As a mom of two young children, I like to plan my Dollywood visits to be as child-friendly as possible! No matter the season, festival, or day of the week we attend, my first step in planning is to make sure we get to the park EARLY! Some mornings I get to the park more than an hour before opening time. Why, you ask? Read on about the perks of parking early!
When Do the Parking Lots Open?
The parking lot opens two hours before park opening each day. So, if Dollywood opens at 10 a.m., the booth attendants will let cars in beginning at 8 a.m. Personally, I like to be parked and settled about an hour before opening. Parking early allows me to find a good spot, apply sunscreen to the kids, ensure bags are packed appropriately and finish up any morning snacks before we enter the park. Sometimes, we plan to get there extra early with friends and have a little breakfast tailgate in the parking lot!
Where Can You Park at Dollywood?
Dollywood offers parking options: guests can choose between standard parking and preferred parking. Parking prices are displayed on Dollywood’s website, app and on the parking booths. However, standard parking (including special spaces for RVs) is FREE for Gold and Diamond Season Passholders! My favorite parking choice (by far) is Preferred Parking!
Where is Preferred Parking?
Preferred Parking is located within a short walking distance of a secondary entrance to Dollywood. This entrance still offers all guest services available at the main entrance (Season Pass processing, printing Bring-A-Friend tickets and more) at its very own ticket booth. If you inform the parking booth attendant you’d like to purchase Preferred Parking, they will tell you exactly where to drive to reach your destination! On this graphic, you will see it’s located on the bottom left.
Why Preferred Parking?
I love Dollywood’s parking lot system and transportation hub, but when I have multiple children and a stroller or wagon in tow, I find it easier to just walk into the park with my littles already securely buckled into said stroller or wagon! And, if I’m being honest, sometimes I forget one child’s favorite water bottle, extra diapers or a rain jacket back in our vehicle. With Preferred Parking, I can always walk back out to the car and back in again within just a couple of minutes.
Why Park Early?
Okay, I’m parked. So, now why so early?
With kids in tow, I like to get into the park with plenty of time to get settled. If the park opens at 10 a.m., hosts will start scanning passes and tickets around 9:30. This gives us plenty of time to get inside the park gates, make one final restroom trip, have a family picture taken in front of the Dollywood sign, and get our children’s height measured.
This quiet time of anticipation before the park fully opens up also allows guests to take in some of the scenery or current festival decorations! Take a family photo under the Flower & Food Festival’s Umbrella Sky, scope out the latest topiaries or seasonal flowers, view all the new pumpkins and gourds during Great Pumpkin LumiNights, and stand in amazement under more than five million twinkling lights throughout Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. With little ones in our party, sometimes we feel the need to make the most of our hours in the day; this half hour when the park is still getting ready gives us time to breathe, gather ourselves and take in some sights before Dollywood fully comes to life!
Around 10 minutes until open, we head up towards either side of the park where the “rope” drops. My littles usually want to head straight to Wildwood Grove, so we queue up around the entrance to Thunderhead in Timber Canyon—conveniently right next to a large restroom! The other rope drops just past Rivertown Junction, heading up toward Owens Farm. At 9:55 a.m. the rope is usually pulled back, and we’re on our way to another amazing day at Dollywood!
For me and my family, a smooth start to the morning with plenty of time to breathe makes for good moods for our little ones and therefore a great day for the family. No one likes to rush around; so, pack up a little earlier, arrive and park with plenty of time to spare, and enjoy another magical day at Dollywood!