Building the perfect theme park is an ineffable combination of science, technology and alchemy.
The formula is different for each park. For example, what works for King’s Island or Busch Gardens or one of the many Six Flags scattered about the country is different than what will work in Orlando or in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
In Pigeon Forge, the magical formula is just right at the Dollywood theme park.
But don’t take my word for it, just look at Dollywood’s trophy case. Each year, Dolly Parton and her team add some shiny new hardware for the best of this and the excellence of that.
The journey from Rebel Railroad to Goldrush Junction to Silver Dollar City is a fairly mundane tale of minor successes and battling for kitschy relevance in Sevier County tourism.
However, the sea-changing event came with the partnership of Dolly Parton and the Herschend Family nearly 40 years ago. That partnership kickstarted a decades-long effort to take Dollywood from a niche product to one of the best theme parks in the world.
Dollywood offers a selection of thrill rides that can compete with the best parks in the United States. Equally important is the musical talent worthy of one of the nation’s most well-known musical alumna.
Moreover, Dollywood offers delightful cuisine that celebrates mountain traditions. They offer Southern-style food, traditional theme park carnival fare and also internationally developed flavors worthy of top restaurants in the region.
Finally, educational experiences on preservation and conservation and the history of the region are preserved at the park.
- Sections of the park
- Roller coasters
- Rides for kids
- Family rides
- Dollywood food
- Shows and entertainment
- Seasonal festivals
- Dollywood resorts
Can Dollywood be done in one day?
Completely? Maybe if you’re young and spry and willing to push yourself to the point of exhaustion. But I think realistically the answer is no. If you want to have a joyous and complete Dollywood experience for the entire family, I don’t think it’s doable anymore.
Even with advanced ticketing that allows you to bypass wait times for the roller coasters, there are only so many hours in a day.
Dollywood proper has 11 sections to the park. Most of those sections have their own rides and experiences. Many of them have shows. There is a lot to do for the price of your park admission. Therefore, if you only have a day, you’re going to have to pick and choose.
You can certainly plan a vacation in which you spend only a day at Dollywood and walk away satisfied. But to truly conquer the park? I think you need two.
And that’s not counting Dollywood Splash Country, the resorts or the Pigeon Forge dinner shows owned and operated by Dolly and the gang.
What are the sections of the park at Dollywood?
So what are the 11 sections within the Dollywood theme park? Here’s a brief overview of each:
Showstreet is one of the oldest areas of the park.
It is located near the entrance and features staple guest amenities such as gift shops, ride measuring and accessibility centers, a lost and found, Doggywood (Dollywood’s doggy daycare), stroller/wheelchair rentals, guest services and also photo opportunities.
This section is also accessible from the park’s main entrance for guests who skip the Showstreet section and instead opt for a steep hike up a paved, winding pathway up a hill following a sharp left when entering the park.
Opening in 2019, Wildwood Grove is Dollywood’s newest area that was designed for families who visit the park with multiple generations.
In fact, it’s a $37 million dollar investment with a 5-acre footprint but much more soon to come.
Wilderness Pass is located at the tip-top of the theme park and features two relatively new thrill coasters: Firechaser Express (2014) and Wild Eagle (2012).
Both hold national recognition.
Craftsman’s Valley is one of the oldest and largest sections of the park.
Included among the numerous rides and attractions are the Calico Falls Schoolhouse, Daredevil Falls and Tennessee Tornado. Also in this section is a real chapel (which holds services most Sundays).
And don’t forget the local favorite and second longest-running ride in the park: Blazing Fury. The ride is a Silver Dollar City original – which predates Dollywood itself.
Craftsman’s Valley is also home to the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, a 400,000 cubic-foot aviary that houses the country’s largest collection of non-releasable bald eagles.
Owens Farm is one of the smallest sections of the park, featuring one main attraction: Barnstormer.
This is one area of the park that has room for expansions in place of the Mountain Slidewinder, which closed in 2018.
The Village’s most notable attraction is the longest-running attraction in the park: The Dollywood Express.
The Dollywood Express features two authentic coal-powered steam locomotives: Engine 70 (Cinderella) and Engine 192 (Klondike Katie).
The Country Fair is exactly as the name suggests – a replica of a classic country fair.
This section of the park features fair food and all the classic rides: Demolition Derby (bumper cars), Shooting Star (a mini drop tower), Dizzy Disc (a frisbee ride), The Scrambler, The Waltzing Swinger, Flying Elephants, Sky Rider and more.
The Rivertown Junction is a great place to cool down on one of the park’s oldest attractions: The Smoky Mountain River Rampage.
Additionally, you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many eateries and snack carts.
Jukebox Junction, Dollywood’s 50s-style section, will transport you back in time with places such as Pines Theater, Rockin’ Roadway and Red’s Drive-In.
Authentic classic cars are scattered throughout the area.
Jukebox Junction is also home to the world’s first wooden launch coaster: Lightning Rod, generally considered the best coaster in Dollywood and usually ranked among the best in the country.
Adventures in Imagination
Adventures in Imagination is located near the front of the park.
The area features the Chasing Rainbows Museum (currently closed), Dreamsong Theater, Dolly’s Closet, a Season Pass Exchange Center and Dolly’s Home on Wheels (her real-life retired tour bus).
Roller coasters at Dollywood
For thrill-seekers, Dollywood has turned itself into a credible roller coaster destination while maintaining all the charms of its mountain theme. Here’s a list of the current parks coasters:
|Blazing Fury||42 inches|
|Whistle Punk Chaser||36 inches|
|Dragonflier||39 inches (max 81 inches)|
|FireChaser Express||39 inches|
|Tennessee Tornado||48 inches|
|Wild Eagle||50 inches (max 78 inches)|
|Mystery Mine||48 inches|
|Lightning Rod||48 inches|
|Big Bear Mountain (coming soon)||39 inches|
The least roller-coast-y roller coaster at Dollywood, Blazing Fury is a classic ride. It’s a historic link to the park’s past as well as a link to Dollywood’s cousin-park Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. It’s a dark ride taking you leisurely through a town set ablaze.
Located in Craftsman’s Valley, Blazing Fury has a 42-inch height requirement.
Whistle Punk Chaser
A kids’ coaster located in the literal shadow of larger coasters in Timber Canyon, this is a zippy little kids’ ride.
The Whistle Punk Chaser has a 36-inch height requirement and guests under 42 inches must be supervised by someone 16 or older.
A proper family-friendly roller coaster is one of the newer additions in the park, located in the still new and growing Wildwood Grove. I’m very fond of this family suspended coaster that mimics the flight of a dragonfly.
The Dragonflier has a minimum height requirement of 39 inches and a maximum height requirement of 81 inches. Riders under 48 inches must be accompanied by someone 16 or older.
Another family coaster that offers an amusing ride for all. The FireChaser is the nation’s first dual-launch family coaster, launching riders forward and backward.
The FireChaser has a minimum height requirement of 39 inches and guests under 48 inches must be accompanied by someone 16 or older.
The Tennessee Tornado has been surpassed over the years by newer coasters. However, it serves as a significant milestone in Dollywood history. And it still packs a heckuva punch.
The minimum height for the Tennessee Tornado, located in Craftsman’s Valley, is 48 inches.
Thunderhead, located in Timber Canyon, is a modern take on the old wooden roller coaster tradition of theme parks of yesteryear.
Certainly, there are more twists and turns than on the classic coasters, but I think some of that is simply the demands of the terrain. With a 100-foot vertical drop and a top speed of 55 mph, Thunderhead doesn’t need a lot of loops or inversions to give thrills.
The minimum height for Thunderhead is 48 inches.
Located in Wilderness Pass, the Wild Eagle is a majestic ride, befitting its namesake. A steel wing coaster, the Eagle was the first of its kind in the United States when it opened in 2012.
The coaster reaches a height of 210 feet and a top speed of 61 mph. With seats beside the track, the Wild Eagle’s riders have nothing above or below them as they soar through a series of loops and inversions 21 stories above the park below.
The minimum height for Wild Eagle is 50 inches and the maximum height is 78 inches.
Located in Timber Canyon, Mystery Mine is set inside a haunted mining operation from the 19th century. The combination of ride and theming is the best in the park.
The ride itself isn’t especially tall or fast, but it is thrilling. Top speeds reach 43 mph and height is 85.3 feet. The 1,811-foot track takes riders through the abandoned, haunted coal mine.
The minimum height for Mystery Mine is 48 inches.
This powerful coaster was modified for the 2021 season with much of its wooden track replaced by steel. Before that, it was the fastest wooden coaster in the world, reaching 73 mph.
It’s a fantastic ride, rated the fifth-best coaster in the United States by USA Today in August of 2021 and the second-best wooden coaster in the United States by TripSavvy in November of 2020 prior to the changes.
Despite its frequent need for maintenance, it’s the favorite coaster of most enthusiasts of thrill rides in the park.
Big Bear Mountain (coming soon)
The newest addition to Wildwood Grove is on its way. Furthermore, the new attraction is set to be the longest and largest roller coaster in the park. It will be Dollywood’s first to have onboard audio and the first one to go through a waterfall.
With a top speed of 48 mph, this longest coaster at the park will take guests through three launches, multiple airtime thrills and high-speed carousel turns and even pass behind a waterfall.
The minimum height requirement for Big Bear Mountain will be 39 inches tall, so the young adventurers will also be able to ride.
Dollywood’s rides for small children
But Dollywood has more than just coasters, right? Sure. While Dollywood has made up for lost time in the coaster department, it hasn’t forgotten there are those who want other kinds of ride experiences.
For example, Dollywood has several rides designed for small kids. Most do not have height requirements, except for Black Bear Trail where riders should be 36 inches tall.
The bumble bee cars go round and round. This ride is one of Country Fair’s series of small carnival rides perfect for little ones. I wouldn’t say it’s a great variety of rides. However, these are fun rides for the littlest toddlers.
They have no height requirement. In other words, three-year-olds generally can ride comfortably around and around, again and again with no problem.
Second verse. Same as the first. Country Fair. Round and Round. Cookie-cutter kiddie rides.
This parade of pigs travels round and round a giant scarecrow. Yet another easy ride for the little ones.
The Amazing Flying Elephants
A rip-off of the Dumbo ride in Disney, the Amazing Flying Elephants also go endlessly round and round. But they also go up in the air.
It should be noted that little ones must be accompanied by someone 16 years old or older. This one is also located at the Country Fair.
Located in Owens Farm, Granny’s Garden is an interactive playground experience themed around a garden.
Lil’ Pilots Playground
Located in Owens Farm near the Barnstormer, the Lil’ Pilots Playground allows little ones 48 inches and under to explore a 22- foot by 16-foot wooden bi-plane and play with a one-of-a-kind drum set.
In addition to the plane, the kids can climb and slide amid a variety of structures.
Located in the Village overlooking The Country Fair, the Carousel is a time-honored family ride going back generations. If you’re the parent of a toddler you know the routine. To explain, the kid gets on the horse and you stand beside it, holding on and making sure nobody tally ho’s off the thing.
Anyone 42 inches or smaller – so every toddler ever except for maybe Shaq – needs someone 16 or older to ride along.
Not necessarily a ride for toddlers, the Rockin’ Roadway is a favorite among little ones with a love of cars.
Located in Jukebox Junction – not far from the County Fair – the hot rods of yesteryear require someone 16 or older for any children shorter than 42 inches tall. But it is still a great attraction for young ones.
Frogs and Fireflies
We get our first entry from Wildwood Grove, making this a relatively new ride.
Frogs and Fireflies is a ride for little kids but the frogs do a considerable amount of hopping. Any kid under 36 inches must be accompanied by a 16-year-old or better. Of course, that makes the area around Frogs and Fireflies a perfect spot to rest.
Firehouse Fun Yard
Located in Wilderness Pass near the Firechaser Express, Firehouse Fun Yard is exclusively for toddlers to get out and have fun in an interactive children’s play area.
The Fun Yard includes pop-jet water features, a soft play structure where children can slide and play, a block table and a chalkboard coloring wall. While the area is for kids less than 39 inches tall, children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a 16-year-old or older.
Black Bear Trail
In the Grove, the Black Bear Trail is the slightly less bouncy cousin to Frogs and Fireflies.
Kids must be at least 36 inches tall to ride and anyone under 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult who will sit on the back of a bouncy bear as it wanders around the Grove.
It’s an acceptable ride for the adults but a great time for the kids.
Wildwood Creek offers a splash pad in the Grove. It is a great place for your toddler to cool off and have a little bit of freedom to explore, under your watchful eye, of course.
Indoors. Air-conditioned. Dark. Surrounded by a forest scene, kids of all ages get in touch with nature, climbing up tree trunk net towers, exploring tree crawls, traversing a series of blocks and sliding down hollow logs.
And also, a separate toddler area provides the smallest adventurers with their own space to safely explore.
Family rides at Dollywood
Finally, we have some rides that do not fall under either of the above categories. These include …
|Demolition Derby||42 inches|
|Shooting Star||36 inches|
|Dizzy Disk||48 inches|
|Great Tree Swing||36 inches|
|Sky Rider||42 inches|
|Daredevil Falls||42 inches|
|The Waltzing Swinger||42 inches|
|Drop Line||55 inches|
|Smoky Mountain River Rampage||36 inches|
The Lemon Twist is a Mad Hatter Tea Cups-style ride in the Country Fair. No height requirements.
The bumper cars are located at the Country Fair. The minimum height of 42 inches. Must be 48 inches to drive.
The Shooting Star is a more kid-friendly drop tower ride. Riders must be 36 inches and 42 inches to ride without adult accompaniment.
Get a good view of the park from Wildwood Grove as you ascend in an acorn shaped ride vehicle and rotate around the tree trunk. The descent is gentle.
No height requirements other than those 42 inches and under must be accompanied by an adult.
The Disk is a carnival-style ride. Specifically, you sit on a wheel-less bicycle-looking thing on a giant plate that rises into the air and spins around.
Designed to make you dizzy and possibly toss a cookie. Must be 48 inches to ride.
Great Tree Swing
You must be 36 inches to board this Wildwood Grove ride that swings a Viking ship-style ride vehicle back and forth through the air.
Soar 70 feet above the Country Fair section of the park with room for a co-pilot. You must be 42 inches to ride and 48 inches to ride without an accompanying adult.
A log-flume-style ride located in Craftsman’s Valley. This ride features a 60-foot drop and has a 42-inch height requirement.
The Waltzing Swinger
Swing 25 feet above the Country Fair. You must be 42 inches to ride and 48 to ride without supervision.
This drop tower ride in Timber Canyon takes you 20 stories up above Dollywood and drops you. The minimum height requirement is 55 inches.
Smoky Mountain River Rampage
The Rampage is a traditional theme park rapids ride.
You will get wet, so it’s refreshing on a hot day. Located in Rivertown Junction, you must be 36 inches to ride and 48 to ride without an accompanying adult.
Enough about Dollywood attractions, let’s talk food
Gladly. Dollywood has a wide variety of delicious dining options, too many to try and name them all. There are a few musts, however.
Located in Rivertown Junction, Aunt Granny’s was named by USA Today as one of the top 10 best theme park restaurants in the country.
Aunt Granny offers a grand spread of Southern-style food served family-style with something for everyone.
Cinnamon Bread at The Grist Mill
A true Dollywood delicacy, the Grist Mill in Craftsman’s Valley offers daily demonstrations. In fact, It’s simply a must for any first visit to Dollywood. Don’t worry about the calories; you’ll burn ‘em off.
Crossroads Funnel Cake
I’m a sucker for carnival foods and the funnel cake stand in Rivertown Junction offers the perfect sweet treat for fall and winter evenings when the temperature drops.
You can eat funnel cake year round, I suppose, but I especially like it when the weather turns.
Country Cookers Kettle Korn
Another must if you want an authentic Dollywood experience. Located in Rivertown Junction, this sweet treat is a perfect way to take home the taste of Dollywood.
Market Square Big Skillet
I love foods cooked in giant skillets. Steak sandwiches, sausages with onions and peppers and fried potatoes. They used to have a giant skillet serving fajitas up close to the railroad.
During festival season, you might find something similar down here in Rivertown Junction. Bonus points because you typically won’t have to wait as long as some of the sit-down favorites.
Other dining options include BBQ from Miss Lillian’s, Hickory House BBQ and Granny Ogle’s Ham ‘n’ beans, all in Craftsman’s Valley.
And also Iron Horse Pizza in the Village and Mexican-style bowls at the Till and Harvest Food Hall in Wildwood Grove. Although, the offerings at the Till and Harvest have varied in more recent years.
Dollywood shows and entertainment
We’re almost at the same number of words as in the Magna Carta. Dollywood can’t possibly have any more to offer, right?
Wrong! We haven’t even touched on the variety of entertainment available. From Hee-Haw style comedy to musical selections celebrating the authentic artistry of the area, Dollywood has a wide variety of shows with country music, bluegrass, gospel and even a little early Rock and Roll.
If you love music and live entertainment, be sure to get a show schedule when you arrive at the park or download the Dollywood App for performance times as well as ride wait times.
Some of Dollywood’s entertainment is seasonal and some are tied to the various seasonal festivals hosted by the park.
In the past, Dollywood shows could be a little hyper-produced, like something developed for a Disney kids’ show. In recent years, while keeping those shows around, Dollywood has embraced more shows that focus more on the music and less on production.
Harmonies of the Heart
The show features two of Dolly’s nieces, Heidi Lou and Jada Star, Dolly’s cousin Shelley and family friend Barry J. The musicians sing original songs and also tell stories about their doting “Aunt Granny” in the DreamSong Theater.
Wild Roots Band
Enjoy authentic sounds of the Smoky Mountains as this band draws from the area’s rich musical heritage.
Wild Roots will share songs of celebration, love and faith that can be passed on for generations to come in the Showstreet Gazebo.
The Mike Snodgrass Band
This West Virginia singer-songwriter has had a love of music since an early age. Mike Snodgrass’ sound combines soulful vocals that have been described as “wonderfully unpredictable” and are sure to be loved by Dollywood audiences at the Back Porch Theater.
The Kingdom Heirs
Dollywood’s award-winning Southern gospel quartet dazzles audiences with their greatest hits in the Showstreet Palace Theater.
Another Back Porch Theater offering that features classic and contemporary tunes celebrating positivity, country blessings and enjoying the good life.
In the Pines Theater, this show captures the sock-hop era of Rock and Roll with 12 performers, four live musicians and lots of singing and dancing.
What about Dollywood’s seasonal festivals?
Each season Dollywood hosts a different festival, from summer nights to fall harvest to the award-winning Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas, there’s something special every season at Dollywood.
The Harvest Festival typically runs from late September to the end of October.
With the changing of the leaves in the mountains surrounding the park, you wouldn’t think Dollywood would need to do a lot to celebrate autumn, but fall in the park is amazing, especially after dark.
After sundown, the award-winning Great Pumpkin LumiNights will glow even brighter with the debut of the new Hoot Owl Hollow.
Discover an enchanting hideaway where a larger-than-life glowing owl and her friendly family have come home to roost among the whimsical warming glow of more than 12,000 illuminated pumpkins and towering pumpkin icons.
Smoky Mountain Christmas
Christmas may well be the best time of year to be in the park. Here, the skies dance with the glimmer of more than 5 million twinkling lights and the sounds of the season fill the air with Christmas cheer.
Family memories are made when you take in a heartwarming holiday show, catch a festive ride on the Dollywood Express, or enjoy seasonal treats packed with classic flavor.
Flower and Food Festival
Spring blooms to life in spectacular color at Dollywood’s Flower and Food Festival. Discover seasonal splendor as larger-than-life Mosaicultures blossom across the park.
Beneath the rainbow-hued tapestry of Umbrella Sky, sample unique garden-fresh flavors, while dozens of live musicians and more than one million vibrant flowers surround you with endless inspiration.
Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration
Summer’s best moments come alive in the Smokies. Here, days are brighter and nights sparkle during Dollywood’s all-new Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration.
Surprises await around every sun-kissed corner, including refreshing new ways to play, inspiring bursts of summer color and family-favorite shows.
The highlight of summer nights is the drone and fireworks show.
Is Dollywood the only park?
No. Dollywood has a summer water park, Splash Country, that is among the most popular water parks in the country with a variety of rides and great summer experiences.
Check Tripster for tickets to Dollywood’s water park Splash Country.
Does Dollywood offer us a place to stay?
Dollywood has a variety of options that is about to expand by a whole heckuva a lot.
Built around the rich traditions of storytelling, family and togetherness, this Smoky Mountain resort is just minutes from Dollywood’s award-winning theme parks.
Comfortable and luxurious, DreamMore is a place to stay for those looking to treat themselves.
Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge and Resort (opening fall of 2023)
HeartSong is a well-appointed, reimagined property that features a variety of accommodations and amenities that will double Dollywood’s resort options.
But there’s more on the way. After HeartSong opens, Dollywood officials have indicated construction will start on a third resort to be followed by a fourth and fifth eventually.
Bear Cove Cabins
This Smoky Mountain cabin rental company for Dollywood Parks and Resorts allows you to choose what Smoky Mountain cabin best suits your family.
With amenities such as stunning mountain views, outdoor hot tubs, game rooms, state-of-the-art electronics and more, Bear Cove Cabins is the ideal Smoky Mountain cabins getaway for families of all sizes.
While most of us won’t be able to afford this option, one of the most unique offerings from the Dollywood Company is Suite 1986, a former tour bus used by Dolly Parton.
The bus sits outside of the DreamMore Resort and Spa. The experience requires a two-night minimum and prices start at $10,000. Proceeds from each stay benefit the Dollywood Foundation and the Imagination Library.
How much does it cost to get into Dollywood?
Well, like many theme parks there are a variety of pricing options that affect pricing. There are a variety of resort packages as well as multi-day and multi-park ticket packages.
A single adult admission – for ages 10 to 61 – is $89 but 2-day tickets are $109 while three-day tickets are $119. You can add water park entry to any of those for $10. You can also purchase tickets on Tripster in advance.
Dollywood’s TimeSaver option allows you to skip the regular lines and access expatiated entrances. A regular TimeSaver pass allows you faster entrance to TimeSaver-approved rides of your choice eight times throughout the day.
The TimeSaver Unlimited is the same deal but without a limit.
The regular TimeSaver adds $60 per person to your ticket price. The Unlimited version adds $80 per person.
All ticket prices are current at the time of this writing. Be sure to check with the websites for updates.
Do you love Dollywood and everything it offers? Let us know in the comments!