Insider’s Guide: 9 tips to navigating Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

Insider’s Guide: 9 tips and tricks to navigating Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

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Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas brings together the very best of the holiday season — music, food and jolly people! In preparation for the event, Dollywood closed for nearly a week beginning Nov. 3 and reopened on Nov. 9, unveiling a completely transformed theme park with more than five million Christmas lights. 

It’s difficult for others to compete with Dolly and her elves in the decoration department. In fact, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas has been named the Best Christmas Event for the 12th straight year in a row by Amusement Today. (These awards are called “Golden Tickets” in case you want to store that away for your future Jeopardy appearance.)

Here’s what to know about the event: 

Photo by Laura Akens

Don’t miss Dollywood’s newest featured attraction: Glacier Ridge

This year, Timber Canyon and Craftsmen’s Valley will once again turn into Glacier Ridge; complete with a 130-foot long “frozen” tunnel, an aurora borealis style canopy of lights and plenty of meet and greets with friendly “polar bears” for the kids.

Get a photo-op at the 50-foot Christmas Tree

This 50-foot Christmas tree with lights that coordinate with Christmas song classics is one of the main attractions in the park. Young children will be so amazed by this, that they may even become still for the first time of the day. Be sure to soak it in. In my opinion, this tree puts even the one at Rockefeller Center to shame.

The rides are (probably) operating, but bundle up

As long as it’s not raining or freezing, many of the rides are still operating throughout the day. My family (not me, my family) immensely enjoys riding the roller coasters day and night, even in the cold weather. The lines may not seem short, but compared to spring or summer, it’s a much better wait time, and they do move quickly. If you’re brave enough to opt for the coasters, wear warm clothing.

Enjoy the quality theme park food

Dollywood serves quality food throughout the park, even at the quick step-up-and-order kiosks. There are also a variety of sit down restaurants that serve everything from hamburgers to a big bowl of pinto beans and cornbread. For the holiday season, enjoy the new hot chocolate added to the outdoor menus with some holiday toppings.

Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas Shows
Photo by Laura Akens

Check out the shows

Dollywood shows, famous for their music, is sure to put you in the holiday spirit. Here’s what’s playing: 

  • Appalachian Christmas delivers acoustic Christmas favorites in an outdoor theatre, the Back Porch Theatre. For an outdoor theatre, the sound quality is great.
  • Christmas In the Smokies is an original production of hometown holiday favorites shown in the Celebrity Theatre. Along with great music, this show gives the family a chance to take a break and warm up inside.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life presents the ever-popular Christmas movie to the stage. This is performed in the Showplace Theatre — another good place to warm up.
  • O Holy Night follows two stories, a child looking for a special ornament and the three wise men following the star. The traditional Christmas story is told in song. 
  • The Kingdom Heirs: Heart of Christmas gives the stage to a nationally popular southern gospel group.
  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas spotlights a family in need of a miracle. The ending involves a man with a white beard… but I don’t want to give it away.

Visit the arts and crafts

Dollywood is home to several noted craftsmen, and you can find great gift options here — many of which will be more affordable than you think. If you like arts and crafts, I recommend stopping by Old Flame Candles, Blacksmith & Foundry and the Temple’s Warehouse and Old Fashioned Candy Store. The gifts are cute and tasteful, with many capitalizing on Dolly’s hit lyrics. Who wouldn’t want a coffee cup labeled “Cup of Ambition”?

Plan ahead

Tickets are the same price all year: $74 plus tax for a one-day pass. Children ages 4-9 are $61 plus tax. Check the website or ask at the gate for discounts for military families, AAA members and seniors.

Dollywood is open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and closed most Mondays and Tuesdays during the Smoky Mountain Christmas Celebration, but there are exceptions. Be sure to check the calendar for the days you wish to visit because the hours do vary, and on some days in December the park does not open until 2 p.m. Dollywood is closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas. The last day of the season is Jan. 4.

Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas
Photo by Laura Akens

Use the app 

Download the Dollywood app before you go. It’s very user friendly and helpful when planning your day around the shows you wish to see.

Layer up

This is East Tennessee. Translation — you might experience up to four seasons in one day. Check the forecast and bring layers to be safe, even if that means you end up renting a locker. The lockers are inexpensive, and you can move your belongings from one locker station to another, should you choose to forgo the free cubbies available at most major rides. 

Location: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

For park hours, click here 

Visit website 

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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