Looking for a fun family getaway? Then it’s time for an unbelievably fun Tennessee vacation. Today I’m sharing my full vacation guide for Family Fun at Dollywood and the Island, Pigeon Forge. With thrilling roller coasters, fun rides for kids, restaurants, shops, live music, and even a giant ferris wheel, you’ll never run out of fun things to see and do!
Happy Monday friends! I know I’ve been more than a little absent lately on the blog, but I’m excited to be getting into a new routine now that I’m officially a full-time blogger and the kids have started school. My husband also left for Georgia this past weekend so right now I just have Brady (our goldendoodle) to keep me company during the day.
Last week we were blessed to be able to take a mini-vacation to the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee area and it was so nice to relax and have fun together as a family, since we’re going to be apart for the next few months.
One of our favorite spots when visiting the area is of course Dollywood and most recently we’ve grown to love the Island Pigeon Forge. So today I’m sharing a full recap of our Pigeon Forge trip plus I’m including some helpful insider tips when visiting both the Dollywood park and the Island in Pigeon Forge.
Family Fun at Dollywood and the Island Pigeon Forge
Family Fun at Dollywood- Pigeon Forge, TN
Nestled in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is a world class theme park with over 40 rides, 15 shows, delicious southern cuisine, mountain music, and friendly faces at every turn. And in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s owned and named after the one and only musical legend Dolly Parton, who calls the Tennessee Mountains her home.
As I only live a couple hours away from Dollywood, it’s almost became a family tradition to visit the park every year or so and I have made so many childhood memories in the park. It’s my absolute favorite theme park around simply because there’s so much to see and do, and I love that there’s something fun for everyone! From the thrilling roller coasters and water rides to incredible concerts, shows, and seasonal festivals, it’s hard to find a reason as to why you wouldn’t want to visit Dollywood.
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Smart Tips For Visiting Dollywood
Visit the Website for Deals– To plan out your Dollywood trip, I recommend first heading over here to check out all of their special offers on tickets and admission. Right now they actually have an incredible deal going on where everyone pays kids prices, but they also frequently have two park deals where you can visit both the theme park and water park for a great low price! Even better, you can buy tickets online over here to avoid waiting in long lines at the gate.
Planning out your visit is a breeze with Dollywood’s website, which provides detailed descriptions and photos of all their rides and attractions, shows, restaurants, and upcoming festivals, as well as a daily calendar which provides park hours and special events.
Download the Dollywood App– While the park conveniently has printed maps at every corner, I personally love using the Dollywood App on my phone to plan out which rides to see first. This app indicates which rides are nearby and also has a cool friend finder feature which allows you to keep track of your family and friends while in the park. This is great for families who might split up to go on different rides, but don’t want to spend thirty minutes chasing after one another.
Stop by the Measuring Station– If visiting with young children, I recommend stopping by the measuring station which is immediately located on your left upon entrance into the park. A friendly staff person will measure your child and provide a colored wrist band which will allow you to easily decipher which rides your child can ride in the park. All of the rides are appropriately marked, so you’ll never have the issue of waiting in line uncertain of whether or not your child is tall enough. This has been extremely helpful to us over the years with our boys!
Use Parent Swap on Rides– Another awesome feature is Dollywood’s Parent Swap, which allows parents of young children to wait in line simultaneously and then switch places to avoid having to re-wait in line. This has actually been a great benefit to us, since our 5 year old is still too small for many of the rollercoaster rides.
Enjoy Complimentary Water– One of the best things about Dollywood is their amazing hospitality to their guests. Because they want you happy and hydrated, you can actually get a free cup of water at any dining vendor located throughout the park. There are also refill stations located at various points in the park, which are super convenient!
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Arrive After 3, Next Day Free– One awesome benefit that we’ve often taken advantage of is arriving at the park after 3 p.m. which allows you to get another full day admission for free! Not only does arriving later in the day help avoid heavy crowds, but it’s also a little cooler in the evenings making your visit more enjoyable.
Convenient Parking Options– In terms of parking you have a couple great options, depending on your needs. If you are going to take a stroller in the park or are short on time, it might be easiest to use the parking onsite, which is only $12. No worries if you find a spot that’s a long way from the entrance- a tram will take you straight to the front gates. Don’t need a stroller? I recommend parking in the nearby Patriot Park and riding the Dollywood tram. It’s only $1 to ride and the tram takes you directly to the main gate. There are tram rides coming in and out every 15 minutes, and this is a great way to save a little extra money on your trip.
Upgrade to a Season Pass– If you are truly impressed with your Dollywood visit (which why wouldn’t you be?), guests have the option to upgrade their one-day pass to a season pass, simply by paying the difference at any of the guest centers. This is a great deal and season passes come with a ton of benefits and discounts! One of my favorite benefits is getting early access to the park and certain rides each Saturday. You can check out all the details over here.
Our Favorite Spots in Dollywood
One of our favorite spots to always start out at when visiting the park is the Jukebox Junction location. Our boys love driving a classic car on the Rockin’ Raceway and I just love the 1950s vibe in this section of the park. Be sure and stop by Reds Diner for a delicious burger, hot dog, and milkshake and if you’re feeling adventurous check out Lightning Rod, the world’s fastest wood coaster.
If you get hungry while in the park, there’s no shortage of delicious spots to stop for lunch or a quick snack, but Grist Mill takes the cake for having the best cinnamon bread around. Even better, the mill which was built in 1982 is the first fully operating grist mill built in over 100 years in Tennessee. Head inside to watch them make fresh breads and cookies, and pick up a box of something sweet to take for the ride home. Trust me, once you’re inside you won’t be able to resist the tempting aroma of sweet cinnamon bread!
If there’s one ride our boys absolutely adored it was Firechaser Express! Not only was it nice to find a ride in the park that we all could ride together, but this dual family coaster launches guests both frontwards and backwards, making for an unforgettable experience. Needless to say our 5 and 7 year old were asking to ride it again and again!
Smoky Mountain Rampage
One of my personal favorite rides in the park is Smoky Mountain Rampage, which is an awesome family water ride. Climb aboard a raft which spins and turns as it travels down the river, full of dips, waterfalls, and plenty of ways to get wet! I recommend either riding this early in the day or at the end of your day!
Last but certainly not least, one spot that you simply can’t pass up in the park is a ride on Dollywood Express, a coal-fire steamed engine which takes you for a 20-minute getaway into the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Not only do you get to witness incredible mountain views while traveling, but the ride also provides fun family entertainment. Our boys loved hearing the sound of the train whistle as we rode along the mountainsides and it provided a nice break after walking around the park all day.
All in all, Dollywood is an incredible theme park in the Great Tennessee Smoky Mountains, and I would recommend it to anyone I know. There’s so much to see and do while in the park, and with a little pre-planning using my tips above, you’ll be able to have an unforgettable family vacation.
Family Fun at The Island in Pigeon Forge, TN
While in the area, we were also able to visit the new Island entertainment and shopping complex. With tons of shops, restaurants, rides, games, and indoor/outdoor attractions, it’s a must-see spot in Pigeon Forge!
The Island is home to tons of popular restaurants including Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Margaritaville restaurant and hotel, and Dick’s Last Resort just to name a few! There’s also over 20 family activities including the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, the Island Show Fountain, a ropes course, 7D Dark Ride Adventure, and Alcatraz East Crime Museum, which opened earlier this year.
Before you go, be sure and head over here to check out all the coupons for extra savings!
Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
One of the attractions we knew we had to check out while visiting the Island in Pigeon Forge is the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. Towering over 200 feet tall this great wheel is one of the tallest attractions in the Southeast. Up to 8 guests can comfortably ride in each all glass gondolas and get to witness the most incredible views from the top.
While I’m normally not a fan of heights, I was glad I overcame my fear and rode the wheel. After the first couple times around I relaxed and came to actually enjoy the ride and it really was an exhilarating experience.
View from the top
The Island Ropes Course
Another awesome attraction that recently opened at the Island in Pigeon Forge is a Ropes Course. There are two different courses including a Sky Tykes course for anyone under 48″ tall and a Sky Trail Explorer Course which is three stories and offers zip lining and an optional simulated free fall.
Our boys loved doing the Sky Tykes course and my husband was a huge fan of the Sky Trail Explorer Course. I love that there’s no time limit on these courses and there’s plenty of certified employees on standby if you need assistance at any point.
Fun Family Rides
The Island also has tons of rides and attractions perfect for young children and adults alike. Our boys rode the Twist and Shout ride at least 4 times and they loved jumping in the Thunderdome. We also couldn’t leave the Island without riding the Flying Horse Carousel. If you follow me on Instagram, I shared a ton of fun stories from our visit.
Disclosure: Thank you to Dollywood and The Island in Pigeon Forge for providing complimentary admission for my family for review purposes. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
Overall, we had the most amazing time visiting both the Island in Pigeon Forge and Dollywood! If you’re planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains soon, I definitely recommend you add both of these spots to your must-see list.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post on Family Fun at Dollywood and The Island Pigeon Forge and be sure and let me know in the comments if you’ve ever visited the area! If not, I’d love to answer any questions you have!
Thanks for stopping by!- Cara
P.S. Looking for other vacation spots we love? Check them out over here!