We get it, some people don’t enjoy the rides. Whether you find yourself feeling a bit queasy or you are just plain afraid, that is ok. There are plenty of things to do at Dollywood that don’t include facing your fears or risking a ruined vacation day with an upset stomach.
Here are our favorite 10 activities:
1. Depending upon the time of year you want to visit, you must plan your trip around one of the awesome festivals hosted at Dollywood. Summer Celebration features longer park hours, nightly fireworks, and a full roster of entertainers. Harvest Festival offers visiting artisans, jack-o’-lantern displays, seasonal treats, and hundreds of free gospel concerts. Smoky Mountain Christmas finds the park lit up with millions of lights, and features Christmas shows and nightly holiday parades. Spring Mix aims to entertain with concerts from famous musical acts. Festival of Nations brings in performers from around the world and international foods. Barbecue & Bluegrass is a great time to visit for delicious BBQ and free concerts from the finest bluegrass bands in America.
2. Eagle Mountain Sanctuary in Dollywood offers you the opportunity to admire the majesty of eagles. The 30,000 square foot (ca. 28 a) aviary boasts a large population of non-releasable bald eagles and offers an incredible, up-close view of the national bird.
3. Catch one of the many incredible shows. The most popular include the divinely funny, toe-tapping Dreamland Drive-In, Kingdom Heirs Gospel Quartet, Smoky Mountain String Band, and Little Engine Playhouse. There’s also the touching My People Show, featuring members of Dolly Parton’s family.
4. Set the little ones loose at the kid’s playground. Whether you’re traveling with your children or grandchildren, you know how much children need to burn off steam. There’s no place better for that than Firehouse Fun Yard at Wilderness Pass, Hidden Hollow at Wildwood Grove or Lil’ Pilots Playground at Owens Farm. These playgrounds encourage your little ones to explore, laugh, and simply have fun.
5. Remember the old county fairs and those carnival games that both entertained and frustrated you? The Country Fair area of Dollywood will take you back to your teen years when nothing was more important than winning a stuffed animal, even if it took you 10 tries. And just like the fairs of yore, you’ll find a delicious array of fried foods to enjoy.
6. Craftsman’s Valley is a crafters dream come true. A stroll through introduces you to crafters of all kinds. You can watch demonstrations and even shop for unique crafts to take home. If you’re the hands-on type, you can dip your own candles at Old Flames Candles or blow your own glass ornament at Mountain Blown Glass. We spent far more time in Craftsman’s Valley than expected, primarily because of the hands-on opportunities.
7. If you’re a Dolly fan (and who isn’t?) you simply cannot miss the Chasing Rainbows Museum. Packed full of memorabilia from Dolly’s life, the museum showcases her awards, clothing from television and movies, handwritten lyrics to her most famous songs, a peek into her life as a child, and even a hologram of Dolly herself. Dolly’s tour bus sits just outside the museum and makes it easy to imagine what life on the road must be like for a world-class entertainer.
8. The Dollywood Express is technically a ride, but stick with us here. We recommend the experience for two reasons: It’s no more frightening than a normal slow-moving train, and we don’t want you to miss the stunning five-mile trip through the Smoky Mountain foothills. There are so few opportunities in life to simply soak in nature that we don’t want you to miss it. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to get off your feet for a while.
9. It would be remiss of us to overlook the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame. Whether or not you grew up listening to gospel music, this is a piece of Americana that will take you back in time. The museum profiles the pioneers of gospel, including Bill Gaither, the Blackwood Brothers, and The Rambos. It even includes a replica of the Blackwood Brothers tour bus.
10. We saved our advice to eat your way through Dollywood for last, primarily because of the surprising array of truly delicious food the park offers. This is not your ordinary park food. Known for unusually good fare, Dollywood offers a Smoky Mountain Mexican menu at Till and Harvest, possibly the world’s best cinnamon bread at The Grist Mill, an all-you-can-eat buffet at Aunt Granny’s Restaurant, ice cream cones perfect for enjoying as you stroll the park from Blue Ribbon Cones, kettle corn prepared daily at Country Cookers, and the quintessential funnel cake at Crossroads Funnel Cakes. But as the infomercials say, “That’s not all!” There’s also ham and beans served up in a skillet (along with fresh-baked cornbread) at Granny Ogle’s Ham ‘n’ Beans, a full menu of Dolly’s favorite meals at Front Porch Café, southern barbecue at Hickory House BBQ, and a collection of 50s classics at Red’s Drive-In. What’s amazing is that this represents a sampling of the eateries available at Dollywood. Half the fun for you will be discovering your own favorites.
Whether you’ve never been fond of rides or you just want something else to do, Dollywood is a theme park offering plenty of other entertainment. In fact, we’re pretty sure there’s more to do and see than can be accomplished in one visit. It’s a challenge you’re sure to enjoy.