Dollywood at Christmas brings together the very best of the holiday season – music, food, millions of Christmas lights and even jolly people.
November and December are popular months to visit the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee.
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas event (presented by Humana), runs from Nov. 5, 2022-Jan. 1, 2023, featuring more than six million Christmas lights, seasonal food and plenty of holiday decor including miles of garland, wreaths and larger-than-life ornaments.
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It’s difficult for others in the Smokies to compete with country singer and entrepreneur Dolly Parton and her elves in the decoration department.
To make sure you’re getting the most out of your trip, we’ve put together a list of things you don’t want to miss at Dollywood during its popular Smoky Mountain Christmas event.
9. Visit Santa in his Tennessee cabin
I bet you didn’t know that Santa has a cabin in the Smokies.
Returning for its third year, guests can visit Saint Nicholas in his Smoky Mountain cabin as he makes his famous Naughty or Nice list.
Of course, this feature is geared toward the little ones in the family, but even if you don’t have kids, this feature is so well-done that it’s worth exploring even if you’re an adult.
The elves in Santa’s cabin fully embrace the magic of the season to make this experience special for all.
8. Ride a roller coaster (but bundle up)
If the weather permits, many of the rides and attractions are still operating throughout the day. And, it’s a great way to see some of the lights and decorations from a bird’s eye view.
It’s practically become one of our family traditions to ride roller coasters day and night, even in the cold weather.
The lines may not seem short, but compared to spring or summer, it’s usually a better wait time, and lines do move quickly.
If you’re brave enough to opt for the coasters, wear warm clothing. I recommend layers.
7. Catch the tree show at Wilderness Pass
Even if Christmas shows aren’t on your priority list, you won’t want to miss Dollywood’s 50-foot Christmas tree.
During the day, this huge Christmas tree is a great place to take photographs with the family. In my opinion, this tree puts even the one at Rockefeller Center to shame.
At night, the tree is home to the Wonderful Christmas tree show, an animated production that coordinates lights with Christmas songs and tells the story of Polar Bear visiting his Black Bear cousin for the holidays.
Since it’s in Glacier Ridge, “snow” falls around the tree as part of the show’s grand finale.
It’s one of the best heartwarming holiday shows. And kids will go crazy for it.
The show usually plays each night, about every 30 minutes after dark.
6. Enjoy the quality theme park food
Dollywood serves quality food throughout the park, even at the quick step-up-and-order kiosks.
There is also a variety of sit-down restaurants that serve everything from hamburgers to a big bowl of pinto beans and cornbread.
Remember, the dining options may vary from year to year. Be patient with the staff, and get some delicious snacks to hold you over if wait times are long.
5. Look out for the new features
Dollywood is always bringing something new to each year’s festival.
This year, there’s a new lighted area in Village Pass, featuring a 130-ft light curtain wall that includes programmed movement.
Also, Adventures in Imagination is shining in pink, platinum and gold decorations, as well as 60 LED butterflies and a new 20-ft. tall Christmas tree in an area called Dolly’s Christmas.
Last but not least, there’s a new Dollywood Express Light Experience this year, so be sure to take a ride on the scenic Dollywood Express train.
But just because Dollywood has new features, doesn’t mean they aren’t returning with some of their classic staples.
Dollywood Christmas shows are famous for their performances, live entertainers and of course, their music.
But there’s one family tradition we really look forward to each holiday season: The Merry & Bright Holiday Light Fireworks Show.
On Friday and Saturday nights, weather permitting, the fireworks show lights up the night sky and is synced up to Christmas classics.
Editor’s Note: On December 7, 2022, Dollywood announced the Merry & Bright Holiday Light Fireworks Show would be canceled for the remainder of the season due to drought.
4. Check out Dollywood’s arts and crafts
Dollywood is home to several noted craftsmen, and you can find great gift options here – many of which will be more affordable than you think.
The gifts are cute and tasteful, with many capitalizing on Dolly’s hit lyrics.
Who wouldn’t want a coffee cup labeled “Cup of Ambition”?
3. Wear layers and good shoes
This is East Tennessee.
In other words, you might experience up to four seasons in one day.
It’s also hilly, so you’ll be walking quite a bit on uneven terrain.
Check the forecast and bring some warm layers to be safe. Even if you make a trip to the car or rent a locker, having a good jacket is worth it.
2. Plan ahead
Tickets are the same price all year: $89 plus tax for a one-day pass for adults, at the time of this writing. Remember, you can also do a two-day pass for $109.
It’s best to purchase your ticket in advance for expedited entry to the park, skipping the line of folks purchasing tickets when they arrive.
Also, be sure to check the operating calendar. Dollywood may be closed on the day(s) you wish to visit. Verifying park hours before you make your plans is key.
Remember, Dollywood is very busy this time of year. Consider what you want to prioritize throughout the park and plan accordingly.
1. Download the Dollywood app
Last but not least, download the Dollywood app before you visit.
It’s very user-friendly and helpful when planning your day.
When you have the app, you can easily access all the happenings of the park the day you are there.
Dollywood is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863. You can use Tripster to book in advance.
How else can you celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains?
If you’re planning a visit to the Smoky Mountains this Christmas season, there are several things that are guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.
For example, take a holiday light tour along the Parkway and downtown Gatlinburg. Visit one of Shadrack’s drive-through Christmas light shows in Sevierville.
Or, venture over to the North Carolina side of the mountains and visit Biltmore in Asheville and do your Christmas shopping in Antler Hill Village.
If you have little ones, you can even take a real Polar Express train ride to the North Pole in Bryson City.
Whatever you decide to do, a Smoky Mountain Christmas is truly a magical time for the whole family.
What are your best tips for making the most out of the Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration? Let us know in the comments below.