“Moooooom! I’m hungry!” You hear it at home. You hear it in the car. And, guess what? You’ll hear it at Dollywood!
Good news—when you do hear it at Dollywood, you’re around some of the best snacks, treats and amazing meals. I’m here to share the best places for kids to eat in the park!
All my friends know we’re frequent Dollywood visitors, so people ask me all the time what my kids eat and what we do about snacks. I don’t think anyone asks out of lack of options, but perhaps more because sometimes they see long queues for food and don’t want to have to wait when they’ve got a hungry little one. I’ll give you options for the times you’re looking for a quick fix and for when you want to fill their tummies.
What We Do for Snacks
Whether it’s salty or sweet, there are plenty of snacks to choose from at Dollywood! Upon entering the park you can immediately take advantage of treats from Showstreet Ice Cream, the Spotlight Bakery, or any number of seasonal food vendors. Our favorite snacks are just a little farther out from the entrance; this definitely helps when it comes to cutting down time in line.
If you’re looking for a salty or savory snack, there’s NOTHING better than Dollywood popcorn! Every season we purchase a refillable popcorn bucket; the bucket lasts all day and refills are just $1! To cater to our little ones, we usually grab our bucket and the freshly popped snack from the popcorn merchant in Wildwood Grove and munch on it while we walk around or wait for a spin on the Mad Mockingbird. Want a little sweet with your popcorn? Grab a quick bag of Country Cookers Kettle Korn in Rivertown Junction on your way to Smoky Mountain River Rampage! Bags are premade—a great way to quickly pick up a snack as you’re walking around the park.
Looking for a sweeter pick-me-up or a dessert? Immediate options are seasonal treats from the bakery, a classic or topped funnel cake from Crossroads Funnel Cakes, a scoop of ice cream or a milkshake on Showstreet, or any number of seasonal sweets in and around Market Square and Rivertown Junction. However, with much of Dollywood’s daily traffic passing by these locations, sometimes queues get lengthy and it isn’t always easy for your littles to wait patiently.
So where do we go when our sweet tooth calls? Up to Wildwood Grove again! We love to grab a refreshing soft serve cone from the walkup window next to Till and Harvest. My oldest daughter loves that she can grab a cone and keep walking- no need to sit down or hang on to a spoon! However, on those extra hot days we might also grab a snow cone from one of the pop up booths (near the popcorn) on our way to see Benjamin Bear. (We are so thankful for all the extra shaded rest spots around the Wildwood Grove snack stations!)
And would it really be a trip to Dollywood without cinnamon bread? Sometimes the line at The Grist Mill grows past what a little one might have the patience for; if this is the case, just remember that you can get the same ooey gooey goodness at the Spotlight Bakery! We love to grab a hot, fresh loaf and share this snack as a family.
What We Do for Lunch and Dinner
Hands down, our favorite places for a meal at Dollywood are any of the full service or modified buffet restaurants. Popular choices in our family include Front Porch Café and Aunt Granny’s Restaurant, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them! Why full service or a modified buffet/family style environment? For us, it comes down to speed, convenience and amenities.
Sometimes I think folks get in line for quick service dining options, assuming that’s their fastest choice with hungry littles in tow. While that may be correct some days, I always find that the full service choices are a little faster, if you can time your meal properly.
So when should you plan to be at the restaurant? For every meal we keep two things in mind: 1) go a little early (lunch at 11 or 11:30 a.m. instead of waiting for a lunch rush or right at 5 p.m. for dinner), and 2) avoid dining when nearby shows are ending. I always keep an eye on the Dollywood app so I can see when shows near Aunt Granny’s are beginning; this is usually a good time to eat!
Snacking and dining at Dollywood? There’s really no bad choice to make! However, I think these trips and trick can really maximize your time if you’re making memories with the whole family- small children included!