The Dolly Parton tour bus: A look at how our Appalachian queen travels

It was 1987. 

I was in the 7th grade and our neighbor – a young adult – invited the neighborhood for a cookout. 

It must have been summer and the sun had fallen. While the adults sat around a fire, I commandeered the boom box. I had VERY strong opinions about music at the time, nearly all of them wrong.  

I shudder to think what I subjected the crowd to as I confidently played DJ and juggled my way through a couple of cases worth of cassettes. 

In retrospect, I imagine there was likely more silence than music as I fast-forwarded and rewound my way through mid-80s pop, hair metal and rap.

At one point our host got up and handed me a cassette and said, “Play this. Don’t change it.”

I popped it in and pressed play. And the world-weary voice of Bob Seger came out. Not the up-tempo, party time rock. This wasn’t “Ramblin’ Gamblin Man” or “Old Time Rock and Roll”. This was the tired, melancholic slice of Seger, the voice that sold a hundred million Chevy Trucks. 

It was “Turn The Page”, Seger’s lament about life on the road, life as an outsider, paid to jump up on stage every night and entertain the faceless crowds. In other words, whether he was in the mood or not. 

Music hits differently when you’re young. Particularly when you’re a highly opinionated, imaginative middle schooler with a penchant for drama. 

Sitting there in the dark, listening to the song, I was immediately transported into Seger’s shoes. I was in the next bunk bed on the bus, ears ringing from the amplifiers, shaking off the cold and lonely road.

Of course, not every tour bus experience is the same. 

For example, consider Pro Football Hall of Fame member John Madden and the famous Madden Cruiser. The football coach turned color analyst became famous for traveling all over the whole United States by bus.

Madden flew as a football coach. But when he got into TV, he stopped flying. Many thought Madden’s fear came from the California Polytechnic State University football team plane crash.

However, Madden later admitted he disliked being in the plane itself. 

One of the bedrooms inside Dolly Parton's tour bus
Dolly Parton’s room in her previous ride, the Gypsy Wagon, has a queen sized bed. It is now on display at Dollywood (photo by Kim Grayson/

Dolly Parton’s tour bus: The Gypsy Wagon

And that my friends, brings us to Dolly Parton.

Like Madden, the Pigeon Forge legend wasn’t especially big on flying. And like Seger, she started out touring the country in a tour bus of varying levels of comfort.

By the time Madden got into TV, Dolly Parton had herself a pretty nice tour bus. And Madden had been getting to games via a train. But when a CBS executive learned Madden preferred a bus, he contacted Parton’s people and rented her bus while it wasn’t in use.

Madden went from Atlanta to Las Vegas to Philly and loved it. He soon contacted Greyhound, and for $500,000, the Madden Cruiser was born. 

The whereabouts of that particular tour bus are unknown today. But by 1994, Dolly was a global icon and was ready for a tour bus befitting a queen. As a result, she designed the Gypsy Wagon, a Prevost Car tour bus.

Over her lengthy career, you’d think Dolly would have a fleet of luxury buses, but the country singer got her money’s worth. In fact, the Gypsy Wagon served as Dolly’s bus for years and years. It accumulated more than 600,000 miles. 

“Designed by Dolly’s longtime road manager, bus driver and friend Don Warden and his wife Ann, the 1994 Prevost features hand-tooled leather from Germany on the sofa and chairs, cherry cabinets and brass fixtures,” says the Dollywood website.

The bus features three bunks beds for her family members, as well as two bathrooms and a shower.

The tour of her bus includes the convection oven, which Dolly would use to make her own meals. It also has a satellite TV and a half bath. The back of the bus reveals the pink bedroom, complete with a queen-sized bed. 

Dolly’s bedroom features three clocks, set for different time zones. One is set on Los Angeles time, one on Nashville time and the other on Dollywood time.

Dolly Parton’s newer tour bus made an appearance on Oprah Winfrey as well as Dolly Parton’s vlog

The Gypsy Wagon is now on permanent display to the general public inside the Dollywood theme park. The Dolly Parton tour bus is parked in front of the Chasing Rainbows Museum in Adventures in Imagination.

The old bus, with its distinct paint job and signature butterflies, gives an inside look at Dolly’s road life.

In 2008, Dolly Parton’s tour bus was upgraded to a new model, which she showed off on the Oprah Winfrey show. It was on Dolly’s vlog, the “Dolly Parton Tour TV”. 

Read Also: Dollywood attraction to be reimagined: What’s next for Chasing Rainbows?

A tour bus parked outside of DreamMore
The tour bus that can be spotted outside of DreamMore will reportedly be turned into a suite where guests can stay (photo by Daniel Munson/

DreamMore’s Suite 1986 bus

Additionally, for those who visit the Great Smoky Mountains and the National Park in hopes of learning more about Dolly, there’s hope on the way.

Another of Dolly’s old buses is being turned into Suite 1986 at the DreamMore Resort. The “suite” will actually be made of Dolly’s most recent tour bus – the one she showed off to Oprah.

Guests will be able to sleep in it. 

Read Also: When will HeartSong open? A look at Dollywood’s newest resort

How much did Dolly Parton’s tour bus cost?

The Gypsy Wagon tour bus, which is on display at Dollywood, cost $750,000. 

A sign for Don Warden outside of Dolly's tour bus
A plaque honors Don Warden: “Mentor, Musician, Manager and Mr. Everything” (photo by Morgan Overholt/

Who was Dolly Parton’s bus driver?

Don Warden, who passed in 2017, served as Dolly’s right-hand man from her days on the Porter Wagoner Show.

Warden – who reportedly had a knack for finding and fixing up tour buses – left the show when she did and stayed at her side.

Dolly called him her “Mr. Everything”. In addition to driving and designing the tour buses, he was a renowned steel guitar player and tenor. Dolly called him “a man of many colors”, according to the Dolly Parton website. 

Mr. Warden handled band accounts, promoted shows, coordinated merch and even served as the bus mechanic when necessary. After he passed, Dolly had a plaque in his honor mounted at the entrance to the Gypsy Wagon. 

Tim Dunlap also served as a bus driver for Dolly.

A kitchen inside the Dolly Parton tour bus
Dolly Parton would reportedly prepare her own meals on her tour bus (photo by Kim Grayson/

How does Dolly Parton travel?

In 2018, Parton told the Bobby Bones Show that she’s afraid of flying. 

“I’m like my daddy,” she said. “I don’t want to go no higher up than pulling corn and no lower down than pickin’ taters.”

It doesn’t mean she won’t fly. She has and will. 

“I don’t know if I’m just a scaredy cat or just the motion,” she said. “It’s probably a little bit both. I don’t like that helpless feeling that I can’t get out if I want to. I want to be on the ground. If I want to stop, I want to get out. You can’t very well go up to the pilot and say, ‘I wanna get out now.'”

When she flies, it’s on a private jet because it’s easier and well, she’s Dolly Parton and can afford it. But she still prefers her custom abode. 

“When I do fly, I fly private jet because it’s hard doing commercial anymore because it’s such a zoo anyway,” she said. “I just take my bus anytime I can.”

She also confirmed this sentiment in her vlog episode, which is embedded above.

“I don’t enjoy flying … I don’t like to be couped up,” she says in the episode.

“[The bus is] my favorite home. I have homes all over … but my favorite place is the bus… I’m a true gypsy at heart.”

But Dolly has other ways to get around. 

When I was in the park for the opening of Wildwood Grove, she was being interviewed by the Today Show. The park had a special windowless van to get her where she needed to be. 

When you’re a global icon like Dolly, you get to make your own travel arrangements to fit whatever whim you have.

Remember, if you’re planning a trip to Dollywood, check Tripster for discounts.

Have you visited the Dolly Parton tour bus at Dollywood? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Best rides at Dollywood: Top 10 rides in the park ranked

Having grown up with Pigeon Forge, Tenn. in my backyard and visiting Dollywood nearly every summer and every holiday weekend since childhood, I’ve had the distinct privilege of not only watching our beloved park evolve over the years but also the opportunity to ride basically every ride in the park probably at least a few dozen times.

I literally grew up with some of the Dollywood rides.

As a child, some of the larger coasters used to frighten me. Blazing Fury and I have had a bit of an up and down relationship over the years – pun entirely intended.

Other rides, like the River Rampage, have always held a special place in my heart.

I’ve also seen rides come and go over the years.

Remember the Flooded Mine? Or the Thunder Express? Both classics have since gone the way of the dodo and been replaced with newer, shinier counterparts.

I received my moonshine runnin’ education from Thunder Road and I grieved the day they tore down Slidewinder.

While I won’t say I am a coaster expert, my unique relationship with the park usually makes me the go-to ride guide when my first-timer friends visit from out of town.

This is why I thought I’d put together this handy-dandy ride guide for all to enjoy.

Hopefully, this will help you plan your trip and plot your route through the park to get the most of your vacation and Dollywood experience.

I’ve also ranked each ride for both “difficulty” and “overall experience”.

The difficulty rating indicates how “scary” the ride might be for those who do not tolerate motion rides well and may be afraid of big drops, inversions and overall rough rides.

One star means anyone can ride, five stars means that ride might be reserved for those bravest among us.

The overall experience rating speaks for itself. I’ve awarded higher ratings to rides that offer unique experiences and re-ride-ability.

Best Rides at Dollywood - The River Rampage
The River Rampage at Dollywood (photo by Morgan Overholt/

10. Smoky Mountain River Rampage

Dollywood’s River Rampage is essentially your classic run-of-the-mill round six-seater river raft ride.

The ride kicks off with a large conveyor belt lift and a small roller-coaster style drop.

The rest of the ride involves a moderately paced journey through the “rapids” of Dollywood with small dips, spins and plenty of opportunities to get soaked.

Five-year-old me loved this ride. Sixteen-year-old me loved this ride. Thirty-six-year-old me still loves this ride today.

Don’t get me wrong, adult me has quite a lot more theme park experience under her belt than five-year-old me had when first introduced to the River Rampage. I am under no illusion that this style of ride is unique to Dollywood. Most major theme parks today will have at least one raft-style ride in the lineup.

But there’s something about the River Rampage that continues to offer a unique charm that I haven’t quite discovered at other parks.

The Rampage is like a water-themed game of roulette.

Sometimes I get soaked from head to toe, sometimes I barely get a drop of water on me. And really, that’s where the fun of this ride lies, at least in my opinion.

The River Rampage is also a bonding experience.

Dollywood is, by definition, the friendliest theme park in the world. This means if you show up with a group smaller than six, you’ll find yourself sharing a boat with other chatty park-goers ready to engage in friendly conversation or even some mild taunting about who’s going to suffer the brunt of the soaking.

I’ve had some of the best conversations on that ride. I once sat beside a second cousin to Dolly Parton. True story.

This ride is a blast for guests of all ages who don’t mind mild thrills and getting a little wet. Loose articles are allowed on this ride – at your own risk.

Guests under 48″ must be accompanied by an adult.

  • River Rampage Difficulty Level: Easy
  • River Rampage Overall Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Best Rides at Dollywood - Daredevil Falls
Daredevil Falls at Dollywood (photo by Morgan Overholt/

9. Daredevil Falls

Daredevil Falls replaced the Flooded Mine ride in 1998.

The closure of the Flooded Mine was my first real memory as a child of realizing that theme-park rides were not meant to be forever.

It wasn’t like the Flooded Mine was my all-time favorite ride. In all honesty, it was pretty mundane. But I still worried about whether or not the new ride would live up to the hype.

Well, friends, I am happy to report, Daredevil Falls delivered.

Daredevil Falls is a super-sized log-flume style water ride that resembles Disney’s popular Splash Mountain – only faster and with a bigger drop.

The ride begins with a mostly easy-going ride through the “mountains” where riders will enjoy encounters with a few animatronic obstacles including hungry bears and an unfortunately placed lumber sawmill.

The ride’s grand finale is a heart-racing 60-foot, 50 mph drop down a “waterfall” with a huge splash landing.

For comparison, Disney’s Splash Mountain features a 52-foot drop at 45 mph.

Keep in mind, this is no River Rampage. All riders WILL GET WET on this one.

In my experience, the front row tends to get the brunt of the action with water often pouring into the floor soaking your tootsies through your sneakers and socks.

Guests must be at least 42″ tall to ride. Loose articles are permitted on the ride at the rider’s own risk.

  • Daredevil Falls Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • Daredevil Falls Overall Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Best Rides at Dollywood - Mystery Mine
The Mystery Mine roller coaster at Dollywood (photo by Morgan Overholt/

8. Mystery Mine

For a theme park that literally has attractions that have been around since the 1960s, Dollywood’s Mystery Mine stands out as a coaster from a modern era.

Read Also: Dollywood train history: Meet the attraction that pre-dates the park

This is far cry from your average everyday steel coaster. This ride is an experience.

Mystery Mine first opened in 2007 and at the time, it was the first Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter roller coaster in the United States.

A Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter is basically a steel looping coaster with separate cars instead of connected multi-cart trains.

Mystery Mine’s carts feature only two rows, four seats per row.

While the tracks of these style coasters tend to be a little shorter than traditional steel coasters, the separate cart system allows for unique ride mechanisms – including 90- degree lifts and drops.

Mystery Mine is themed to look like an abandoned coal mine with steep drops, sharp turns, creative maneuvers, inversions and a hair-raising 95-degree, 85-foot plunge into darkness.

Do be warned, this ride is also quite a bit more jerky than it looks. In fact, I would say the jerkiness is nearly on par with a few of Dollywood’s wooden coasters, but for some reason, I can’t imagine it any other way.

After all, what else would you expect while exploring an old abandoned coal mine?

In conclusion, don’t be fooled by this short little coaster. Mystery Mine packs a punch. It’s a blast for coaster aficionados, and not for the timid of heart.

Guests must be 48″ tall to ride Mystery Mine. Loose articles and belongings are not allowed on this ride and can be stored in either lockers or cubbies.

  • Mystery Mine Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • Mystery Mine Overall Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Best Rides at Dollywood - The Tennessee Tornado
The Tennessee Tornado steel coaster at Dollywood (photo courtesy of Dollywood’s Steven Bridges)

7. Tennessee Tornado

The Tennessee Tornado marked a new era for Dollywood as the theme park’s first-ever major coaster expansion when it replaced Thunder Express in 1999.

As a then-timid 14-year-old, I was a bit sad to see Thunder Express go  – I had JUST gotten over my fear of coasters and considered the Thunder Express to be just my speed. Fun but not scary. Fast but not too fast. There were a few “drops” here and there but nothing crazy.

Imagine the look on my face when I saw the giant blazing red multi-loop steel coaster that took its place.

I will confess, it took me a couple of years to work up the guts to tackle this beast, but I was glad I did.

The Tennessee Tornado, while bearing an ironic name because tornados are few and far between in the mountains of East Tennessee due to the naturally rugged terrain, is arguably one of the best coasters in the park.

This coaster features a back-to-back triple spiral, a 128-foot drop through an actual mountain and a top speed of up to 70 mph.

While I love this coaster, vertigo is an issue for me on this particular ride – and it’s getting worse with age. The third loop causes me to see spots every single time but I don’t let it stop me. I just can’t ride it three times in a row anymore as I used to when I was a teenager.

Guests must be 48″ tall to ride, and loose articles are not permitted.

  • Tennessee Tornado Difficulty Rating: Hard
  • Tennessee Tornado Overall Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Best Coasters at Dollywood: Thunderhead
Dollywood’s wooden roller coaster Thunderhead (photo by Morgan Overholt/

6. Thunderhead

Thunderhead opened in 2004 as the pioneer attraction in what would later become a part of a larger expansion for the park – a new area now known as Timber Canyon.

It’s a hybrid of nostalgia and modern-day engineering.

True coaster aficionados will tell you there’s nothing quite like the experience of riding a real wooden coaster.

They want to smell the wood and hear the sounds of the chains and the roar of the cart as it races through the curves. They want to feel the rattle of timber beneath their feet as it expands and contracts, offering up a unique experience each time.

A good wooden coaster is akin to an original vinyl record.

Sure, modern coasters offer speed and gimmicky thrills. But the best wooden coasters are true souls of the coaster community.

And truly, Thunderhead offers all of that, and much more.

Thunderhead crosses over and under itself, 32 times during its over 3,000 foot-long ride, travels at a speed of 55 mph and features a 100-foot drop.

As far as adrenaline rushes are concerned, in my opinion, Thunderhead is the second most thrilling, and scariest ride in the park. Second only to the brand-new Lightning Rod (more on that later).

Guests must be 48″ tall to ride and loose articles are not permitted.

  • Thunderhead Difficulty Rating: Very Hard
  • Thunderhead Overall Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Best Rides at Dollywood: Dragonfllier
Dollywood’s coaster Dragonflier in Wildwood Grove (photos by Morgan Overholt/ and Dollywood’s Steven Bridges)

5. Dragonflier

I’ll probably get some hate mail for ranking Dragonflier higher than Thunderhead on this “Top 10” list but put down your pitchforks and hear me out.

Dragonflier is Dollywood’s newest roller coaster and part of the brand new 2019 Wildwood Grove expansion.

When Wildwood Grove first announced details about this new coaster for some reason I imagined a child’s coaster in my mind.

I knew that Wildwood Grove, while offering plenty of entertainment options for adults, was more or less going to be an area that largely catered to the younger crowd.

“How cute!” I thought to myself. “A roller coaster for the youngin’s!”

And sure, Dragonflier has a much lower height requirement than other coasters of its kind at the park at only 39″ versus the usual 48,” and I saw plenty of kids riding the thing when I set my sights on the coaster for the first time in 2019.

But when my butt hit the seat and the coaster took off out of the gate – I knew this wasn’t going to be the “kiddie” ride I had in mind.

In fact, in some ways, Dragonflier feels a bit like a smaller, shorter, 31 mph version of Wild Eagle.

It’s one of the smoothest coasters in the park, has no MAJOR drops or inversions but packs plenty of fun twists, turns and excitement.

And that’s what makes Dragonflier one of the best rides in the park – it just offers something for everybody.

Not a fan of big scary drops and inversions? Hate the feeling of the bigger jerky coasters? Looking for re-ride-ability? Dragonflier has ya covered!

This is the kind of coaster that I would easily feel great about inviting the entire family to ride. We usually end up riding this coaster at least a couple of times with every visit to the park. That’s something that just isn’t possible with the occasionally headache-inducing Tornado, Thunderhead or Lightning Rod coasters.

  • Dragonflier Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • Dragonflier Overall Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Best Rides at Dollywood - Firechaser Express
Dollywood’s steel coaster: Firechaser Express (photos by MorganOverholt/ and Dollywood’s Steven Bridges)

4. FireChaser Express

FireChaser Express made its grand debut in 2014 as the nation’s FIRST dual-launch family roller coaster.

It blasts riders both forward and backward – similar to the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike ride at Universal Studios.

This ride is similar in difficulty to Wildwood Grove’s Dragonflier, with the same height requirement of 39″ and speeds of up to 35 mph.

Truthfully, I find when traveling backward, 35 mph actually seems much faster when traveling forward.

This unique ride is fairly smooth overall with a few mildly jerky parts and much like Dragonflier, offers great re-rideability.

And like many of Dollywood’s larger coasters, it also offers incredible views of the mountains.

Like Dragonflier, FireChaser Express is considered to be a family coaster. And there’s plenty to love here for both kids and adults – but do remember that this coaster is far from a “kiddie” ride.

Loose articles are not permitted and may be stored in lockers or cubbies before boarding.

  • FireChaser Express Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • FireChaser Express Overall Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Best Rides at Dollywood - Lightning Rod
Dollywood’s Steel/Wood coaster hybrid, Lightning Rod (photo by Morgan Overholt/

3. Lightning Rod

And then there was Lightning Rod – the fastest wooden coaster in the world (even faster than Goliath at Six Flags Great America, the previous record-holder).

Lightning Rod, located in Dollywood’s Jukebox Junction, is a fairly new addition to the park. It was built in 2016, so the memories of my first Lightning Rod encounter are still fresh in my mind.

I was looking up at the tricked-out wooden-steel hybrid and its 165-foot drop while in line behind a young girl that looked like she was probably about 11 years old and her mom. The 11-year-old, who could clearly read the apprehension on my face, turns to me and says in a comforting tone: “This is my favorite ride in the park – you’re going to love it!”

Moments later I was being launched from zero to 45 mph 20 stories uphill feeling my butt lift off the seat as I wondered if I had just met the bravest 11-year-old ever to walk the face of the earth.

Lightning Rod is not for the faint of heart.

The hot rod themed coaster has all the speeds and heart-racing maneuvers of a steel coaster, with the adrenaline-charged thrills of a classic wooden beast.

Lightning Rod features a launch (similar to the Hulk at Universal Studios, only faster), speeds of up to 73 mph and boasts nearly 20 seconds of “air time” for those brave enough to ride.

For comparison, the Hulk launches riders from 0 to 40 mph with a max speed of 67. Lightning Rod is basically like a bigger, faster Hulk on wood. In short, it’s terrifying, and I love it.

Guests must be 48″ tall to ride and loose articles are not permitted. Guests with casts above the elbow or hard casts on legs are asked to skip this one for safety reasons.

  • Lightning Rod Difficulty Rating: Very Hard
  • Lightning Rod Overall Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Best Dollywood Rides: Wild Eagle
Dollywood’s steel side-seater Wild Eagle (photos by Dollywood’s Steven Bridges)

2. Wild Eagle

I once sat at a bar at The Island and tried to explain the Wild Eagle to a visiting tourist.

“So you sit on top of the track?” asks the tourist.

“No,” I reply.

“So you’re seated underneath the track?” presses the tourist.

“Wrong again!” I reply, feeling saucy. “You sit BESIDE it!”

That’s right, the Wild Eagle is a wing coaster – the first of its kind in the United States.

This coaster is hands-down my favorite modern-day coaster in the park. Despite its intimidating look, it offers an incredibly smooth ride. And the unique side-seat feature truly makes you feel like you’re flying with nothing but air above and below.

Okay, maybe air and the all-important over-the-shoulder safety restraints.

This ride has a minimum height requirement of 50″ and a max height of 78″. Loose articles are not permitted.

  • Wild Eagle Difficulty Rating: Moderate/Hard
  • Wild Eagle Overall Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
The best ride at Dollywood: Blazing Fury
The Blazing Fury is Dollywood’s oldest coaster (photo by Morgan Overholt/

1. Blazing Fury

You’d be hard-pressed to find a local in this town that doesn’t have a special place in their heart for Blazing Fury.

In case you’re wondering, in full disclosure, I am that annoying person that rides behind you repeating all the classic lines I’ve learned by heart from my hundreds of times riding this piece of Dollywood history.

“Now Molly, I’ve got a weak back!” “Weak back or not … here I come!”

Out-of-town guests and first-time riders should note that your kids will be bewildered and possibly even disappointed by the painfully evident age of this attraction. But we locals would like for you to keep in mind, if you dis the Blazing Fury, them’s fightin’ words.

The Blazing Fury is part of our heritage.

The Blazing Fury is over 40 years old. It was built in 1978 and literally pre-dates the park itself. And for a long time, until the Thunder Express opened in 1989, it was the only coaster in the park.

The scenes are campy, the lines are cheesy, homemade props are abundant, “easter eggs” and nods to the park’s history are plentiful – and we LOVE IT!

This indoor coaster mostly features a slow-moving ride through a “burning town” that lulls you into a sense of “hey this is a super easy ride” before its big multi-drop steel coaster finish.

The coaster also used to feature a bit of a “splash down” landing with water effects, but over the years the water caused wear and tear on the ride and the park had to remove the feature or risk shutting the coaster down altogether.

The day the Blazing Fury shuts down, will be a day of mourning. Let’s hope it never happens.


It has a height requirement of 42″, loose articles are permitted but must be secured.

  • Blazing Fury Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • Blazing Fury Overall Rating: A very biased 5 stars (Out of 5)

For a complete list of Dollywood theme park rides, and loose article policies, visit the Dollywood website at

And don’t forget to download the Dollywood app to help with wait times.

If you’re planning your trip to Dollywood, remember to check Tripster for discounts.

View the web story version of this article here.

Do you agree with our ranking? What’s your favorite ride? Let us know in the comments below.

What not to do at Dollywood; 7 tips from a local

I love going to Dollywood. As a kid, I was lucky enough to grow up within an hour’s driving distance of the theme park, and my parents would often buy season passes for the family.

Because of this, the Pigeon Forge theme park has a very special place in my heart.

Nostalgia and bias aside, even as a now-adult I must admit – Dollywood still holds its own even when compared to some of the other highly regarded American theme parks.

This is why I feel a sense of true pride and glee when I find out a friend has never been, and I want to swiftly whisk them away to the happiest place on earth – or at least the happiest place in East Tennessee.

I often have a list of recommendations. Those are a dime a dozen, though.

If you want some real Dollywood tips, here’s the most important items: What not to do at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.:

Dollywood Cubbies
Ride cubbies at Blazing Fury hold loose items for guests while they ride (photo by Morgan Overholt/

7. Don’t spend a bunch of money on lockers

Dollywood is a park that really pays attention to the little details and values guest experience.

So on a vast majority of rides in the theme park, you’ll find little cubby areas where you can stash your stuff while you ride.

Sure, there are lockers, too. But I can honestly say I’ve never used one.

While Dollywood (or this website, for that matter) is not liable for property left in the cubby, I’ve never had an issue with lost items (knock on wood).

But here’s a bonus tip: If you decide to go the cubby route, bring a waterproof pouch for your cell phone and keys because on some rides, like River Rampage, you may have to take your stuff with you. And you will get wet.

It’s safe to say that many of these prizes won’t fit in the previously mentioned cubbies. Save the games, and the shopping, for the end of the day (photo by Morgan Overholt/

6. Don’t carry souvenirs around the park all day

If your kids want to play some games in Country Fair or someone in your party wants to do some shopping around the park, try to steer them in that direction toward the end of the day.

Theme parks aren’t fun if you feel like a pack mule.

Read Also: Dollywood souvenir mugs: What to know before you buy

Dollywood Time Saver Pass
The prices for TimeSaver Passes fluctuate throughout the year but generally range from $60-$100 (photo by Morgan Overholt/

5. Don’t buy a TimeSaver pass (right away)

I can’t speak for everyone. There are different types of vacationers.

If you have the budget and are absolutely set on seeing everything in the park in one day, then a TimeSaver pass might be right for you.

What is a TimeSaver pass, you ask?

You may be familiar with the concept, but each theme park is a little different. And even Dollywood’s terms and conditions may vary from year to year.

Generally, the TimeSaver pass (starting at $60 plus tax at the time of this writing) gets you expedited entrances eight times throughout the day on your choice of participating rides.

The TimeSaver Unlimited pass (starting at $80 plus tax at the time of this writing) gets you unlimited access to expedited entry at all participating rides and attractions.

But is a TimeSaver pass worth it?

And the answer is, it depends.

Dollywood makes it easy to view wait times for its rides both in-park and with the Dollywood app. And I’ve rarely seen any wait time go much above one hour.

And heck, it’s not uncommon, in my experience, to ride a ride over and over again because there was virtually no wait.

There are many days that I’ve been to the park that a TimeSaver pass would be unnecessary, in my opinion.

On the flip side, on summer weekends and special occasions, the park may also be slammed.

Just consider scoping out the crowds before shelling out the cash.

Dollywood Emporium
There so much to see and do at Dollywood between the rides, shows, attractions, dining and shops that you may very likely need two days to experience it all (photo by Morgan Overholt/

4. Don’t try to experience the park in one day on your first visit

Dollywood has a lot to offer. I would argue that some of its coasters rival the best in the world.

Genuinely, I would rank Wild Eagle and Lightning Rod among my top three coasters of all time, and I’ve been to the major places – Universal, Six Flags, Disney, the works.

But Dollywood is more than just rides and coasters. They also offer shows (some of which feature Dolly Parton’s family members), exceptionally good theme park food and immersive experiences that are worth checking out.

If you try to do the theme park in one single day, you might be missing out. But then again, this could depend on what type of vacationer you are.

Read Also: Can you do Dollywood in one day? This guide will help you decide

The Dollywood App
There is no better tool for your arsenal than the Dollywood app while in the park. The Dollywood app allows you to view ride wait times, check the current show schedule, make a to-do list and even find your way around the park in real-time with an interactive map (photo by Morgan Overholt/

3. Don’t forget to download the Dollywood app

The Dollywood app helps you find rides, shops and restaurants based on your location.

It even has a “Friend Finder” feature in case anyone in your group splits off during the day.

It’s one of the most helpful theme park apps I’ve ever downloaded, so don’t skip out just to save some space on your phone.

a water cup
Free cups of water are available at most dining locations (photo by Morgan Overholt/

2. Don’t miss out on the complimentary water

Tennessee is humid, y’all.

But luckily, the folks at Dollywood don’t want you to get dehydrated, so just about any kiosk that is able, will give you free iced tap water on request.

Here’s a pro-tip: Carry around a refillable screw-top bottle in which to dump the complimentary water into. Dollywood crew members won’t be able to handle your water bottle directly as they would be seen as less than sanitary, but I often request a couple of water cups at a time just to pour them into the more bag-friendly, screw-top bottle for easier transport.

The Blazing Fury
The Blazing Fury is Dollywood’s second oldest attraction (behind the train). If you make fun of it, them’s fightin’ words (photo by Morgan Overholt/

1. Don’t make fun of the Blazing Fury

Blazing Fury is an iconic ride that should basically be required (for able-bodied people) upon admission to the park.

Yes, it’s a bit older. Yes, your kids might ask “Is that it?” or complain that they “don’t get it”.

But as one of the park’s first rides, it holds a special place in the hearts of frequent park-goers for its easter eggs, hand-painted decorations and lines that we all love to quote.

The world may be a crazy place, but we Dollywood fans know some truths are constant: Molly’s about to jump, Luther has a weak back and the stables are on fire.

Read Also: Dollywood rides ranked: 10 best coasters and rides in the park

So please don’t say mean things about Blazing Fury. Them’s fightin’ words.

Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments.

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