Having a lot of experience with a little one at this park, I thought I might contribute a few tips to this board, since I have used it so extensively for my own theme park travels.
1. Bring a large stroller--not an umbrella stroller. It can hold the backpack with the water, change of clothes, snacks, along with the purses and any souvenirs you may purchase.
2. Bring water, juice, and snacks. It is hard to find 100% juice in the park. Most of the food vendors have only sugary drinks (HiC, lemonade, Sprite).
3. Bring a change of clothes AND a swimsuit. There are two water play areas that kids love and some of the rides can get them wet.
AT THE PARK
1. Many of the good kid rides are to the right when you enter the park (in Jukebox Junction, The Village, and Country Fair). I would go first to Jukebox Junction and pick up a height bracelet for your child. In the same place where they sell Q-bots (on the right as soon you get into Jukebox Junction), they have someone who will measure your child's height and give them a colored bracelet. Rides are color coded for height requirements. They will also give you a handy little brochure with the color coding. You and your child will know immediately which rides he/she can ride, and no need to worry about measuring at the rides). My daughter just likes wearing the bracelet.
2. Q-bot: I never buy one. It does not work for most of the rides a little one can ride. I think it would be worth it, however, if you have adults in your party who want to ride most of the big rides but don't want to be away from the child for a long time (so one parent could ride quickly and the other stay with the child). I have been to this park so many times and ridden everything multiple times, so I usually focus on my daughter now. If you choose to buy one, go ahead and buy it when you get the height bracelet.
3. Ride Rockin' Rodeway next. It is a neat little ride with fun music and cute cars and the kids love it. As simple as it is, the line can get really long, just because it loads slowly. Ride it early or late in the day, as it is probably the ride for which we usually wait the longest.
3. If you are in Jukebox Junction and you are hungry, you might want to eat at Red's Diner, if you like hamburgers, hot dogs, and milkshakes. They have typical cheap quality yet expensive theme park hamburgers and hot dogs, but what I really like is that they have a bar where you can fix your own burger, with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. That makes the burgers seem much fresher and tastier. The milkshakes are quite good, also, and it is nice and cool inside. Lines can get long around lunchtime, so consider that if you have an impatient little one.
4. Don't miss the Village Carousel. The line is typically short and if your child likes it as much as mine does, he/she will want to ride it over and over.
5. The train is a great treat for all ages. Don't miss it. It is a real steam train and runs on coal, which is rare for theme parks and there are some fascinating facts about it if you like trains. However, because it runs on coal, you can get covered in soot pretty quick if you sit near the sides of the train. You can also get soot in your eyes. I recommend sitting in the middle of the seat (whether you sit in the front or the back of the train) so you get less soot coming your way.
6. Country Fair area has some cute little rides for kids, and rarely any lines to speak of. Don't miss Piggy Parade, Lucky Ducky, Busy Bees, or Amazing Flying Elephants.
7. Don't do the Wonder Wheel with a little one. There are no height restrictions for little ones, so I took my daughter on it. She squirmed and was unhappy, but I could not get her off because of the way the ferris wheel loads. We were stuck, she was squirmy, and I was so scared she would fall out (the restraint system is very loose).
8. Try Veggie Tales Sideshow Spin. It looks like a cute coaster, though my daughter has never wanted to ride it.
9. Be sure to go to Dreamland Forest. It is GREAT for little ones. Possibly my daughter's favorite thing at this park. It has fountains that squirt from the ground. I always bring a swimsuit for her to wear to do this.
10. Try the bird show in Craftsman's Valley. My daughter loves it when they fly over her head.
11. Try not to get caught hungry or thirsty in Craftsman's Valley an hour prior to closing. They start closing down the food and shops in this area and the one or two that are open have long lines. We waited in line for 20 minutes to get a drink.
12. Go for River Batttle. Yes, it will get you soaked. But kids love it. I took my daughter on it when she was 1 1/2 and she laughed so hard. Avoid only if your child is afraid of water.
13. We usually end our day in Timber Canyon. There are no rides there for little ones, but kids love Beaver Creek and Lil's Logger's Landing (just a playground, but fun). Again, they will get soaked here, but as long as you have dry clothes for them, they will be fine.
14. Don't forget to eat something somewhere in the park. The food is really good for park food. Sometimes we end the day by going back to Sausage Works to get some amazing sausage and onions and peppers. PaPaw's Flatbread in the Village is also one of our favorite spots. They cook on these huge iron pans and the food smells and tastes really good. Kettle corn is great also.
15. Don't skip the shows! There are some really good ones and most of them are short and the lights and music can hold the little ones' attention. Even at two my daughter sat through most of them.
16. Remember that each season is special at Dollywood. The feel of the park changes from season to season, and every season has something unique about it. We love fall and Christmas the most. The shows, the decor, and even the food vary from season to season.
Hope this helps someone.
July is Kids Fest and they have some shows that look like they will be neat, including the Gazillion Bubble Show. Check out the website for specific times, as every week there is a different show. There are also roving characters during this time.
The website also lists a 3 or 4 night all inclusive vacation that sounds like a good deal.
Ha! I sound like an advertisement. I can assure you I have no connection with Dollywood, other than really enjoying going to the park and growing up going there as a kid (even when it was Silver Dollar City).
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