Over 2.5 million people visit Dollywood every year. Why? Because it consistently wins awards for its friendliness, food, rides, entertainment, Christmas events and just being an over all great theme park. From the top down Dollywood has a deep love for families and a commitment to being a place they can enjoy together. I got some behind the scenes access last week and so I’ll be sharing lots of what I learned over the next few week.
Here is a round up of my best tips and tricks for enjoying your day at Dollywood.
Money Saving Tips
Here are my best money saving tips, because, well everyone wants to save money. These tips are great for locals of those of you who are traveling in for some Dollywood fun.
1. Avoid Parking Fees. Parking costs $12 per vehicle or $18 for oversized vehicles. How can you avoid the standard $12 fee? Park for free at Patriot Park (186 Old Mill Avenue Pigeon Forge, TN 37863) and catch a ride on the Pigeon Forge trolley. The trolley only costs 50¢ per person (3 and under are free), and will drop you off right Dollywood’s main gate. This is a much shorter walk then if you park at Dollywood, even with the tram!
The Dollywood Trolley leaves Patriot Park and travels to and from Dollywood continuously. The Trolley runs thirty minutes before Dollywood opens and in the evening until everyone is returned to Patriot Park.
Katie’s tip (almost)-I know what your thinking fellow mamas. Folding up your stroller and loading and unloading everyone makes $12 not sound so bad. BUT, if you have to park far away you’ll do the same thing for the tram anyway…. We have not tried this but stay tuned next time we go we are going to. Five kids and a stroller and all. I will let you know how easy/hard this is and if you should brave it with your kiddos.
2. Arrive after 3 p.m. If you are staying in Pigeon Forge for a few days arrive at Dollywood after 3 p.m. your first day. March through October, if you arrive at the park after 3 p.m., the next day is free. So, you can get a few hours of sight seeing and figuring out the park so you will hit the ground running on Day two!
3. Buy a season pass. If you are local or planning to visit Dollywood more than once the best value is a season pass. If you want to check out the park first, gauge how your family does, no worries. On the day you visit you can upgrade your one-day ticket to a season pass and your ticket price will apply to your pass! You do have to do this on the day you visit.
Katie’s tip-If you are going to visit often consider a Gold pass for the person in your family who will always be there. For us, that is me. The Gold Pass gets you 20% off all your in park purchases and FREE parking every time you visit.
4. Military Discount– Dollywood offers retired and active military, disabled veterans and military reservists, as well as their spouses and dependents, a 30% discount on Dollywood admission.
5. Water is FREE! You can stop by any food or beverage stand in the park that has a Coke fountain and ask for a cup of ice water, and it’s completely free. There are also water fountains located throughout the park near any of the restrooms.
Katie’s tip– If you are going to visit a lot and have to have a soda buy one of the refillable cups. We bought the refillable popcorn bucket this season. It is $5.99 to purchase, then popcorn refills are 99¢ all season long. If , like us, you have a few kids in tow this is just a good idea. Popcorn is easy to share and for 99¢ everyone will quit saying they are hungry. 🙂
6.Pack Your Lunch! If you are planning to stay all day and need to save money on food, one great tip is to pack your lunch in a cooler and leave it in your car! You can go to your car for lunch then return to the park. Just have your hand stamped at the exit at the Dollywood Emporium and keep your ticket so it can be scanned when you return. (Thanks for the reader tip, Charley!)
Best Days to Visit
According to Dollywood in the spring, Thursdays are less crowded. In the summer, try for Wednesday or Thursday. In the fall, you might consider weekdays. During the Christmas season, weekdays are your best bet.
What Not To Wear- Dollywood Edition
For the love of everything wear something comfortable. This is not a time to be fancy ladies, leave that to Dolly. Comfort Over Cuteness. Say it with me, Comfort Over Cuteness. I swear I saw more than one person limping around in heels. Wear comfy layers (it can be chilly in the am and evening) and good shoes. If you are planning to get wet wear clothes that dry quickly. Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must.
General Tips You Will Be Glad You Know
Download the Dollywood App! Use it to find your way around the park, use Friend Finder to find your friends in the park. My favorite feature when you are at the park is the Wait Time feature. This will tell you the wait times for most of your favorite rides, making it easier to plan or decide what ride to head to next.
Katie’s tip-I tested the wait time feature last week at the park. Six different times on four different rides it was correct within a minute!
Babies and Their Mama’s– Dollywood is all about family so they want to make babies and their mamas comfortable too. There is a Baby Care Center on Showstreet that offers a private feeding and diapering facility. You can also find restrooms with nursing stations in Country Fair, Jukebox Junction, Market Square, The Village and Craftman’s Valley near the Woodcarving Shop. If you are bottle feeding, any park restaurant (not concession stands) help you warm a bottle, just ask the host that greets you.
Get Your Child Measured ONCE. When you arrive head to Dollywood’s Centralized Measuring station located across from The Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame on Showstreet. Your child will be measured by a Dollywood Host and given a color-coded wristband which helps you and your children quickly identify which rides he or she is tall enough to ride. The coded wristbands correspond to the color-coded information displayed on signs at each ride in the Park. No more tearful walks back through the line because your little guy is just a little too little.
Bring a Ziploc Sandwich Bag or Two. I know, I know you aren’t going to ride the water rides. Just in case you get talked into it on a hot summer day have a plastic bag to put your phone in.
Don’t Skip The Crafts and Shows- The high quality shows, amazing local artisans and master craftsmen are part of what makes Dollywood so unique and so worth a trip. I know, I know it is hard with littles but trust me a peak at glass blowing and pottery making is totally worth it.
Big Families Tip
If you are like us and have Bigs and Littles keeping everyone together and happy can be challenging. Enter play areas like Firehouse Fun Yard, Lil’ Loggers’ Landing, Granny’s Garden and more. These are situated near the bigger rides and perfect for you Littles to enjoy while the Bigs are riding!
What else would you add?!?! Share yours and help other readers who are planning a trip!
I already showed you a little about Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa. Get ready for more details on that and Dollywood Cabins and Food at Dollywood (I got several reader questions about food and allergies, so I’ll post a lot about that soon.)
In the interest of full disclosure I was invited on a blogger/social media weekend where we toured Dollywood and several other local attractions. While I was given this weekend, this is not an ad and all opinions are totally mine.