Posted by Darryl Payne in Pigeon Forge Attractions
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is known for many things – its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains, outlet malls, music theaters and much more. But perhaps one of the shiniest jewels in its crown is Dollywood theme park, launched in 1986 by country music superstar (and hometown girl) Dolly Parton.
In its nearly 35-year history, the park has grown from what had previously operated as a Silver Dollar City (and several other theme parks before that) into one of the most popular theme-park destinations in the nation. Known for its rides, attractions, crafts, shows and food, the 150-acre theme park in the foothills of the Smokies also has its own water park, Dollywood's Splash Country, located adjacent to the main property.
Between the two locations, you could spend multiple days and never do the same activity twice. However, most folks tend to just make a single day of it, whether it's part of a larger vacation plan or simply a daytrip with friends or family. If you only have one day to work with, we'll pass along eight ideas for things you can do at Dollywood that will not only allow you to sample a little bit of everything at the park, but also guarantee you'll have a great time in the process.
If you're a roller coaster enthusiast, Dollywood has a lot to offer, with everything from tame coasters to wild-and-crazy rides that flip, twist and turn passengers every which way. For example, you might try a smooth double-loop ride on the Tennessee Tornado, one of the park's legacy coasters. Or for a truly rattling experience, hop on Thunderhead, a wood coaster that offers lots of bone-jarring dips and dives. Other themed coasters – such as Wild Eagle, FireChaser Express and Lightning Rod – combine high speed, sharp turns and unique layouts, all with towering views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
You didn't think you'd visit a Dolly Parton theme park and not hear some music, did you? Music is Dolly's bread and butter, so naturally, it's an integral component of Dollywood. There are auditoriums and stages located throughout the park, mostly indoor, some outdoor. And the variety of entertainment you'll see on those stages varies. Yes, there's plenty of country and bluegrass music, but you'll also find oldies rock and roll and gospel music. At Christmas, all the park's venues host holiday-themed shows, including Appalachian Christmas and O Holy Night.
An entire section of Dollywood, Craftsman's Valley, is home to a community of talented craftspeople and artisans, including a blacksmith, glass blower, candle maker, wood crafter, leather crafter and more. The coolest part is that you can watch all of these artisans at work every day throughout the Dollywood season. Each also has his or her own shop on site, where you can purchase the fruits of their efforts. Take home a hand-blown glass vase or bar of soap made from goat milk. During Dollywood's annual Harvest Festival, the park also welcomes guest crafters from all over the country, and you'll find them at work throughout the entire park.
You won't go hungry at Dollywood, that's for sure. Every section has its own collection of eateries, usually themed according to its specific location. For example, Red's Drive-In is a '50s-themed burger and shake eatery located in Jukebox Junction. Of course, there's lots of country cuisine at places like Aunt Granny's Restaurant (“Aunt Granny” is what Dolly's nieces and nephews call her), Hickory House BBQ and Market Square Skillets. And don't leave Dollywood without trying a Southern delicacy like their cinnamon bread or funnel cakes.
It's not exactly a thrill ride, but a trip on the Dollywood Express train is a must-do when you visit the park. This 20-minute mountain excursion is led by a vintage 110-ton coal-fired steam engine that takes passengers on a five-mile journey through the park as well as the foothills surrounding the park. If you've been on your feet all day at Dollywood, it's a great way to take a load off, enjoy the scenery and perhaps benefit from a cool breeze. But watch out… The train might just get robbed by bandits!
If you have kids with you at Dollywood, this is a place you'll definitely want to hang out. It's designed for a wide range of ages and features multiple rides, attractions, activities and play areas. Kids might want to take a spin on Dragonflier, an exciting coaster designed just for them, or explore Hidden Hollow, a secret play space where young ones can climb, crawl and slide in a safe environment. Don't overlook the Wildwood Tree, the area's centerpiece, which is bedecked with a collection of colorful butterflies dancing in its branches.
Stepping into Dollywood's Country Fair section is just like visiting the midway of a down-home county fair. This is another good place for younger children to get in on the ride action. Kiddie rides like the Amazing Flying Elephants, Lemon Twist and Piggy Parade are just the right speed for the younger set. But grown-ups might also find a thrill or two on the Dizzy Disk or Sky Rider. The carnival-like atmosphere and food vendors will make you think you've stepped into another time and place.
You'll find retail stores all over Dollywood. The selection of merchandise ranges from clothing, jewelry and souvenirs to arts and crafts, homemade candies, home décor and even magicians' supplies. During the holidays, you'll find a wide selection of Christmas decorations, gifts and much more. When you exit Dollywood, you'll be directed through the park's massive gift store, which carries a little bit of everything.
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