9 Tips and Tricks That Will Make Your Dollywood Trip Better, From a Local

dollywood sign that says best day ever in pigeon forge tn

Below are some tips and tricks to help you and your family enjoy a trip to Dollywood even more (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

The ultimate insider’s guide to doing Dollywood like a pro

The first time I set foot in Pigeon Forge was 1987. Dollywood would have only been a year old having converted from Silver Dollar City in 1985. As a kid, the idea of Dollywood was still kind of strange. Dolly was a big star, but she wasn’t exactly Walt Disney.

But in the intervening years, Dollywood had already made great strides. The park has grown, and so have I. And so, I have learned to adopt certain tips and tricks to make going to Dollywood even more fun. So, here are a few tips only the insiders know that can make your trip better.

Dollywood is an excellent theme park located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. If you want to make your experience even better, you can learn how to avoid Pigeon Forge traffic, get free parking and better plan your trip ahead of time. One of my favorite tricks is using refillable mugs and snacks and taking advantage of the free water provided by the park.

1. Avoid Pigeon Forge traffic

During peak hours, traffic in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg can steal tiny pieces of your soul. Sevier County officials, and presumably the Tennessee Department of Transportation, have done a lot of work to open up the entrances and help move people through. However, there are still plenty of times it’d be quicker to walk the length of the main drag than try and drive it.

Depending on where you’re coming from, there are some shortcuts. The best way to get to Dollywood when the traffic is bad is to take Highway 411, which you can access from the east or north from I-40 at Newport, or from the south or west by taking the Chapman Highway exit off I-40 in Knoxville. Either way, take 411 to the intersection with Veterans Boulevard.

This used to be a little-known backroad, used only by locals, but the road has been widened and provides a bunch of lanes heading to the park. More people know about it, more people use it, but it is still vastly superior to taking the Parkway. If you’re staying in Pigeon Forge proper, you might want to consider Teaster Lane if you can get to it. It runs parallel to the Parkway and connects to the other end of Veterans Boulevard.

guests sitting on the dollywood tram in the rain
Trams can help take guests to and from their parked cars (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

2. Get free parking at Dollywood

The whole building-upon-an-already-existing site was great except for some of the transportation logistics. There’s plenty of parking at Dollywood, but the tram system to and from the park to the parking lot can be one of the closest things to a disappointment you’ll find under less-than-ideal circumstances. The drivers are great and friendly, but it’s just an outdated way to move people.

There’s a fairly easy way to avoid all that mess. Straight cash. Go for the preferred parking. You’re already laying down serious cash just to get in the park and enjoy the day. The upgrade to park close, avoid the queue crush and not have to ride the tram is the best deal they offer.

But here’s the real pro-tip: Gold season passholders receive FREE standard parking and a discount on preferred. So if your family is considering season passes this year, consider making at least one of those passes a gold pass to enjoy the free parking benefit – plus a variety of lodging, ticket and in-park discounts including food.

One word of caution: The preferred lot is on top of a mountain. The walk down to the exclusive entrance can be a bit rough on the knees, but the climb back is brutal if you have mobility issues. If you’re staying in Pigeon Forge, with a $3 wristband, you can also catch a trolley to Patriot Park and then transfer to a trolley to Dollywood.

Bonus pro-tip: Guests staying at DreamMore receive complimentary shuttle service to both Dollywood and Splash Country. Remember, whichever way you park, booking with Tripster can sometimes save you a few bucks off of your admission ticket.

umbrella sky at dollywood theme park
Plan to do a lot of walking at the Dollywood theme park (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

3. Plan ahead for a lot of walking

Look, many amusement parks have the good luck and/or foresight to be built on a relatively flat piece of land. One of Disney’s best ideas was building his park on a flat second story. You walk up a little at the entrance and then never realize the Magic Kingdom is set on a roof. Dollywood ain’t that. There are hills, mountains, dips, dives and hollers.

In other words, plan your footwear accordingly. If you have mobility issues, they have scooters for rent, but on busy days they can get a little scarce. If you’re wondering whether or not to bring your chair or rent one, I’d say bring it.

a water cup
Free water cups are available at most snack stands and restaurants (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

4. Take advantage of the free water at Dollywood

If you’re at Dollywood, there’s a good chance it’s hot and humid. For those of us from the area, it’s part of life in the South, but if you’re visiting from somewhere with a less sticky, thick summer environment, it can be a bit of an adjustment.

Dollywood recognizes this and also knows it’s not a fantastic look to have patrons dropping left and right from heatstroke. As such, the park offers complimentary cups of water at all park restaurants and most food outlets. All you have to do is ask.

dollywood souvenir cup
Refillable mugs and snacks can save a lot of money at the theme park (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

5. Purchase refillable mugs and snacks

Dollywood is a family-centric park. They also understand how expenses like food and beverage tend to add up once inside the park, especially for larger families. But never fear – Dollywood offers a variety of refillable drink and snack options that will keep the entire family hydrated and well-fed throughout the day without breaking the bank. Refillable options include:

  1. Souvenir mugs
  2. Popcorn buckets
  3. Dippin’ Dots

Refillable souvenir mugs can be reused multiple times per season. You can even bring in souvenir mugs from previous seasons, but the discount isn’t quite as good.

height requirements at dollywood theme park in tennessee
This station can be a big time saver for kids who want to ride coasters and rides (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

6. Have your kids measured at the park entrance

This little nugget is a huge time-saver. If you have kids old enough to enjoy some of the rides at Dollywood, your first stop once inside the park should be at Dollywood’s centralized measuring station. The measuring station is across from the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame Showstreet. At the measuring station, a Dollywood host will measure your child and give them a color-coded wristband. The color codes correspond with signs at each ride in the park that indicate whether or not your child will be tall enough to ride before you waste an hour in line only to be turned away in disappointment.

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

7. Skip the lockers, use the cubbies

There’s a reason Dollywood is known as the “Friendliest Park in the World” and a large part of that reason is the little things like ride cubbies. Yes, Dollywood offers lockers in which you can store your valuables for a price near the entrance like every other park in the world. But unlike others (I’m looking at you, Universal) Dollywood recognizes that you might have stuff you need throughout the day that you’d rather not take on a ride or store in a locker. And so, Dollywood offers ride cubbies – places where you can store your stuff.

Plus, ride cubbies are free. They’re not necessarily secure (the honor system is in play here), so if you have the Hope Diamond on you, you might want to consider an alternate storage method.

dolly parton speaks at media event at dollywood in 2023
Dolly Parton usually makes an appearance at the season’s opening each year (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

8. See Dolly at Dollywood

This is the big one. Dolly will occasionally make appearances at the park to announce the latest big show or ride or something. These occasions are hard to pinpoint in advance and may just come down to the luck of the draw. The best chance to see Dolly is early in the year. Normally, there’s a media day at which Dolly (schedule permitting) kicks off the new year with a little show and song. During the show, she also celebrates season passholders and makes several appearances in the park (weather permitting) including riding in the parade. If you want to see Dolly, this is the best way to do it.

9. See Dolly in the wild (incognito) at Dollywood

Over the years, I have become friendly with several people who work at the park, both on the operations side and on the entertainment side. All have told me it is the gospel truth that Dolly has been able to take off her persona – wig, makeup and fancy outfits – and take in the park without being noticed. I have been told by many reliable sources this is true, but I’ve never heard of someone successfully spotting an incognito Dolly riding the Tennessee Tornado. Still, it’s probably worth keeping your eyes peeled for a little Where’s Waldo action – Dollywood style.


Subscribe to our newsletter for area news, coupons and discounts

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Please wait...

Thank you for sign up!

If you plan a trip to Dollywood, remember to check Tripster to save a couple of dollars off admission. Have you been to Dollywood? Give us your best tips in the comments.

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at info@thesmokies.com.


Disclosure: We have used and experienced all the products and activities recommended on The Smokies. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products and experiences featured.

3 thoughts on “9 Tips and Tricks That Will Make Your Dollywood Trip Better, From a Local”

  1. Need to get more scooters,had to rent a wheelchair made everyone miserable trying to push me.The scooters work good,thank you!

  2. I have been trying to order for days the 25lb pie for our son. I have tried everything I
    could think of please help.

  3. Went to Dollyworld this past June (2021) It was AMAZING!! I am handicap and took my own scooter. I think the idea of the handicap pass was great!! It’s right by the child measuring place, right when you first go in. It was very helpful. Of course you can’t ride a lot of rides but there are some, But the shows and museums were the BEST!! I highly recommend the cinnamon bread…it It YUMMY!!! The fireworks are also unbelievable!! But get there early cause it fills up fast!!! Going again in 2022 with (I might add) season passes!! If the good lords willin’ and the creek don’t raise!! Way to much to see in one day!!! PS I LOVE YOU DOLLY!!!


Leave a Comment