Insider Tips for Dollywood Theme Park

Awarded “Friendliest Park” by Amusement Today and "America's Most Beautiful Park" Golden Ticket Award in 2021, Dollywood is a must visit for families, foodies and roller coaster enthusiasts. Now celebrating over 30 years of charming visitors, Dollywood spans 150 acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and offers more than 40 rides and attractions, including record-breaking coasters. With so much to see and do, below are Insider Tips for Visiting Dollywood, so you can experience the very best that the theme park, water park, resort, cabins and live dinner shows has to offer.

Nestled in the Smokies in Northeast Tennessee, Dollywood is unlike any other amusement park. No matter if you’re a fan of Dolly Parton or not (but come on, who isn’t?), Dollywood offers something for everyone, from record-breaking coasters to delicious Cinnamon rolls, mouth-watering Southern-style food, and amazing mountain views.

Despite misconceptions, Dollywood is not a shrine to its namesake. In fact, you have to seek out the portions dedicated to the icon, like her tour bus and museum located within the park. Also, it’s not hokey or little. I was shocked when I unfolded the theme park map – there is so much to do.

After speaking with Dollywood Insiders, and employees and finally experiencing the park firsthand, here are Top Insider Tips for Visiting Dollywood the right way!

Insider Tips for Visiting Dollywood Theme Park

  1. Stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort – It’s beautiful, affordable and very luxurious. Rates depend on seasonality with as low as $89 during the off-season (Jan-March). During peak season, you can expect rates to start at $169. Still a bargain considering the luxury of the resort. Basically, that’s the same rate of a Disney budget hotel, yet offers the experience of a Disney luxury hotel. Also, all room occupants staying at DreamMore receive a free TimeSaver Pass for bypassing lines at Dollywood. Plus, free parking, a shuttle to Dollywood parks, discounts on dinner attractions and park tickets (2 days for the price of one). Do try the juicy fried chicken at their hotel dinner buffet, yum!

    VIP Tip for Dollywood Stay at Dreammore Resort
  2. Take Advantage of Single Rider lanes – We saved an hour wait time by choosing the Single Rider line entrance for Lightning Rod roller coaster. We had a party of 8 and were able to at least ride on the same cars, just not seated together. After which, we immediately ran out and joined the single rider line again. We rode twice in a half hour and by the time we left the wait time was up to 70 minutes too. 

  3. Eat the Famous Cinnamon Bread – Everyone talks about Dollywood’s famous cinnamon rolls and now I know why. Located inside the Grist Mill, hot fresh cinnamon bread is made daily and lives up to the hype. They’re more loaves than rolls, really. Splurge and pay extra for the cup of apple butter for dipping.

    If the line is too long at the picturesque mill you can also purchase from the Spotlight Bakery on Showstreet by the main entrance. It's a fun workaround on busy days. 

  4. Ride the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster – Lightning Rod is also the world’s first wood launch coaster. Unlike other wooden coasters, it’s not jerky. It’s quite smooth and yes, fast! Since this is one of their most popular rides, head to this one right away or use a TimeSaver Pass.

    VIP Tips for Visiting Dollywood - Ride Lightning Rod.

  5. Go on Blazing Fury – This indoor dark coaster is a park original from 1978 and super kitsch. The outdated animatronics are laughable and creepy nowadays, but this coaster holds surprises and quick twists that will make you laugh and gasp too. Worth going on just for the nostalgic bragging rights alone. 

  6. Reserve a Retreat at Dollywood’s Splash Country – For the ultimate VIP visit to Dollywood’s Splash Country, book one of their Waterside or Riverside Retreats. It’s a great way to get some shade and unwind. This feature is especially good for babies needing to nap while older siblings continue to play in the water park. Each private retreat offers 200 square feet of shaded space, or you can soak up the sun on the additional 100-square-foot sun deck. Each unit includes a dining table, ceiling fan, satellite TV, food delivery, and lounge chairs. Max 10 people. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Make reservations as far in advance as possible—especially for busy weekends and popular summer holidays. Click here for more tips for visiting Dollywood Splash Country Water Park.
  7. Get Your Child Measured – Instead of having your younger children measured before each ride you can get a wristband that will clear them for all the appropriate-sized rides for them. Simply head to the Measuring Station near the entrance where a Dollywood staffer will measure them once and put a colored wristband on them that shows their height. Now you'll easily know what ride they can safely go on per the color-coding system. 

  8. Order a slice from the 25-pound apple pie – Spotlight Bakery & Sandwich Shop near the entrance bakes up a 25 pound Apple Pie. One slice can feed up to six people! If you buy the whole thing it comes with the cast iron skillet. Whether you plan to try it or not, it’s worth photographing and salivating over.
  9. Board a WWII steam engine – Besides the rides, guests can board a real 110-ton coal-fired steam engine. Dollywood Express chugs through a scenic five-mile journey up the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Originally stationed in Alaska during WW2, the Dollywood Express route now provides scenic views adults will love. Kids will enjoy this authentic ride, which is very different from the modern amusement train rides elsewhere. The whistle alone commands attention. Be sure to chat up the conductors too.

    VIP Tips for Visiting Dollywood - Ride Lightning Rod.

  10. View the Bald Eagles – Dollywood has dozens of majestic bald eagles for viewing in a 30,000-square-foot aviary. Don’t worry, they aren’t being imprisoned, but saved. These eagles have been deemed unreleasable and have found a sanctuary at Dollywood. 

More Dollywood Visitor Tips:

Insider Tips for Dollywood Theme Park

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