You’ve been to Disney and Universal, but until you’ve explored Dollywood, your theme park bucket list will remain woefully incomplete. This bluegrass paradise brings something completely new to the theme park concept, and with 2.5 million annual guests compared to 20 million for Disney’s Magic Kingdom, it’s a little bit less hectic in the land of Dolly Parton. Unfortunately, you’ll pay a pretty penny to enter — and the spending doesn’t end there. Follow these simple steps to reduce spending while still enjoying the full Dollywood experience.
1. Avoid Parking Fees
The expenses start before you even set foot in Dollywood. Your mode of transportation can determine how much you spend or save before you enter the park. Consider skipping your usual vehicle and taking advantage of public transit to save a bundle on parking fees. Your best bet: the Pigeon Forge Fun Time Trolley, which regularly stops at Patriot Park (where you can park for free). For the mere cost of a candy bar, you can ditch the parking nightmare and relax. You’ll be dropped off right at the main gate — nothing beats door-to-door service.
2. Skip Fountain Beverages and Drink Water
Dollywood and dehydration go together like Dolly Parton and many-colored coats. When you inevitably feel thirsty, you’ll be tempted to purchase soft drinks. Don’t give in to temptation; beverages cost way more than they should — and each bottle of soda adds up. Water is way healthier, way more effective at quenching your thirst, and most importantly: it’s free! Stop by any concession stand to ask for a cup of water, and the employee will happily abide by your request. Too bashful to ask for water or reluctant to wait in line? Water fountains can be found near the park’s many restrooms.
Bound and determined to drink your favorite soft beverage? If you drive, you can leave cans or bottles of soda in your car. Store beverages in a cooler to keep them just as chilly as drinks from the concession stand. If you simply need a little flavor, bring single-bottle packs of Propel or Crystal Light powder to mix into your water bottle. This will keep you hydrating enthusiastically throughout the day.
3. Pack Your Lunch Or Choose Just One Amazing Restaurant
If you choose to skip the trolley and pay the parking fee instead, at least save by packing a cooler full of tasty treats. Dollywood’s concessions, although delicious, can be prohibitively expensive — especially if you intend to treat your entire family to a meal. If you enter the park later in the day, eat a large lunch first to minimize snacking later. Instead of purchasing the park’s overpriced sweet treats, promise to stop for ice cream on the way home.
Bound and determined to eat onsite? What you pay will depend largely on where you eat. Granny Ogle’s Ham n’ Beans is a top option for cost-conscious visitors looking to save a bit on meals. There, you’ll find all-you-can eat cornbread and other reasonably-priced options. The restaurant allows you and a friend to split your meal, including the endless cornbread — they’ll even hand you an extra plate.
Another onsite dining gem that cannot be missed: the Grist Mill’s iconic cinnamon bread. Baked fresh every day, this concoction proves that aroma is the best form of advertising. You’ll enjoy the free smells as you walk by, but don’t be too surprised if you suddenly find yourself in line. If you make one food purchase during your day, this should be it. Buy a loaf and share it with your family.
4. Leave Valuables at Home
If your hotel comes with a safe, lock your valuables in it rather than bring them to Dollywood. Not only will you reduce the risk of theft, you’ll also avoid paying for locker space. Dollywood lockers cost a chunk of change: $10 for a regular-sized space, and $15 for family lockers. If possible, carry essentials in a backpack; you can set this aside when you enter a fast ride. Locker space may seem necessary if you visit the water park, but can still be avoided if you wear quick-drying shirts and shorts over your swimsuit.
5. Spread Your Visit Across Two Days
Not everybody can handle cramming all the fun into one long, action-packed day at Dollywood. By splitting up the fun, you can enjoy two days of theme park entertainment at a reduced price per day. An extra day adds just $20 to your ticket. Better yet: add a third day for another ten bucks. Whether you purchase a two or three-day pass, you can spread your visit across a total five days. This allows you to break up your Dollywood adventures with other activities — and recover in time for your big return.
6. Download the Dollywood App
Skip the outdated guide book and download the Dollywood app for free. The app alerts you to wait times, show times, and other essentials so you can make the most of every minute. Additionally, it offers a variety of exclusive deals. While this app-based advertising may not be ideal if you’re dead-set against spending, it offers easy savings if you already anticipate purchasing food or souvenirs.
From trolley transit to free apps, you can employ a variety of strategies to save some major cash at Dollywood. Your adventure need not break the bank; plan a little and you’ll enjoy the best the park has to offer at a fraction of the price.