Want to know the best theme park that isn’t Disney?
Um, that would have to be Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN. It’s completely hidden amongst the lush TN foilage. Even when arriving at the parking lot, you still can’t see any real hint that roller coasters or anything relating to an amusement or theme park even exist in the area.
Best bang for your buck
Great prices all around, considering theme parks are typically super expensive.
We bought 3 day “park hopper” passes for $91 a piece. We bought our tickets at their walk-up ticket kiosk outside the park. I usually prefer to talk to a real person, but the first day we were too excited to wait in line for something like that. Buying tickets at the kiosk was super quick and easy as well.
An unlimited ride fast pass was $45. We were completely in shock!! We’ve NEVER seen prices that low for something like that. The starting price for ride “fast passes” somewhere else is around $60.
Since we went on a Saturday with Chad, we bought 2 of their unlimited ride “fast Passes” which they call a Timesaver Pass, thinking it would be super crowded. Nope, it wasn’t. Of course the only time we buy something like that and its not crowded at all. I just have to laugh at our luck sometimes.
General parking was $10, preferred was $20! $20 is the standard for general parking elsewhere. Preferred was totally worth it, too. Walked right into our own private entrance and skipped the main gates and security check with the crowds.
The Garden Cafe was a quiet and very air conditioned sit down restaurant that had pretty good food and it was priced right around the same price you pay for the deep-fried food items at the walk-up quick service counters.
Popcorn bucket was around $6 and refills were $1 or $2 for kettle corn. It’s yummy too.
Thrill seekers beware
We are thrill seekers! As far as roller coasters are concerned, the bigger, faster and filled with heart-pounding inversions the better. I feel like out of the 6-7 “big” rides only 2 filled our thrill seeker’s cup. The rest were entertaining because the theming or on-ride video cameras.
Which rides may be worth your time?
Lightning Rod was the best for sure. It boasts that it’s the fastest wooden roller coaster reaching speeds of 73 mph. With 20 seconds of airtime as part of the crazy fun. However, It was broken down most of the time. On the day that we all went together we busted on over to it and hopped in line. The boys rode first and I swapped the baby with them. After I rode it was broken the rest of the day.
Wild Eagle is very smooth and really does feel like your soaring around it’s loops and turns. For the goofballs at heart, this ride is for you. There’s a video camera that films your every facial expression throughout the ride. Which is totally worth riding over and over again to get that perfect ride video souvenir to take home and enjoy for years to come. Sit on the outside front or very back. It’s the best.
Mystery Mine: Just plain fun. It reminds me of the Crazy Mouse ride at Lagoon in Utah, but on steroids. The mine theming is beyond fun and the 95-degree, 85-foot vertical drop was intense, and even better in the dark of night. It has great re-ride value.
Thunderhead: Whippin’ fast wooden roller coaster that shakes your brain loose! It’s a lot like GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm, CA. We’d practically wet ourselves because of how much we were laughing, it’s really that bad of a ride experience. There’s no really good place to sit on that ride, you will be shook to pieces.
What about my toddler?
Our little Izzy could have spent a lifetime (in toddler years) at the Firehouse Fun yard splash pad. Super cute theming that matches the FireChaser Express ride that’s right next to it.
Other things that the age 2 and up toddler crowd might enjoy:
- The bubble show- Tip: don’t sit in the back section if you actually want to touch and pop the bubbles or you will have one sad toddler on your hands. (spoken from a first hand experience). Sit in the front section. You will be slathered in bubbles!
- Rockin’ Roadway- They have booster seats for the littles, so that they can reach the steering wheel.
- A bird show
- The carousel
- Several playgrounds
- Soaking people with water guns as they float by outside the River Battle ride
- Piggy, Ducky, Bee, elephant ride. All separate rides.
- Dollywood Express
I love that there was enough to entertain our daughter, so she didn’t have sit in a stroller all day and we didn’t have to try and find a less populated part of the park for her to run wild and get her wiggles out.
Talk about some competent mobile app designers
The Dollywood park app was extremely user friendly. I could find the information I was looking for one-handed, while calming my toddler within seconds! That is pure gold to me. Much love and thanks to the app designers.
Here’s what I think makes this a great app:
- The landing/homepage is simple: tickets, dates & hours, ride times, today’s show schedule, park maps. Seriously, that’s everything you need to know for a days visit.
- The ride times are accurate! (Take note, Carowinds). Nobody wants to walk to the other side of the park thinking they’ll be hopping into a line with a 15 minute wait time only to find out upon arriving that it will actually be a 70minute wait.
Dolly’s Museum and Tour Bus
We toured her museum late at night on the last day that we were there. Probably would have enjoyed it more if we weren’t so tired. Most of the museum felt like an extension of her closet. It seemed like a huge building filled with her dresses and other wardrobe attire she has worn throughout the years.
The tour bus was probably the highlight of the Dolly Parton memorabilia for us. As full time RVers we like to see the quirky things people do to their rigs.
[Spoliers] Let’s just say that her bus was very pink and full of mirrors but looks pretty cozy for traveling across the US.
Thank goodness we bought the photo pass, because there’s NO WAY I would pay $30-something dollars for a picture of my family on that!
We loved our 3 day visit to the beautifully themed Dollywood and Splash Country. It rained a little bit off and on, and it was humid for sure. There are plenty of misters throughout the park to cool off at and plenty of trees to duck under if it rained.
All the workers we encountered there had the famous southern hospitality and were very friendly and willing to assist.
It’s a guarantee that we will be heading back to Dollywood someday!