I’m an East Tennessee native who grew up not having a lot of options for vacations. The destinations I wanted to visit were not necessarily in our family’s price range. There are a lot of different things that can influence how and where your trip takes you. So, if you are a local like I am, and your family is on more of a staycation budget, then Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains are the place to visit. Here are a few ideas on what to do and where to go to get the most value and fun in the area.
Enjoy the Resort Without an Overnight Stay
Did you know that Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa has an incredible restaurant and spa that are both open to guests and non-guests alike? That’s right! You do not have to spend the night to enjoy the luxury of The Spa at DreamMore Resort or the mouthwatering menu items at Song and Hearth: A Southern Eatery both located on the bottom floor of the resort. That means while the thrill-seekers of the family are reaching new heights on the park’s roller coasters, the more sit-back-and-relax members of the family can pamper themselves without paying for a room, too. It’s enjoying the extras of a luxury vacation without the stay.
Do Something New
Because you’re not paying for a flight or lodging, you and your family can also say yes more on your trip. Stop and do some things you usually pass right by. Dollywood has so many unique experiences that visitors miss when they’re rushing to thrill rides and the park’s award-winning shows. Consider the Valley Forge Blacksmith in Craftsman’s Valley: there are not many places in the world where you can forge your own tool from hot metal just like it was done in the past. And, just across from the blacksmith is Old Flames Candles. You can choose from a variety of candle shapes to dip and color to personalize your own keepsake.
Don’t Skip the Water Park
Dollywood also offers one of the most beautiful water parks in the country: Dollywood’s Splash Country. There is nothing like having a theme park in your back yard, but Dollywood’s Splash Country is the icing on the cake. From mid-May to Labor Day, your family can enjoy a dip in the wave pool, splash in one of the park’s many interactive kids’ areas or test your nerves on several water thrill attractions. When you only have to travel a few miles to get to a world-class water park, you realize you don’t need another pool membership. Check the operating calendar here.
Splurge a Little
With those extra dollars you are saving on travel, you could treat your family to TimeSaver passes on a busy day! This program expedites your wait for popular attractions and shows. For a lot of park visitors, the thrill of the ride is the one and only reason to visit. For others, it’s all about enjoying live music and entertainment. So, I encourage you to splurge a little and use some money you’re saving on TimeSaver passes. You will be the hero of the trip. And don’t forget about TimeSaver H2O at the water park!
Take Advantage of What’s Free
You can also get the full mountain experience with a day trip to Cades Cove or somewhere else in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are many different hiking trails that plunge you and your family into the mountain experience. Take a picnic to one of the park’s parking sites that offer tables right along the water. Pause and enjoy the beauty of the place you call home absolutely free!
So, if your vacation budget puts you in your back yard this year, be thankful that you have one of the most beautiful and fun places in the country just a short drive away. Come to the place that’s always been here and will be here for you whenever fun and adventure calls your name.