Memories, Milestones, and Traditions: Creating Dollywood Family Hallmarks

“This place is AWESOME!!!”  That was the immediate reaction from our [then] three-year-old son upon his first visit to Dollywood. It was in that visit that we began creating reoccurring family traditions that have become very special in our house – traditions that became memories and memories that have become milestones. “Creating memories worth repeating” is the mission of Dollywood and one that can be very personal and powerful within your own home.  Dollywood offers a variety of opportunities to create your very own personalized visits and special traditions that, over time, can become very special to the entire family. I want to share with you a few of our favorites:

1. Saying a Family Prayer in the Robert F. Thomas Chapel- Some of the sweetest and most charmed words we have heard come out of our children’s mouths have been during our family time in the chapel. We have made it a family tradition to share what we are thankful for in a brief timeout during our trips to Dollywood. We count it as a huge blessing for a chapel to be located in our all-time favorite place; a place where fun, food and faith can intersect at every corner.

Insider Tip

Enjoy a 30-minute chapel service when you visit on Sundays. Learn more about that opportunity here. It starts at 11:30 a.m.—except during Smoky Mountain Christmas when it begins at 5:30 p.m. And, learn more about this history of the chapel here.

2. Growing Up Through Pictures- Dollywood offers a variety of opportunities to take professional pictures throughout the park as well as multiple locations where you can snap your own shot. We have taken thousands upon thousands of pictures at Dollywood, but some of our favorites have been the same picture in the same place but on different trips. To see the progression from year to year and the changes that occur from picture to picture have become a tremendous blessing for our family and now something everyone looks forward to recreating. Collecting pictures is easy with Dollywood’s Ultimate Photo Card.

Insider Tip

Purchase a brick at the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame (SGMA) so your name is inside Dollywood. Step inside the SGMA beside Showstreet Palace Theater for more details.

3. Dollywood Firsts- No matter the occasion or time of year, we always try to have a ‘first’ whenever we visit Dollywood: first time to ride a specific roller coaster, first time to try a funnel cake, first time to see the Kingdom Heirs, first time to ride in the front seat of a ride, first time to see Dolly turn into a butterfly in Chasing Rainbows – you get the idea… These ‘firsts’ have become an unofficial checklist for us to not only do again but to add to. Having open eyes for the possibilities Dollywood provides for rich family-centric achievements have blessed us with some beautiful memories.

4. Numbers Game- We love Dollywood and all the rides. A few years ago, my son and I came up with a simple rolling numbers game that we play whenever we visit now. The concept assigns a point value to each of the rides in the park according to their thrill level. On our modified scale we rate Lightning Rod as the top point-getter with 10 points then work backwards so everything in the park has some kind of value. We award double points for a ‘first’ time ride. Our personal record for a single day at Dollywood: 156 points! (We rode FireChaser Express 17 times that day!)

Make up your own scale and set your own records – I promise you’ll have a blast competing against yourself and your family!

Our Family Scale:

Lightning Rod:                      10 points

Thunderhead:                         9  points

Wild Eagle:                              8  points

Tennessee Tornado:             7  points

Drop Line:                               7  points

Mystery Mine:                        6  points

Barnstormer:                          5  points

Dragonflier:                            4  points

FireChaser Express:              3  points

Daredevil Falls:                      2  points

Sky Rider:                                2  points

The Mad Mockingbird:         2  points

Great Tree Swing:                 1  point

River Rampage:                     1  point

Anything Else:                      ½ point

By | 2019-09-30T16:14:42+00:00 September 30th, 2019|Family Visits|0 Comments

About the Author:

Tom Hodges (Dollywood Insider 2019-Now) is a Middle Tennessee native who currently resides in Christiana, Tennessee, with his wife Hillary and two children, Cooper (age 7) and Isabelle (age 4). Tom and his family make the three-hour journey to Dollywood once a month to enjoy the entire park. After fifteen years as a college basketball coach serving various universities, Tom recently transitioned into their family business of trucking and warehousing. Tom serves as the president of Goggin Cold Haul Services, LLC, a refrigerated transportation company based out of Smyrna, Tennessee, and a sister company to Titan Transfer Inc. and Goggin Warehousing, LLC. A thrill-ride enthusiast and lover of all things Dollywood, Tom would most likely be found riding on the front row of Wild Eagle, riding multiple times on FireChaser Express with his son Cooper (personal record of 17 times in one day) or enjoying a family lunch in Wildwood Grove at Till & Harvest. Dollywood is a special place to Tom and his family, as many milestones and family traditions have become sacred in their house because of Dollywood and the hosts who make it so special.
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