Dollywood area hotels...

Edited: June 15, 2016, 10:50 PM

Planning on going to a convention in July in Gatlinburg and of course...I can't pass up Dollywood. My question is for hotel accomodations. My flight ended up being LATE in the evening so I decided to stay near the airport then just drive down the next day. I thought I'd hit up Dollywood on the way to Gatlinburg rather than hit it on the way back after the convention weekend. My problem is whether to stay in Pigeon Forge after Dollywood or go on down to Gatlinburg after Dollywood.

I looked at Dollywood's website & saw they don't seem to have anything close to a "fastpass" for rides so I assume it'll take me all day just to hit the popular coasters & rides. This will be on Thursday, the convention is Saturday-Monday...will it take me 2 days at Dollywood or is 1 sufficient? If 2, then any suggestions on where to stay for someone on a strict budget?? I'll be by myself...It'll be my first official visit to the park so any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, in advance, to anyone who may reply!

Replies (5)

Edited: June 15, 2016, 11:55 PM

It's been years since I visited Dollywood so some of this may be a little out of date, but I think most of it still applies.

First off, lodging. Presumably you'll be flying into Knoxville. That is about 45-60 minutes from Dollywood, so staying down there and driving up to the park the next day is a perfectly fine plan. I'd recommend staying somewhere along US-441 if possible as this this is the route you'll be taking up to the park. As for where to stay afterward, I would just drive to Gatlinburg...if I remember correctly, it's only about 15 minutes from the park to the start of town, so it would be a little silly to stay in Pigeon Forge.

As for Dollywood itself, one day should be sufficient unless you absolutely want to do everything and/or get a ton of re-rides. Dollywood typically doesn't get as crowded as other major parks, so with the exception of Lightning Rod lines should only be 30-45 minutes on weekdays. Therefore, if you've got a full day you should have no problem doing the main attractions and getting re-rides on your favorites. In the event that the park is unexpectedly crowded, Dollywood does sell something called a TimeSaver that will allow you to avoid excessive lines. The system uses a Q-Bot and operates identically to the Six Flags Flash are given a handheld device that you use to reserve a ride time, then you return after the designated time and proceed up a special line right to the station. The system costs $30 and is valid on 12 attractions (including all the headliners), plus you can also reserve seats at five of the park's shows.

To do the big attractions as efficiently as possible, I recommend being at the gate/rope drop point (can't remember if Dollywood does a rope drop or not) at least 15 minutes before opening. Once the park is open, head immediately to Lightning Rod and ride. This coaster just opened to the public and I've been hearing reports of waits as long as 2 hours, so you will want to get this done first. After Lightning Rod, do the coasters in Wilderness Pass and Timber Canyon (I would go in this order: FireChaser Express, Wild Eagle, Mystery Mine, Thunderhead). From here, just continue around the park in a logical order and do rides as you come to them. The park's other must-do rides are Blazing Fury, Smoky Mountain River Rampage, and Tennessee Tornado. Additionally, I highly recommend the Dollywood Express train if time allows and both Daredevil Falls and Mountain Slidewinder if you're okay with getting pretty wet. The flat rides are fun too if you find something that doesn't exist at your local park. Lastly, make sure to eat at least one meal in the park (Dollywood's food is really good) and definitely get a loaf of Cinnamon Bread from the Grist Mill.

One final thing...have a good time! Dollywood doesn't have the reputation of the nation's top parks, but it is among the best in my opinion. While the park does have a fair number of big thrill rides, there is just as much focus on the theming and atmosphere of the place, so in between riding the big coasters be sure to soak in the park itself.

June 16, 2016, 10:09 AM

Have a great trip... I want to someday hit this park. It looks fantastic.

Be sure to come back and give us some details how your visit was..

Edited: June 16, 2016, 5:44 PM

Thank you AJ!!! You were SO HELPFUL! I will definitely take all you said into consideration for my trip!! I didn't realize Gatlinburg was so close to Pigeon Forge, yes, it makes more sense to just drive on in to GBurg since it's so close.

Thanks Brian, will do! My family and I visited when I was in High School back in the '90's but my father thought it was "too expensive" at the time (i THINK the tix were like between $17-$21 at the time... I wonder what he'd think NOW at $70 a piece!) so we had to leave the park w/o going in & I have been trying to get back there since so I will definitely soak it in! SO I kinda know how you feel Brian about wanting to someday hit the park, now I finally get to! Even better now they have even more rides to enjoy!

June 16, 2016, 6:50 PM

Guests staying at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort get Timesaver Passes (Q-Bots) included with the price of the room. In addition to being a very nice and Disney-esque (including Disney-esque pricing) hotel there is a direct shuttle to the park along with early entry on Saturdays for hotel guests. Like with Disney or Cedar Point, staying on-site extends the feeling of being in the "world" of the park. We have stayed multiple times at DreamMore and we are big fans.

Dollywood has a lot to see/do but like its equally-awesome sister park Silver Dollar City Dollywood is a park that is all about the vibe and friendly employees. Both are parks that we just like being in. That said, one day at the park would be enough to get on nearly all major attractions and hopefully catch a show or two.

And definitely get that cinnamon bread with the apple butter!

June 19, 2016, 11:38 AM

Thank you Tim! I will keep that in mind!! And yes, I will definitely get some cinn bread!! :-D

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