All Things Dollywood – For my entire adult life I thought Walt Disney World was the place to go for a family vacation. It’s clean, it’s friendly, the cast members are great. Then, just recently, I went to Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country. All I can say is – compared to my most recent Walt Disney World visit (3 weeks ago), Disney can definitely take a few lessons from Dolly!
Dollywood had been another item on my travel bucket list for a long time. For some reason we continued to head to Orlando over and over again. I was really excited and looking forward to finding out about All Things Dollywood!
Dollywood definitely caters to a drive market. For me it was an easy drive. Only six hours. Admittedly the last two hours were a wee bit tense through the mountains but overall a fairly easy trip.
One thing I want to discuss early on is the cost. I am accustomed to the high prices of the Orlando area attractions so I was pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive Dollywood can be compared to those theme parks. Across the board – entry, food, shopping – all are much more reasonable in cost.
All Things Dollywood
All Things Dollywood – the theme park, the water park and the resort are outstanding! I can honestly say this is the first time in a long time I have never had anything but an outstanding experience – the people that work here are friendly, kind and helpful. Cleanliness everywhere is outstanding – and in this time that is truly important.
I’m an old-fashion sort of theme park visitor and still love the paper maps provided but Dollywood does offer an APP to download. The APP includes an interactive map, show schedules, exclusive offers and ride wait times – everything you need to customize your time at Dollywood. There is complimentary wi-fi available throughout the parks.
The park offers both a TimeSaver Pass and a Parent Swap program for those with little ones not meeting a ride’s height requirement. The TimeSaver Pass (additional fee) offers two options to choose (TimeSaver and TimeSaver Unlimited) from that will let guests spend less time waiting in line.
Dollywood Theme Park
When we boarded the free shuttle from the resort, I was super excited since I had wanted to visit Dollywood forever. Everything about the shuttle was great – the driver, the fact they don’t cram so many people on the shuttle you feel like cattle being herded – no standing guests! The shuttle runs frequently enough that you never have a long wait. It’s a short 5 minute drive from the resort to the park entrance.
In addition to standard amusement park rides, Dollywood features traditional crafts and music of the Smoky Mountain area so definitely provides something for everyone.
In 1986, Dolly Parton, who grew up in the area, bought an interest in Silver Dollar City Tennessee and as part of that purchase, the park reopened for the 1986 season as “Dollywood.” The park is now more than double the size it was in 1986. Dollywood has definitely become known as a “family” park.
You don’t have to be a country music fan to love Dollywood. Dollywood is organized into themed areas: Showstreet, Rivertown Junction, Craftsman’s Valley, The Village, Country Fair, Timber Canyon, Wilderness Pass, and Jukebox Junction reflect the historical eras and culture of East Tennessee, while Owens Farm and Adventures in Imagination explore Dolly Parton’s life and imagination.
One thing everyone that visits Dollywood agrees on – the park’s focus is family with rides, attractions and shows to fit every member of the family, no matter how young or how old.
- Showstreet – Attractions include Showstreet Palace Theater, Celebrity Theater, and Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.
- Rivertown Junction – Attractions include Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home, Back Porch Theater, and Smoky Mountain River Rampage whitewater rafting ride.
- Craftsman’s Valley – Attractions include Dollywood Grist Mill, Valley Theater, Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, Wings of America Theater, Robert F. Thomas Chapel, Calico Falls Schoolhouse, Tennessee Tornado coaster, Blazing Fury coaster, Daredevil Falls flume ride, and craft exhibits.
- The Village (formerly Village Square) – Attractions include the 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Dollywood Expresssteam train, Heartsong Theater, Village Carousel, and Costner and Sons Magic Shop.
- The Country Fair (formerly Fun Country) – Rides include Dizzy Disk, The Amazing Flying Elephants, Lemon Twist, Shooting Star, Sky Rider, The Waltzing Swinger, Piggy Parade, Busy Bees, Lucky Ducky, Dolly’s Demolition Derby, and The Scrambler.
- Timber Canyon (formerly Thunderhead Gap) – Attractions include the Mystery Mine coaster, the Thunderhead coaster, Drop Line, Whistle Punk Chaser, and Lumberjack Lifts.
- Jukebox Junction – Attractions include the Rockin’ Roadway car ride and Pines Theater. Also featured is Lightning Rod, which holds the record as the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world.
- Owens Farm (Daydream Ridge 1987–1999, Dreamland Forest 2000–2010) – Attractions include Barnstormer (ride)|Barnstormer]], a barn and plane styled giant swing attraction. It also includes soft play areas and a splash pad.
- Adventures in Imagination (formerly Dollywood Boulevard) – Attractions include Dolly Parton’s My People! show at Dreamsong Theater and the Chasing Rainbows Museum.
- Wilderness Pass – Attractions include the SkyZip zip line attraction, The Plaza at Wilderness Pass, Wild Eagle – America’s first winged coaster – and FireChaser Express, a dual-launch coaster that launches forward and backward.
- Wildwood Grove — Opened in 2019- attractions include the Dragonflier,a suspended family coaster, The Mad Mockingbird, a swing ride, The Wildwood Tree, a 50 ft tall lighted tree, qnd Till and Harvest, a Mexican inspired restaurant.
Dining at Dollywood
Dollywood has restaurants, a bakery and sandwich shop, a sweet shop, a food truck and a multitude of grab and go options all across the park. You can choose from full-service restaurants to buffets and quick service stands.
To make dining easier (and quicker) Dollywood also offers a pre-purchased meal pack. You can purchase Red’s Drive-In Meal Packs in advance and skip the line to order. Meal packs are available for 2 people or 4 people.
Since my daughter suffers from multiple food allergies, allergy dining is always important to me when visiting a new place. Allergy dining is definitely taken care of at Dollywood. Just inform the host/hostess when you arrive at any of the restaurants of your dietary needs and they will do their very best to accommodate you.
Gluten Friendly Offerings:
- Front Porch Café – any of the sandwiches on the menu, all salads, select side items, Grilled Chicken Entrée can all be prepared gluten friendly. Just ask to speak to one of the chefs and they will gladly prepare a customized meal to fit your dietary needs.
- Victoria’s Pizza – Cheese Pizza, Fruit Cup
- Bakery – Udis Blueberry Muffins and Brownies
- Grandstand – Southern Salad can be prepared to be gluten friendly
- Miss Lillian’s BBQ Corner – Hickory Smoked Turkey Leg, Ear of Roasted Corn
- Front Porch Café – Entrée Salads. Veggie Burger, Veggie Melt Sandwich, select side items
- Lumber Jack’s Pizza – Cheese or Roasted Vegetable Pizza, House & Caprese Salads
- Victoria’s Pizza – Cheese Pizza, Side Salad, Fruit Cup
- Miss Lillian’s & Aunt Granny’s – Salad Bar and select side items on the Hot Bar
- Grandstand – Southern Salad can be prepared to be vegetarian friendly
Dollywood Splash Country
I’ve been to many water parks. Disney’s, Universal’s, Great Wolf Lodge and small, local water parks throughout the U.S.
Dollywood’s Splash Country is definitely all about family and one of the best I’ve ever experienced! There are several water attractions for every level of family member – there are enough attractions to keep everyone busy all day. Named by The Travel Channel as one of the country’s best waterparks, it features a variety of water slides and attractions—from mild to wild.
The cleanliness is second to none. The staff is outstanding. The water rides are everything you could want and more. All of this with a stunning mountain view!
Splash Country is located between Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa and Dollywood theme park. In fact, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa will sometimes offer specials that include discounted or even free admission to the waterpark with your stay. If you stay at the DreamMore Resort – there is a free shuttle to take you to Splash Country.
Splash Country rides and slides include:
- Mountain Scream: Featuring racing body slides with your choice of corkscrew tunnels or quadruple drops.
- Raging River Rapids: A waterslide that acomodates 5-person rafts.
- RiverRush: Tennessee’s first-ever watercoaster.
- Slick Rock Racer: A multi-lane, belly-down mat race.
- SwiftWater Run: A corkscrew/chute combo slide that can accomodate your either single floats or double floats.
- Tailspin Racer: With 6-lanes of high-speed aqua tubes.
- Fire Tower Falls: A 70-foot high, twin free-fall slide that propels riders on 280-foot track.
- Wild River Falls: A series of four twisting covered slides that tubers can race along to the waiting water below.
- Mountain Twist: 42 feet of twisting slides with three options for single-person mat riders.
- Big Bear Plunge: An extreme white water rafting adventure.
- The Butterfly: A body plunge down two 55-foot long slides ending in a butterfly shaped pool.
The areas for younger children are perfect! There are life jackets available around the park.
- Bear Mountain Fire Tower for the younger kids over 7
- Little Creek Falls for the tiniest!
Many of the larger slides have height requirements for the safety of the little ones. Splash Country also has a relaxing lazy river (Downbound Float Trip), a wave pool (Mountain Waves) and specially designated water play areas for smaller kids (The Cascades and Bear Mountain Fire Tower).
The TimeSaver H2O Pass (an extra add-on) allows you to skip waiting in line for the most popular water attractions. The system allows you to reserve a position in line, without standing in line.
There are several dining options in the park and all food kiosks at the park offer complimentary cups of water. There is also a refillable mug program that allows you to refill your cup with a variety of soft drinks all day. I thought the food was very good. We had a variety of things – burgers, chicken tenders, snacks.
Splash Country is open May through September (mountain summer).
Retreats (cabanas) and canopies are available to rent and come with concierge food service. These add-ons definitely make for one of the most relaxing and refreshing days you can have.
Retreat units offer 200 square feet of shaded space with an additional 100-square-foot sun deck with 4 lounge chairs. Also included are a 32-inch television, ceiling fan, dining table with six chairs, curtains to close for privacy and secure storage. $190 per day. There are also Deluxe retreats that include refrigerators, sofas and more! $300 per day.
Canopies are 65 square feet of shade where you and a friend can relax in one of two chaise lounge chairs. Canopies also come with a storage locker so you’ll never worry about your belongings. $55 per day
You can also rent a Luxury Lounger that includes two adjustable cushioned-lounge chairs with an adjustable canopy and a lock box to keep your valuables safe and dry. $40 per day
After visiting Dollywood I started to realize I could buy season passes to Dollywood for MY ENTIRE FAMILY – the top of the line season passes that include admission to both Dollywood and Splash Country – that include all the perks (discounts and special events) a season pass offers – that includes a meal each day at Splash Country – for just $200 over the cost of JUST MY DISNEY ANNUAL PASS! WOW! Add in the fact that it’s a shorter drive to get to Dollywood and all the other things to do in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area and guess where my family will be spending their vacations from now on! Hint: not Disney!
I was provided free admission to both Dollywood parks for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.