Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Dollywood was slow to open this year. The long wait for the 2020 Dollywood season is over – today was the first day complete with a variety of new rules and guidelines developed by the CDC. We were able to access the theme park today and put together some thoughts on this reopening.
Dollywood Now Requires A Reservation
In order to comply with the coronavirus social distancing recommendations, Dollywood has severely limited the number of people that may enter the park each day. While this may seem like an inconvenience at first glance, the limited numbers will simultaneously help keep you safer AND means shorter waits and a less crowded/more enjoyable visit. Remember, once you know the dates you would like to visit, simply visit the official Dollywood theme park reservation system here.
Temperature Checks & Health Screenings Are Now Required
When we arrived, we were able to park in Parking Lot C. At noon, we were the last group allowed to enter the park today. Prior to even getting on the tram, there is a temperature check line. An employee wearing a face shield, face mask, and gloves used an infrared thermometer to ensure our group was fever-free. Next, they asked each of us a series of questions to determine if there was a high likelihood we might have coronavirus. Finally, they had us sanitize our hands and informed us of the requirement to wear a face mask or covering in the park.
At the conclusion of the well check, they provided us with a wristband to indicate that we had been screened.
New Tram Procedures
As stated above, prior to boarding Dollywood’s parking tram, each member of your party will have to complete the health screening and be given a wristband. Next, the tram will board and load people with social distancing in place – only every other row was used on the day of our visit.
Masks Are Required
During the health screening, the Dollywood employee will mention that you are required to wear a mask or face covering while in the park. This rule, which the majority of visitors complied with, is in effect for nearly the entire theme park. The only exceptions I saw were areas for dining and areas marked as mask free. Our recommendation is to find a comfortable and effective mask made out of fabric. A thin, surgeon-style mask will likely become uncomfortable on a hot summer day.
Eating In Designated Areas & New Dining Requirements
One of the biggest changes that COVID-19 has brought to Dollywood is the requirement to wear a mask. As a result, you are only able to eat/drink in designated mask-free areas or dining areas. In the dining areas, tables and chairs are organized to encourage social distancing and have signage requesting that guests do not move them. Also, the signage on the tables encourages guests not to sit down at a table that has not been sanitized by a Dollywood staff member.
Lines Utilize Social Distancing
The social distancing in lines is encouraged with signage and marked fairly well. However, with the length of the queues, this is one area where people didn’t always maintain a six-foot distance. The effectiveness of social distancing in the lines is largely up to the people in the lines. If people follow the clearly displayed guidelines, this will work well. Otherwise, if people do not follow the guidelines, the lines could become the weakest link.
Rides Block Seats for Social Distancing & Require Sanitizing Hands
In order to maintain social distancing on the rides, Dollywood has blocked half the rows on each ride. Also, before you can board, the theme park requires you to sanitize your hands before every ride.
Indoor Shows Closed Temporarily Closed
During our visit, the indoor shows were all closed due to COVID-19.
Outdoor Shows Open, But Empty Rows
During our visit, outdoor shows were still happening. However, half of the rows in each outdoor theater were blocked due to social distancing requirements.
Touch Point Sanitization
Throughout our visit, Dollywood’s employees were a constant, but unobtrusive presence working to sanitize high-touch areas.
Mask-Free Zones For Mask Breaks
Let’s face it, wearing a mask all day (especially on hot days!) is far from comfortable. Dollywood seems to have thought of everything with Mask Free Break Zones. If you need a break from wearing your mask, head to this area and enjoy some time sans mask. However, Dollywood does still ask that you respect social distancing requirements and maintain six feet from people not in your traveling party.
Additional Signage Throughout The Park
Throughout the park, we saw a multitude of new signs designed to communicate new rules and provide a safe environment for all guests. The signs primarily communicated the following:
- Spacing – 6-foot measurements and signage was installed all over the park
- One-Way – In some areas of the park, foot traffic can only travel one direction
- Face Mask Requirement Signage – These signs remind guest to wear their masks and also establish mask-free zones
- Warning Signs – The warning signs communicate the risks associated with COVID-19 and crowds
- Dining – The dining signs let people know they should not rearrange tables/chairs and they should wait until a table is sanitized before sitting down
Dollywood’s New Flowers & Food Festival Is Incredible
OK, we admit this has nothing to do with COVID-19, but we were just too excited not to share a few photos. The assortment of multi-floral sculptures, which includes some as tall as fourteen feet, was nothing short of amazing. Dollywood’s team of artisans has been working for months to perfect this spring/early summer floral display.
In addition to the floral displays, Dollywood also utilized other items to bring together incredible displays of colors.
While these new rules and processes feel a bit awkward at first, we quickly got used to them. The vast majority of the guests that visited with us were compliant and we felt safe during the entire visit. While any public activity can carry the risk of COVID-19 transmission, Dollywood has made an impressive effort to ensure a safe post-COVID-19 experience for each guest. Having experienced safety measures firsthand, we would not hesitate to visit again in the near future!