While visiting a theme park is an exciting, highly-anticipated event for most families, it can also be a source of frustration and anxiety for families who have loved ones with sensory processing disorders. There are many factors in a day spent at a theme park or water park that might trigger meltdowns:
- Wait times
- Unexpected noises
- The deviation from normal day-to-day routine
Dollywood works hard to create space for guests who experience sensory overload and need a place to take a break to regroup. In 2016, using input from the organization Autism Speaks, Dollywood opened its first calming room to specifically address these issues and make family trips to the park more accessible for everyone. Dollywood’s calming room was the first of its kind in a theme park, and it was quickly followed by the opening of an outdoor calming area in Dollywood’s Splash Country in 2017. It just goes to show that providing accommodations for all guests is one of the company’s top priorities.
Here’s what you need to know about the calming room at Dollywood:
- If you need to access the calming area, please visit the Ride Accessibility Center near the entrance to the park. Visit when you first arrive, so you can let them know you anticipate using the room. The hosts will give you a phone number to call when you need it.
- The calming room is kept locked while unoccupied and sanitized after use.
- The room is painted in calming, cool colors and equipped with a rocking chair, beanbag chairs, a tent, a sensory play wall, bubble wall, a weighted blanket, a table and chair, and a notepad and pen.
- Guests have the option to dim the lights and/or play soothing music while they are visiting the room.
- Dollywood plans to open an overflow location in the fall of 2022! This is an opportunity for families to use when the primary location is already being utilized. (It’s a very popular program!)
Here’s what you need to know about the calming area at Dollywood’s Splash Country:
- If you need to access the area, look for the entrance just past SwiftWater Run. Any host in a yellow polo should be able to point you in the right direction!
- The area is equipped with multiple shaded options for seating, rocking chairs, a sand table, therapy balls, a magnetic chalkboard, sensory toys and a porch with curtains to offer more privacy.
- The area is located outdoors in the open air but still nestled away from the bustle of people and sectioned off for privacy.
Visiting Dollywood or Dollywood’s Splash Country should be an event that the entire family can enjoy! Check out some of these additional accessibility resources for guests who are on the autism spectrum:
- Dollywood’s Social Story
- Boarding passes for riders with accessibility needs are available at the Ride Accessibility Center near the entrance to Dollywood.
- Use maps for both Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country to plan your route and schedule in advance, making the entire trip feel more predictable.