You’ve made all the plans. Your hotel stay is booked. You have park tickets, and you have a solid game plan to tackle all the rides and shows Dollywood has to offer.
The only thing left to plan might be the biggest challenge of them all: what to wear. More specifically, what shoes should you wear?
Packing for a long day at a theme park is enough to make any vacation planner scratch their head in frustration. What shoe is going to keep you comfortable and moving as you enjoy the more than 50 rides and attractions that Dollywood has to offer? Dollywood also spans across 160 acres, so you have to be able to depend on your shoe taking you from early mountain sunrise to evening fun in the park. Also, you must consider the seasons when planning what shoe to bring with you to Dollywood. Many just think of the spring and summer fun that Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country have to offer, but Dollywood also has incredible shows and festivals in the fall and winter months, too. There’s a lot to consider in making sure you have a shoe that’s comfortable, and, let’s be honest, one that’s cute for a picture or two as well.
Here are some of my tips for the right shoe for a great Dollywood day.
Good Ankle Coverage
I love flip flops and slide on as much as the next girl, but Dollywood has some amazing rides where your feet dangle as you glide through the air. A ride on Dragonflier or Wild Eagle will find you soaring through the Great Smoky Mountains, and the last thing you need to worry about is holding on for dear life to your shoes. In fact, ride attendants at these rides will make you take those slip-ons off and store them securely before you take off. If you wear a tennis shoe or ankle boot, you’ll be able to ride without the hassle of removing your footwear before riding.
A sandal with a strap works well, too! There are lots of kid-friendly shoes with straps that marry that flip flop feeling with the security of knowing your child won’t lose their shoes.
Water-Friendly Shoes Are Your Best Friend
Dollywood really is the perfect summer theme park because you can spend the morning riding your favorite roller coasters, and then spend the heat of the afternoon on the water rides. I personally like to hit Daredevil Falls and then Smoky Mountain River Rampage (followed by a stop for a frozen lemonade.) But the worst feeling in the world is when your shoes are soaked through from hitting one river rapid the wrong way. And, don’t get me started on wet socks. I have found that a great waterproof slide-in sneaker is perfect for a hot afternoon at the parks. The rubber material is comfortable and springy, so I can walk from one side of the park to the other, but the holes in the shoe allow for the water to dry quickly.
This breathable sneaker also works well for Dollywood’s Splash Country if you decide to wear something sturdier than flip flops. The pavement can get hot on bare feet, so I suggest taking a pair of water shoes with you. You can’t wear them on all slides, but the lifeguards will let you know where they are and aren’t allowed. They want you to be comfortable (and safe)! You can hold shoes when you can’t wear them.
Break Out the Boots
From hot to cold, Dollywood experiences four seasons every year. During the Smoky Mountain Christmas festival, there’s no better feeling than holding a warm hot chocolate in your hands and standing arm in arm with your family watching “O Holy Night” in the Valley Theater. But you need to be prepared as it can be quite chilly once the night hours set in. I’ve found that wearing a good strong boot is perfect for layering socks. I really like to wear a cowboy boot, partially because I think they are comfortable and partially because I think Dolly Parton herself would approve. But I also have found that a duck boot is great for any cold mountain rain showers that turn to snow flurries.
When All Else Fails…
Maybe you don’t have a specific shoe for water rides or a pair of boots to wear in the winter. And that’s okay! Remember, what we said before: Dollywood covers 160 acres. You are going to do a lot of walking, and it’s important that you have the most comfortable pair of shoes in your closet. Most of us have a favorite pair of tennis shoes that we’ve broken in, and that’s a great “all-purpose” shoe for a long day in the parks! (Just make sure to put your feet on the lower bar on Smoky Mountain River Rampage to avoid a major soaking. Don’t ask me how I know.)
With a little pre-planning and a lot of great packing, you can make sure you have the right shoe for Dollywood, no matter what time of year you plan to visit.