Dollywood / Splash Country trip advice

I am taking the family down to the Smoky Mountain area for about a week August 16th. We have never been here and are looking for some help. We are aware that the parks have reduced hours and closures on certain days. Just want to maximize our enjoyment and ensure we do as much as possible.

Crowds / Lines - I assume it will not be nearly as busy as midsummer but would like to know what we should expect. My reference is Cedar Point and other large parks where most days are mobbed with hour plus lines on several rides.

Shows - I might be confusing myself. The website lists dates that shows are running including several that might be available during our week. However, when I look at a date it only lists the Birds of Prey. Is this the only "special" show running but they have a core group of shows that are normally available? Obviously this question will be answered by the park when they update their weekly schedule.

Splash Country - Worth the trip if the weather is good or just another water park?

Time allotted - Is one shortened day (9 - 10 hours) enough to see and ride pretty much everything, water park excluded? We can miss any carnival type rides or other common flats.

Discounts - Anything good? (No timeshare presentations) I believe they have an enter after 3 and the next day is free and a 3 day ticket for both parks used in 7 days.

Must do / Skip - Is there anything we absolutely should ride or see? Conversely, anything we should avoid?

Any help is appreciated.


ApolloAndy's avatar

I can't comment on anything except "must do" but you probably already know that Thunderhead, Wild Eagle, and Tennessee Tornado are all exemplars of their respective genres.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

We are definitely going on the coasters. I've been on Gatekeeper a couple times so my initial desire is Thunderhead. I have heard it is awesome and the kids can't wait after a couple rounds on Shivering Timbers.

rollergator's avatar

I like that Fire in the Hole, and its partner Blazing Fury, don't get mentioned too much....because they're excellent surprise hybrid rides.

Oops, I've said too much. ;~x

Last edited by rollergator,

Gator, anything that will freak out my wimp wife? She likes the spin and puke rides but can handle Iron Dragon...barely.

ApolloAndy's avatar

Probably about the same level (or lack thereof) thrill as ID.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

I've heard from some people that Mystery Mine was the best ride at Dollywood, yet it has not been mentioned at all in this thread.

Generally speaking crowds shouldn't be too bad when going on a weekday. In our experience we've never seen lines to the level of somewhere like Cedar Point. Like any park the major attractions will be quieter in the early and late hours with the longest waits during the core of the day.

With shows the specific schedules tend to be posted week by week and the shows available vary with the season and the various festivals going on throughout the year. Dreamland Drive-In is probably one of the best of the core shows.

Splash Country is a perfectly fine park. The setting is pleasant and they have a good variety of attractions available. Whether or not the park is "worth it" might be proportional to your interest in waterparks.

A shortened day would allow for a solid sampling of the park's shows and attractions. You might not experience every last thing but you should be able to do the major attractions in one day. Also, it is worth noting that Dollywood is a park that is all about the laid-back "vibe" of enjoying life in the Smokys. It is a park that you want to take your time and soak in to a degree.

Our favorite discount (before we finally just bought season passes because we visit multiple times each year now) was the after-3PM with a one-day ticket deal. The bonus evening is nice if you have the time to use it.

In terms of must-do attractions, there are, of course, the major coasters like Thunderhead, Mystery Mine (try to sit in the front row if possible), and Wild Eagle. Tennessee Tornado is a surprisingly strong (if a little short) Arrow looper. Blazing Fury is indeed one of those quirky and unique Dollywood originals and certainly worth seeing. The Dollywood Express is mighty impressive and provides some great views of the park and the surrounding area.

One of the biggest attractions at Dollywood is definitely the food. The smell of the giant skillets will haunt you all day until you finally breakdown and buy something from them. We're fans of the buffet at Aunt Granny's for dinner. And the cinnamon bread from the Grist Mill has a cult following of its own. I believe they even expanded the kitchen this year to keep up with demand.Dollywood is a great park. I hope this helps with your trip planning.

"Thank the Phoneticians!"

Thanks all. I'll need to check the kids opinions on hitting up the water park. Aside from that, we will definitely hit up all the coasters, Blazing Fury and the Dreamland drive-in if available. I think the kids would be fine with skipping the water park so I am leaning toward the after 3 deal. A day and half sounds like it should give us time to chill out too.

Anything anyone else wants to add please feel free.

I enjoyed the Mystery Mine. Definitely my favorite mine ride that every park seems to have, though I haven't rode any other Euro Fighters to compare it to.

Water rides. If you and the kids want to risk a potential soaking, the four water rides Dollywood has to offer are also some of the best. There's haystack dryers, too.

If you get to the parking lot and find what seems like a big crowd, don't freak out. Many of DW's customers are older, so a busy park doesn't necessarily mean the rides will be slammin'. Mid August is school time in many places now, but you might also find a lot of families on their last hurrah of the summer. If so, consider the qbot thing they have. It's more affordable than you find at some of the bigger park chains.

Is the little traveling Roller Coaster Museum still there? It's pretty cool.

There's no particular festival scheduled when you plan to visit, and many times that determines the show schedule. There are quite a few Dollywood produced shows that run season long, but many of them lean toward the gospel/country genre. If that's your thing you'll find the talent to be pretty good, and they're not just college/ high school kids. Those shows also carry a heavier weekend schedule, but you'll find more to do than Birds of Prey, I promise. You can also schedule the more popular shows on your qbot and that helps if the place is busy.

For food, I prefer Miss Lillian's Chicken House for a little different experience. It's buffet style, like Aunt Granny's, but you also get Miss Lillian herself who's the proprietress and is quite a character. She's a little Dolly-like and she plays, sings and interacts with the diners in the dining rooms. You'll like her.

That's all I can think of, 'cept to say have fun, y'all!

Must do's - Blazing Fury, Barn stormers, River Battle, Dollywood Express, and Mountain Slidewinder. If you are a big Dolly fan make sure to check out her museum Chasing Rainbows. If the park is crowded you can always purchase a Q-Bot lol

Last edited by gamerguy,

Just came back from a three day trip to the Smokies, did the 3pm preview (which when the park closes at 10pm is quite a steal) one day pass to Dollywood and spent the rest of the time in the National Park (highly recommend, its beautiful.)

As for the shows, they are fantastic, and thanks to the Q-Bot ($20 per person) I saw all of the indoor ones my favorites:

1. Dreamland Drive In (Rock and Roll 50s/60s): Amazing show, its won awards for being the best theme park produced show, dont miss it.

2. My People (Dolly songs, done by family members and via video/pre recording Dolly too): You cant go to Dollywood without being exposed to the music of the park namesake.

3. Gazzilion Bubbles Show (Bubbles): I cant say how much this show amazed me, prepare to see bubbles big enough to fit 3 kids inside, bubbles filled with smoke, bubbles inside of bubbles, and the finale lives up to the name of the show. WOW.

4. Heartsong (Cheezy Video with Dolly songs and shots of the Smokies): Before I visited this park for the first time I was told that this show is the heart of the park, and I defiantly agree, dont miss it.)

5. Kingdom Heirs (Southern Gospel): Im not southern, and Im not a baptist but this was a really well done show done by some talented singers. Apparently they are up for "best song" "best group" and "best baritone" of the year in Southern Gospel so they are among the best of this genre. If the religious overtones do not rub your sensitivities the wrong way, I would suggest you see the show.

6. GAC Show (Modern Country): I was underwhelmed by this show, it just did not seem up to par with the rest of the offerings.

If you do spring for the Q-Bot expect to wait <5 min to ride any ride, even in the heat of the day. The park shutdown for a T-storm in the area for about an hour while I was there, and the only ride open was Blazing Fury. The wait stretched out the door (>1 hour) and using my Q-Bot I rode that thing 3 times having to only wait 3-4 trains.

Last edited by Touchdown,

2022 Trips: WDW, Sea World San Diego & Orlando, CP, KI, BGW, Bay Beach, Canobie Lake, Universal Orlando

rollergator's avatar

zposz said:

Gator, anything that will freak out my wimp wife? She likes the spin and puke rides but can handle Iron Dragon...barely.

The only real "thrill" emanates from the fact that the dark-ride mindset leads novices to believe there won't be *any* drops...if your wife is forewarned, she'll be totally fine.

Since every coaster in Dollywood has been mentioned I'm going to mention some Day Hikes in the Smokies that I highly recommend.

Chimney Tops (5 Miles RT) Excellant views of the Sugerland Valley and the Loop

Charlies Bunion (10 Miles RT) Excellant views of the Northern Smokies and Mt LeConte

Shuckstack (7 miles RT) Abandoned Fire Tower on top of peak, excellant views of the eastern Smokies and Lake Fontana

Maddron Bald. (6 Miles RT) This one is located on the western half between Gatlinburg and Cosby. Outcrop offers excellant views of the Valley between the Smokies and the Cumberlands

Cove Mountain (8 Miles RT) This starts on the trail to Laurel Falls (3 miles RT) when you get to the Falls keep going about 2 1/2 miles. An abandoned Fire Tower gives you outstanding views of Cades Cove


For thrills of a differant kind check out the Raft Outfitters on the Ocoee and/or Nantahala Rivers. (Do the Nantahala on a one-man "Ducky"). :)

Last edited by Regulus,
Answer my Prayers, Overbook my next Flight!
TheMillenniumRider's avatar

Was at Dollywood in the end of May. Park was awesome. Everyone is laid back and very friendly, actually the entire town seemed to be.

Cinnamon Bread from the Grist Mill was superb, as was the fudge, taffy, and other foodstuffs around the park. I was there for BBQ and Bluegrass so there were bands everywhere performing. Saw the bird show, the Kingdom Heirs, My People, and watched quite a few of the live bands.

Of course don't miss any of the rollercoasters, they are all great! Mystery Mine and Thunderhead were the top for me. Didn't care as much for Wild Eagle, but still a solid ride. I unfortunately missed Tennessee Tornado due to closure.

Make sure you ride the train up the mountain, it is a real coal fired steam engine, I haven't been to another park with one. Train ride was awesome. Watch for cinders :)

Also in the area we did the Forbidden Caverns which were very cool, went indoor skydiving, went up to Gatlinburg, and ate at a couple area restaurants.

Enjoy your trip!

a_hoffman50's avatar

Touchdown said:

4. Heartsong (Cheezy Video with Dolly songs and shots of the Smokies): Before I visited this park for the first time I was told that this show is the heart of the park, and I defiantly agree, dont miss it.)

No trip to Dollywood is complete without going to this show. It is really what the park is all about and leaves me smiling every time. I have heard that the leaves used to fall from the ceiling and there were more special effects once upon a time.

Thanks for the area info too. We are looking at one of the local caverns since my kids enjoyed a small one in Ohio. The rafting adventures have always sounded great but I think my kids aren't quite ready, yet. We might go zip lining and horseback riding instead.

Regulus, how are the elevation changes on the hikes? I have walked all day at the Orlando parks for two weeks but climbing up a few staircases can kill my knees. I could probably struggle through the elevations if they were shorter, maybe and hour or so.

We will try and hit up the shows but the country and gospel has us pushing them back in the priority. I stick to Rock, Metal and Classical while the family sticks to mostly Pop. As long as the shows are entertaining we could probably enjoy them.

Complete with lynchings!

LostKause's avatar

About a week? There is so much to do in the area that you will find you didn't get to do everything in just one week, but that's okay because you can always come back another time.

Eat at The Old Mill restaurant! It is my favorite restaurant anywhere. It is near the drive up to Dollywood on the main drag beside the public transportation hub.

Also eat at The Magic Mushroom Pizzeria. Deliciuous food and an exciting atmosphere make it so much fun!

About public transportation, if there is a convenient trolly stop near where you are staying, you should consider taking the trolly to most places. You will find that the trollies run a regular schedule, and you can get to all kinds of attractions. It is inexpensive and it is very convenient to not have to drag your car around with you.

Leave some time (and extra money) for doing the things you don't know about until you see them. I recommend Scenic Helicopter Tours in Sevierville and Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg.

If you do one show while you are in the area, The Comedy Barn is just so much fun! It's a little pricy, but it's worth it. You will probably want to see that show again the next time you visit Pigeon Forge too.

Stay away from the Hollywood Wax Museum. The wax figures look like crap.

Please note that all of these attractions are outside of the park. This area is just so much fun, even without Dollywood.

Last edited by LostKause,

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