My Advice: Try a New Experience Every Visit

Looking back, I’m always struck by the sheer number of memorable Dollywood visits we’ve had as a family. It’s really become our go-to place for creating memories year after year. Speaking of memories, I think the visits we remember the most – the really special ones – are those that include “new experience” memories. You know, memories like –

Seeing Christmas in the Smokies on our first Christmas visit.

Letting my wife talk me into a first (and last) time ride on Drop Line.

Parking in preferred after years of riding the tram to the front gate.

Meeting Miss Lillian for the first time.

…and so on and so on.

So, while each visit is special, the “new experience” visits are the ones most often recalled during our family theme park conversations (which are a regular occurrence). I suppose you could say there’s less blur and more memory when it comes to those particular visits.

Less Blur, More Memory

We’re always on the lookout for new experiences when visiting. Oftentimes, these occur naturally enough – a child becoming tall enough to experience an attraction for the first time. Other times, there is effort involved – purposefully forgoing a favorite snack to try a new menu item.

Even as Dollywood regulars, though, we find there’s always something new going on in the park. It’s one of the things we love about Dollywood – the balance of familiarity and freshness. It keeps us coming back time after time. It also makes finding new experiences a goal that’s pretty easy to accomplish.

Practical Memory Making

If, like us, you find yourself in the market for new memory-making ideas on an upcoming trip, consider these “new experience” ideas:

1. Visit Dollywood at a Different Time of Year

Early on, we visited Dollywood in the summer, autumn and Christmas seasons. While great times, we recently visited in the spring for the park’s Flower & Food Festival. It was a memorable change-up and gave us a fresh perspective on just how beautiful the park can be with flower color infusion and festival decor.

2. Talk to a Dollywood Entertainer

With music running deep in our family, we enjoy conversing with entertainers at Dollywood. Many have performed at the park for a long time and are more than willing to share their love for what they do. We’ve found doing so creates both a memorable moment and a personal connection to entertainment offerings at the park.

3. Take a Time-Out for Dining

We tend to be on the move when we’re at Dollywood. There’s typically not a ton of room in the schedule for extended dining time. So when my wife first suggested we try lunch at Front Porch Café a few years ago, I pushed back a tad. Did we really want to allocate more of the day to dining? It turns out, yes…yes, we did. Doing so created a new outlook on just how memorable Dollywood dining can be.

4. Catch a Show You’ve Missed

For the longest time, we put off seeing Dreamland Drive-In at the Pines Theatre. I’m not sure if it was the location, the timing or the fact that Lightning Rod was just across the way, but, we just never made a showing.  After finally making a point to see it for the first time, however, it’s now become one of our favorite shows in the park.

5. Inject Your Own Fun

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that are the memory-makers. We recently tried a Harvest Festival scavenger hunt and had a blast. So much so, we plan on putting together our own scavenger hunt in time for our next visit. We have also tried other activities like getting a picture with a Dollywood host in each area and trying every festival-specific food item.

6. Bring a Friend for Their First-Time Visit

There’s nothing more fun than sharing the Dollywood experience with someone who’s never visited. In some ways, it’s like experiencing your favorites for the first time all over again. We recently brought some friends from church for a first-time visit and had a great time letting my daughter play the role of tour guide for the group.

Insider Tip

Don’t forget, Dollywood Passholders can use a Bring-a-Friend ticket to get a friend into Dollywood for free. It's a great opportunity to make new memories with someone who may have not visited Dollywood before.

An Added Bonus

While new experiences create memories, they can also lead to discoveries that positively impact your future Dollywood visits. In our Dreamland Drive-In example above, not only was seeing it for the first time memorable, it’s now become a permanent entry in our Dollywood entertainment itinerary. Our preferred parking example? It’s changed the way we think about getting in and out of Dollywood for the better. The thing is, you really can’t go wrong with whatever “new” you choose. At the end of the day, the idea is to simply inject an experience into your Dollywood routine that’s outside your norm. For us, doing so has gone a long way toward making every visit to the park not just great – but memorable as well.

Give it a try. I think it’ll do the same for your family.

By | 2021-12-22T12:02:45+00:00 December 29th, 2021|Trip Planning|0 Comments

About the Author:

Born and raised in Alabama, Aaron Johnston (Dollywood Insider 2021-Now) has been a themed-entertainment enthusiast for as long as he can remember. That enthusiasm has led to a lifetime of studying theme park industry design and operations. He is the father of two and husband of a fellow enthusiast. His focus is investing in the spiritual growth of his family. When he’s not planning the next family trip, you’ll typically find him songwriting, developing web apps or managing his theme park-centric blog. He is proud to call Dollywood his family’s home park and can’t wait to share the insight he’s gained over the years.
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