Travel in TN: Dollywood, Splash Country & Dollywood DreamMore Resort
DreamMore fountain at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, Pigeon Forge, TN
Before our trip to Dollywood last month, my first and only visit there was when I was in middle school. I’m certainly not going to admit how many years ago that was, but let’s just say it was a pretty long time. Long enough that I don’t remember much about it. Growing up in the southwestern part of Kentucky, less than 90 miles from Nashville, Opryland was always our go-to amusement park. I went there so often that I could probably still tell you where every ride and attraction was located within the park, without even looking at a map.
Unfortunately, by the time I moved from Kentucky to California and then settled in Nashville, Opryland Theme Park was no more. (sad face)
Jumping for joy upon seeing the amazing pool at DreamMore for the first time!
While I’m an adult that has always loved amusement parks, now that I’m the mom of an energetic 5 year old boy, I have an even greater appreciation for them. In the past two and a half years, we’ve traveled to Disney World in Florida, Legoland in San Diego (twice!), and Holiday World in Indiana. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed a number of friends on Instagram looking like they were having a grand old time at Dollywood, and I thought to myself – “why in the world haven’t we gone there yet?”!
We’ve trekked far and wide on family adventures, but haven’t spent much, if any, vacation time in our own state. So I decided that needs to change.
I began researching and ultimately made the decision that we were going to take a quick trip to East Tennessee after Archer finished Montessori for the summer and before he started Kindergarten. We decided two nights and three days should be enough time to pack everything in, though in hindsight, we could have totally extended it by another night, maybe even two. More on that later.
The Watering Hole, DreamMore Resort’s large outdoor pool
When planning our trip, I did some online research on hotels in the area, as well as Airbnbs and VRBOs. The Dollywood DreamMore Resort looked gorgeous, but it also came with a higher price tag than some of the other places I found. Ultimately though, I was sold on the perks and amenities that came with the resort and from the moment we pulled into the winding drive, I knew I’d made the right decision.
Enamored with the stream and waterfall at the DreamMore Resort entrance
I don’t know quite how to explain it, but this place just has an amazing vibe. Maybe it’s because I love Dolly so much and little touches throughout the resort reminded me of her, her kindness, and all she’s done for this state. It just felt good.
And, I mean, did you see that pool?? The gorgeous zero-entry outdoor pool was 3′-5′ in most places, has a waterfall with a “lazy stream” feature, and a long bench area built right into the middle where I could relax as Archer swam against the lazy stream for the hundredth time. In addition to the pool, there’s also a splash pad for more water play, a hot tub (though it was way too hot for that when we were there the end of July), and even an indoor pool.
One of the highlights of our DreamMore stay according to Archer: bunk beds in the room!
Let’s talk about the accommodations. You can get rooms with bunk beds for the kiddos! How fun is that? I let it be a surprise for Archer and he was SO EXCITED upon entering our room. Note: we had a King bed right next to this bunk bed that you see above, but I believe they also have suites and/or other rooms where the bunk beds are somewhat separated from the grown up beds. This room was large enough for the three of us, but if we had another child, or we were staying longer, I would perhaps opt for the next size up room.
In addition to the pool and the bunk beds, there are plenty of other things to keep kids entertained on the property. Outdoors there’s a playground with slides and climbing walls, and inside there’s an awesome game room with air hockey and multiple video games. They even had my fave- Galaga!
Parton hallway, on the way to the resort’s game room, showcases Dolly’s albums and portrait
So those were just a few of the things that drew me to the property. Combined with all of the below, the deal was sealed!
- Free trolley trolley rides from the resort to the parks with a separate entrance that gives you front of the line access to Dollywood
- Free TimeSaver passes for Dollywood making your waits for rides much shorter or nonexistent
- Nightly s’mores- guests can roast marshmallows and make s’mores around a fire pit by the pool area every night
- You can see the fireworks of Dollywood from the hotel, so you can swim in the pool while watching the fireworks, or relax in the rocking chairs on the resort balconies!
Dollywood’s nightly fireworks display from the balcony of DreamMore Resort
Remember earlier when I said we could have extended our trip by a couple of days? I would have loved to relax a bit more, as we pretty much were go, go, going the entire 3 days we were there. While we definitely took advantage of some of the amenities the resort offered, our focus was more on the parks, not leaving much down time. On the next trip I’ll definitely factor in extra time for that pool and a visit (or two) to the spa!
2525 DreamMore Way
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Family fun on the Dollywood Express Train and Archer cruising in Piggy Parade at the Country Fair
As I mentioned, it had been a few years since my last visit to Dollywood. Okay, a lot of years. While I don’t remember exact details, I do remember I had a blast. What I had forgotten was how pleasant the park itself is. Even though we visited during one of the hottest weeks of the year (late July), the heat and sun weren’t brutal as the entire park is set in the mountains with numerous shade trees all around.
Because I’m a mom and I know how I try to research amusement parks before visiting, I’m going to attempt to lay out this information in a way that will make it as useful as possible for other parents.
First, we decided not to try to squish everything into one day. In hindsight, this was such a great decision. We took advantage of the “Free after 3” deal, which means that you can visit Dollywood after 3 p.m. using your one-day admission ticket, and then with that same ticket you get FREE admission the next operating day. So, we drove from Nashville to Pigeon Forge on Sunday, arriving to check into DreamMore around 3 pm, and immediately hopped on the trolley to go to the park. We were in the gates by 4 pm and were able to spend 3-4 hours there, conquering about 1/2 the park.
Keep in mind that we have one child and he’s 5 years old. There’s still a lot that he can’t ride because of his size. If you have multiple children, and older ones at that, then you definitely need more than a day to do it all, particularly if you want to catch a show or two.
25 lb apple pie greeting us upon arrival at Spotlight Bakery. Seriously, this thing was HUGE!
There is so much that I could write about, but I’m just going to hit the highlights. As you’ll see, I’ve created lists of our favorite stops in each of the different sections of the park. On Day 1, we started on Showstreet and worked our way through some of the right hand side of the park. On Day 2, we took the path to the left of the main entrance and started in Timber Canyon, working our way back around and down through Craftsman’s Valley.
You can find the Dollywood Park map here. I printed this map in advance and circled the stops we knew we wanted to make. It came in very handy, as I think we probably would have missed a few slightly hidden spots if I hadn’t done this!
Which to choose?? Archer contemplating treats at the Spotlight Bakery & Sandwich Shop
Centralized Measuring – When you first enter the park, find the measuring station. If you enter the main gate, veer to the left. If you’re coming in the DreamMore shuttle/Groups entrance, go to the right. This is where children can be measured by a park host and receive a wristband that coordinates with the colors assigned to different rides. This way you don’t find yourself waiting in a long ride line to only be disappointed when you get to the front and find out your child is too short.
DP’s Celebrity Theater – Check the schedule to see what is showing. The Gazillion Bubble Show was playing while we were there, and after hearing rave reviews, I totally wanted to go, but Archer had absolutely no interest, so we skipped it. Fingers crossed they bring it back next summer and we’ll have a chance to see it.
Front Porch Cafe – we had dinner here on our first night and it was great. Full, sit-down, order off the menu meal. (and indoors, with air conditioning, so +!)
Sweet Shoppe – candy making (brittle, fudge, etc) and ice cream shop for an afternoon treat
Spotlight Bakery and Sandwich Shoppe – so many baked goods, including a monster apple pie! See pics above
Archer’s first ride on Smoky Mountain River Rampage at Dollywood
Aunt Granny’s Buffet – we had dinner here on our 2nd day, on our way out of the park. Buffet style meal, with both hot and cold bars, plus a taco bar. I got creative and went for the salad bar and taco bar, creating a taco salad. They also have a soft serve ice cream machine so you can help yourself to cones after your meal.
Smoky Mountain River Rampage – Archer’s favorite ride by far. He went on it 3 times and would have gone more if we’d let him! Me, only twice since I got absolutely DRENCHED the second time around. I decided to watch and take pics when he and Ravi went for round #3.
Archer’s 3rd ride on the River Rampage (Day 2) — the only ride we did multiple times!
The Village and Country Fair
Dollywood Express Train Station – a genuine coal-fired train takes you on a 20 minute ride above the park into the Smoky Mountains, giving you the history of the engine. Keep in mind that since the train is coal-fired, there could be a little soot and small particles flying at you. We sat in one of the cars toward the back and while I did feel a few, it was minor. Check the train schedule upon entering the park.
When we unloaded off the train, there was a magic show happening on a little stage right next to the Magic Shop. Archer has recently become fascinated with magicians, so we had fun watching him before heading over to Country Fair.
The Amazing Flying Elephants – another one of Archer’s favorites. He loved that he could control going up and down.
If you have small kids, Country Fair is the area that has the largest concentration of rides for them. There are also several carnival-type games in this area, so be prepared to shell out a little cash to win a stuffed animal or two.
Lucky 7 Gem Shop in Craftsman’s Valley was one of Archer’s favorite discoveries
Blazing Fury – Archer’s second favorite ride. I was nervous it would be too scary for him as it’s an indoor roller coaster and quite dark. It might be too much for other kids around this age. (42″ height requirement)
Lucky 7 Gem Shop – great little shop. Archer is really into gems right now and fascinated by mining, so I let him pick out a couple of rocks
Pork Rinds stand – I love pork rinds. Some things are not all about the kiddo.
Grist Mill – known for the Cinnamon Bread they make daily, it’s something everyone has to have when they come to Dollywood. The smell is amazing!
Grist Mill at Dollywood
Mountain Slidewinder – water toboggan ride down the mountainside. Fast, and high-banked curves could make it too scary for some little ones, but Archer loved it. We almost bypassed, but I’m so glad we did it! Even though it’s a water ride, we actually didn’t get very wet.
Granny’s Garden Play Area – play area nestled next to Mountain Slidewinder. Note: there are water features, so kids will get wet.
Little Pilots Playground – across from Granny’s Garden. Not wet.
Firehouse Fun Yard – play area with water, so kids will get wet. Archer played here for maybe 5-10 minutes. There isn’t a lot to it, but for kids even smaller than him, they’d probably enjoy for longer.
River Battle – water raft ride with soaker guns you use to try to hit targets (or other riders). Park guests on the banks can also shoot soaker guns at you, so be prepared to get wet!
Along the trail to Timber Canyon at Dollywood
This is the area I mentioned we entered into on the 2nd Day. There is a winding path by the Groups/Trolley entrance (to the left of the main entrance) that passes by a graveyard that Archer had spotted during our train ride on Day 1 and was determined to find. He’s a little obsessed with zombies, mummies, and all things spooky thanks to Scooby Doo. As you can see from the pic above, there are some good photo opps along this shaded trail, but as for Timber Canyon itself, there was not anything he was interested in doing.
If you have older kids (or for you adults) who enjoy thrill rides, then this area is great as some of the bigger thrill rides are here.
Ice cream from Aunt Granny’s!
So there you go. That’s a breakdown of some of the things we enjoyed the most during our 2 days in the park. While we probably could have knocked it all out in one day, I’m so glad we didn’t attempt to. It was nice to go at a leisurely pace, and not try to cram so much in that Archer would just end up cranky and exhausted. We spent about 4 hours there on Day 1, and then probably 5-6 hours on Day 2.
Honestly, this is only a fraction of what the park has to offer, and if you’re going with older kids, I can’t imagine trying to conquer it all in one day.
We look forward to going back to Dollywood again and again in the years to come. In fact, if you ask Archer, he’d say we should go back in just a few weeks when Harvest Festival begins. Can’t say I’m completely opposed to that idea!
2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Scenes from Splash Country
We ended our 3-day visit to Pigeon Forge with a full day of fun in the sun at Splash Country. Sorry, you won’t get too many pics from this park since I packed my phone into a locker and actually disconnected from the world for a while! We floated the lazy river multiple times, relaxed in the lagoon style Cascades pool, and rode the waves in the Mountain Waves wave pool.
Archer’s favorite areas of the water park (besides the wave pool) were the Bear Mountain Fire Tower, with its multiple water slides and sprayers, and the Little Creek Falls, which is the perfect spot for small kids.
Ah, Dollywood, thank you for a perfect, short – but very sweet – vacation!
1198 McCarter Hollow Rd
Pigeon Forge, TN 37862
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to Dollywood theme park and Splash Country but I did not receive any sort of discount or complimentary stay at DreamMore Resort. As always, all opinions are my own. Free stuff doesn’t make me say nice things. Things that impress me make me say nice things!