One of the best vacation theme parks in Tennessee is DollyWood. It was founded by country music legend Dolly Parton, and it has a great assortment of rides, shows, shops, and so much more.
My wife and I love taking trips to DollyWood, and each year we usually decide if we will go to the beach, or just buy DollyWood season passes. Often times, DollyWood wins out over the beach for the lower costs, closer drive, and the amount of fun we usually have.
Since my wife & I just got back from a great trip in DollyWood, I thought I would take the time to sit down and write up some tips on how to make the most of your DollyWood trip:
DollyWood Vacation Tips: How to Effectively Plan Your DollyWood Trip
Before heading out to DollyWood, you want to be prepared. Here are some things you can do for your trip preparation to ensure the trip will go as smoothly as possible:
- Make a checklist of all the things you need to do, and all the things you need to take with you. Keep this list handy, and ask for input from all people going with you to ensure you don’t miss anything. I will also have a lot of things on this page you may want to jot down.
- Take the most dependable & fuel efficient vehicle possible. I have a Kia Spectra, which is great on gas, and yet roomy enough to comfortably seat 5 people. I would highly recommend you get a vehicle that is reasonable on gas, comfortable, and yet roomy. If you don’t you may want to rent one or borrow a friends.
- Check all fluids before you leave. I always like to check the oil, brake fluid, transmission, power steering, coolant, and any other fluids that need to be checked. If you are low, top up the fluids. If you have a car that has a leak, you may want to take extra (for example: a quart of oil) with you. If you haven’t changed your oil in a while, it may be the time to do so.
- Top up your Gas Tank–This will ensure that you won’t have to stop to fill up during the ride.
- Check your tire pressure and tread. Obviously the last thing you want is a flat tire. So make sure you have the appropriate tire pressure before leaving. Also, physically check the tire tread, and make sure the tread isn’t worn too badly. If so, you may want to get new tires to prevent a blowout.
- Keep it clean! You may also want to clean the car, vacuum the inside, etc. to make a comfortable & organized ride for everyone.
- Directions–Get driving directions before-hand. If you have a GPS, make sure to have DollyWood’s address written down so that you can enter it in. If you use a map, I would recommend using Mapquest.com to get the driving directions. Not only is mapquest very accurate, but it can give you an estimated time & mileage as well.
- Use the bathroom–Make sure to use the bathroom before you leave, and be easy on the drinks on the trip. This way, you won’t have to stop & waste time using the bathroom on the way.
- Keep Your Mouth Shut!–Did you know that most people get their house broken into during vacations? Want to know why? They brag to everyone & tell all of their friends they are leaving. Word spreads fast, and someone may decide to break in. So you & all of the people going with you need to keep it on the “down low.” In other words, don’t publicize the fact that you are going to be away from your house. Thieves love to hear that stuff. That is like an inside stock tip for thieves.
- Consider a Car Kit–You may want to get a car kit, or at the very least borrow a pair of jumper cables & basic tools. This way, if you have a flat tire, dead battery, etc, you can quickly get a jump. Also, DollyWood does assist people with car problems at no charge.
Things to Remember to Take with You On Your DollyWood Trip
There are several things you will want to take with you. Some are obvious, and some you may never have thought about. So here are some things you will want to take:
- Get a “Fanny Pack” or small backpack. This can be so helpful on your trip. Get a comfortable fanny pack, or small backpack that secures around your waist or shoulders. This will help you keep things organized. My wife & I use a fanny pack, and it doesn’t bother us at all. You can get them for $5 or less, and they will last a lifetime!
- Bring a cooler or lunch box for the trip. If you have a cooler or lunch box, you can pack it full of ice & bring your own drinks. This will save a lot of money, as the drinks at DollyWood can cost up to $5 for a large soft drink! Instead, you can get them at your local supermarket & bring them with you. You can even take some drinks with you into DollyWood, however, I would recommend placing them in something easy to carry (such as your backpack or fanny pack).
- Bring snacks & drinks! You will want these not only on the trip itself, but also while at DollyWood. Think of snacks everyone will enjoy like candy bars, peanuts, cookies, crackers, beef jerky, candy, etc. You will also want to bring drinks such as bottled water or soft drinks. This will save a lot of money, and you will have foods & beverages you know you will like.
- Sunscreen. Okay, in the middle of the summer, the sun can really scorch your skin. Sunscreen will not only protect you from a burn, but it will help prevent skin cancer. So take a small bottle with you, and you can touch it up if you need to after riding some wet rides.
- Sunglasses–Obviously, you don’t want to be squinting all day, so bring that pair of shades in with you. You can easily hold on to them or place them in your pocket for the wild rides.
- Money–Don’t forget to bring some cash, and maybe a couple of credit cards just in case of an emergency. Plus, DollyWood is great, but certainly not cheap on anything.
- First Aid Kit–You may want to place a first aid kit in your vehicle. If you don’t have one, just get a baggie and place some band aids, alcohol, and tissue paper in it. That should cover most basic scrapes or bumps.
- Medications–If you have any medications, be sure to bring them. If you have allergies, pack an allergy pill or two. Also, you may want to pack a Tylenol or aspirin just in case you get a headache.
- Cell Phones–I would strongly recommend you take a cell phone in case you get lost, or have an emergency. If you don’t have one, borrow a friends or get a cheap prepaid. And make sure to charge the batteries!
- Digital Camera–If you want to take plenty of pics, don’t forget your camera. Also, make sure you have a good memory card, and charge the batteries (or bring some backups).
- Plastic Sandwich Baggies–Wouldn’t it be a shame to get those electronic items ruined in the wet rides? This can easily be solved by getting a plastic baggie that seals. Place you cameras, phones, etc. in a small plastic baggie, and it will water-proof it for you!
- Season Tickets or coupons–If you have any season tickets, coupons, or anything else, be sure to bring those.
- Hand Sanitizer–If you are health conscious or a germ freak, you may want to bring some hand sanitizer to help kill germs before you eat food.
- Napkins–There is bound to be a need for napkins, whether in the car, or at DollyWood. So it will be handy to pack some, and stick a couple in your pocket.
- Watch–To help you keep track of time, don’t forget a watch!
- Chapstick/Lip Balm–Walking around in the heat all day & getting your lips constantly wet can get them chapped. Don’t forget to take some lip gloss, lip balm, or chapstick.
- Ponchos or Umbrellas–When it rains, DollyWood still runs the rides. The only exception is thunder/lighting, in which case they will stop the rides. But if you have a poncho, you can avoid getting drenched on the way back to the car (or while you continue to ride rides). I would recommend a Poncho over an umbrella, simply because of transportation. You can easily get a poncho for $1 at your local dollar store, and it will neatly fit in the back of your pocket or bag. An umbrella, however, can be a pain to drag around all day. By the way, DollyWood is great in the rain. People really clear out, and there is no wait-time for the rides!
- If you are a female, you may want to bring a hair bow to put your hair back, touch up make-up, and anything other “feminine” products you may need (such as tampons/pads).
- Bug Repellent–It is the smokey mountains, so if you have issues with mosquitos or something, you may want some bug repellent. They usually aren’t bad at all, although my wife did kill a mosquito on me.
What Clothing & Shoes to Wear On Your DollyWood Adventure
You definitely want to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. I have this mastered, and here are some tips:
- Wear Sandals –Sandals that strap around the back & front of your feet are best. If you can’t wear those, get tennis shoes. Avoid flip flops, or sandals with hard buckles or parts that go in-between your toes (like flip flops). Those will wear blisters after walking for 6+ hours on pavement! Again, sandals that strap around your feet are best because they will dry faster, are more comfortable, and help keep your body temperature lower. Make sure to try them on, and break them in before wearing them to DollyWood.
- If you do wear tennis shoes, bring an extra pair of socks. Your shoes will get drenched on the wet rides, and you will probably walk around with a “swishy” feeling in your shoes all day. If you must wear tennis shoes, at least bring an extra pair of dry socks. If you don’t, then your feet will get raw & peel (trust me, I learned that the hard way). You will barely be able to walk by the end of the day, and probably not at all the next day. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
- Wear a pair of shorts if possible. In fact, try to get the “cargo” style shorts. These are the ones with the pockets on the sides of them. These are great, and you can never have too many pockets in a theme park (for digital camera’s, snacks, etc.). Make sure they fit comfortably. Don’t forget to wear a belt if necessary, and try to wear shorts that dry fast (avoid denim, and go for khakis, swim-type shorts, or some other faster-drying material).
- Wear a light-colored & thin T-shirt–I would recommend both men & women wear a light colored t-shirt. If it is a dark color, it will attract the sun’s heat, and will make it uncomfortable. Instead, wear whites, bright yellows, etc. Also, try to get a shirt that covers up most areas to help prevent sunburn.
- Deodorant–Don’t forget to add some deodorant. After all, no one wants to smell stinky arm pits all day.
- I would stick with normal (and comfortable) underwear. Some people prefer to wear swimsuits under their clothes instead of traditional underwear (especially females). I tend to just wear normal underwear (I am a male). You can do either one, but just make sure it is comfortable, and you don’t mind getting wet.
- Watch out for Hats–If you wear hats, they can be both good and bad. The good thing is that they can help shade your eyes or face from the sun. The bad part is that you will have to take it off on the fast rides or else you will lose it. This can become a nuisance, so re-think the hat idea. I never wear them, nor does my wife.
- Avoid excessive jewelry–I would minimize your jewelry. I stick with only a watch. Ladies may want a little more, but I would definitely recommend avoiding as much as possible. Especially pricey jewelry such as wedding rings. You may want to leave those valuables at home.
- Sunglasses–This was already mentioned, but I would recommend you wear a comfortable pair of sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the sun.
Tips on How to Save Money at DollyWood in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee
- First, decide on whether or not you will go more than 1 time to DollyWood within a year. If so, you will save money by buying season passes. You can order them online at DollyWood.com, or you can buy them in person. They usually go on sale in late January or February, and you can get a season price for less than the cost of 2 regular visits.
- Always check online to see if you can find any coupon codes, or coupons. You can often find some neat coupons that will give you free games, free parking, discounts on foods or entertainment, and more.
- Sign up on DollyWood.com to get free mail or emails. This is also a great way to get some coupons, find out about great deals & special events, and more.
- If you need to get a drink, vendors are REQUIRED to give you a free cup of ice & water. This is huge! This can save so much money. They just started doing this, and my wife & I took advantage & got about 3 drinks for free. This way it is nice & cold, and best of all, free. So just go up to any vendor selling foods & drinks, and they should give you water for free. And they are really nice about it too! It sure beats paying $2.99-5 for a drink.
- Avoid the Pricey Stuff– I love DollyWood & Dolly Parton to death, but the merchandise isn’t cheap. If you are on a tight budget, you may want to bypass the gift shop, or at least minimize your expenses. Make a budget, and stick to it! Not everyone needs a DollyWood t-shirt, mug, or whatever.
How to Efficiently Ride Rides, and Get the Most Fun Out of DollyWood, Plus a Few Final Tips
Don’t try to just go to DollyWood and randomly walk around. If you do, you are going to waste mega time, and when it can take up to 45 minutes to an hour (or longer) to wait to ride some attractions, time is a precious thing. Plus, you will find yourself walking from one side of the park and back several times, which will wear down your stamina.
Instead, have a battle plan laid out & ready to go. DollyWood.com has a basic map of the whole area, and there are paper maps as soon as you go in as well. Grab one of those, and hang onto it.
What you want to do is this:
- First, do wet rides either first or last. Some people like to ride them first so they can dry off later (and not be wet for the drive home). Others like to ride them last, so that they don’t have to walk around wet all day. Either way, it is your choice. But you may want to group them either first or last.
- Visit Clustered Areas at One Time–I would recommend you visit one main area at a time, ride all the rides you want, and then move to the next area. This will cut down on you having to walk all over the park 100’s of times. For example, go to the country fair area and ride those and then be done with them for the day. Then head up towards the roller coasters and ride those, and then make your way around to the other side and ride those. Again, if you have a pattern and method, you will save time & energy compared to just randomly going from one ride to the next.
- Ride the “big” rides first–As my nephew pointed out, “we can ride these other rides anywhere, let’s go for the big ones.” So you may want to ride the “big” rides that you really want to ride first. That way, if the line gets too crazy later, you will have already rode them.
- Roller Coasters Get Long Lines–The roller coasters get the biggest lines by far. So if you want to ride those (I don’t like them), then you may want to ride those first before the lines get too long. If you wait until the end of the day, you may have to wait as long as an hour (or two) to ride it.
- Plan Where You Want to Eat–They have a list of the restaurants and sample menus at DollyWood.com. Give it a quick look-over and decide where you would like to eat. Then, find it’s location on the map. Again, some people pack their own sandwiches & snacks, and I think that is an even better idea. But if you must eat there, try to plan ahead of time, and schedule a time. Especially if you have food allergies or anything like that.
- Wait until the end to play games–If you, your friends, or children plan on playing the games at the country fair, make sure to do those LAST. I can’t even count how many people I saw having to carry basketballs, stuffed animals, and more. The last thing you want is to have to tote around things all day unnecessarily. So just save those for last, and then you don’t have to carry them all day.
- Get to DollyWood early! They have a map online that has the hours & schedules for the whole year. Try to plan so that you get to DollyWood right when it opens, or even a few minutes earlier. If you do this, not only will you get great parking, but you will get in and get to ride rides before the lines get long. This is a great way to make the most of your trip.
- Leave a Bit Early–Also, I would recommend leaving about 30-45 minutes early. Here is why: You will beat the huge bum-rush of a crowd at the end. There will be a huge crowd at the end all waiting for trolleys. It will take a while, and the traffic will be bad getting out with all of the cars as well. Instead, you can bypass all of that by leaving about 30-45 minutes early.