At the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains is an amusement park like no other: Dollywood. A theme park, water park, and resort, Dollywood offers activities for every member of the family, making it a perfect place for a multigenerational vacation.
Here are a just a few reasons why you and your grandkids will love Dollywood.
1. There’s Always A Festival Going On
Dollywood offers festivals throughout the summer months. One of the most dynamic is the Festival of Nations, a celebration of different cultures that lasts several weeks. One of the highlights is an interactive drum show showcasing West African music. Every audience member gets a drum to beat during the show. Food is another important element of the festival. The Passport to Food experience will take your taste buds on a culinary adventure around the globe.
Barbecue is the star of the show during the Barbeque & Bluegrass festival, typically held from late April through early May. In addition to the area’s best barbecue, you’ll enjoy performances by a number of bluegrass bands around the park. All of them are free with your daily admission.
The newest festival at Dollywood is the Flower & Food Festival. You will marvel at the giant sculptures made entirely out of living plants -- some stand as high as 14 feet! The sculptures are grown and meticulously pruned for months before they’re placed all over the theme park in May and June.
2. It Becomes A Winter Wonderland At Christmas
Dollywood dresses up for the holidays in November and December. The Smoky Mountain Christmas festival has been named the best festival in the nation, and for good reason. The entire park is transformed into a winter wonderland, with millions of lights, a 50-foot Christmas tree, and plenty of shows.
Sip on hot chocolate while watching classics like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, It’s a Wonderful Life, and a special Christmas story told by Dolly Parton. A highlight of the festival is the Parade of Lights, a parade featuring colorful floats and special characters. Keep an eye out for the main man -- Santa is sure to make an appearance during this celebration.
3. It’s Home To A Great Water Park
Next to the Dollywood theme park is the Dollywood water park, Splash Country. It’s the perfect place to spend a hot summer day.
The park offers rides for everyone, from a relaxing lazy river to the thrilling Fire Tower Falls, a fast slide starting 70 feet in the air. Little Creek Falls is an area dedicated to younger guests, with water features, a shallow pool, and little slides. Families can hop aboard the Big Bear Plunge and wind through caves before plunging off a cliff, or catch a wave at the wave pool.
A bonus? Splash Country offers free life jackets for kids. You can find them at stations around the park.
To make the most of your day, it may be worth investing in one of Splash Country’s retreats. Located throughout the park, these retreats are yours for the day and offer shade, lounge chairs, TVs, dining tables with chairs, safes, and food-and-drink delivery. Each retreat can accommodate up to 12 people, making it a great home base for the entire family. But be sure to make your reservation early -- they book up quickly.
4. The DreamMore Resort Is As Entertaining As The Park Itself
Just minutes from the Dollywood theme park is Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. It’s the perfect spot for families to stay, because it offers fun activities for everyone; you don’t even need to go to the theme park to have a great time!
Enjoy family fun at the two resort pools featuring a zero-entry area, a waterfall, and a splash pad. There’s also an outdoor hot tub and an indoor pool for those wanting to get out of the hot summer sun.
For more of a break, drop the grandkids at Camp DW for a few hours, where they will enjoy crafts, play games, and sing songs. While they’re there having fun, you can relax at the spa and salon for nail services, massages, facials, and more.
You can bond with your loved ones over the numerous family activities offered at the resort. There’s a family game room, which has board games, a foosball table, and more. Outside, there’s a playground complete with slides and a climbing area. At the end of the day, the entire family can gather by the fire for bedtime stories.
Eating at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is just another family adventure. Experience the best of Southern cuisine at Song & Hearth: A Southern Eatery, which offers buffet-style dining for breakfast and dinner. Or if you’re on the go, grab a quick bite to eat at the DM Pantry. There’s also food offered poolside so that you won’t have to interrupt your day of fun in the water.
5. You’ll Find Neat Arts And Crafts In Craftsman’s Valley
In the theme park, there is an area called Craftsman’s Valley where you can shop for handmade and local products or try your hand at making a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Dip your hands in wax at the Handsville Wax Company to create a unique mold of your fingers, or make your own colored candle at the candle store.
In Craftsman’s Valley, you can watch blacksmiths craft home decor, art, and specialized products like horseshoes and metal gifts. You can also find locally made goat’s milk soap, leather goods, wood carvings, and blown-glass items. Follow your nose to the Grist Mill, where bakers make homemade bread and cookies, and purchase some homemade jams, jellies, and bakery items to take home.
6. The Shows Are Spectacular
You and the grandkids can dance and sing your way around the park, enjoying the variety of shows and entertainment.
The 50s and 60s come to life at the Dreamland Drive-In show, which features a number of performers and musicians.
Get up close and personal with bald eagles at Dollywood’s Wings of America Birds of Prey exhibit. Dollywood is home to the American Eagle Foundation and houses the beautiful birds for education, rehabilitation, and breeding. The daily shows featuring the eagles are spectacular.
The little ones in your party will love meeting the forest characters at Wildwood Grove. They’re there to take pictures and show the whole family around the woodland area.
The entertainment doesn’t end there. Follow Joe the Juggler around the park to watch his amazing juggling and balancing skills. Sit down inside the Heartsong Theater to watch Heartsong, a show that takes you around the Great Smoky Mountains and is narrated by Dolly Parton. Or head over to the Pines Theater to watch the comedy musical act Ole! The three musicians show off their tricks in a performance that’s fun for all ages.
7. The Food Is Fantastic
If that weren’t enough, there are also dinner shows. Dolly Parton’s Stampede is popular with visitors of all ages. Before the show, guests are able to walk through the stables to meet the show’s horses, as well as some of the show’s performers. Afterward, you will sit inside the arena to watch those same performers sing and dance while the horses demonstrate their many tricks. The show is accompanied by a four-course meal that will leave you full of down-home food.
Another dinner show at Dollywood, Pirates Voyage, will take you on an adventure on the high seas with Blackbeard and his cast of pirates and mermaids. To make this show even more memorable, children and adults can be transformed via face paint into mermaids or pirates before the show. During the adventure, you’ll feast on Southern favorites like fried chicken, mac and cheese, biscuits, and pork chops.
8. You Might Meet Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton herself sometimes makes an appearance at the park, most often at the opening ceremony in the spring. Keep your eye on the park’s website for updates on her schedule. When she does show up, the park tends to get really busy -- everyone loves seeing Dolly at her own park!
What To Know Before You Go
Tickets for Dollywood cost $79 per day; a senior discount is available. If you plan on being in the area for a few days, the most economical choice is the multiday pass. It grants you access to the park for two or three days of your choosing over a five-day period. There are also combo tickets for the theme park and water park.