Photo Credit | The Dollywood Company

Dolly Parton created this haven for families in the 1980s, and it has grown and become more popular since. Dollywood is one of the more family-friendly amusement parks in the country, with places play, live entertainment and thrills galore. Here are our picks for what to do:

Live Entertainment

It wouldn’t be Dolly Parton’s namesake without live music, dancing and entertainment, which is a staple of this amusement park. Everywhere you turn there are authentic Smoky Mountain string bands, country music acts and gospel choirs.

Enter Dollywood Twice

Dollywood offers a nice feature for families who want to take their time in the park, if you visit after 3 p.m., you can visit the next day for free. It could also allow for visiting other attractions in Pigeon Forge and experiencing Dollywood later in the day.

Country Fair Rides

This is the best area for younger kids with a variety of rides they will enjoy, including Piggy Parade, Lucky Ducky, Lemon Twist and more. Don’t miss traditional midway games such as skeeball and others, where kids can win prizes.

Smoky Mountain River Rampage

Feel as though you are whitewater rafting through exciting bends and turns while getting splashed along the way. Squirt guns are above for the non-riders of the family, which makes for fun people watching.

Eagles and Birds of Prey

The Eagle Mountain Sanctuary brings kids up-close to giant birds of prey; the aviary houses the country’s largest presentation of non-releasable bald eagles. The Wings of America Birds of Prey shows showcase the fascinating birds and kids can learn facts about their wingspan, talents and see them fly overhead.

Parent Swap on Rides

If you have a kid who is too small to ride some of the rides, Dollywood has you covered. Inform the attendant that you are a part of this category and wait in line together as a family. One parent rides with the kids who are tall enough, then swaps with the other parent. This way both parents get to experience the ride without having to choose.

Roller Coasters

Thrill seekers will enjoy the amount of large roller coasters at Dollywood. From the Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster to the Thunderhead or the Tennessee Tornado, there will be screams of delight from the daredevils in your family.

Playground Areas

Dolly and her team thought about the kids who need to climb or slide and let out some energy. The park has a few themed areas for play with water elements, blocks, slides and climbing structures. Dreamland Forest, Firehouse Fun Yard and Lil’ Pilots Playground are fun picks.

Rockin’ Roadway

Kids will love getting to drive their very own classic, kid-sized car. You will drive either a mini Corvette, Thunderbird or Cadillac around a track. Hop in the passenger seat with your kid and let them take the wheel.

Seasonal Programs

The seasons are highlighted well at Dollywood, so each time you visit you may see something new. The fall season features Great Pumpkin LumiNights with a Glow Maze, master pumpkin carvers and character meet and greets. Christmas includes Santa, Rudolph and his friends, O’Holy Night show, colorful parades and even the classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” performed live.

Chasing Rainbows Museum

Families can get a behind-the-scenes look into Dolly Parton’s life with displays of costumes, instruments, gold and platinum records and more. It is a fun walk-through history of her life, growing up in Tennessee and then becoming a country music sensation.

Dollywood Express

An authentic coal-fired steam engine takes you on a five-mile journey through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains where you’ll enjoy awesome views of the mountains. Kids will love getting to hop on this train while visiting.

Authentic Craftsmen

The culture of craftsmanship is alive in Dollywood, from homemade candles to glass blowing. Kids can even dip their own candles in wax  or watch the Valley Woodcarvers make fantastic products out of wood.

Feed the Ducks

You won’t miss the ducks at Dollywood, they are waiting to collect a dropped piece of a funnel cake or french fry. This is a quiet stop among the hustle and bustle of the park, sit on a bench in the shade and watch them quack and waddle.

Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame

Learn about why this music genre is so famous in the South, and walk through time to see old pianos, a tour bus, clothes, records and more. Members are still being inducted into this Hall of Fame.

Dollywood’s Splash Country

This water park is an awesome way to cool off during the hot months. Little Creek Falls is perfect for the younger visitors with areas to splash and play. The wave pool, Cascades and Downbound Float trip are great for the whole family. For older kids, try the Big Bear Plunge or the RiverRush water coaster. Open mid-May through Labor Day weekend. 

–Teresa Farkas

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