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How To: Dollywood Day Trip

A trip to Dollywood doesn’t always have to mean giving up an entire weekend, or a few days. In fact, if you are within at least three hours of Dollywood, a day trip is very feasible for you! No, you definitely won’t get to do all the amazing things that Dollywood offers, but you can certainly hit the highlights! Here is how our family has mastered the art of the Dollywood day trip!

When to Hit the Road

A little bit about us: We are a family of five, with twin 11-year-old boys and a 1-year-old boy. Our older boys like some bigger rides but still really enjoy a lot of the things available for kids at Dollywood. We live about three hours from Dollywood, so our preparation starts early that day. I wake up just before 5 a.m., and the goal is to get everyone up and out the door by 6:15 a.m. Since we don’t have to pack for an overnight stay, it’s really just a matter of making sure we have what we need for the car and what we might want in the park.

Insider Tip

With Dollywood Season Passes, you can go to the park as many times as you want in a year! Since we like to go pretty regularly, I keep a packed Dollywood bag with things we use frequently on our Dollywood trips so that I am not repacking every time we want go. It saves some early morning time for me that we can use to get on the road!

We pull out by 6:15 a.m. and stop at a fast food place to grab breakfast on the way out of town. From there, we are on the road, and most of the time we can make it to Dollywood without stopping. We generally find ourselves at the entrance to Dollywood between 9:15 – 9:30 a.m., which is perfect! I highly recommend getting there before opening so that you can get settled and make your way into the park. We generally opt for Preferred parking, but even if you are in general parking, this gives you lots of time to catch a tram up to the park entrance, go through security and enter the park.

Start Your Park Day

If you have smaller children, your first stop should always be the Centralized Measuring station! Getting your child measured early will help you know exactly which rides to hit and save you time getting on rides later in the day. Also, if we are planning to get wet later in the day, this is the time we will rent a locker so we can stash a change of clothes.

Next, we head down Showstreet to see the new décor if there is a festival happening, and we move toward Jukebox Junction to start our day on Rockin’ Roadway. We have found this is a ride we like to do early and avoid some lines later in the day.

After Rockin’ Roadway, it is on to Country Fair for my family. By getting to Country Fair early in the morning, we avoid a lot of lines for rides and games. This is one of the areas of the park where we spend the most time, and in about an hour, we can do most of what we want to do in this area of the park. Our favorites include Demolition Derby, The Scrambler, The Amazing Flying Elephants, the games and The Skyrider for my older boys, and of course, Lucky Ducky, Busy Bees and Piggy Parade for my youngest son.

Insider Tip

If you are a Gold or Diamond Season Passholder, and coasters are more your thing, start your day by heading up to Wilderness Pass and utilize your Golden Hour to get a jump on the lines for many of Dollywood’s coasters such as Mystery Mine, FireChaser Express, Wild Eagle and Tennessee Tornado.

Plan an Early Lunch

Our next goal is to try to be ready for lunch around 11:30 a.m. By eating a little earlier, we usually have little to no wait at our lunch choice, and later we are back in the park while others are eating. For us, lunch is usually going to be at Aunt Granny’s Restaurant or at Dogs N Taters, both of which are very close to Country Fair, in Rivertown Junction. There are lots of great dining choices in the park though, and I know you will find one that best fits your family!

After Lunch

Once our tummies are full, we make our way over to the Dollywood Express. We have found that after lunch is a good time for us to ride, as lots of other people are eating, and it’s a gentle ride around the park. If we don’t time it close to a boarding time, we are able to browse in nearby shops, ride the carousel, or finish up anything we missed in Country Fair before boarding.

After our train ride, it’s over to Craftsman’s Valley. We walk up through that area of the park and are able to grab a loaf of cinnamon bread, visit our favorite Craftsman shops, stop in the chapel, check out the bald eagles and anything else that catches our attention on our way up to Wilderness Pass. If the line isn’t too long, we will stop and ride FireChaser Express or Wild Eagle, and then we make our way down to Wildwood Grove.

While in Wildwood Grove, there are several must-dos and several other great rides that we will do if we are making good time. Our must-dos include The Mad Mockingbird, Dragonflier and Hidden Hollow. If we have time, we will also visit Wildwood Creek, Frogs and Fireflies, Treetop Tower and Black Bear Trail!

After Wildwood Grove, we make our way back down into Timber Canyon, because we just can’t miss Whistle Punk Chaser. It was my boys’ first coaster, and they still love it today!

Alternate Endings

Then to finish out our day, we consider a couple different options. If we are going to get wet, it’s time to head to Smoky Mountain River Rampage! If not, we will probably grab ice cream or cinnamon bread (if we didn’t earlier), and take in a show! The Kingdom Heirs are a family favorite, so if we have the opportunity to hear them, we try to do it.

We aim to leave the park between 4 – 4:30 p.m. on a day trip because of our longer ride home, but you may want to stay later if you are closer! Before we leave, if we are wet, we will grab our change of clothes and change in a restroom before leaving the park, so that we are not riding home in wet clothes. Also, by keeping the water ride to the end of the day, we do not walk around the park in wet clothes and shoes either! If we are dry, we will probably swing into the Emporium to grab a souvenir and then head for the exit! Having different ways to end the day is helpful to us because it means that we are able to experience Dollywood in a different way with every trip, while still getting to do things we love on every trip.

The drive home is usually pretty quiet because we are all very tired after a day of fun at Dollywood! We stop for dinner about an hour from home, and then get home between 8 – 9 p.m. that night. It does make for a long day, but it is always so much fun for our family to have a day to get away to our favorite place. A Dollywood day trip always gives us memories worth repeating!

By | 2022-05-16T17:07:47+00:00 May 16th, 2022|Trip Planning|0 Comments

About the Author:

A North Carolina native, Meredith Jones (Dollywood Insider 2021-Now) was born in Raleigh and has lived in the Boone area since 1997, when she came to Appalachian State as a student. She serves as a district administrator for her local school system, where she gets to support incredible teachers, students and families. Her husband, 10- year-old twin boys, and infant son keep her life full of excitement. They have been visiting Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country for the past five years, and it has become a big part of family life. Special occasions are often celebrated at Dollywood’s resort and parks, and day trips are a regular occurrence. While at the parks, you can find her on rides with her family, browsing in her favorite shops, snacking on cinnamon bread and loving every moment! She is so excited to share her love for all things Dollywood with you, so your family can make wonderful memories, too.
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