So you’re planning an East Tennessee vacation. There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing where to stay.
Maybe you prefer Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge. Maybe you prefer to be along the Parkway or somewhere off the beaten path.
Are you a cabin or a hotel sort of person? Is no hot tub a deal breaker? Maybe you’re spending most of your time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Or maybe, you want to be closest to major attractions like Dollywood.
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How many days do you need at Dollywood?
It depends somewhat on your attachment to the shows and your willingness to buy TimeSaver Plus. Specifically, if you don’t want to see a lot of shows and can skip some lines, it’s possible to get the park knocked out in a day.
However, if you are a completest, it’s safer to plan two days.
If you want to include Dollywood’s Splash Country Waterpark, it’s better to plan on three days.
Luckily, two and three-day Dollywood tickets are fairly reasonable.
Should I stay at one of the Dollywood Resorts?
If you can afford it, sure.
But in my opinion, it’s not like Universal or Disney where there’s a significant advantage to staying on property.
But you do get some benefits. For example, sometimes there is a promotion where guests can get up to four free tickets to Splash Country if they stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. But always double-check on availability.
Plus, you save on parking with the shuttle. You can always check this page on the Dollywood website for current offers.
It will be interesting to see what happens when the HeartSong Lodge officially opens. Booking is now underway for its opening in the fall.
But overall, guests who stay at one of the Dollywood Resorts get some of the premier hotel experiences in Pigeon Forge.
What other special benefits do I get if I stay at DreamMore?
Guests who stay at the DreamMore may receive benefits such as:
- Priority access for guests
- Complimentary Dollywood TimeSaver passes
- Complimentary door-to-door transportation
- Complimentary package delivery
- Saturday early park entry for exclusive ride time
But note that some of these benefits are subject to change, so be sure to read up on the benefits at the time of your booking.
Where should I stay near the Dollywood theme park?
If you’re not staying at a Dollywood resort, there are a lot of factors at play.
Cost? Yes, of course. Rating? Yes.
Proximity to Dollywood? Sure. For example, if you have to drive up and down the Parkway to get to Dollywood, there’s a good chance it’s going to cost you time.
Does that mean we’re eliminating the hotels on the strip? No. Of course not, but if you can get to Dollywood and get around the traffic, that’s a plus.
I based pricing on a random two-night weekend stay for a family of four – checking in Friday, checking out on Sunday – to keep things fair.
For comparison purposes, DreamMore rooms start at over $700 for that same stay. But remember, pricing is subject to change and varies depending on when you book.
So with that in mind, here are some of my picks for non-Dollywood resorts close to the theme park:
11. Q’s Cabin
This two-bedroom cabin in Big Bear Resort sleeps seven people, has a hot tub, two pools and a 4.7 out of 5 rating on VRBO.
Located not far from Christmas Place, you can cut across the Parkway to Teaster Lane to beat the Pigeon Forge traffic if necessary.
At a total of $613 for our example two-night stay, it’s a nice balance of comfort, quality and the Pigeon Forge experience without being cooped up in a hotel room.
10. Courtyard by Marriott in Pigeon Forge
This hotel, with a wonderful 9.3 rating on Booking.com, is one of the pricier options on our list. However, you get a lot for your money.
In addition to a great pool area, Pigeon Forge Marriott Courtyard offers three fire pits, a 24-hour onsite coffee shop, a game room and a meeting space. Biking and walking trails are featured along the nearby river. There’s a lazy river at the hotel as well.
Breakfast, dinner and cocktails are offered at the property’s onsite restaurant, The Bistro.
It’s pretty much on the opposite end of the strip from Dollywood Lane, but you can cut over on East Wears Valley Road to Teaster Lane and beat the traffic to Dollywood Lane that way.
The total price for our stay, for comparison, comes in at $888.
9. La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Pigeon Forge
This hotel, which has an 8.6 rating on Booking.com, is not far from Dollywood Lane and features a seasonal outdoor pool, free WiFi and free breakfast.
The rate for our specified weekend is $339.
8. Margaritaville Island Hotel
Look, after a long day of hiking the hills at Dollywood, you might need a little side trip to Margaritaville.
This hotel, rated an excellent 8.9 on Booking.com isn’t the most affordable option on the list, but its location on The Island gives you access to what is probably the second most popular destination in Pigeon Forge.
And it also has easier access to Teaster Lane which gets you to Dollywood without all the traffic.
Guests will enjoy an indoor and outdoor swimming pool as well as a lounge area and firepit. A private balcony offers views of the Parkway and The Island in Pigeon Forge for select rooms.
The price? It would be $738 for our example two-night August stay.
7. The Inn at Christmas Place
It’s not set in Dolly’s backyard, but the Inn at Christmas Place should be considered for any Pigeon Forge vacation.
Rated an excellent 9.5 on Booking.com, the Inn is a Bavarian-inspired getaway where it’s Christmas all year round. It’s probably one of the nicest spots on the list.
It has an outdoor pool with a 29-yard waterslide and a large garden on site.
The daily breakfast buffet includes made-to-order omelets, fresh Belgian waffles and breakfast meats like sausage and ham. Pastries, fresh fruits and hot/cold cereals are offered as well as fresh coffee.
Santa Claus sings Christmas songs and tells holiday stories from summer through December, and a glockenspiel art installation with bronze bells is on display in the lobby. Extras include a fitness center and concierge services.
Plus, the Inn has easy access to Teaster Lane, which carries traffic to Dollywood Lane off the main strip so you can have your Dolly and Christmas, too.
Christmas isn’t cheap, however. It’s $706 for our example two-night stay.
6. Arbors at Island Landing Hotel & Suites
The location isn’t as great here. However, this excellently rated 8.9 hotel on Booking.com is on the strip in Pigeon Forge.
Still, it’s not terribly far from Dollywood Lane. The only time it would matter would be on bad traffic days.
Otherwise, this hotel offers a heated outdoor pool and free pancake breakfast as well as a hot tub. A small refrigerator, cable TV and a microwave are available in every room of this Pigeon Forge hotel.
Select rooms offer a balcony with mountain views, spa bath and sofa beds. The cost of our stay would be $400.
5. Black Fox Lodge Pigeon Forge
With an excellent 8.7 rating on Booking.com, this lodge – part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton – features a nice outdoor swimming pool with a slide as well as private balconies.
It’s just up the strip from the intersection with Dollywood Lane and is a decent base of operations if you want to work a quick 18 on the horribly misnamed Gatlinburg Golf Course during your trip.
It’s a pricier option for our weekend, coming in at $637 but it’s a quality place to stay.
4. Comfort Inn & Suites at Dollywood Lane
This hotel – with a very good 8.1 rating on Booking.com – is located near Dolly’s Stampede and offers easy access to the park.
Amenities include an indoor swimming pool, free parking and free WiFi. The cost for our targeted weekend is $277 plus taxes and fees.
How much time are you gonna spend at the hotel, anyway? It’s certainly a good room at a decent hotel with a great location for a great rate.
3. Smoky’s Lodge
This cabin – which sleeps up to eight people – is off the beaten path but not so far that you find yourself winding your way up crazy mountain roads.
It’s a seven-mile drive to Dollywood but the tradeoff is you get a full mountain cabin experience.
It’s located off Wears Valley Road so you can cut through to Teaster Lane if traffic is bad on the Parkway.
There is no pool, but there is a hot tub. The price for the example two-night stay is $668, including fees but not tax.
2. Twin Mountain Inn & Suites
Also, a full hot breakfast is included and there is a fire pit with rocking chairs that overlooks the Little Pigeon River.
It’s not perfect for kids as it only has a seasonal outdoor pool, but it’s a great base of operations for a Dollywood trip. The price for our two-night stay was $378.
This one bed, one bath condo is located in one of the best facilities in the area. It might be a tight fit for your family of four – but it has a king bed and a double futon and you’ll get a full kitchen with stainless appliances and granite countertops.
Your condo includes access to all resort amenities which are considerable and includes a decked-out lazy river.
It is rated an exceptional 4.8 out of 5 on VRBO. Your two-night stay will cost $550 before taxes. Plus, it is a short drive to Dollywood.
Do you have a favorite hotel with easy access to Dollywood? If so, let us know in the comments!