Top ChoiceEntertainment in Pigeon ForgeDollywood
The most-visited attraction in Tennessee is Dollywood, the self-created ode to the patron saint of East Tennessee: the big-haired, big-bosomed and big-hearted country singer, Dolly Parton. Located in Pigeon Forge and spanning 150 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood Parks & Resorts features a theme park with Appalachian-themed rides and attractions, the Splash Country water park, mountain crafts, restaurants serving Southern-fried food and two fun accommodation options. Highlights include dramatic rollercoasters, live music shows and the Chasing Rainbows Museum, which traces Dolly's fascinating life – her hometown is nearby Sevierville. History The park that would become Dollywood opened in early 1961 as a small tourist attraction called Rebel Railroad, with a theme inspired by the centennial anniversary of the Civil War. Owned by the Robbins brothers from North Carolina, it centered on a coal-fired steam engine named Klondike Katie, and had a general store, blacksmith shop and saloon. It was bought by Art Modell in 1970 and renamed Goldrush Junction, and a campground, several children's rides, an outdoor theater, a log flume ride and the Robert F. Thomas Church were added. Jack and Pete Herschend bought the park in 1976, renaming it Goldrush initially and then changing it to Silver Dollar City Tennessee. It was renamed Dollywood when singer-songwriter Dolly Parton partnered with Herschend Family Enterprises to jointly own the park in 1986, and it doubled in size to 150 acres between then and 2010. A new area, Rivertown Junction, was added for Dollywood's first season, and the water park, Dollywood's Splash Country, opened in 2001. Since then, the theme park has become Tennessee's most-visited tourist attraction and welcomes over two million visitors annually. What to do at Dollywood Dollywood Theme Park Visitors to Dollywood Theme Park can enjoy over 50 rides, as well as attractions, shows and crafters that are authentic to the East Tennessee region. Adrenaline junkies will enjoy the fastest wooden rollercoaster in the world, Lightning Rod, as well as the steel thriller Mystery Mine, the forward and backward launch FireChaser Express, and Wild Eagle, the country’s first wing coaster. Geared to younger kids, the 6-acre Wildwood Grove opened in 2019 with 11 new experiences. Dollywood has received many awards for its live entertainment, which showcases country, bluegrass, Southern gospel, classic rock ‘n’ roll and Appalachian music. Daily demonstrations by more than a dozen master craftsmen offer a glimpse into the authentic artistry of the area’s heritage, and Southern-style food is offered throughout the park. In addition, Dollywood hosts several of the South’s largest festivals and concerts. The Christmas at Dollywood festival is a big deal, with more than five million lights, Christmas-themed entertainment and special holiday meals. Dollywood’s Splash Country This water park opened in May 2001 and is situated on 25 acres on Middle Creek Road. Kids go wild for the place, which features Mountain Waves, a 25,000-square-foot wave pool, a family raft ride, a lazy river, an interactive children's area, multi-person tube rides, two "extreme" body slides, shaded lounge areas and a restaurant. Highlights include the TailSpin Racer, a six-lane mat-racer slide, and RiverRush, Tennessee’s first water coaster. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins Located overlooking the main park, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins provide a relaxing accommodation option. The resort houses guests in 70 cabins ranging in size from one to seven bedrooms with fully-equipped kitchens. Facilities include indoor spa tubs, outdoor hot tubs, fireplaces, game rooms with pool tables, an onsite swimming pool, children’s playground and outdoor grills. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa Although not as glossy as some resorts, DreamMore is known for its warm hospitality, and the grounds are impeccably clean and well manicured. The fun starts in the lobby, where you're greeted by a big-windowed view of the pool. Rooms were constructed with families in mind, with bunk beds typically ensconced in the wall beside the master bed. After a day in the adjacent theme parks, unwind with a hot-stone massage at the spa while the kids play air hockey in the games room. Perks include door-to-door transportation to the theme parks and early Saturday entry to Dollywood. Accessibility at Dollywood Dollywood's Ride Accessibility Center is available to serve guests who have an accessibility need and would like to enter an attraction through the accessibility entrance. The Dollywood Accessibility Guide can be downloaded here, and the park map guide and entertainment schedule are helpful resources and are available inside the park turnstiles. A Calming Room has been created for the purpose of helping guests with special needs who may have a sensory overload while visiting Dollywood. It is a quiet, relaxing environment, equipped with items such as a weighted blanket, sensory activity panel and a teepee. For more information, please visit the Ride Accessibility Center or call 1-800-Dollywood to speak to an attendant. Dollywood’s Splash Country also has an outdoor calming area, and it has accessibility tubes to enable guests with limited mobility to enjoy water attractions. In 2018, water wheelchairs were introduced as another option for people with disabilities to enjoy the park. Tickets and other practicalities Dollywood is open mid-March through early January and Dollywood’s Splash Country operates from mid-May to Labor Day. It is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, 35 miles southeast of Knoxville, off I-40 at Exit 407, and 17km from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Parking is charged at $20 daily for standard length vehicles, and $25 for oversize length vehicles, such as RVs and trailers. One-day theme park tickets are available for $84 for visitors aged 10 to 61, two-day tickets cost $99 and three-day tickets are available for $109. Two-park passes to visit Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country cost $94 for visitors aged 10 to 61 for one day, two-day tickets cost $109 and three-day tickets are available for $119. Children and seniors pay $10 less on all tickets, and water park tickets are available as an add-on for an extra $10. Those heading to Dollywood's Splash Country water park pay $49.95 for a one-day pass if they’re aged 10 to 61, while two-day tickets cost $69.95 and three-day passes are $79.95. Children and seniors pay $10 less. Tickets can be reserved 60 days in advance here. Season passes and add-ons for TimeSaver passes, food and parking can all be booked online. Various lodging packages are available for those staying at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins and DreamMore Resort and Spa that include admission to the parks.