No family vacation to Pigeon Forge is complete without a visit to the Dollywood theme park. With world-class entertainment, high-speed coasters, and plenty of pint-sized attractions, there really is something for everyone. There are certain attractions and activities that are must-dos for families visiting Dollywood to create lasting memories and have the most Smoky Mountain fun you can pack into one vacation.
Dollywood is well-known for its down-home country cooking, but there is one menu item whose warm cinnamon scent calls to guests like a siren song. Follow that scent to the Grist Mill and pick up a loaf of fresh-baked cinnamon bread to share with your family. Each loaf is coated in melted butter and a cinnamon-sugar mixture prior to being baked and comes with buttercream icing or homemade apple butter.
The design of Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Park leverages the natural beauty of the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains with cascading waterfalls and slides tucked between towering trees. There’s rides and slides for every age level – while younger kids may most enjoy The Cascades play pool with slides and interactive elements like misters and water cannons, older kids can test their bravery on Fire Tower Falls (48” minimum height), the park’s tallest and fastest water slide. The whole family can splash down on the Big Bear Plunge (36” minimum height) white water raft ride.
The Dollywood Express is a real working coal-powered steam train located in The Village section of the park. Though its quarter-mile-per-minute pace is much slower than the park’s thrilling coasters, the leisurely pace allows you to take in the marvelous mountain views along this five-mile journey. The train travels past popular park attractions and then journeys into undeveloped areas of the park where your family can get an idea of what the area looked like long ago.
Your wallet may not love carnival games, but kids sure do! The Country Fair area of Dollywood is home to a variety of carnival rides and also classic midway games where you can win cute stuffed animal prizes. All of your favorite games are here, including skeeball, balloon darts, a water shooting race, and more. There’s even a duck pond where (don’t tell your kids) everyone’s a winner.
If you’ve spent the day running from ride to ride or if you have younger kids who are stroller-bound for most of the day, Dollywood has a couple of play areas that will let kids burn off some of their pent-up energy. Kids can play in, on, and around a wooden bi-plane in the Lil’ Pilots Playground located in the Owens Farm section of the park or they can play with blocks, color, or climb and slide at the Firehouse Fun Yard in the Wilderness Pass section.
Dolly Parton is one of the few people in the world who has a theme park named after her, a fact kids may not even realize if they are unfamiliar with the all-around shining star of a human being. You can share with them more about the journey that brought Dolly from a two-room cabin in the Smokies to entertainment legend by visiting Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home, a replica of the star’s childhood home. You’ll also want to stop by the Chasing Rainbows Museum, a museum with interactive exhibits featuring Dolly memorabilia, and Dolly’s Home-on-Wheels, Dolly’s now-retired tour bus.
Dollywood is a gorgeous theme park and there’s no “bad” time to visit. There are a few annual festivals each year, however, where Dollywood goes all out with floral, decorations, themed food, and more. In the spring, there’s a Flower & Food Festival, a Summer Celebration with nighttime rides and an illuminated drone show, the autumn Harvest Festival, and, in the winter, a Smoky Mountain Christmas.
Just a few miles down the road from Dollywood is Dolly Parton’s Stampede, a family-friendly dinner show with horse riding stunts, live music, and, of course, a tasty meal. Your ticket includes a four-course feast with vegetable soup, chicken, pork loin, corn on the cob, baked potato, dessert, and unlimited soda, tea, or coffee. If swashbuckling is more your thing, there is a similar Pirates Voyage dinner show in Pigeon Forge, as well.
At the Mountain Blown Glass shop in the Rivertown Junction area of Dollywood, you can watch glass artists work their magic. You can even work with the shop’s talented artists to create your very own glass-blown ornament as a memento of your family vacation. Stop by the shop to make an appointment and come back at the appointed time to make your ornament. You should be able to pick it up before the end of the day and it’ll be carefully packed so you can bring it home.
If you stay at the on-site Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa, there are a variety of fun family activities you can enjoy after your day at the park. Every night, kids can gather for storytime. Before or after storytime, families can attend a complimentary s’mores roast around an outdoor fire pit. You can check with the front desk for the most up-to-date activities schedule.