Rides, music, costumed characters…you expect a vibrant spectacle when you set foot in Dollywood. If you’re like most visitors, however, you’ve never realized just how many opportunities for relaxation this beloved theme park holds. Many of the park’s most laid-back and enjoyable opportunities involve crafts, with artisans offering valuable insight into practices that have been passed down through several generations.
Dolly Parton admitted in a Hallmark Channel Home & Family special that “Dollywood’s all about preserving the Smoky Mountain heritage.” She is especially passionate about the park’s working shops, where craftsmen share their values and their talents with visitors, most of whom have never seen such techniques in action.
If you’re looking to gain a true sense of Smoky Mountain culture, you’ll definitely want to build time into your Dollywood itinerary to check out these top crafting experiences:
Blacksmith & Foundry
Blacksmiths may not be a common sight on the modern version of Main Street, but they can easily be observed at Dollywood’s Blacksmith & Foundry. Stop by to watch skilled blacksmiths in action as they create both useful and artistic items for the shop. The friendly blacksmiths regularly pause to explain what they’re creating and what they expect from the end product. Keep an eye out for hand-forged creations such as knives, garden decor, and even horseshoes. Signs are arguably the store’s biggest seller; shoppers love having their addresses, last names, or favorite quotes featured prominently on their personalized products.
Old Flames Candles
Dinner by candlelight was once a necessity, rather than a romantic luxury. Back in the day, candle craftsmanship was a vital skill. The experts at Old Flames Candles treat the practice with the reverence it warrants. In the shop, you’ll find a vast range of products worth buying as gifts or for personal enjoyment. You will be especially impressed by the taper candles and the handmade votives. Don’t hesitate to stock up; the beautiful candles created here will be highly appreciated by your loved ones or in your own home.
Smoky Creek Leather
Leather items were once integral to success in the harsh environment of the Smoky Mountains. Today, enthusiasts regard them as purely ornamental — but that doesn’t take away from the need for quality craftsmanship. At Smoky Creek Leather, craftsmen use hand-tooled leather to create a wide variety of beautiful and durable accessories, including belts, keychains, purses, and bracelets. Leather belts sold at this location come with a lifetime guarantee. The belts are so durable, however, that you will likely never need to take advantage of this offer.
Woodcarving has long been a cherished skill in the Smoky Mountains. At Valley Woodcarvers, the practice goes beyond mere practicality to become an art form that will instantly have you in awe. Get ready to be wowed as you observe the craftsmen chiseling away at a block of wood — transforming it into a stunning work of art. As you wander through the store, you’ll observe a wide variety of items that represent some of the region’s most recognizable wildlife and scenery. Don’t hesitate to invest in a figurine, wood sign, or even a personalized baseball bat to adorn your home.
Mountain Blown Glass
At Mountain Blown Glass, daily demonstrations bring the classic practice of hand blown glass to life. Watch in awe as expert glassblowers show off their skills and create a variety of gorgeous works of art. These craft-making displays are nothing short of mesmerizing, especially as you observe the glass changing into something new and beautiful. In the shop, you’ll find intricate figurines in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, as well as ornaments worthy of hanging on your Christmas tree. If you want to try your hand at glassblowing, you’re welcome to work with the shop’s craftsmen to create your own ornament — the ultimate keepsake.
Harvest Festival Artisans
While Dollywood’s Harvest Festival is best known for spectacles such as the Southern Gospel Jubilee and the Great Pumpkin Luminights, the artisans featured throughout the park add a lot to this annual autumn tradition. Regular demonstrations allow you to catch them in action as they create a range of handcrafted products. Favorites include rug hooking, chair caning, and chainsaw carving.
The authenticity of Dollywood cannot be denied. You haven’t experienced the park in its entirety until you’ve wandered throughout its working stores and chatted with the friendly and highly skilled craftsmen who are all too happy to share their life’s work. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover and pay homage to Appalachia’s most cherished traditions.