When is the Best and Worst Time of the Year to Visit Dollywood?

Dollywood is everything we love about its namesake Dolly Parton, about the Smoky Mountains, and about fun itself – all wrapped up into one amazingly family-friendly destination. What’s not to like about somewhere that includes rides, gardens, food, and a waterpark in the same place, after all? As with anywhere else, though, you’ll want to make sure you go at the best time for maximum enjoyment. Here’s a look at when to visit Dollywood throughout the year.

What Month to Visit

In general, spring and fall are both amazing times to visit. These seasons sit between winter’s chill and summer’s blazing humidity. Since much of Dollywood is an outdoor experience, planning for mild weather can make a big difference in fun factor.

If you’ve got an open schedule and can afford to plan your whole trip around the best time to visit Dollywood, opt for April or September, both sunny and beautiful times of year without being too hot. (Make sure if you go in spring to avoid Spring Break week, though.)

Want to pay a visit to Dollywood Splash Country? Avoid the height of summer and go in early June or late August.

What Days to Visit

All right, so you’ve chosen your months, but there are good and bad days to visit as well. It goes without saying that the park will be busier on weekends, so unless you think crowds are part of the fun, try to go on a weekday. There are also other reasons to visit during the week, such as Senior Discount Day on Tuesdays.

However, Dollywood puts on events throughout the year, and most of these take place on the weekend. If you’re planning to attend a special event (discussed below), you should ideally plan time in the park both during the week and over the event weekend.

What Time to Visit

There are better and worse times of day to hit up Dollywood. If you’re going to visit the waterpark, for instance, you’ll likely want to come in the mornings before the sun is too hot and the play zones get too busy. The main park is also nice in the morning all year round, but you should note that there is usually a rush between 10 and 12. It might be best to get there after lunch and stay until the evening when things pick up.

During summer, however, the park is open until midnight – as opposed to 8 PM the rest of the year. Weekdays and weekends are both good times to stay late in the park, as long as you don’t have tired kiddos to get home!

Note that not all attractions are open until the park closes. For instance, in spring, both the Great Tree Swing and Wildwood Grove close at 7 even though the rest of the park is open until 8. Restaurants, theaters, and other locations may also have their own hours. It’s best to check what they are before planning your day.

Dollywood Events

Although Dollywood is a year-round theme park, it offers plenty of seasonal fun in the form of shows and festivals. The Flower & Food Festival is a popular one in June when the gardens are at their finest and the park showcases actual blooming statues.

From mid-June through the beginning of August, you can enjoy the Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration every night, with extended hours and nightly fireworks. The Harvest Festival follows soon after, with more than a month of fall fun.

Perhaps nothing beats Smoky Mountain Christmas, though. Enjoy a dazzling array of lights (more than 6 million, to be exact!) as well as seasonal foods, holiday shows, and decorations galore.

When to Avoid Dollywood

When shouldn’t you visit the park? We’re tempted to say “Any time is a good time to visit Dollywood!” (Okay, we said it. #sorrynotsorry) However, if you don’t like crowds, you should avoid any weekend where there’s an event.

You should also avoid the crowds that tend to accumulate at certain times of the year, including:

  • The weeks leading up to Halloween, when the pumpkin patch and harvest celebrations see a lot of traffic
  • The weeks before Christmas
  • Afternoons and evenings in spring, summer, and fall, as these tend to be busier than mornings

Dollywood in a Day?

Some visitors want to know if Dollywood is worth it if they only have a day to spend at the park. The answer is yes, you can technically see all of it in a day, even if that’s not the best way to get the most out of the experience. However, if you’re dealing with a time crunch, the park is still well worth the visit!

In this case, the best approach is to plan your trip ahead of time, especially if you’re visiting on one of the busier days, like the weekend. Check out the park map to see which destinations and eateries are of most interest to you. If you want to go on lots of rides but don’t want to do lots of waiting, it’s probably worth paying extra for the TimeSaver pass.

Note that you’re allowed to leave and reenter Dollywood as long as you remember to get your hand stamped on the way out. If your little ones (or you!) need a nap, feel free to leave for lunch and some shuteye, then return later in the day. Show your parking pass upon reentry to avoid paying double for that as well.

Tips to Speed Your Visit Along

If you want to maximize your time in the park, Dollywood advises that you enter through the gate, then make your way to the back of the park. Because so many people hit up the first attractions they see, the front tends to be busier than the back. If you work your way forward from there, chances are you’ll avoid more crowds.

There you go, your one-and-done guide to Dollywood. Can’t wait to see you here in the Great Smokies!