also in the area from Dollywood:

  • Splash Country
  • Dreamore Resort
  • Dolly Parton’s Stampede
  • Pirates Voyage

Have you visited Dollywood? Let us know how you like it in the comments. 

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