In October I visited Dollywood for the first time with my friend Irene. The Tennessee theme park has been on my list for a while now, as it often wins Golden Ticket awards for its food and hospitality. Fall was such a fun first time to visit! The park has impressive pumpkin displays all over and comes alive at night. You can read my article about Dollywood’s Harvest Festival and Great Pumpkin LumiNights here, but this article will focus on the park itself.
Thank you to Dollywood for hosting me!
Dollywood first opened in 1986 but has grown a ton in the last few years, expanding to include a water park, The Dream More Resort (which is a short trolley ride away from the park), and just this year the new Wildwood Grove section of the park. Dollywood is known for its spectacular shows, but you know I’m a theme park person and a foodie so my main focus for this trip was the rides and dining.
Dollywood is beautifully themed. You’re transported back in time, largely to the south in the late 1800s, although there’s also a charming Hollywood section (the only Dolly Parton part of the park) and the 1950s vibes of Jukebox Junction. The park is located about 35 miles southeast of Knoxville (which, by the way, is the airport we flew into) in the scenic Smoky Mountains.
Dollywood has some major thrills, including one of the best coasters I’ve ever been on: Wild Eagle. This rollercoaster is worth a trip to to Dollywood all on its own. Its claim to fame is that it’s America’s first winged coaster, meaning you’re seated on either side of the track. Your feet dangle as you zip around the Smoky Mountains and you really feel like you’re flying. In my opinion, the right side is more intense than the left side so do with that what you will.
The new Dragonflier in Wildwood Grove packs a punch during its minute-long ride. This little coaster is a blast and a half! While technically a family coaster, my group found this ride to be quite a thrill.
Rockin’ Roadway is everything I want in a relaxed theme park car ride. Cruise around Dollywood on a smooth (and fume-free!) track in adorably photo-worthy classic cars. It’s too cute in the 1950’s themed Jukebox Junction area of Dollywood. Take a Convertible for a spin then grab a burger and milkshake.
Mystery Mine is a fun coaster that reminded me a bit of a Big Thunder Mountain / Space Mountain hybrid. The indoor/outdoor steel coaster has a 1,811-foot track and a 95-degree, 85-foot vertical drop that will make your stomach flip.
Smoky Mountain River Rampage is a great way to cool off on a hot day! It was easily 90 degrees on my first trip to Dollywood despite being fall in Tennessee so we rode this river ride several times in a row. Don’t fret though, there’s a dryer at the end of the ride if you don’t want to walk around wet. This is also a good middle-thrill ride that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Blazing Fury is a classic indoor coaster. It’s a good starter coaster for those who maybe aren’t adventurous enough for Wild Eagle.
I also thought Dollywood’s new Black Bear Trail was beyond adorable. Irene and I could not stop laughing atop our bears!
A popular attraction at Dollywood is Craftman’s Alley, which I hardly spent any time on because, well, I’m a huge rollercoaster fan and we only had one day in the park. I love that Dollywood has demonstrations in addition to theatrical shows. There’s quite a lot to do at Dollywood for those in your party who don’t like rides.
I would also very much like to discuss the wait times. I walked on every single ride. Granted, it was a Monday, but still! I was told that the average ride wait time is twenty minutes, which is still reasonable. Just look at how nice and uncrowded the park was:
There are lots of kid rides and big thrills to enjoy at Dollywood but what happens when you work up an appetite? Well you’re in the South, baby, they’ve got you covered! I’m thrilled that I got to be part of a food blogger trip so that I could try an insane amount of food to tell you the best places to eat. Here are my food recommendations.
Come here for breakfast! The 185-lbs apple pie is what makes Spotlight Bakery famous but personally, I would go for the cinnamon roll. It’s amazing! They also have cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and all sorts of sweet treats.
Show Street Snacks
This old-fashioned candy shop and ice cream parlor smells as sweet as it tastes. The sweet scent of freshly made waffle cones hits you the minute you walk inside. They have loads of seasonal offerings. We had the pumpkin ice cream sandwich and it was amazing – and huge! It could easily have served four people.
The cones are great too. We tried the Smoky Mountain Fudge cone and it was one of my favorite bites of the day. The cone was quite thick and had a nice crunch.
You can watch the chocolatiers in action, which would be a nice respite on a balmy or very cold day. You can find packaged candy from Show Street in addition to picking out chocolates from the case, perfecting for souvenirs so friends and family can taste Dollywood for themselves!
Market Square Skillets
Trust me, you want to stop at Market Square! The open-air market in Rivertown Junction has different offerings depending on the seasons but wow are they good. On my trip in October, we got to try the Low Country Boil, the Fried Green Tomato BLT, and Caramelized Onion Pierogis and I loved all three. In fact, the pierogis might be my favorite bite of the whole trip – and I don’t even like rueben sandwiches! Market Square has it going on.
I don’t care much for funnel cake so believe me when I say: you need this funnel cake. These funnel cakes should win an award. Can I give them an award? Dollywood, you win The Rose Table’s award for best funnel cake. We tried both the Pumpkin Pie Funnel Cake and Fruity Pebble Funnel Cake and let me tell you, that pumpkin pie funnel cake rocked my world. Please go try a deep-fried favorite at Splinters and report back!
Front Porch Cafe
After a day full of sugar, meatloaf and green beans sounded great to me! If you love southern food, you will love Front Porch Cafe. The meatloaf, corn, reuben wontons, and cheddar biscuits were my favorite offerings but leave room for dessert! The Dessert Flight is a delight. Four mason jars house banana pudding, chocolates mousse, creme brûlée, and key lime pie. Don’t make me pick which one was my favorite because they were all so great.
The Grist Mill
A trip to Dollywood would not be complete without a stop at the Grist Mill for the deservedly famous cinnamon bread. Skip the sauces – this fluffy cinnamon pillow of heaven needs no help in the flavor department.
Want more? You can read my article about The Best Fall Treats & Eats at Dollywood here.
The Dream More Resort
I was impressed by everything at The Dream More. There’s a pool, spa, daily activities, nightly s’mores, live music, and more at The Dream More. The resort oozes southern comfort and charm, ready to welcome you with open arms and pink lemonade after a long day at Dollywood. The service was exemplary. The staff was so kind and friendly – and that’s coming from a Texan!
One of the biggest perks? Besides being a beautiful resort that’s minutes from Dollywood, Dream More guests get a TimeSaver card that allows them faster access to rides up to ten times. It’s a huge perk that I wish every theme park would offer resort guests! Read my full Dream More review here.
Dollywood is a seasonal park, open March – December. Be sure to check the calendar before planning your trip! There are several seasonal events including the Harvest Festival, Barbecue & Bluegrass, Flower & Food Festival, and Smoky Mountain Christmas. Tickets start at $79 and can be purchased on the Dollywood website. I hope this will be the first of many fabulous trips to Dollywood!
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Ride every ride,