Full Disclosure: My name is Tom Hodges and I am and have always been head over heels in love with Dollywood. I am openly biased in my opinion that Dollywood is truly the world’s greatest theme park!
My love affair with Dollywood started in 1988 during my family’s first visit to the park. It was then and there that a gravitational pull began and that same pull continues to this day. One of the coolest experiences of my life has been to share the same experiences with my children that I had when I was their age. Seeing this come full circle and being able to enjoy Dollywood then as a child and now as a parent is exactly what “Creating Memories Worth Repeating” means.
Our family’s approach to Dollywood is equal parts planning and spontaneity. We love Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country greatly and count each visit to the parks as a blessing. Because we cherish these times so much we try to have a plan for how we are going to ‘attack’ our day and make the most of the time we have. Below are my top-five tips on how to get the most out of your day at Dollywood. Read these suggestions through the perspective of a dad.
#5 – Script the First Five Moves
We started scripting our first five moves in the park a few years ago and the kids had a blast doing it – they become impromptu trip coordinators without much prodding. This has now become a competition on who can design the best opening itinerary. We will switch it up from time-to-time and give each child three selections each out of the gate to give us some variety. Before we commence with our scripted fun, we like to take a family picture as soon as we enter the park in front of Showstreet Palace Theater. While the Dollywood photographers are lining us up, you can feel the anticipation of getting our day started right!
#4 – Effective Use of Timeouts
Having coached college basketball for a number of years and marrying a basketball coach, our house uses a lot of sports terminology. For us, “Timeout” is a positive thing when we are at Dollywood. Everybody enters the gates with two timeouts – a ‘60’ (full hour) and a ‘30’ (half hour) that they can use whenever they want. So, our rules go if someone calls a ‘timeout’ then they have that opportunity to go on whatever ride they want or see whatever show fits in that schedule. We all must follow along and participate if necessary during that person’s ‘timeout.’ Sometimes we give the matriarch of our family a couple of extra timeouts that she uses for a break from her children – young and old.
#3 – High Quality H2O
“Hydrate to Dominate” is a phrase we use a lot in our house – Dollywood is no exception to this rule. Sitting on about 160 acres, your day is full of opportunity to get those steps in. Plan on drinking plenty and scheduling in some ‘cool down’ activities for when your group starts getting a little warm. From consuming liquids to riding the park’s water attractions, prepare yourself for liquid intake by both ingestion and osmosis. There is nothing better than cooling yourself down on the Smoky Mountain River Rampage or Daredevil Falls on a sweltry Dollywood day.
#2 – TimeSavers for the WIN!!!
You know you live in a Dollywood house when the absolute highest prize and reward you can offer your children is a TimeSaver on our next trip to the park. TimeSavers provide unbelievably strong incentive when it comes to chore motivation for us – we also like the fact that our kids feel a small investment in our trips to Dollywood. Skip the regular lines on your family’s favorite attractions – this benefit will get you on up to four times more attractions in a single day. For our family of four, we usually will purchase a maximum of two TimeSavers and rotate them accordingly depending on the attraction. Learn more about TimeSavers here.
#1 – Have Fun
We’ve all been there – when things go off the rails a bit, the sun is beaming down directly on you, and nothing is seeming to go your way. Remember that Dollywood is a place built for families and friends to enjoy and to “Create Memories Worth Repeating.” I am preaching to myself on this, mostly out of the stance that I want our Dollywood days to go exactly according to the plan I have laid out in my head. Spoiler Alert: they usually don’t! In times where I feel myself getting uptight or anxious about some minor thing that may have just occurred, it’s always helpful to walk through Dolly Parton’s Tennessee Mountain Home or have a quick trip to checkout the Robert F. Thomas Chapel. These are good anchor points for our family to re-center. The question we always end up asking ourselves during these times: “What would Dolly do?” The answer always gets us on the right track.