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Discovering Dollywood: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

U.S. Travel photo
by Ginger Withers, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Last modified 07-01-2010

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Filed in Articles > U.S. Travel > Touring  

Dollywood is a theme park located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. It is named for its co-owner, the one and only Dolly Parton. Dolly is also from this area. She had stated that if she made it big, she wanted to do something great for her community. She has certainly achieved this goal. She returns to her theme park several times a year for different occasions, such as opening day.

This theme park originally opened in 1961 as a small tourist attraction. Dolly took over in 1986. Since then, there has been steady growth. In fact, there has been a new attraction or area added every year since she took over. The park has now doubled in size to 150 acres. Dollywood is open from the end of March though the end of the year. Dollywood also has a 35-acre water park called Dollywood’s Splash Country that is open from the end of May through the first week of September. It is located next to Dollywood. 

Dollywood is located 16 miles from Interstate 40, about 25 miles southeast of Knoxville. You will start seeing billboards for Dollywood almost immediately when you get off the Interstate. This is a very tourist-friendly area with well-marked signs.

Lodging in the area is plentiful. From the time that you get off of the Interstate, there are multiple hotels and cabin rentals. Although there are no on-site hotels at Dollywood, there are many close by. Dollywood has some all-inclusive vacations packages that include lodging with Starr Crest Luxury cabins with accommodations up to 25 guests. These cabins are two miles from Dollywood. The all inclusive vacation packages include unlimited admission to Dollywood, a one day admission to Dollywood’s Splash Country, breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack each day of your visit. If you choose to book lodging separately, you can find hotel listings at the Pigeon Forge official web site, There also is a link on the Dollywood website to area hotels.

Dollywood photo

Dollywood - photo by heatherwillmom

If you choose to buy your admission tickets separately, you have several options. I personally think you should allow at least two days to see Dollywood and one day for Dollywood's Splash Country. Depending on the crowds, it could take two days to cover Splash Country as well if two days in a water parks isn’t too much for you. Dollywood has thought about this as well, since a season pass costs less than two daily admissions. There are many ticket options. Current prices for One Day Admission tickets are Regular (ages 12-59) $55.90, Child (ages 4-11) $44.70, and Senior (ages 60 & up) $52.50. Under 4 is free. A season pass comes with extra privileges such as discounts at other attractions. Regular season passes are $89, child $76, and senior $89. There also is a Gold Season Pass that comes with extra privileges that include but are not limited to, free parking, 20% discount off food and beverages, merchandise, accommodations during select times, and at the Dollywood Kennel. The ultimate season passes are the Super Passes, which includes Dollywood Splash Country. These passes may be Regular or Gold. One of the best features is if you buy a one-day ticket and decide you want a season pass, you can apply the cost of your admission ticket to a season pass.

There is another option - a Splash & Play ticket. This allows one person three days of unlimited admission to Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country to be used within seven days of first use. This ticket does need to be purchased.before admission. The cost is Regular $82.00, Child $67.00. Any of these tickets can be purchased in advance to speed up admission to the parks.

Dollywood is arranged into ten different themed area. Each area has attractions and food options. The Showstreet, Rivertown Junction, Craftsmen’s Valley, The Village, Country Fair, and Jukebox Junction areas reflect the historical eras and culture of East Tennessee. The Dreamland Forest and Adventures in Imagination areas explore Dolly Parton’s life and imagination.

There is much more to Dollywood than just rides. Naturally, there are many live music shows, ranging from Dolly’s relatives, gospel groups, street performers singing songs from the '50s and '60s, and full musical presentations including dancing and acrobatics.

Throughout the operating season, there are four different festivals. The first is the Festival of Nations. It is a four-week international celebration featuring entertainment and food vendors from several different countries scattered through the park. In the summer comes Kidfest, which is a seven- to eight-week celebration targeting children, although kids of all ages enjoy it. There are several entaining shows ranging from a comedy percussion show, to a magic show, bubble show with lasers and lighting effects, juggling, and a ventriloquist. There is also an interactive adventure called Star Trek Live based on the science fiction franchise.

There are a few characters roaming throught the park. Many of these are “animals” such as dogs, pigs, and bears, although there are a few “local celebrities,” too. There is a character breakfast buffet available with Strawberry Shortcake and Pippi Longstocking. For the fall, there is the National Gospel and Harvest Celebration. This combines Southern Gospel with free concerts. There also are many craftsmen demonstrating and selling their crafts. In the winter comes the Smoky Mountain Christmas. This combines a modern and traditional Christmas. There is a fantastic light display with over four million Christmas lights. There also are Christmas shows, Christmas music, a Christmas parade, and special Christmas food.

Dollywood is truly a unique theme park. With the beautiful area, local flair, great food, and Dolly Parton’s influence, there is no other like it. All ages from infants to seniors have something to enjoy. There is something for everyone.

Dollywood photo

Dollywood - photo by heatherwillmom

About the Author:
Ginger Withers is a local East Tennessee resident, having lived most of her life there. She has witnessed first-hand the theme park now known as Dollywood through all of its transformations. She and her family have season passes for both DollyWood and Dollywood’s Splash Country. They make several trips every year, from the first opening until the last closing of the year.

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Reader Comments:

Love this article! I live next door to Dollywood, in Knoxville. It is so nice to see it getting some more recognition! It is such a fun place to visit!

Thank you so much for the article!

     DisneyDork712 on July 1, 2010 @ 11:29 pm
Hi DisneyDork, I'm in Johnson City!

We had Dollywood season passes for years. It's really a great all-ages park with something for just about everyone. And it's BEAUTIFUL in October during their Craftsmen's fair. The leaves are so pretty and I just love the way the park smells, if that's not crazy. It just smells like autumn.

And the food ... omgosh ... really good. Try the fried bologna sandwich or the jumbo BLT, both in the same kiosk in Craftsmen's Valley. Or grilled corn. Or flatbreads. Or international foods during the Festival of Nations. Or ... I could go on!

Their wood coaster, Thunderhead, ranks at the top of many enthusiast lists, and is one of my favorites (and I have over 135 different credits to my name, so I know a thing or two about coasters). Dollywood is often rated at the top of the park friendliness and cleanliness charts along with Disney and Holiday World.

As Dolly is a musician and entertainer, music and quality shows are core entertainment in the park, not just a second-rate afterthought.

And I can't end without mentioning that they have a couple great steam engines that are well cared for.

Many people immediately dismiss the park because of the kitschy Dolly connection. But don't make that mistake. Most people know the caricature of Dolly, but she's really a shrewd businesswoman, a great entertainer, and quite the philanthropist. She's given much back to her home community. She's proud of the park and the whole group surrounding Dollywood has done a fabulous job of maintenance, theming, and expansion.

     GetGlowing on July 1, 2010 @ 11:57 pm
If you don't have the time (or money) to buy 2-day or season pass admissions, Dollywood offers an "After 3:00 - next day free" option. Just go to the park after 3 p.m., and depending on when the park closes, you'll be able to get quite a bit done. The next (consecutive or open) day is all yours to enjoy without extra admission. Keep an eye on the park schedule for hours to plan your visit.

Also, if you are driving, instead of parking at Dollywood for $8/$11, you can park for free at the Patriot Park municipal lot and take the Dollywood bus for 50 cents each way.

     DavidaTN on July 2, 2010 @ 12:18 am
Thank you for this great review.
I was planning on taking everyone to Dollywood for a day trip from Atlanta and now I really need to make sure I do this.

I have not been since I was a little kid and don't remember any of it.
It should be fun, but hot I would guess.


     stevegriswold on July 2, 2010 @ 2:30 pm
I didn't have enough room to describe the food at Dollywood very well. I could do an entire article on just the food. There was a special on the Travel Channel recently on theme park food. Dollywood was ranked 2nd in the nation behind Knobels. We love a lot of the snack like the potato curls, grilled corn, kettle corn, & funnel cakes. As far as drinks, in the summer, you can't beat the frozen lemonaide. During Christmas, the hot wassail is the best although the hot chocolate is great too. My kids love to eat lunch at Aunt Granny's Buffet because of the selections. We usually get some type of pastries later in the day as a snack. They have some new drink specials this year as well. They include a 25th anniversary mug with .99 refills for the year. Splash Country has a new mug that you can get with unlimited refills for the day for 12.99 or for the season for 24.99

     heatherwillmom on July 2, 2010 @ 3:29 pm
stevegriswold;3338820 >Thank you for this great review.
I was planning on taking everyone to Dollywood for a day trip from Atlanta and now I really need to make sure I do this.

I have not been since I was a little kid and don't remember any of it.
It should be fun, but hot I would guess.


There's quite a bit of shade in the park, plus several rides that you get wet on to keep you cool. If you have little ones, there are fountains that they could play in. There is a river ride that soaks you plus several that you just get splashed

     heatherwillmom on July 2, 2010 @ 4:38 pm
You will get SOAKED to the bone on Slidewinder. Love that ride! Avoid denim!!

     GetGlowing on July 17, 2010 @ 3:02 pm
We usually either wear bathing suits under our clothes for the water rides or just take dry socks & underware for the kids. Since it's been so hot here lately, we have made several trips to Splash Country too. By the way, for those of you who have been to Dollywood but not lately, they changed the entrance to include Splash Country. You enter the same way for either park. It splits after the parking pay booths. The water rides have become very popular on these hot days.

     heatherwillmom on July 17, 2010 @ 6:22 pm
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Updated 07-01-2010 - Article #494 

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