It’s a question we get all the time from first time visitors in the Smokies, wondering how much time they should set aside for a trip to Dollywood while on vacation: Can you do Dollywood in a single day?
Well reader, the answer totally depends on the type of theme-park goer/vacationer you are – and what you want to do at the park.
Below are my personal recommendations based on a variety of personality types that will hopefully help you make the right decision when planning your upcoming vacation to the park.
1. The “gotta get our money’s worth” vacationer
Recommendation: One Day
The “gotta get our money’s worth” vacationer is my dad in a nutshell. My childhood vacations consisted of getting up at least by 6-7 am, planning out our entire day practically to the hour, and streamlining every step of the process for maximum value.
This type of theme park goer needs to ride every major ride, experience as many shows as possible and finish every crumb on a plate of food. “Waste not want not” is the mantra they live by.
But this type of vacationer is also efficient and able to plan and execute their time with a military-like precision.
And luckily, Dollywood, for the most part, is the kind of theme park that works well with this super efficient personality type.
Sure, Dollywood certainly has its busy days (mostly November-December). But unlike other theme parks (like Disney World) where the lines for popular rides might require a 2-4 hour wait time, a max wait time at Dollywood even on a busy day is only going to require about one hour.
On less busy days, those wait times are practically non-existent. There are days that I’ve enjoyed back-to-back rides on the Wild Eagle or Tennessee Tornado without a queue in sight.
And nowadays, the Dollywood app (available on Android and iOS) makes park planning even easier with up-to-the-minute ride wait times and a daily entertainment and show schedule.
Now, do keep in mind, even the most efficient vacation planner won’t be able to do literally everything in the park in a single day – there are just too many rides and attractions.
But you certainly stand an excellent chance of taking in the best of what the park has to offer in a single 10-hour day if you play your cards right.
But be warned: Things happen to even the best laid plans. If you end up getting rained out of your Dollywood experience, and you only had a single day budgeted, you might be a tad disappointed.
2. The “let’s sleep in and take it easy” vacationer
Recommendation: Two Days
As children often do, we rebel against our parents when we reach adulthood. And that’s certainly true in my case.
After a childhood of meticulously planned vacations and early wake up calls, my husband and I vacation in a way that would make my dad’s eye twitch.
We sleep in, we don’t plan anything and we take it easy.
When I’m on vacation, as far as I’m concerned, the alarm clock doesn’t exist.
I keep a vague tiered list of things I want to see and do in my head – usually with 1-2 important things I don’t want to miss. Everything else is on the chopping block.
If we can get it in, great, if not, also fine by me.
Didn’t have time to hit the Blazing Fury today because I was too busy spending an unnecessarily long time enjoying every last lovin’ morsel of my cinnamon bread? Don’t rush me – there’s always tomorrow.
Did we just go the wrong way? Where’s the Mystery Mine located again? Let’s just casually stroll through the park ‘til we figure it out.
Time is only a concept. If vacations aren’t moving at a sloth-like pace … is it really a vacation?
For this type of vacationer, I strongly recommend setting aside at least two days to visit Dollywood.
Two days, even for the most relaxed anti-planners among us, is generally enough time to get in every major ride in the park, a couple of dine-in meals and catch at least one show.
3. The “I don’t ride rides” vacationer
Recommendation: One Day
While Dollywood, in my humble opinion, has some of the best coasters in any theme park in the US, thrill rides are not for everyone.
There’s an entire group of people who either can’t (or prefer not to) ride the rides and simply want to enjoy the park for the sights, sounds and culinary treats.
And there are plenty of sights and sounds for this type of Dollywood-goer to enjoy.
And great news: It’s totally doable in a single day.
There’s a new show available every 15 minutes inside the park during the busy season, with each show lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour on average.
If you aren’t riding any rides, and have a full 10 hours at the park from open to close, you can easily squeeze in about 4-5 shows, enjoy at least two casual in-park meals and still have plenty of time in between to enjoy the vibrant arts and crafts, seasonal displays and plentiful photo-ops the park has to offer.
4. The “have to do everything” vacationer
Recommendation: Three Days
This vacationer is a direct descendant of the “gotta get my money’s worth” vacationer but like Aerosmith, they “don’t want to miss a thing.”
Look, Dollywood isn’t a huge park. Dollywood sits on about 160 acres of land with 50 unique rides, and nine roller coasters.
For comparison, Disney World (all parks included) encompasses nearly 12,000 acres (with another 12,0000 currently sitting unused for a whopping 25,000 acre total footprint).
Dollywood is more similar in size to Universal Studios Orlando (between the two parks only) which covers about 200 acres.
If you really want to ride every ride, see every show and explore every square inch of the park, you might want to allow at least 2-3 days to see it all.
Note: Seeing it all in 2-3 days will still require a somewhat skilled level of efficiency, especially if you have a handful of small children that require a bit of herding. See the “gotta get my money’s worth” personality type above.
Hopefully you can relate to at least one of the above personality types to plan your upcoming trip to Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park, located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
And until then, we will see y’all soon!