Last week I shared that our family and our friends the Larsons went to Dollywood for the day. Our kids are 6.5, 3.5 and 3 months. The Larson’s kids are 7, 5, 3 and 2. So yeah, that’s a lot of little kids. It was the first time we had visited Dollywood and we definitely learned a few things.
That night, we went back to our cabin and thought about what we would tell other families with young kids if they were planning to go to Dollywood. It's worth noting that while the park is very family friendly, many of the rides and experiences were more enjoyable for our oldest kiddos. (That said, we still had a GREAT time.)
If you have young kids and want to go to Dollywood, here's what you should know.
Get your tickets in advance: We went at 9:45 to get our tickets at the Dollywood information station and didn't get into the park until 11. After getting the tickets, we had to waiting in line to park and then waiting for the tram to take us into the park (and it isn't even peak season yet!). Buying your tickets in advance will definitely save you some time. The waiting made our kids a bit antsy and they were hungry for lunch as soon as we entered the park.
Also, when you walk into the park, take a photo with the sign right away. At the end of the day, your little ones may be cranky and not in the mood. 🙂
Split your park visit into two days: Dollywood offers this great option that if you go to the park after 3 p.m. one day, you can go back to the park for a full-day the next day. We would have done this had it worked with both our schedule and the weather forecast (rain right in the middle of our 4 day trip!).
Naps are a necessity with little kids and we just couldn’t do the park open to close without major meltdowns. By splitting the day, you can be there at the end of the day (as crowds wane) and again right when the park opens the next day (before it gets super crowded). This also would allow for naps.
Dollywood is closed on Tuesdays, so be sure to keep that in mind when planning your visit.
Visit the Country Fair: Without question the Country Fair area of the park is the most-geared to little children.
It offers several rides that even our littlest toddlers could go on, which was great. Several are similar to Disneyland (flying elephants and teacups, anyone?) and just as fun.
Be sure to bring cash to play the fair games in the Country Fair area. Elias and Joe were so excited to win basketballs!
See a show or two: Dollywood is known for excellent shows that appeal to all ages.
Our kids loved the celtic show we saw during the Festival of Nations at Dollywood. The park has several very nice indoor theaters, so these are also a great option to cool down on warmer days. The shows are also a good opportunity for a break if your little ones are tired from walking all over the grounds.
Look at the entertainment schedule in advance: It’s a good idea to look at the entertainment schedule before going to the park, so you can plan your time accordingly.
Since we were going to be at the park for a full-day, we planned to see a show in the afternoon to give the kids time to rest a bit. Sweet Adeline fell asleep on Matthew as soon as the lights went out in the theater.
Find the changing and nursing rooms: If you are visiting the park and are nursing, the nursing rooms are fantastic. Seriously. They are decked out with three Dutailer rockers (what I have at home), a changing table and a separate bathroom. Being that I spent a good bit of time at the park nursing Ezra, I was so grateful for this space.
Feed the ducks: Ducks are everywhere at Dollywood. My kids loved buying food for a quarter and feeding them.
We definitely did not experience all that Dollywood had to offer, but still made a lot of great memories with our families.
Disclosure: Dollywood provided our group with tickets to visit the park, but all thoughts are my own.
We visited Dollywood when ours were 8, 4, and 1, and decided to put off a return trip until we could come for Splash Country or until the kids were older. One highlight for our trip was the train ride which all ages really enjoyed!
Erika W. says
We go to Dollywood (just the amusement park, no water park) every year now that we are in SC. We always drive up so we get there around 3pm and then go back the next day for the full day. Such a great deal. The park lines are always SOOOO much better than going down to Orlando to Disney (though LegoLand lines aren’t bad this time of year). Once peak season starts though, the park is open on Tuesdays. 🙂
We went to Dollywood for the first time last spring with our then 7, 5.5, 4 and 1 year olds (and I was 4 months pregnant. We definitely did split the park in 2 days, which was great since it was so empty after 3pm. Another tip I would add is to ride the train midday or early evening. Our oldest 2 enjoyed the trip and the younger 2 took a much needed nap on mama and daddy. 😉
Great tip! We wanted to do the train, but unfortunately weren’t able to fit it in.