My daughter’s 6th birthday came up quick this year. One afternoon, about a month before her favorite day of the year, hubby told her how much fun he used to have at Dollywood as a kid. “Dollywood? What is that?” she asked, and there, we started pulling up pictures online, attempting to recreate a good visual representation.
Goggled pictures are not enough to satisfy our (whole family’s) need for exploring and experiencing new places. So we packed our bags, bought tickets online, and jumped in the car towards the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
We drove through the amazing panoramic route of the Smoky range passing the town of Gatlinburg, TN and towards Pigeon Forge. There’s plenty to do in just these two towns; from mini-golf in every corner, to racing carts, MagiQuest, and hundreds of restaurants for all tastes.
We found our way into Dollywood easily, as there were signs and posters about it all around town. The park opens sharp at 10 am, so we made sure to arrive by 930 am, to beat the big crowds. Well, there was already a huge crowd of people parked in the very ample parking lot, but we got a good spot. (NOTE: if you want to save your $12 parking fee, look into taking the free trolley from Patriot’s Park in Pigeon Forge). As soon as we stepped out of our car, there was a multi wagon tram waiting for us. The conductor was kind enough to remind everyone boarding of remembering their parking lot letter “Cotton Candy –C”. I noticed how the other lots were also named after cutesy things like Butterfly Lot for B, and Apple Jack lot for A. One thing is for sure, their transportation for guests is superb. They are incredibly efficient at picking up/dropping off guests in their respective lots in a timely manner.
We went inside the park with no problem. You could see how, even though it was still early, the crowds were getting bigger and the lines longer. We had the opportunity to ride a couple of roller coasters with basically no wait, but as the day progressed, our wait increased to about one hour per ride…even for the little kid’s rides. Believe me, waiting in line for over one hour with a six year old is no fun. We didn’t do this, but I highly recommend to get the fast pass and skip the wait!
The park is old, but very beautifully decorated. It gives you the feeling that you are walking through an old western town. The rides are OK. Nothing too out of the ordinary… roller coasters, water rides (splash), bumper carts, and other old country themed rides which were nice. If you’ve been to Disney, or other major parks (Six Flags, Carowinds) then you might find this park rating just below on a technological scale, but in a way competitive if we talk about décor and ambiance.
They play only Country music throughout the park, which goes with the theme. There’s a bald Eagle exhibit inside the park, which I thought was odd. Well, it was cool to see a bald eagle so close(but all animals in captivity make me sad, so I didn’t really care for this section).
We ate in a little sit-down restaurant in the park. The food was good, of course, a little pricey; but that was expected. There are plenty of places to eat (the hot dogs smelled soooo good!); from little stands, to food trucks and snack areas.
We had plans to watch one of the many shows offered around the park, but the weather didn’t want to cooperate with us. It poured, and poured for a while.
We sought refuge in a little souvenir shop, where we bought rain ponchos (they were selling those by the hundreds…literally!). When the rain subsided some, we ventured to the misty, now empty streets of Dollywood. What looked like a constant parade in town, now looked like a ghost town from a movie.
Everyone had disappeared into the stores, restaurants, and shops seeking a dry refuge from the rain. As we were walking trying to decide what to do next, it started pouring again. Our ponchos came in handy, but we resolved to leave as we realized there was not going to be much to do while it rained.
We were exhausted, wet, and hungry. Time to go eat some good ole southern cooking.
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