Disclosure: We were invited to explore Dollywood with free tickets, however, all opinions on Dollywood with small kids are my own.
When I was about seven, we went to Dollywood. I have very few memories of the trip, just one where a friend swore a roller coaster wasn’t really a roller coaster and it was, and I was terrified. (I know I’m a wimp!) I knew I needed to visit again as an adult, and couldn’t wait to take Emma Kate.
We ended up going on a weekday in June and had the BEST TIME. Literally, one of the top 50 best days of my life, and I would redo it over and over if I could! So I wanted to give you my best tips for going to Dollywood with small kids.
Get There at Park Opening
We were one of the first 20 cars at park opening, and we went straight to the new section, Wildwood Grove. Yall, it’s beautiful and whimsical and I love it. We were able to walk on or nearly walk on every ride in that section! We ended up going back later and riding a few things again, but knowing we got stuff done early that would have a long wait later was key.
There are waterfalls, plenty of places to sit, beautiful trees, and great rides.
Yes yes, we are riding a bear. And It was delightful!
Save the Country Fair for Later
It’s tempting to note that there are tons of kiddie rides at the Country Fair section and head there first, but it was actually empty in the early afternoon because all the people who went straight there in the morning were finished by lunchtime. The rides in this section will always have shorter lines than the big coasters, so saving this section till later was a smart move.
Ride the Dollywood Express During Naptime
Emma Kate rarely naps these days, but our morning was early and full of walking and fun, so I knew she needed one or would be super cranky in the evening. We hopped on the Dollywood Express around 2:00, and Emma Kate ended up falling asleep on my lap due to the motion of the train. It was only a ten minute nap, but it was better than nothing and gave us all a little break/rest to just sit and relax. She was fired up and ready to go for more fun when we got off.
Don’t Leave if it Rains
In the late afternoon, the dark clouds started to roll in. The park started to thin out, and thunder rolled in. They ended up closing all the rides due to lightning, but we decided to stick it out. We had ponchos (that we also used on the water rapids ride!) We got under a covering and ate dinner and watched the rain. Soon, there was a beautiful rainbow and the sun came out. We asked Emma Kate what she wanted to do, and ended up going back to the Country Fair section where we were the ONLY ONES THERE! She literally walked onto any ride she wanted and rode them as many times in a row as the wanted. We ended up shutting the park down at 8:00 still riding rides over and over with no wait. It was the most relaxed I have ever felt at an amusement park. No rushing around making sure we got to do everything, no claustrophobia and people pushing through you trying to get somewhere. The atmosphere of the whole park was so serene and laid back, it was wonderful.
Use the Parent Swap Option
No need to wait in line twice! With the parent swap program, you only have to wait in line once and then swap your too-young-to-ride child with the other parents. Super easy and a great time saver!
Take Advantage of Kids Meals
Several of the dining locations had kids meal options so you don’t feel like you are wasting money on a ton of food your child won’t eat. We had lunch at Aunt Granny’s (HIGHLY recommended! It’s a buffet, but kids had a separate price. For dinner, we ate at a counter service location that had kids meals which were the perfect size for my almost five year old!
There are tons of other tips and advice I could give you, but if you have any specific questions feel free to leave in a comment or shoot me an email and I would be happy to answer for you!
Check out this video recap we created of our fun day/Dollywood with small kids. Would love a “like” or Subscribe on YouTube! <3