Dollywood is all about creating memories, especially with a group of loved ones.
It has become a tradition in my family to visit Dollywood during the Christmas season. When going with a large group, navigating the park can be a bit more challenging. Over the weekend, my family got to visit Dollywood once again. We were able to maneuver a large group successfully without losing anyone—and we managed to do everything we wanted. We even had a first-time visitor with us! As the day went on, we looked back on our trips from the past and compiled a list of our top five tips for navigating with a big group.
Tip # 1- Have a game plan for the day
Dollywood is big enough to be intimidating—especially when you’re trying to shuffle a large group. While it may not be necessary to have a complete hourly itinerary, it is helpful to have an idea of what you want to accomplish throughout the day.
Since we had a newcomer with us, we wanted to fit in as much as possible so he could get the full Dollywood experience. We have found that navigating rides in an order that stays away from the main crowd is our best way to go. We started off with the Lightning Rod so our visitor could experience America’s fastest wooden coaster before it got too crowded later in the day, and then we followed up with Rockin’ Roadway so those in the group who were less than thrilled about thrill rides could do something, too. After that, we would alternate between thrill rides and calmer rides as we passed them. With a big group, it’s a good idea to take a poll of what each person really wants to do. This is a fun way to see everyone’s interests, and it also ensures that nobody is left out and everyone gets to do their favorite thing.
Tip # 2- Have a designated meeting spot
In case there is accidental separation, or someone gets distracted by the smell of cinnamon bread or a funnel cake (this can happen easily) and wants to catch up later, it’s helpful to have a time and place to meet. My family usually schedules meet-up times based around the shows we want to see that day, and this trip we saw “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
While some of us went off to ride another coaster, the rest of the group went to get snacks before the show. After riding, the thrill-seekers met up at Showstreet Palace Theater in time for the performance.
For the people who have never visited the park, it can also be helpful to have a landmark that is noticeable and easy to find.
Tip # 3- Take advantage of Parent Swap
We didn’t have any small children with us this time, but Parent Swap is super helpful especially in a group of many different ages. If your group includes thrill-seekers and small children, it can be a struggle to trade off the kids and get in line again. With Parent Swap, everyone can get in line at the same time while one person is riding the other waits with the child, and then they trade spots right there in line. No extra wait and no back-and-forth! Read this post for more about how Parent Swap works.
Tip # 4- Use a locker or have a designated bag holder
While there are “floating” ride lockers throughout the park, there are family-sized lockers available near the front gate. The rental is for the whole day, so if anyone needs something, they can always go back to the locker at any time, and nobody has to worry about carrying things around. If you feel like you don’t have enough things or people for a family-sized locker, I would suggest having a designated bag-holder. I like to think that this would be Dolly’s job in her family since she doesn’t get on rides, and in my family, my mom wears this title proudly. It is nice to know that if she were ever to resign from her bag-holding position, there are family lockers available that we can share.
Tip # 5 Choose a restaurant with options for everyone
My whole family is in agreement that one of the best things about the park is the food. At just about every corner, you can find a full meal or a great snack to hold you over in between rides. With a big group, it can be hard to decide on one place for everyone to go, and there may be a picky eater in the midst. Dollywood has some All-You-Care-To-Eat buffets in the park, like Miss Lillian’s Smokehouse and Aunt Granny’s Restaurant. While we definitely pass the snacks around a lot throughout the day, my family has found that if we are going to eat a meal together, one of those two restaurants is the best place for all of us to go because of the space and the variety of food.
Hopefully these tips can help make your day at Dollywood go a little smoother and give everyone a chance to enjoy their favorite aspect of the park. No matter the size of your group, you can always create memories worth repeating.