Dollywood is a 150-acre family-friendly theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee owned by country music star Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment, the group behind other parks like Silver Dollar City, Stone Mountain, and Wild Adventures. Nearly three million travelers come to the park from March to December, the park’s operating months. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the state, bringing in visitors from all over the world for its connections to music and thrilling rides for all ages. Originally built as a Civil War-themed railroad attraction in 1961, the park went through a few names and changed ownership before Dolly Parton became involved in 1986.
Tickets start at $69.95 for one day passes for adults, but discounts are applied for two and three-day passes, as well as combination passes with the Splash Country water park. If you’re planning on visiting more than once in a year, season passes start at $114. Gold passes are $174 and save you money on parking all year as well as provide discounts for merchandise and food. Guests staying at Dollywood DreamMore Resort and the Smoky Mountain Cabins can also get discounted entry, shuttle transportation, and complimentary TimeSaver passes, which allow you to hop the line. These passes are available for purchase as ticket upgrades, along with a zipline ride over the park and a VIP tour.
Park Areas and Rides
The park is broken up into ten areas and rides are best accessed in the single rider lines. Start at Adventures in Imagination, home to the Chasing Rainbows Museum, which is devoted to Dolly Parton’s life and career. Here you can see her tour bus, admire her quirky wardrobe, and see her Kennedy Center Honors. The state-of-the-art museum also has her many awards and even that famous coat of many colors she sings about. This museum is the perfect spot to wait out an occasional storm.
Country Fair is the section of the park that appeals to younger visitors, inspired by the fairs that travel through the region. Here you’ll find bumper cars, spinning teacups, and the Waltzing Swinger swings.
Over in Craftsman’s Valley, enjoy beginner-friendly thrill rides. Blazing Fury is an indoor coaster that involves firefighters, while the Tennessee Tornado is a larger coaster with loops. Daredevil Falls is a water flume ride, so expect to get wet. But it’s not all rides! The Calico Falls Schoolhouse teaches visitors what rural schools were like in 1800s Tennessee and the Robert F. Thomas Chapel is a one-room country church open for Sunday services. This area is also home to Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, a 30,000 square foot aviary for rescued bald eagles and the Wings of America show, an educational experience about native birds.
Jukebox Junction has the famous Lightning Rod wooden roller coaster, one of the best in the park. It might be the one with the longest line, but it’s well worth it. Rockin’ Roadway allows kids to ride in miniature versions of classic cars.
Owens Farm has another favorite coaster, the Barnstormer, which takes its inspiration from 1920s pilots that soared over farms. Mountain Slidewinder is another water flume ride and the Lil’ Pilots Playground offers a place for the little travelers to explore while big kids wait in line for rides. Over in Rivertown Junction, cool off on the Smoky Mountain River Rampage or learn about Dolly’s childhood at Tennessee Mountain Home, a replica of her home.
Showstreet hosts much of the holiday festivities but also has the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame. The most thrilling attractions are in Timber Canyon, where you can soar above the park on the Drop Line or pull yourself up on the Lumberjack Lifts. The Mystery Mine and Thunderhead are coasters for older visitors, but Whistle Punk Chaser is kid-friendly.
In The Village, hop aboard the authentic coal-fired steam train that winds its way around the park. This area also has the Carousel. In Wilderness Pass, young visitors can ride the dual launch coaster FireChaser Express, play on the Firehouse Fun Yard, or zipline on the SkyZip. Older guests can’t miss the Wild Eagle, which makes you feel like you’re soaring like a bird.
Events and Performances
But rides aren’t the only thing to do. Throughout the year, there are celebrations and shows, including Christmas and country music performances. You can catch them at the Back Porch, DP’s Celebrity, Valley, Pines, Heartsong, and Showstreet Palace theaters. Characters and performers are also set up in various gazebos and street corners.
Summer Celebration, Star Spangled Summer, Rock the Smokies, Harvest Festival, Smoky Mountain Christmas, Barbecue & Bluegrass, Festival of Nations, and Spring Mix are among the events throughout the year that you can plan your visit around.
Other Things to Do
In addition to the rides and experiences, Dollywood has dozens of shops where you can buy souvenirs ranging from clothing to home decor to old fashioned wares. Pick up an airbrushed shirt, get an old-time photo taken, chow down on fudge and candies, and shop for Christmas items year-round.
Dollywood also has artisans and craftsmen creating various items, set around the park, including a blacksmith, glassblower, soap maker, potters, and wood carvers, leather creators.
Dining at Dollywood
The restaurants at Dollywood offer both sit-down and to-go options, mostly with Southern influences. Aunt Granny’s Restaurant is an all-you-can-eat buffet with Southern favorites like baked chicken and cornbread. Granny Ogle’s Ham n Beans has a similar menu with meatloaf, ham, and baked beans. Dogs N Taters has fast options like hot dogs and fries, while Frannie’s Famous Fried Chicken Sandwich offers what the name implies. Front Porch Cafe and Grandstand Cafe have lighter options like salads and sandwiches. Eat barbecue from Hickory House and Miss Lillian’s or pizza from Lumber Jack’s or Victoria’s.
Get your sweet fix at Blue Ribbon Cones, Dippin Dots, Crossroads Funnel Cakes, Country Cookers Kettle Corn, Splinter’s funnel cakes, Spotlight Bakery, and the Sweet Shoppe. The cinnamon bread at The Grist Mill is the most popular dish at Dollywood, so expect to wait in line for the delicious treat.
If You Go
Dollywood Park is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Boulevard, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee 37863. Parking is $15 for standard cars, but you can re-enter the parks with a receipt. Valet and VIP parking is also available. I’ve found that mid-week, once school is back in session, is the best time to visit without waiting in line.
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is the best place to stay if you’re visiting Dollywood, as it’s just across the parking lot and accessible by guest shuttle. Dollywood also has Smoky Mountain Cabins for rent nearby. If you’re looking to stay elsewhere, Margaritaville Island Hotel is fun for groups with in-room margarita machines and many restaurants and shops nearby. Best Western Toni Inn is budget friendly and just outside the Dollywood entrance. Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA is also very close to the park.
We received complimentary admission into Dollywood.