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.
Get 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 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 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.
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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!
you all look like you had a blast!!!
We definitely did! It’s a great theme park!
It still boggles my mind that Dolly Parton has a whole theme park dedicated to her, haha! Even though I don’t have kids, I love the parent swap. Universal had that too, and I thought it was so brilliant! It looks like you guys had a great time!
Haha Dolly Parton is amazing- love her! And yes Parent Swap is a lifesaver! 🙂
Looked like a trip to memory lane! Looks like you had a blast.
Jessica | notjessfashion.com
It was so fun! It’s always nice to be able to re-visit something from your childhood and get to experience it again! 🙂
What a fun trip!!! The Island is one of my favorite places to visit when we go to Gatlinburg for the holidays.I cant wait to take Zoe there!!! Believe it or not, I have never been to Dollywood. I think we will wait a few years and start taking Zoe when we are up that way. It sounds like you guys had a great time!!!
We had a great time! We had visited the island before but had never really rode any of the rides, so it was a lot of fun! Dollywood is an amazing park, but yeah I’d definitely recommend waiting until Zoe is at least 2-3 years old. Although she won’t be riding any roller coasters (lol) they do have a really nice kiddie section in the carnival part of the park where she can ride duckies and elephants and things. They also have several playgrounds throughout the park, which is nice. 🙂
I don’t ride roller coasters anyways, so the baby rides are much more my speed. When she gets older, if she is a dare devil she can go on the exciting stuff with her daddy and I will happily hold everyone’s things and wait for them lol. There is a boutique store (South I think???) at The Island that I absolutely love!!! Chris and I have spend hours at the Mellow Mushroom there drinking and watching football too.
Fabulous! I haven’t been to either but I would like to get to Dollywood.
It’s a really fun park with so much to do! Definitely recommend visiting! 🙂
Ahhhh, this looks SO fun for families!!! Bucket List for sure!
It was a blast! I definitely recommend visiting! 🙂
Seems like such a fun trip! I followed along on Instastories!
We had a blast! Thanks for following along girl! 🙂
ahh! I haven’t been to dollywood since I was a kid! it looks SO fun!
It’s my fave! We definitely enjoyed it with the kids! 🙂
This trip looked like so much fun! I went to Dollywood when I was little and lovedddd it. I live in Louisiana though so I’m not exactly close. I do want to go back soon though!
It was such a blast! It really is such a great theme park and you’ll never run out of stuff to do. Hoping you get to visit soon! 🙂
I love Dollywood! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve visited, but I need to plan a trip again soon.
Yes! It’s such a fun place! And who doesn’t love Dolly Parton?! 🙂
Looks like a fun trip! I have never been to Dollywood but I did go to some Dolly Parton dinner show in Myrtle Beach back when I was in college. It was fun! Great tips for making the trip easier and worth your while!
It was a blast! I definitely recommend you visit Dollywood, you’d love it! I’m not huge on roller coasters, but even so there’s so much other fun stuff in the park it’s completely worthwhile! 🙂
yay for being able to get away for a bit! It looks like a ton of fun too! I can’t wait to see where your blog goes now that you’re full time, woo hoo!
It was SO nice! And thanks! I’m starting to get a routine going so I’m excited! 🙂
So glad you and your family were able to enjoy a wonderful day in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Dollywood! I live in Knoxville so Dolly Wood is just a hop skip and jump from our house. It’s a great getaway.
Thanks! That’s awesome, I can imagine it really is a weekend getaway for you! 😉
It looks like you guys had a great time! I’ve never been to Dollywood, but it’s definitely on must-see list at some point 🙂 xx
I definitely recommend it! There’s something fun for everyone, and even if you don’t like roller coasters, it’s still a great theme park! 🙂
What a fun place to visit! So glad you and the boys had a good time!
It was a blast! So nice to get away for a few days! 🙂
We havent been there since a few years after we got married… so about 20 years. WOW. I’m sure its a LOT different now then when we were there.
I love me some Dolly
It’s weird, because in some ways it’s the exact same from when I was little but then again the park has grown and they’ve added so many rides so it is different. Either way, I love Dollywood and Dolly! 🙂
Aww you guys look like you had so much fun! I’ve never been but would love to one day.
It was a blast! I definitely recommend you all plan a visit one day, there’s so much to do you’ll never get bored! 😉
SO much fun! I’ve always wanted to go check this area out, and of course Dollywood too! And love love love your tee, super cute <3
It was so nice to get away from everything for a couple days and Dollywood is such a blast. And thank-you! 🙂
This looks like so much fun and great for kids! I would love to visit Tennessee! I have only driven through it twice but never stopped anywhere fun like this. I need to persuade my husband to go!
It was a blast! And you all should definitely plan a trip, it’s a fun place for sure! 🙂
What fun!!! I have always wanted to visit Dollywood. Great pictures, thanks for sharing.
Dollywood is the best theme park in my opinion! There’s so much to do and see! 🙂
OMG this looks like a blast! I’ve been to Gatlinburg before but never these attractions. I will have to make a trip!
You should! It’s so much fun and you’ll never run out of things to do or see! 🙂
We Love Dollywood & pigeon Forge! In fact, we got married in Gatlinburg years ago! Looks like a wonderful time! Happy eclipse day Doll!
Oh that’s awesome, Andrea! It’s such a fun place to visit! 🙂