If there’s one thing we can’t resist, it’s the allure of a heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping theme park ride.
Nestled amidst the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains, these two towns are home to some of our favorite parks and rides.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is home to moonshine, mountains, and Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood.
The park boasts several popular attractions, from thrilling coasters to family-friendly ones and everything in between.
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History and Background
Dollywood, a 500-acre theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, opened its doors on May 3, 1986, as an initiative by the iconic singer-songwriter Dolly Parton.
The park’s history dates back to 1961 when it was a small tourist attraction named “Rebel Railroad”, owned by the Robbins brothers.
It wasn’t until Dolly Parton involved herself that the park underwent a makeover and was renamed Dollywood.
Today, Dollywood stands as a testament to Parton’s commitment to enhancing the economy of her native Sevier County.
Themes and Attractions
The park houses a range of attractions that cater to different tastes and age groups.
The park is divided into ten themed areas including Showstreet, Rivertown Junction, Craftsman’s Valley, and more, each featuring unique rides, shows, and experiences.
How To Save On Admission At Dollywood
While the general admission price can seem steep, there are ways to save. Consider purchasing season passes if you plan to visit multiple times throughout the year.
They cost less than two daily tickets and come with added perks like free parking and discounts within the park.
Dollywood also offers a Pre-K Imagination Season Pass, which allows children ages 4-5 free admission.
Look out for promotional codes and discounts online before your visit. Websites like RetailMeNot often have deals. If you enter the park after 3 PM, you can get the next day’s admission free.
Here are some additional tips and hacks to save on admission, food, and drinks at theme parks like Dollywood:
- Look for discounted tickets: Many websites offer discounted tickets or promotional codes for theme parks. Be sure to check these out before purchasing your tickets directly from the park.
- Visit during off-peak times: If possible, plan your visit during off-peak times such as weekdays or outside of school vacations. Parks often offer reduced prices during these times to encourage more visitors.
- Take advantage of group discounts: If you’re visiting with a large group, check if the park offers group discounts. These are usually available for groups of 15 or more.
- Membership perks: Some parks offer membership or annual pass options. While these may seem expensive upfront, they often come with perks like free parking, discounts on food and merchandise, and free or discounted admission to other parks.
- Late entry discounts: Some parks offer discounted admission later in the day. If you’re not planning on spending the whole day there, this could be a good option.
- Pack your own food and drinks: Check the park’s policy on bringing in food and drinks. Packing your own can save a significant amount of money compared to buying inside the park.
- Look for meal deals: If you do decide to eat in the park, look for meal deals or combo meals which are often cheaper than buying items individually.
- Refillable cups and popcorn buckets: Some parks offer refillable cups and popcorn buckets. While these may seem expensive initially, they can save money if you’re staying for a long time or visiting multiple days.
- Check for free attractions: Many parks have free attractions or exhibits. Be sure to take advantage of these to get the most out of your visit.
- Plan ahead: Research the park beforehand and make a plan of what rides and attractions you want to visit. This can help avoid wasting time and money on attractions that don’t interest you.
Remember, every park is different so be sure to research specific strategies for the park you’re visiting. Happy travels!
Food, Parking, and Souvenirs At Dollywood
Pack your lunch to save on food costs. While Dollywood doesn’t allow picnic lunches inside the park, they do provide picnic tables outside the entrance.
For souvenirs, consider buying from the clearance section at the Emporium. Parking is $15 for standard size vehicles, but it’s free for Gold Passholders.
Best Time to Visit Dollywood
To avoid crowds, consider visiting during the weekdays, especially on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The park is less crowded during the spring and fall, and right after school starts in August.
Recommended Dollywood Theme Park Rides and Attractions
Don’t miss the Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster, and the Lightning Rod, the world’s fastest wooden coaster.
For a more relaxed experience, enjoy the Dollywood Express, a 5-mile journey on a 110-ton coal-fired steam engine.
Dollywood Seasonal Events
Dollywood hosts several seasonal festivals, including the Festival of Nations in the spring, Summer Celebration, Harvest Festival in the fall, and Smoky Mountain Christmas during the holiday season.
The 21 Most Popular Dollywood Theme Park Rides
Dollywood has consistently been rated as a top theme park in the United States.
This honor comes from unofficial fan surveys, TripAdvisor ratings, and USA Today’s “Best of” rankings.
And speaking of favorites, we’re excited to share with you our list of the top 21 rides at Dollywood—the crown jewel of Pigeon Forge.
From breathtaking roller coasters that defy gravity to enchanting attractions suitable for the whole family, Dollywood never fails to deliver on fun and adventure.
Let these popular Dollywood theme park rides serve as a guide to planning your perfect day at Dollywood.
1. Lightning Rod
One of the unique rides at Dollywood is the Lightning Rod. Part metal and part wooden coaster, this thrill ride takes off at high speeds while racing over its track.
It’s one of the most popular rides in the park, so get in line early.
Thunderhead is a classic wooden roller coaster. Find it in the Timber Canyon area of the park near Wildwood Grove. While not nearly as thrilling as Lightning Rod, Thunderhead is by no means an “easy” coaster.
3. Blazing Fury
A nostalgic guest favorite, Blazing Fury is a hilarious coaster ride through a town of animatronics that has been set on fire. The scene and sound effects are so cheesy you can’t help but laugh with glee as you zoom by.
4. Wild Eagle
Wild Eagle is one of the tallest coasters in the park. It also is one of the smoothest rides at any theme park. Guests will feel like they truly are “flying” with eagles when riding Wild Eagle.
5. Mystery Mine
Located across from the entrance to Wildwood Grove is the coaster Mystery Mine. While not a high-speed coaster, it still maintains its thrills with vertical hills and a harrowing, upside-down hang toward the end of the ride.
Wildwood Grove’s family-friendly coaster will have riders screaming with glee. It does not go upside down, but that doesn’t make it any less exhilarating.
7. FireChaser Express
Another entry into the family-friendly coaster arena, FireChaser Express is the only coaster in the park that launches forward and backward. You will find this roller coaster across from the entrance to Wild Eagle.
8. Tennessee Tornado
Aptly named the Tennessee Tornado, is a roller coaster that gives guests the feeling of being whipped around in a tornado.
High speeds and multiple loops make Tennessee Tornado one of the most popular Dollywood Theme Park rides.
On the Barnstormer, guests ride higher and higher in the air with each pass of the ride’s massive “arms.” It can reach maximum speeds of up to 45 miles per hour while flying 81 feet in the air.
10. Smoky Mountain River Rampage
Smoky Mountain River Rampage is a whitewater raft ride through winding rapids. Ride this if you want to get wet. It is located in the Rivertown Junction section of the park.
It is one of our favorite Dollywood Theme Park rides.
11. Daredevil Falls
Ride through an abandoned logging camp for a one-of-a-kind expedition. When guests think the ride is over, they will plunge over a 60-foot drop at up to 50 miles per hour. This is another ride where you will get wet.
12. Dollywood Express
Take a leisurely ride aboard the Dollywood Express. The slow-moving train ride around the park is an easy way to relax and get off your feet for a while.
13. Drop Line
Drop Line is precisely what you’d expect from a traditional tower drop attraction. Guests slowly lift into the air while the ride spins, giving them a view of Dollywood. Prepare yourself for the inevitable drop so it doesn’t catch you by surprise!
14. Great Tree Swing
Wildwood Grove is one of the best Dollywood rides for kids because it is exciting without being too scary. It lifts riders into the air as a group but doesn’t go nearly as high as the Barnstormer.
15. Village Carousel
Carousels are fun at any age, and the Village Carousel is no different. It features over 60 painted animals, including the lead horse nicknamed “Dolly” because of its long, blonde mane.
16. Whistle Punk Chaser
Kids will love this introductory coaster in the heart of Timber Canyon. Whistle Punk Chaser is a short coaster with small hills and thrills, which is perfect for kids who might be overly anxious about the more popular Dollywood coasters.
17. Demolition Derby
Demolition Derby is a bumper car attraction located in Country Fair. Riders can sit two to a vehicle and see who can “out bump” each other during the ride.
18. The Mad Mockingbird
The Mad Mockingbird is an exciting, fast-paced ride in Wildwood Grove. Riders can control the twists and turns of the ride vehicle by “steering” the bird’s head.
19. Black Bear Trail
Small children will delight in the simple nature of Black Bear Trail. Guests ride on the back of a black bear as it meanders along the forest path.
20. Rockin’ Roadway
Steer yourself around the track in classic cars reminiscent of the styles from the 1950s. This ride has no minimum height requirement, which makes it fun for families with children of all ages.
21. Big Bear Mountain
Big Bear Mountain boasts the longest track in the park and lasts nearly two minutes.
The ride also features onboard audio that enhances the ride with music and announcements from Wildwood Grove’s resident wilderness explorer, Ned Oakley.
More to Dollywood Than Rides
If rides aren’t your thing, don’t worry. Dollywood has plenty of other things to see and do. You can do other activities while your friends or family enjoy the most popular Dollywood theme park rides.
Take in a show at the Back Porch Theater or visit Chasing Rainbows, a museum filled with Dolly Parton memorabilia.
There is something for all ages at Dollywood Theme Park.
Nearby Attractions, Accommodations, and Dining
Beyond Dollywood, Pigeon Forge offers many attractions like the Titanic Museum and the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster.
As for accommodations, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort offers comfortable lodging with park privileges. Dining options within the park include Aunt Granny’s Restaurant and Red’s Drive-In.
Alternatives To Dollywood
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Greg is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) with 22+ years experience in Financial Services. He has held numerous FINRA Securities licenses (series 7, 63, 65, and 66), and is an expert on Investment Products and Financial Planning. Greg has 22+ years experience as a real estate investor and degrees in Psychology and Philosophy.
Greg has been quoted/interviewed in Yahoo Money, Yahoo Finance, USA Today, Authority Magazine, Realtor.com, Business Insider, and others.
Greg is an avid runner, and the father to identical twin girls and their awesome brother. His love of budgeting and his kids led him to join The Great Resignation in 2021.
Disclaimer: Any Financial Tips on ChaChingQueen are general and informational. Speak with a professional about your specific situation.