Dollywood is an often overlooked theme park, but it’s been around in one form or another almost as long as Disneyland. Located in Pigeon Forge, this family-friendly park opens its gates annually from President’s Day to the Christmas season. It stands as one of Tennessee’s most popular attractions and tourist destinations and has expanded into a full-fledged vacation resort including a water park, hotel, and a dining experience.
Co-owner Dolly Parton frequently makes appearances at the resort, and the park host numerous annual concerts, events, and is the site of the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame which was founded in 1997 with induction ceremonies beginning in 2004.
As can be expected from a park owned by one of the biggest names in American music, Dollywood has numerous music offerings that can be enjoyed throughout each season of their operations. Each spring the park hosts their Festival of Nations, which features international music and performance acts including the world famous South African group Mother Africa.
In the summer Dollywood hosts their Barbecue & Bluegrass performances for one week in mid-May, and in June through August you can enjoy their Great American Summer concert series. Barbecue & Bluegrass combines great southern cooking and music with smoked barbecue meats and southern sides and live music performances. The Great American Summer concert series features music performances from the beginning of the day leading up to a fireworks display at the end of the night.
During the fall season, the park hosts their annual National Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration which combines the beautiful autumn Tennessee landscape with arts and crafts, gospel music performances, and other seasonal offerings.
From early November through the final holiday season of the park there are numerous holiday performances during their Smoky Mountain Christmas series. For acoustic Christmas tunes there are performances by Back Porch Theater, and Christmas in the Smokies features a fourteen-member cast celebrating the story of Christmas. Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs features live traditional hymns and Christmas tunes, while live show performances, such as It’s a Wonderful Life can be seen.
There are also several other musical and theater productions held throughout the year. Seasonally there are parades and fireworks, as well as performances by famous country music acts, including Dolly herself.
Great Selection of Rides
For anyone worried that Dollywood is only for American music aficionados, the theme park is home to 40 rides and other attractions. You’ll find a truly family friendly experience here as there are rides for every age, height, and interest. There are plenty of “kiddie” rides, from traditional fair-like rides, bumper cars, and a barnstormer coaster, to more exciting thrill rides. Three new attractions are coming to the park this year, including a new 200-foot drop ride aptly named Drop Line, Dollywood’s famous thrill coaster Lightning Rod, and lots of historical offerings. The park does a great job of bringing regional historical offerings, such as a one-room 1800s school house and an aviary to make a trip equally educational as it is fun.
A More Affordable Theme Park
If you’re becoming disenfranchised with Disney becoming little more than an exciting bar with long lines for kid’s rides, Dollywood is a great alternative for your big ticket family getaway. A one day ticket to Disney World will run $110, and that’s just for access to the one park; if you want to park hop, it’ll run at $160. Although Dollywood isn’t as large as Disney, and they don’t operate around the clock, they cost far less. A one day ticket to Dollywood costs $67. In fact, for less than what a one day park hopper would run at Disney, you can buy a season pass to Dollywood. And considering how many families and large groups typically go together, these are huge savings.
This is especially considering the style of park and its offerings. While many people fall in love with the old-timey Main Street, USA at Disney parks, you’ll find a similar style and layout in the rustic Dollywood. Parades, live music, and fireworks? Check. Carnival-style rides and coasters? Got ‘em. If you need a fun and exciting vacation without traveling all the way to Orlando and you want to save some money, Dollywood is a great alternative.
A Better Tourist Town
Another nice alternative is that Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge, a far less hectic tourist area when compared to Anaheim, Orlando, and other crazy tourist areas. This Tennessee town stays serene even in the busier seasons. In addition to Dollywood, there are other big name attractions in the area as well, including Ripley’s Believe it or Not and their aquarium, family fun centers with laser tag and go-carts, haunted houses, a race-car speedway experience, among others. There are also wax museums, the world’s largest Titanic museum held in a replica ship, and other fascinating installments.
The DreamMore Resort
Like any theme park worth its weight in gold, Dollywood’s in-park resort, DreamMore Resort, offers an alternative to needing separate lodging for your trip. The large resort offers nine styles of rooms, sleeping a minimum of two guests to eight guests. In addition to having a place to sleep surrounded by the Smokey Mountains, the resort has several other benefits as well. They offer ticket packages, giving a discount to on-site guests and even complimentary TimeSaver Passes, their version of FastPass. You can take a shuttle directly from the resort to the park, and parking at the hotel is free. You’ll also be able to get a head start over other day guests with early entrance on Saturdays and an exclusive resort guest-only gate.
If you’re looking for an alternative to other theme park resorts, it’s hard to beat the offerings and prices at Dollywood.