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Dollywood Hacks For The Best Trip Ever in 2023!

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I bet you love hacks!! I do! Do you know what I love more? Dollywood hacks! In this Dollywood Vacation guide, I share all the secrets that Dollywood veterans know and wish you didn’t know. So, yeah, I’m spilling the secrets.

Dollywood Hacks
Dollywood Hacks

I’ve been going to Dollywood since it was called Silver Dollar City so trust me, I am a Dollywood veteran.

However, Dollywood is always changing so here are some tried and true hacks for Dollywood, but keep in mind, that things change all the time so check back for new Dollywood hacks often.

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How Can I Get The Most Out Of Dollywood?

To make the most of our time and money at Dollywood, we recommend you have a solid plan in place. Gone are the days of just showing up and “winging” it if you want to really get in the most for your money.

Top Dollywood Hacks For 2023

Hack #1: Choose Your Dates

The first thing you need to do is check the Dollywood Park calendar for your visit dates!

You want to look for:

  • Special Programs & Shows
  • Parades
  • Music Shows
  • Kids Events
  • Blackout Dates
  • Hours of Operation

It is very important that you have a good grasp of what events are taking place inside Dollywood during your visit. There are a few reasons for this. First, if you want to attend these shows or events, I recommend you make a note of the times and days, and then plan your park touring and meals AROUND those show times.

There is nothing more frustrating than getting to Dollywood determined you don’t want to miss a special show or event and then getting stuck on the wrong side of the park or on a ride and missing the show!

Do yourself a favor, and plan out each day around the special events.

I recommend you get a binder for your trip to the Smokies and create a special section for your Dollywood days. More on that later!

Dollywood & Great Smoky Mountains National Park Planning Tools

Hack #2: Purchase your tickets ahead of time

You will save yourself A LOT OF TIME if you purchase your tickets online before arriving at the park.

Determine the number of days you plan to visit Dollywood. If you plan to visit for more than 3 days, we recommend you consider purchasing a season pass.

Dollywood season passes are a great deal if you plan on visiting more than twice a year. With the pass, you’ll also receive bonus benefits such as free bring-a-friend tickets and discounts on additional tickets for friends and family members!

You can also spread out payments over several months with Dollywood’s convenient payment plan!

Learn more about this year’s Dollywood Ticket Prices here.

Dollywood Seasonal Passes Prices

Hack #3: Download The Dollywood App

The Dollywood app is definitely a newer hack, but it’s a great way to help you plan your time when visiting the park. You can download the Dollywood app now for free on the App store. Key features of the app include:

  • Planning helps
  • Interactive Park Map
  • Show Schedules
  • Purchase Tickets
  • Find restaurants, shops, and rides
  • Learn about new features or events happening within the park
  • and more…

To Learn more read our post on, How Much Are Tickets To Dollywood?

Dollywood tips
Dollywood Hacks

Hack #4: Use the Centralized Measuring Station

Upon entering the park, locate the centralized measuring station to the right of the Dollywood Emporium. Take your kids to be measured and receive a color-coded wristband that displays their current height.

Upon entering rides, you or the park staff can easily determine which rides your child can safely enjoy.

This cuts down on the time it takes to get your kids’ height measured at each ride location.

Note: Children who are 52 inches or taller do not need to be measured. They are tall enough to ride everything.

Hack #5: Arrive Early

It goes without saying, if you want to make the most of your day, and ride the most popular rides with little wait time, then you need to arrive early.

Gates open approximately 30 minutes before the rides, so it’s a great time to get into the park, head to your first ride and/or show, or just stroll the park for photo ops before the crowds arrive. I

Hack #6: Start On the Left

Perhaps the most likely reason you landed on this Dollywood hacks post is that you are looking for tips to make your wait times less.

It seems to be true in every theme park that there is a tendency for people to go to the right when they begin their day. I suppose this is because we drive on the right in America. Maybe if you visit a theme park in Europe, this hack won’t work, but nevertheless, it is generally useful in Dollywood.

When you plan your rides, events, and meals, consider going against the flow by starting your Dollywood plans on the left side of the park. Most visitors start on the right so going in the opposite direction means less crowd especially when you start early in the day.

**INSIDER TIP** There is an exception to this hack. If it is really important that you ride one of the more popular rides right away, such as Lightning Rod, you may wish to head there FIRST and then make your way back to the left.

The following rides tend to have the longest wait times:

  • Lightning Rod (Average wait 37 minutes)
  • Fire Chaser (Average wait time 28 minutes)
  • Dollywood Express (average wait time 23 minutes)
  • Dragonflier (average wait time 22 minutes)

Hack #7: Get Free Water

Dollywood offers free ice water at all culinary locations to help keep you hydrated throughout the day. All you need to do is ask.

In addition, there are water bottle refill stations scattered around the park so that you don’t have to wait in line at a food location to get a drink of water.

Dollywood Hacks for the best trip
Dollywood Hacks

Hack #8: Strollers

Visitors are allowed to bring their strollers inside the park. If you have to bring a stroller, bring one that is easy to fold as you will have to do so on the tram and the train.

However, I also recommend you get one with some storage pockets. When my children were little, if I had to have a stroller, I wanted it to help me out with snack storage, diapers, etc.

A stroller with a tandem seat or step for younger kids is also great when those little feet get tired.

Dollywood also offers stroller rentals for visitors who need them on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hack #9: Free Parking

Dollywood parking costs $25 per day. You can get free parking by purchasing a Gold or Diamond Season Pass. Only one person in your group needs to have a God or Diamond Pass for this deal.

Hack #10: Dollywood Refillable Mugs

Dollywood’s refillable mugs are a great way to save money if you purchase a lot of drinks throughout the day and especially if you buy season passes or plan to return to the park for more than one day.

The mug is yours to keep after you purchase it, and you can refill it with any fountain drink for 0.99 or a hot or frozen drink for 1.99.

Hack #11: Share Meals

The park has plenty of great places to eat, and the portions are often large enough for two people—especially if you have small children. This is a great way to save money on food.

Read our post on the Best Restaurants in Dollywood for our top recommendations on places to eat.

Hack #12: Time Saver Pass

If you really want to maximize your ride time and you don’t mind paying a bit extra, get a Time Saver Pass.

There are two options:

  • Time Saver pass: Gives you eight expedited entrances to selected rides
  • TimeSaver Unlimited pass: This lets you have unlimited expedited access at any participating TimeSaver attraction.
Dollywood TimeSaver Pass
Dollywood TimeSaver Pass

So which rides are time saver pass rides?

  • Barnstormer
  • Dizzy Disk
  • Dragonflier
  • Drop Line
  • Fire Chaser Express
  • Lightning Rod
  • Mystery Mine
  • Sky Rider
  • Smoky Mountain River Rampage
  • Tennessee Tornado
  • Thunderhead
  • The Waltzing Swinger
  • Wile Eagle

Personal Insider Experience:
Weigh your options before you decide on the Time Saver pass. I have visited Dollywood since way before a Time Saver Pass was necessary. I personally, have never purchased one as we visit often enough and can avoid the peak times to make it unnecessary. However, I will say that Dollywood has become much more popular over the years, and if you plan to visit on a weekend or during a peak season such as Christmas or Summer, then you may want to consider purchasing one.
Also, if you know you only have a 1 day ticket and really want to experience every ride, then you may want to purchase the Time Saver pass.


Hack #13: Take The Trolley

If you find yourself in Pigeon Forge without a car, then the trolley is the best way to get to Dollywood. The trolley is free and it will save you from having to pay the parking fee at the amusement park.

The trolley will also drop you off right in front of the front gate, and it’ll pick you up at the end of the day and take you back into Pigeon Forge.

Hack #14: Try the Cinnamon Bread

You HAVE TO HAVE THE CINNAMON BREAD! (Can you tell this is one of my favorite Dollywood hacks?)

It’s funny that we talked about a TimeSaver Pass for rides. If you ask me, you need a TimeSaver Pass for the Cinnamon Bread line!

This stuff is soooooo good, but, unfortunately, EVERYONE knows it! I definitely recommend you consider getting yours earlier in the day and not around meal times.

If you make the mistake that we often make and wait until you are finished for the day, expect to wait in line with everyone else who did the same.

We waited nearly an hour before it because it is THAT GOOD! Be sure to leave room in your day and budget to get some!

Even though the lines are often long, it’s definitely worth the wait. If you’re short on time, you can also buy the same bread at Dollywood’s Spotlight bakery or DreamMore Resort.

dollywood cinnamon bread

Hack #15: You can Board your Dog at Doggywood

While pets are not allowed inside the park(except for service animals), they offer accommodations for dogs at Doggywood. This kennel facility offers boarding for dogs, so they can stay with you while you enjoy the park. Each pup gets their own room, either in a cute little kennel or a swankier cottage.

The cottages offer more room and fancier accommodations, but they are limited in number, so it’s important to call ahead for reservations.

Hack #16: When to Eat

As I stated at the beginning of this post, I recommend you find your show times and plan your meals and your riding around those schedules.

The busiest time for restaurants is usually from 11:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m.

In order to avoid the long lines, plan snack breaks around 10:00-11:00 am before the main meal times and then have your main meals after the rush around 3:00-4:30 pm.

While you can not take food into the park, you are allowed to get your hand stamped and leave the park if you need to do so.

However, if you have more than one park day, I’d recommend spending a half day in the park, leaving between 11:30-2:30pm and then coming back for the evening or coming back the next day in the afternoon. This can be a great way to avoid the largest crowds and not over tire yourself.

BONUS Dollywood HACK: Ride Strategy

For my last hack, I want to share an example ride strategy based on my own experience with the park schedule.

Dollywood Hack: Coaster Ride Strategy

If you want to snag all the coasters at least once, this is my recommended strategy.

  1. As soon as the park opens, head right to Jukebox Junction to ride Lightning
  2. After Lightning Rod, head back to the left toward Wildwood Grove to ride Dragon Flyer
  3. Next, make your way to back out toward Timber Canyon to ride Thunderhead and Mystery Mine. I personally prefer Mystery Mine and the line can get long, so I would ride it first. I’m not a fan of wooden coasters so only do Thurnderhead if you really love them.
  4. After Mystery Mine, head over to Fire Chaser, Wild Eagle, and the Tennessee Tornado.
  5. Finally, head to Craftsman’s Valley to get in the very special Blazing Fury

Read our post about Dollywood Coasters to know more about these these thrilling rides.

Obviously, if you don’t feel the need to skip all the other rides in order to get these coasters in, then, by all means, take your time and ride the other rides in these areas while there. This is just my strategy for maximum coaster capacity during your visit.

After you have accomplished these coaster rides, you can choose all the other rides you missed or go hang out in some of the other areas of the park like Owen’s Farm, The Village, Jukebox Junction, or Peppermint Valley.

Other notable rides you may not wish to skip (depending on the weather) include:

  • All the new rides in Wildwood Grove: Black Bear Trail, Frogs & Fireflies, The Great Tree Swing, Mad Mockingbird
  • Whistle Punk Chaser in Timber Canyon
  • Smoky Mountain River Rampage (you will get wet)
  • Daredevil Falls (you will get wet)

The Dollywood Express is often less crowded during the first and last runs of the day. If you’re heading to Country Fair, it’s best to go later in the day when most young families have already come and gone.

Smoky Mountains 7-Day Itinerary

I understand how difficult it can be to plan a trip, especially if it’s your first time going. That’s why I created this 7-day itinerary for the Smoky Mountains. It outlines all of the best places to go in the area and comes with insider tips that will save you a lot of stress–trust me, they saved me when I was planning my own trip!

  • Our 7-day itinerary takes you to the best places in the Smoky Mountains.
  • You’ll get to see all the best sights and attractions with driving directions
  • The itinerary is designed to show you the most scenic routes.
  • Packing Checklist for every season.
  • You’ll have everything you need to make the most of your trip.
  • Insider Tips!

Here’s a quick overview of our Smoky Mountains 7-Day Itinerary.

  • Day 1: Cades Cove Loop
  • Day 2: Rich Mountain Road
  • Day 3: Cataloochee Valley
  • Day 4: Newfound Gap Road
  • Day 5: Roaring Fork Motor Trail
  • Day 6: Little River Road
  • Day6: Foothills Parkway

Get Our FREE Smoky Mountains Checklist Now!

Recommended Pigeon Forge Resources

More Related Resources

Looking for more ways to save money on your next visit to Pigeon Forge? Check out our guide on How To Get Pigeon Forge Discount Tickets on Top Family Attractions!

To make your trip more fun and exciting for the kids, try this great photo scavenger hunt idea from PhotoJeepers.

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