Let’s admit it, there are a ton of attractions in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville competing for your vacation dollar nowadays. Thus, the competition can be quite fierce.
We’ve written about several of these head-to-head battles in Sevier County before – including The Peddler vs Alamo, Anakeesta vs Ober Gatlinburg, Pirates Voyage vs Dolly’s Stampede and Lumberjack Feud vs Hatfield and McCoy. Just to name a few.
But today, we want to compare two of Sevier County’s most popular summertime attractions: Dollywood’s Splash Country and Soaky Mountain – the area’s two largest outdoor water parks.
First, we break down several key factors including rides, slides, shade, cabanas, food and drink and affordability.
Then, we will answer a few of the internet’s most frequently asked questions about the two attractions.
Finally, we will declare a winner.
Splash Country vs Soaky Mountain: A comparison
1. Who owns the two parks?
Let’s begin with the topic of ownership and overall operations.
Dollywood’s Splash Country, like Dollywood itself, is operated by Herschend Family Entertainment in partnership with Dolly Parton.
Soaky Mountain is owned and operated by Wilderness Resorts and Waterparks (who also own and operate Wilderness at the Smokies).
The winner in this category: Splash Country. All hail the queen.
2. Which park is newer?
Next, let’s take a look at which is newer.
Splash Country is the older of the two parks. In fact, it originally opened in 2001. In other words, Soaky Mountain is considerably newer having just opened in 2020.
While, in our humble opinion, both parks are doing a great job of keeping things looking up to date, Soaky Mountain’s newness is noticeable. Everything is just a little newer, a little brighter, and a bit more modern than its Splash Country counterpart.
And as a relatively new waterpark, semantics also feel a bit more well thought out at Soaky Mountain.
For instance, one of our biggest complaints about Splash Country is the scorching hot floorboards that surround the lines and the dismount areas. They actually keep signs posted throughout the park warning riders to keep their shoes and sandals on until they are ready to board.
Soaky Mountain simply used heat-resistant materials that don’t get quite as hot in the sun on their ride queues. One can easily stand barefoot while waiting to ride the Avalaunch Watercoaster without a care for their bare little tootsies.
The winner in this category: Soaky Mountain.
3. Which has more water slides?
Now, let’s talk about slides and rides.
While Soaky Mountain is bigger – coming in at 50 acres vs Splash Country’s 35-acre blueprint – the two are actually quite similar in the rides department.
At the time of this writing, Splash Country has four float slides (two family-style), a water coaster, three body slides, three water mat slides, two children’s play areas, a regular pool, a wave pool and a lazy river.
It is also important to note that some attractions at Splash Country and Soaky Mountain have multiple tubes listed under the same attraction. But for the sake of simplicity, we will just count multi-tube attractions as one.
Not to be outdone, Soaky Mountain, at the time of this writing, has six float slides (two family-style), two watercoasters*, one boogie board surf simulator, two children’s play areas, one wave pool, one not-so-lazy river, a water obstacle course – Slippery Salamanders – and one regular pool.
And also for bonus points, one of the children’s play areas at Soaky – Boomer’s Bay – features pint-sized smaller versions of some of the adult slides including Mini Mayhem and Lil Rattlers. Our staff thinks this is a very nice touch. In particular, it’s a great way to make the whole family feel included.
However, again, for the sake of simplicity, we aren’t adding those mini slides to the slide count as they are really just a small part of the kid’s play area.
Soaky Mountain also has multiple tubes listed as the same attraction, so to keep things fair, we will count those as one just as we did for Splash Country.
*Soaky Mountain’s latest water coaster, The Edge, is still under construction and is set to debut in summer 2022.
Attractions at Splash Country vs Soaky Mountain
|Attraction Type||Splash Country||Soaky Mountain|
|Kid’s Play Areas||2||2|
In total, Splash Country has 17 separate attractions. Soaky Mountain has 20.
And finally, Soaky Mountain also boasts a better variety of unique water attractions.
The winner in this category: Soaky Mountain.
4. Which has better slides and rides?
This one is a bit of a toss-up as we think slide preference is really very subjective.
Do you prefer float slides? Soaky Mountain is going to be your jam.
Or perhaps you prefer high-intensity body slides or a good head-first mat racing challenge. If so, you’re better off at Splash Country.
If you have little kids, we recommend Soaky Mountain for their mini slides.
But if you like lazy rivers that are actually lazy, you’ll prefer Splash.
Or if waves are more your thing, you’re going to love Soaky Surge – Soaky Mountain’s gigantic 35,000 square foot wave pool.
So for this category, we are just going to go with the overall staff opinion on which is better.
Winner for this category: Soaky Mountain. By a hair.
5. Which has a better lazy river?
Again, this is going to come down to personal preference. However, I cannot stress enough that the “lazy” rivers at Soaky Mountain and Splash Country couldn’t be any more different.
Splash Country’s lazy river is everything you’d expect out of a traditional lazy river attraction. Surely, no explanation is needed.
Conversely, as Soaky Mountain clearly states in all of their marketing materials – their river is not a lazy river.
In fact, their river attraction is more like rapids. Thus the name, Black Bear Rapids.
It starts just like any normal lazy river might. Riders grab a float and begin their peaceful journey down a cool, calm mountain stream via tube. That’s when all heck breaks loose.
Specifically, every few minutes, a wave machine produces a monster wave that creates a massive ripple effect that spans nearly the entire length of the 24,000 square foot ride.
Of course, it’s fun. But it’s definitely not lazy.
We kinda wish that Soaky Mountain had followed Universal’s Volcano Bay suit by having two rivers – one lazy and one not. So again, we are just going to go with our personal preference on this one.
Winner in this category: Splash Country. We prefer to be lazy.
6. Which park has more shade?
We think you will find this one to be a bit surprising.
Soaky Mountain has more shade. In fact, there is no comparison.
Certainly, Soaky Mountain, on the surface, looks like a concrete jungle. Especially compared to Splash Country’s lush mountain landscape.
But this is just one of those things that Soaky does best – they focus on the guest experience. And it shows.
At Soaky, there are giant-sized umbrellas covering almost every lounger. And also, there are loads of shaded areas to relax and enjoy.
Splash Country only has a couple of shaded pavilions – mostly near the kid splash pad area – and when those are full your only option is upgrading to a private cabana. Boo.
Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. By a landslide (mountain joke).
7. Which park has better cabanas?
Here, we wanted to automatically deduct points from Splash Country because they make us feel forced to upgrade to cabanas for shade on a sunny day due to their lack of shaded rest areas.
But we will strive to be impartial here.
Soaky Mountain has two main cabana-style options. Each comes at an extra cost to admission.
Soaky Mountain Clamshell Cabanas
The first option is the Clamshell Cabana. Clamshell Cabanas are nothing special. Additionally, in our humble opinion, mostly a waste of money. They are nothing more than little pop-up tents that fit over two loungers with a small table in between.
The biggest benefit to renting these loungers is the host drink service that’s included. These loungers start at $50 per day, but we more often see them run between $75-$99. Yikes.
Soaky Mountain Tents
The second option at Soaky Mountain is the Soaky Tent, which comes in three sizes with seating for 8-16 guests. The smaller tents start at $129.99 per day. The largest tents start at $169.99 per day. But just a warning, we frequently see both going for nearly double those introductory prices during peak season.
Each tent is equipped with:
- comfortable seating
- a table and chairs
- food and drink host service (cost of food and drink not included)
- a ceiling fan
- power outlets
If you have a lot of people in your group and are planning on spending the entire day at the amusement park, we think these tent cabanas at Soaky Mountain are absolutely worth every penny.
Soaky Mountain Cabana Comparison
|Soaky Mountain Cabana Type||Clamshell Lounger||Tent Cabanas|
After you’ve been pressured into buying a cabana for lack of shaded options at Splash Country, you’ll be glad to know that there are three primary options from which you can choose.
Splash Country Luxury Loungers
First, we have the Luxury Loungers – which are similar to Soaky Mountain’s clamshells.
These are nothing more than little pop-up tents that fit over two lounge chairs with a small lockbox. But unlike Soaky Mountain, they do not include beverage service. They start at $45 per day.
Splash Country Canopies
Next up, we have the Canopies. The Canopies resemble mini wooden sheds. Each provides 65 square feet of shade and features two chaise lounge chairs with a lockbox.
These Canopies offer actual privacy vs the loungers but are still rather tiny and do not include drink service. Prices start at $65 per day.
Splash Country Retreats
Finally, we have the Retreats. The Splash Country Retreat Cabanas come in two different varieties: A Basic Retreat, and a Deluxe Retreat.
The Basic Retreat features 200 square feet of shaded space and a 100 square foot sun deck. Retreats can house up to 8 people with a maximum occupancy of 10 (you have to pay extra for persons #9 and #10).
Retreats start at $210 per day and again, we think are absolutely worth the price, especially if you have a big family.
All Retreats include a:
- satellite television
- ceiling fan
- dining table and chairs
- lounge chairs
- secure storage
- food and drink service (cost of food and drink not included)
ADA accessible Retreats are also available.
The Deluxe Retreat is just like the Basic Retreat only it also includes:
- additional seating
- additional lounge chairs
- bar counter
- a refrigerator
Deluxe Retreats start at $325 per day.
Personally, we don’t really see the value for the extra $100. As a result, we would recommend just sticking to the Basic Retreat.
Splash Country Cabanas Comparison
|Splash Country Cabana Type||Luxury Lounger||Canopy||Retreat||Deluxe Retreat|
|Drink Service (Bottled/Dry)||Yes||Yes|
If we had to pick a winner in this category, overall it’s a tough call. We think Dollywood’s Retreats are more comfortable than the tents.
Splash Country also has more options in this category. Not entirely helpful options, but more options all the same. After all, who is really going to buy the Luxury Lounger over the Canopy?
But then again we also like the fact that all of Soaky’s options feature beverage service which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but as y’all know, waiting in lines at waterparks just to get a drink is no fun.
It’s also helpful to add that Soaky has adult beverages too. Splash Country is dry.
However, this category isn’t about who offers better service or better food. This is about who has the better cabanas. And for that, there is, we believe, a clear winner.
Winner in this category: Splash Country.
8. Can you bring your own food and drink?
You cannot bring outside food and drink to Soaky Mountain. Nor can you bring outside food and drink to Splash Country.
But you can, however, bring one sealed bottle of water or an empty plastic water bottle (to refill as needed) to Soaky Mountain.
Likewise, you can bring empty water bottles to Splash Country.
And also, both parks provide free tap water in disposable cups to guests.
But never fear, there are plenty of other food and drink options available at each park – for an extra charge.
Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. Thanks for the bottled water.
9. Which has better food?
Both parks have solid food options, ya know, for a water park. Long gone are the days when your theme park food was limited to hot dogs and a bag of chips (looking at you Ogle’s Waterpark).
We particularly enjoy the Beavertails at Splash Country, which are fried on location as you order so they are always warm and fresh.
But Soaky, as we said before, also has its fair share of sweet treats (shoutout to the Soaky Shake Shoppe – YUM) including adult beverages and specialty food trucks like Philly Up and the Tacolicious.
Who doesn’t love specialty tacos after a long day in the water?
We also love Soaky’s Base Camp Bistro.
In fact, we almost hate to say it, as we’ve given them so many points already, but we think Soaky Mountain overall has the better food options.
Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. Cheers!
10. Which is cheaper?
Finally, let’s talk about affordability.
At the time of this writing, daily admission to Splash Country costs $54.95 per adult (ages 10-61). And a 2-day water park ticket runs at $74.95 per adult, and a 3-day water park ticket runs at $84.95.
Multi-park tickets and season passes are also available.
Sometimes you can also save a bit of money by purchasing your Splash Country tickets on Tripster.
Soaky Mountain’s pricing is all over the place because they run so many specials throughout the year. But on average, daily ticket prices run between $39.99-$47.99 per adult.
Check the Soaky Mountain website for current specials.
And of course, season passes are available at both locations. Prices vary seasonally.
As a general rule of thumb, if you plan to go more than twice to either park, a season pass is probably going to be a good idea.
Winner in this category: Again, Soaky Mountain.
Frequently asked questions about Splash Country and Soaky Mountain
1. Is Soaky Mountain indoor?
No, Soaky Mountain is not an indoor water park. However, its sister attraction, Wilderness at the Smokies across the street is partially an indoor water park.
2. Does Soaky Mountain have a lazy river?
Sort of. Soaky Mountain has a river attraction, but it is not lazy. It is actually more of a thrill ride. They call it an adventure river instead of a lazy river.
3. Does Dolly Parton own Splash Country?
Splash Country is owned and operated by Herschend Family Entertainment in partnership with Dolly Parton.
4. Can you do Dollywood and Splash Country in one day?
Anything is possible. However, we would recommend against doing Dollywood and Splash Country in one day. There’s a lot to see and do in each park. Personally, we consider Dollywood to be a 2-day park, and Splash Country a 1-day park.
Trying to cram both parks into a single day isn’t advised.
5. What’s the best ride at Soaky Mountain?
Our favorite rides at Soaky Mountain are Rainbow Revenge, Blue Mountain Mayhem and Avalaunch.
Rainbow Revenge is a five-person raft ride. As is Blue Mountain Mayhem. Avalaunch is a water coaster.
We also suspect we will fall in love with The Edge coaster when it opens later this year.
Honestly, we are just suckers for water coasters and thrill rides in general.
6. What’s the best ride at Splash Country?
Our favorite rides at Splash Country are the Raging River Rapids, RiverRush and the Downbound Float Trip.
Raging River Rapids is one of two family-style rides in the park. RiverRush is Splash Country’s only watercoaster. Furthermore, the Downbound Float Trip is a classic lazy river ride.
Nice and relaxing as God intended.
7. Is the water heated at Splash Country and Soaky Mountain?
The water is not heated at either Splash Country or Soaky Mountain. With nary a hot tub in sight at either location.
Therefore, on a cool day, prepare to freeze your tush off. It’s all part of the Smoky Mountain experience.
Conclusion: Which water park is better?
If we were going off of points alone, Soaky Mountain would be the clear winner here.
Indeed, our staff mostly tends to prefer Soaky to Splash for all of the reasons mentioned above. Specifically, it’s a modern park, with a better variety of rides and food options. It’s also a park that really caters to the guest experience.
However, it is important to note that we also genuinely love Splash Country.
All in all, the parks are very similar, but also very unique.
If you only have one day to dedicate to a water park on your next visit to the Smoky Mountains, consider going to Soaky Mountain. However, if you have two days, go to both. We think your entire family will have a great time either way.
And don’t forget to check Tripster for discounts.
Splash Country is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
Soaky Mountain is located at 175 Gists Creek Road, Sevierville, TN 37876.
Which water park do you prefer? Do you agree with our review? Let us know in the comments below.