Vacation Destination :: Dollywood & the Tennessee Mountains


Disclaimer :: FWMB owner Emily Y enjoyed complimentary tickets to Dollywood during her stay in east Tennessee this summer.

You’ve likely never heard of Grainger County, Tennessee, but I have. In fact, I know it fairly well. My mother and father grew up in its mountains just north of Knoxville; most of my extended family still live there or somewhere nearby. I’ve traveled to east Tennessee my entire life for visits to grandma’s house, summer stints, family reunions, weddings, and funerals. I am continuing that tradition now that I have a family of my own.

Many folks around Cowtown head west when they think of green mountains and cooler temps — and for good reason. Colorado and its counterparts have a lot of refreshing getaways to offer. But let me point you a bit east: You’ll find big, beautiful mountains, cooler temps than Texas, and plenty of fun in east Tennessee!

East Tennessee offers hiking, water sports, pride in Native American history, museums, caves to explore, unbelievable yummy (fresh!) food, and the friendliest people ever. You can also find a bit of bustle in Pigeon Forge and Gaitlinburg. However, for our latest trip to Tennessee, we added Dollywood to our list. Our kiddos are six and two — just right age for an introduction to the family-friendly park. When Dollywood heard that Fort Worth Moms Blog was coming, they provided tickets!!! See? The nicest people. Told ya.

Tunnel Dollywood
Girls outside Dollywood

Hey, Dolly!

Dollywood is owned by none other than Dolly Parton herself and Herschend Family Entertainment. Parton grew up in east Tennessee. (My dad’s cousin dated her sister. My mother took piano lessons from Chet Atkins’ father, but this has nothing to do with anything. I’m sure Kevin Bacon is involved somehow. I digress.) When Parton “hit it big,” she promised herself that she’d give back to her community. Now Dollywood and its subsidiaries employ thousands of locals and bring thousands upon thousands of dollars into the economy. Her commitment to excellence and care shines through at Dollywood.

First and foremost, the park is clean. The employees are well mannered and helpful. Honestly, it reminded me of the experiences we’ve had a Disney parks. The staff also keeps good control of anyone who might get out of hand. All of these things are important when you are toting little loves around.

Food allergy accommodations is also another important aspect of our trip. Because my eldest daughter deals with a severe food allergy, where we eat is a big deal. The park employees were very helpful and pointed us in the right direction so that we could find a restaurant that served safe food for her. It didn’t hurt that it was this fantastic buffet of salads, vegetables (like your grandma makes), smoked meats, and dessert. Hello, southern banana pudding. I’d go back just for the food.

The Rides

Dollywood rests in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains; the drive to the park is a ride in and of itself — beautiful and winding! The park does not disappointment thanks to 150 acres of fun.

Unlike some theme parks, Dollywood has a good mix of rides for little kids and big kids. We had PLENTY to do to keep our younger kiddos happy. The Rockin’ Roadway and Scrambler were two favorites of our crew. In each section of the park, you’ll find activities, splash pads, playgrounds, and rides for the littles. There are numerous rides too for older kids. It really is the perfect spot for families with kids of various ages. And don’t forget to ride the big, and we mean big, Dollywood Express, a real coal-fired steam engine.

Did I mention all of this is set in a beautiful Appalachian setting? It’s heavenly.

The Shows

Do you honestly think Dolly Parton would create a destination that didn’t include some live entertainment??? Dollywood boasts dozens of performances happening many times during the day throughout the park. Some of these are seasonal, so be sure to check current listings before you go. 

Coupled with the entertainment options are the festivals held each year throughout the year. Thus, making it a vacation destination all year long. (Have you seen the Smokey Mountains in the fall??? You must. It’s breathtaking.) Attending the Smokey Mountains Christmas festival is on my to-do list!

Yes, Dollywood was a big hit for my crew. We stayed until the very end of the day to enjoy the fireworks show. Here’s a great tip: If you come to Dollywood after 3:00 p.m. your tickets are good for the next full day. It’s a great deal!

Dollywood is just the tip of the iceberg. Plan to stay awhile and enjoy the waterpark, Dollywood’s Splash Country, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, and Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction.

I hope I’ve convinced you with just a SLICE of the fun to be had in east Tennessee. Be sure to tag Fort Worth Moms Blog when you go so we can celebrate your adventure!


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