If you’ve ever been to Pigeon Forge, TN, you probably read or heard about the amusement park that Dolly Parton built! It’s called Dollywood and it’s a wonderful place to visit with your family whether you want to get on rides, see shows, shop or even eat wonderful food! And right now, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmasis going on until January 3rd, 2015.
My family was visiting Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area and one of our stops was Dollywood to check out their holiday special theme of the Smoky Mountain Christmas. This is the best of two worlds really because you still get to experience Dollywood with all of the rides, shops and food but it’s decorated for Christmas with a ton of lights, attractions, shows for the holidays and more! From the time we got through the gate until the park closed, we were checking out the different areas of the parks which had a ton of stuff for all of my group.
I’d highly recommend the Dollywood’s A Christmas Carolif you can (check the schedule) because it’s sure to be a hit. It’s the story of A Christmas Carol but done in Dolly’s style, including new songs written by the famous singer/songwriter who also makes a holographic appearance which was very neat to watch. It runs about 45 minutes, so it’s not too long if you have little ones, but it does fill up fast so try to be early to get your seats.
Now, for the kids (and yeah even a few of us adults), there was a Rudolph and Friends character experience to meet them up close and get your picture made! The inside of the building was decked out with lights and winter/North Pole scenery and we got to decorate our own cookies at stations run by elves. Plus they had cute ornaments and small goodies for sale. Definitely a visit we’ll remember.
There are a ton of shows in different stages and theaters across the park, so no matter where you are, there should be something starting soon. This was a great opportunity for those of us who needed a break from the walking or to get in from the cold once the sun went down. The staff reminded us these could change without notice but we never ran into trouble except being too late to get good seats (our own fault). If you pick up a guide as you walk in, it has a detailed map of all the areas of the park, plus a schedule of the shows and live events so you can plan your route according to what your group wants to go see.
Of course, no Christmas show would be complete without a holiday lights parade, right? The group that sponsored our trip set up a terrific “meet and greet” inside of Dollywood’s Chasing Rainbows museum, which had a TON of dresses, shoes, hats, awards and other memorabilia from her career, for those of us invited as guests of the park. They set up a private viewing area of the parade outside along with awesome goodies like hot chocolate, cookies, brownies and more. And honestly, the parade would be awesome from any angle, but the kids were blown away that they could have a spot right up front to watch the different pieces go by. Plus they were decked out with lights and made up of characters, toys, and of course, Santa and Mrs. Clause were the highlight.
No matter when you plan to visit Dollywood, make sure you take time to check out the awesome rides. Whether you’re a thrill seeker or have young ones in your party, there are a ton of places to see and ride. Here are a few of our favorites:
Barnstormer – Enjoy the same breathtaking moments that daring stunt pilots of the1920s might have experienced as they zoomed over the fields of nearby farms. The Barnstormer features two pendulum arms with seating for 32 riders.
Dizzy Disk – One look at Dollywood’s Dizzy Disk, and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon the midway at the county fair. You can take in all the sights around you as passengers settle into their seats facing outward for a ride that glides back and forth while simultaneously spinning in circles. It’s easy to see why we call it the Dizzy Disk.
Granny’s Garden & Pig Pen – Granny Owens has her hands full on Owens Farm but she invites little ones 48 inches and under to come play in Granny’s Garden and The Pig Pen. Just know that you will get wet because the Pig Pen features pop-jet water fountains, perfect for cooling off down on the farm. Granny’s Garden is filled with soft-play structures, perfect for climbing and playing ‘til the cows come home!
Thunderhead – An old sawmill once moved lumber out of the mountains at Thunderhead Gap. Wood is still the focus, but now the operation known as the Thunderhead is the wildest ride in the woods! Carefully situated between two mountains, this massive wooden coaster stands tall among the mighty trees and takes advantage of the area’s rough and tumble terrain to create a daring ride featuring a 100-foot drop and a top speed of 55 mph.
For your dining options, you should never go hungry in this park! I mean we could have anything from ice cream, funnel cakes, bakery items, breakfast or dinner meals, nuts, Southern style cuisine, and probably 15 other types of food! Around every corner was a restaurant, cafe, bakery or food cart selling something that looked and smelled amazing. Note to self: plan for more funding of the food budget!
If you aren’t into rides, you should plan on visiting the “craft” vendors which include blacksmiths, leather working, pottery, glass blowing and other types of works the artists make on site! Almost everything is for sale and a bunch could be customized just for your needs.
There are shops everywhere, and we could have bought clothes, hats, rockers, toys, magic supplies and almost anything else you could think of while we were visiting Dollywood. Plus they have a Package Pickup Service where your purchases can be delivered to a pickup station at the Emporium which is where you exit the park! How easy is that!
Overall, we had a wonderful time at Dollywood and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. We can’t wait to go back to check out the rides and attractions that weren’t open because it was too cold or we missed the start time. You should definitely plan on bringing good walking shoes because it’s a lot of walking, but with plenty of places to slow down or take a break if you get tired. Also be sure to allow a few extra minutes to catch the tram to and from the parking lot if it’s busy! We loved our experience and how it combined the season of Christmas with the adventure of a theme park. Our group was seriously impressed and we will be going back the next time we are in the area!