Dollywood is such a perfect destination from Greenville! At just about three hours from the Upstate, it’s a favorite with Kidding Around Readers! See what advice Kidding Around’s Bethany had to offer after her trip to the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee theme park.
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I’ll be honest; we truly had such a great family experience visiting Dollywood that I’m not even quite sure where to start. During our visit, I was immediately struck by the carefulness and attentiveness of the Dollywood staff. The park was well-maintained, clean, and attractive. We found a wide variety of attractions for all ages. And, our family, despite visiting for one and a half days, never stopped enjoying our time at the park.
Dollywood Rides & Play Areas
As a family with young children, we were impressed by how many rides Dollywood provides for children. Our then five-year-old was tall enough to ride several small roller-coasters and most other rides when accompanied by an adult. Even our then two-year-old was big enough to ride most of the rides in the “Country Fair” section of Dollywood.
I noticed that the attendants in “Country Fair” were especially alert to helping families with small children. I saw rides stopped on several occasions because a small child was scared or crying. The child was politely allowed to get off, and then the ride was started again for the rest of the group.
The rides also spanned different thrill levels allowing all children have fun choices to ride comfortably. Most of the rides could also seat adults who wanted to ride with their children.
Dollywood Tip: If you visit the Centralized Measuring Station inside the park, your child will receive a colored armband coded by which rides your child is tall enough to ride. This armband will help you not accidentally wait in line for a ride that your child is too small to ride.
We also found a couple of Dollywood rides that our entire family could ride. One of which was the Dollywood Express, an authentic coal-fired steam engine. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of riding the Dollywood Express during our daughter’s nap time (I thought she might fall asleep). Instead, though, she had a complete melt-down and struggled to get free during the entire ride. The train does not stop for anything, so you may want to be sure your kids are happy before boarding.
Dollywood also has a couple of great family rollercoasters, FireChasher Express. Children as small as 39 inches can ride this roller coaster, making it ideal for families wanting a ride that everyone can enjoy. The coaster is a fast-paced ride through a curling track with a mid-stop inside a “fireworks truck.” The car experiences a back-blowing explosion (complete with small flames as a special effect) that shoots the roller coaster back to the station. The fire is a bit thematically scary for some children, but the ride is not too intense.
Another great rollercoaster for younger riders is Blazing Fury, which starts as a sightseeing ride through a mine but ends with a minecart off the rails twist. This rollercoaster only has a couple of small hills and quick twists but is completely dark in the last seconds of the ride.
Not only did we find plenty of rides suitable for our young kids, but my husband and I enjoyed the larger roller coasters as well. My personal favorite roller coaster was the Wild Eagle roller coaster. It’s a massive rollercoaster that runs at 60 mph, but the ride is smooth, and the harnesses fit very snug, making it a more pleasant ride.
This YouTube video of Wild Eagle is a great preview of what to expect.
Dollywood Tip: If you are visiting with small children, be sure to check out the “Parent Swap” feature that allows you to wait in line once and take turns riding the roller coaster while the other parent watches the children.
In addition to the Dollywood rides, my kids enjoyed playing in the playgrounds and water spray areas of the park.
While we missed out on most of the shows due to my kids’ ages, I enjoyed watching two shows in The Little Engine Playhouse. I love children’s books, so I was delighted to find out that the shows were based on books. I was equally impressed that the shows kept not only me entertained but my two-year-old mesmerized. Outside The Little Engine Playhouse, we also had fun watching a small magic show.
Dollywood Tip: Schedule a show for the hot part of the day to give your kids a break from the heat!
Each summer features a different main show, including everything from bubble shows to dog stunts. Be sure to arrive early as the theater was packed the day we went. The shows do not play every day, so you will want to consult the show guide as you plan your time in the park.
This year we also visited in the peak season and were able to see the nightly firework show. The show was great and definitely worth staying until closing time to see. You can see the fireworks most clearly from near Firechaser at the top of the park. Most of the rides continue to run until closing time, but some of the rides up near the fireworks do close at dusk.
We ate inside the park our first year, but the food was expensive and the plates small. In later years we instead opted to pack our cooler with sandwiches and tailgated outside of the park. Consider bringing a couple of lawn chairs if you choose to do so. Re-entry is easy with a stamp upon exit, and the parking lot shuttle runs during the entire day.
Dollywood Tip: You can get free ice water at any of Dollywood’s food vendors! This helps fight the heat of the summer!
I felt like one of the biggest perks of visiting Dollywood was the unique variety of attractions for our family. Here are just a couple of the enjoyable spots we noticed through the park:
- Local craftsmen and shops full of handmade items.
- A wild bird preserve
- A roller-coaster museum
- Places to feed ducks
- Lots of scenic spots & plenty of shade and benches
If you are breast-feeding or bottle-feeding an infant, you will be happy to find out that Dollywood does have a nursing station with gliders and a changing station. I also noticed several family bathrooms throughout the park. The bathrooms were well-maintained and clean during our visit.
We managed to scrape a knee within moments of getting in the park and had the opportunity to visit the first-aid station. The nurse was able to save the day by applying an Angry Bird bandage to my kid’s knee.
More Dollywood Tips for Families
- Don’t miss the tram back to your parking spot just because you have a stroller! The tram has stroller parking in the front of the tram.
- While you aren’t allowed to bring food in the park, you can get your hand stamped, leave the park, and reenter during the same day.
- The roller-coasters have sample restraint systems outside where you can check to be sure that you fit in and are comfortable with the restraint system.
- The restaurants inside the park can help warm bottles for bottle-feeding parents.
- You can turn in your tickets after your visit for a credit on a season pass. The season pass is an excellent deal and costs less than three visits to Dollywood.
- You can also purchase a 3-day pass to visit both Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country on the same trip.
I received media tickets in order to write about Dollywood but this post contains my honest opinion about our trip. We had such a great time that we have made two additional family trips to Dollywood since the original publication of this review.
More To See At Dollywood
The team at Kidding Around are huge fans of the country music legend and her amusement parks! Because of that, there is no shortage of information from our trips to share with readers! If you are planning a trip to the Dollywood Resort, we encourage you to make the most out of your trip with the information offered on Kidding Around!
- Wildwood Grove
Dollywood, the premier theme park attraction located in Eastern Tennessee, added a new attraction to the park in 2019 called Wildwood Grove.
- Homeschool Days
If you are looking to have an adventure, Dollywood will be offering Homeschool Days for families that are utilizing the homeschool option. These days focus on mostly science and math – and really, what’s cooler than learning about the laws of physics by riding a roller coaster?
- Christmas At Dollywood – Smoky Mountain Christmas
The famous theme park becomes a mecca with over five million lights draped across every single building. Shows like It’s A Wonderful Life play throughout the month-long festival. And a Christmas parade is held nightly at 8:15 pm, an engaging entertainment show full of lights and colors.
- Splash Country Water Park
Dollywood is a popular place to visit for Greenville families as it’s tons of fun and only three hours away. While you’re there, you can beat the heat by spending some time at Dollywood’s Splash Country.
For more information on the area surrounding Dollywood, check out the Kidding Around Guide to the Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg areas of Tennessee
Have you ever visited Dollywood? What was your experience?