Family Fun at Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

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With summer upon us, we’re in full travel and vacation mode. Our family recently spent some time in the Smoky Mountains and would highly recommend it as a travel spot for families. The drive from Pittsburgh to Pigeon Forge, TN is 7.5hrs. We left around 4am while the kids were asleep and by the time they were really awake we were halfway through the trip.

If you are up for flying, you can fly to Knoxville from Pittsburgh for around $200 roundtrip?

Just another option if you are a light packer. We, however, are not, and we like to do the car rides with the kids.

We love the Smokies and have had great experiences and have explored different parts of the National Park each time we have been there. One place that remains on our “must visit” list is Dollywood.

The park is one of the cleanest amusement parks I’ve ever been too. I was super impressed with how well kept the food areas and restrooms are across the park.

Moms who are breastfeeding – Dollywood has some fabulous Nursing Stations throughout the Park and there is a Baby Care Center at the front of the park, near the entrance, in the Showstreet section. The restrooms with Nursing Stations offer rooms with changing tables and rocking chairs and are quiet for you and your little one.

The Country Fair section of the theme park is the central place for children. There are more than a dozen rides for younger children. In addition to the rides, this area of the part has some great games. We had great experiences with the workers there and Luke (our four year old) was able to win multiple stuffed animals with lots of encouragement from the Dollywood team members operating the games.

Those of you with older children or teenagers, you’re going to want to visit Wilderness Pass for the arcade and fair games.

If you’re uncertain about height requirements, stop by the park’s Centralized Measuring area, just as you come through the park entrance gates to be measured by park staff and directed to the right rides for your youngsters. You can also receive a colored wrist-band here that helps identify rides your child is able to ride.

Aside from Country Fair, Craftsman’s Alley is one of our favorite areas of the Park. Here is where you can watch a craftsman at work with Blacksmiths; handmade glass; hand-dipped candles; leather smiths; and others. Your children will love watching these craftsmen at work. There are tons of live demonstrations throughout the day. If you’re looking for something personalized to commemorate your trip, stop by Valley Wood Carvers where they can carve signs for your home or baseball bats for your sports fans. Visit the Grist Mill on your walk through and try some of their famous Cinnamon Bread. If you can’t find it, follow the bakery smell right to it!

Craftsman’s Alley is also home to the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary. This is the largest exhibit of non-releasable bald eagles in the United States and it is quite a site to experience.

Wilderness Pass and Timber Canyon are sections of the Park that were added since our last visit in 2017. It’s got some great rides for adults as well as the junior coaster, Whistle Punk Chaser, which Luke was able to enjoy, too!

Dollywood also has a few spaces in the park for kids to just PLAY! Plan on visiting Granny’s Garden, Little Pilots Playground, the Pig Pen and the newest addition to the park the Firehouse Fun Yard – which was a definite hit on this visit for us!

You cannot leave Dollywood without taking a ride on the Dollywood Express. This is a coal-fired steam engine. For families with little ones – sit towards the back of the train (soot and embers do fly) and if you have headphones to fit your toddler/baby, I would suggest bringing them. It’s an amazing ride through a piece of the Smoky Mountains and the whistle is loud. It’s a great experience to leave for mid-afternoon when everyone needs a little break or nap or the end of the day to wind down before departing.

Our last stop before we leave Dollywood is always the Sweet Shoppe for a dish of ice cream or milkshake. The park is filled with so many great places to eat. Come hungry and make sure you scout out all the dining options prior to the heavy dining times.

For those families traveling with dogs, Dollywood offers a kennel on park grounds – Doggywood – while you are in the park. You can visit the Doggywood site for more information on boarding your four-legged children while you’re enjoying the park for the day.

Dollywood also has a Water Park, which we have not yet visited, but have heard great things. For more information about the water park, visit: https://www.dollywood.com/waterpark

I wrote a post about our first visit here in 2017, which you can read here: https://pittsburgh.momcollective.com/travel/visiting-great-smoky-mountains-family-part-2-dollywood/

Consider taking a trip to visit Tennessee. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at all it has to offer and how much fun your family has at Dollywood Theme Park.

This post was sponsored by Dollywood. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Katie Stern
Katie is a wife and mom of 3 boys, Lucas, Zeke and Toby. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, with a degree in Marketing & Communications. Katie has worked in the construction industry for the past 12 years, building and restructuring brands and marketing departments, for companies in the Baltimore and Washington DC market, before returning to Pittsburgh and starting a family. Their second son, Toby, was born May 27, 2016 and died suddenly in August from SIDS, at 12 weeks and 5 days old. Katie and her husband, Dan, made a promise to Toby that they would work to do good in his name and never let the story of his life be forgotten. Through this loss, they have founded The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation with the hopes of bringing joy, laughter, and lots of smiles to families within the Pittsburgh community, while working to spread awareness about child-loss and the lives of grieving parents. This is not the path they would have chosen for their lives, but it is the journey they are now on and will strive to be the best parents they can be, to one child on earth and one in Heaven. Katie is currently the Director of Marketing for A. Martini & Co., and General Contracting and Construction Management Firm. She has been heavily involved with juvenile diabetes research, because she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 2. Currently, Katie sits on the Executive Leadership Council for the American Diabetes Association, Pittsburgh Chapter and is part of the planning committee for Step Out: Pittsburgh each year. Their family moved to Monroeville, one week after Toby was born, and have enjoyed getting to know that area of Pittsburgh and what it has to offer. While in the throes of motherhood, Katie is also active throughout the week with exercise routines, Paw Patrol and PJ Masks episodes, blogging at Our Happy Place & Co., a lifestyle blog she started in 2013, and working with her husband on the mission of The Little Fox.