Clearly, I like inside information. I applied for the Dollywood Insider program, because I’m pretty familiar with the properties and I enjoy sharing my tips with others. Having the inside scoop (especially when visiting a theme park) makes your experience even more enjoyable. It’s fun to visit like a pro, and something as simple as park lingo can help you whether going for your first, second or 30th time.
In this blog, I define many of the terms (in no particular order) that are frequently used to help you understand a bit more about how Dollywood works. Nowhere is this more important than the first term “host.” Knowing why Dollywood uses that particular term for their employees will help you understand what Dollywood expects out of them and what you can expect from Dollywood!
Host – This term lays the groundwork for the atmosphere of Dollywood. Employees are referred to as “hosts,” because a host treats you like Dolly’s guest and tries to make you feel at home. They aren’t just regular employees, nor are they cast in a big production; they are real people. For more details, see this blog: Dollywood on Hosting Guests.
Season Passes vs. Tickets – Dollywood is open about 10 months of the year. This time is referred to as a season. The upcoming 2022 season runs March 11 through Jan. 1, 2023. Season Passes grant you unlimited visitation throughout this time period. Pay attention to the calendar though, because even during the season, Dollywood has closed days.
A ticket, on the other hand, is good for just a certain number of days. Example: One-Day, Two-Day or Three-Day ticket.
Silver vs. Gold vs. Diamond – Starting in 2022, Dollywood has new tiers in the Season Pass program. Silver gives you unlimited visits for the season; Gold adds in free parking, 15% discounts on most merchandise and access to Golden Events and Golden Hours. Diamond adds access to Dollywood’s Splash Country and increases the merchandise discount to 20%. (For more details, check out the Season Pass FAQ).
TimeSaver – The TimeSaver Pass is a great way to upgrade your day by giving you line-skipping powers for the day (you can purchase either eight attractions or unlimited versions of TimeSaver). Even if you don’t like rides, TimeSaver Passes come with the ability to guarantee yourself the best possible seat at as many shows as you can fit in the day. See this explaination on Dollywood’s website for more details.
In fact, the day I started this blog post, I took this picture from the seat I was able to get because of my TimeSaver Pass:
Golden Hours – Starting in 2022, Gold and Diamond Season Passholders will be able to use their passes as a TimeSaver Pass for the first hour of each operating day.
Golden Events – Starting in 2022, Gold and Diamond Season Passholders will be able to attend certain special events such as festival sneak peeks!
Trams vs. Trolleys – Trams are used to take you between the parking lot and front gate.
If you stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, you can take the resort trolley.
Also, there are city trolleys that operate from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. For more details, see this blog: Catching a Lift to and from Dollywood’s Front Gate.
Preferred Parking – For days you wish to skip the trams, there is a parking lot with its own special entrance to Dollywood. For an extra fee, you can save time and have quicker access to your vehicle. Be aware, it’s located on the top of a hill. Note this if steep inclines are a challenge for you or anyone coming to Dollywood with you. For more details about parking, see this page or ask the parking host before purchasing.
Ride Accessibility Center – Located near the entrance of Dollywood, this service will help answer your ride accessibility questions. Depending on your needs, the hosts there may issue you a Ride Accessibility Pass (which is referred to as a Boarding Pass) that helps expedite your wait time. For more information about accessibility at the parks, check out this blog.
Blue Ribbon – While there are a few things around the parks named Blue Ribbon at Dollywood (there is a pavilion and an ice cream shop with Blue Ribbon in the name), the term has a more important meaning to the hosts. When Dollywood hears great guest feedback about a particular host, they are often awarded a Blue Ribbon, which include a cash prize, autographed photo of Dolly and free lunch.
Master Craftsman vs. Craftsman vs. Crafts Team Member – Dollywood has several locations where artisans create some amazing items. Crafts such as leather goods, metal signs, wooden carvings, candles and more are created by people who are Master Craftsmen which means they are highly-trained and specialized at what they do. To receive the Master Craftsman title, it takes years of on-the-job training and thousands of unique pieces produced.
For those who don’t quite have the master in the title, there are craftsmen. They’ve put in lots of hours and incredible products, and they’re working their way toward the master title.
As Dollywood trains new hosts on specific trades, they begin as crafts team members.
Dollywood Express (Train) Terms – If you have been at Dollywood for more than an hour, you probably have heard the train whistle blowing—no matter where you are in the park. There are multiple hosts who have a hand in running the train including:
- Engineer – This is the person driving the train.
- Conductor – This is the person who coordinates the activity of the train and the crew. You may notice that sometimes the times may change slightly for the train, because it is a real steam train that can be temperamental.
- Fireman – The fireman is the person who shovels the coal into the fire to make the steam that powers the train. This is not an easy job!
For more about the train crew, check out this blog: A Day in The Life of the Dollywood Train Crew.
Game Play Voucher – If you want to play the carnival-style games at Dollywood, you need to purchase vouchers at either the Tennessee Tornado game area or in Country Fair. You don’t have to spend the vouchers on the same day you purchase them, but they will expire at the end of the season. Learn more details about how this works in this blog.
Package Pick Up – While you are at Dollywood, you can buy some great stuff: clothes, crafts, memorabilia, etc. Rather than carrying around your purchases for the day, you can send them to the front of the park and pick them up as you leave. The process is explained in this blog What is Package Pick Up?
Dining Types – For many people, eating at Dollywood is not just an important part of the trip; it is the best part of the day. There are a few terms for the types of dining that Dollywood offers:
- Full-Service – At a full-service restaurant, you sit down, order off a menu and a Dollywood host serves your food and drinks at your table. Note that buffet options have converted to family style.
- Quick-Service – In this type of restaurant, you generally go to a counter, order your meal and carry it back to your own table.
- Concessions – Concessions are more like popcorn carts located throughout the park.
Golden Ticket Award – This is a term you may hear regarding how great Dollywood is. It isn’t something Dollywood made up or something you find in a candy wrapper; it is an industry award for theme parks. For example, in 2021, Dollywood won four categories, including “Best Guest Experience.” For more details, you can go to the The Golden Ticket Awards website.
Lighting Bugs – Not to be confused with lightning bugs, this term was the inspiration for this blog. I think it’s so cool. There is a team of hosts who handle putting up the five million plus lights you will see at Dollywood during Smoky Mountain Christmas. This is a non-formal (internal) name. The group started calling themselves this, and it stuck. For more details, check out this Dollywood blog entry.
ERT – I purposefully saved this for last. If you are a thrill seeker, the term ERT is for you. ERT actually has a couple of meanings. The more typical meaning is Early Ride Time which usually every Saturday morning, where the park will open early for season pass holders, and one attraction will be open for them to ride (more details in this blog that covered 2021). The other place where you may see this acronym uses is as a short hand for exclusive ride time, such as during the Thrills In the Hills event every July. You can see last year’s schedule here.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of everything you might need to know about Dollywood, nor does it probably tell you every term you might hear during your stay. But I hope it gives you a feeling for the atmosphere of Dollywood as well as giving you some ideas of how these terms and concepts can help you out on your next visit to Dollywood’s properties.