Family Visits Posts

Jennifer Chasse | A Sweet Way To End A Day At Dollywood
Date: February 1, 2017

The end of any great Dollywood day is always a bit sad. Even after long days of fun at Dollywood, my kids often want to stay and experience “just 1 more!” and don’t want it to end.  So, we started a tradition that makes the walk out of Dollywood almost as exciting as the walk in- visiting the Sweet Shoppe!

Dollywood's Sweet Shoppe sits on Showstreet not far from the main entrance and exit. The Shoppe is full of delicious treats to enjoy or take home, and my family likes to make it the last stop of the day and we each choose a treat. It’s a large store with a working kitchen, and if you're lucky you might see master candy makers dipping beautiful apples or mixing brittle on a stainless steel table, or making fudge on a large marble slab. There’s much to choose from and usually my treat is a huge piece of fudge. Fudge holds a special place in my heart and I’ve never met a flavor of fudge I didn’t like. As a girl, my great grandmother used to make a special penuche fudge each Christmas, and it was a treat we looked forward to all year. Like Nana’s, Dollywood's fudge does not disappoint and they have more than a dozen flavors to choose from.

My kids head to the novelties where they sell fun Pucker Powder sticks they can fill themselves, penny candy and crazy-sour things my kids love. My husband usually chooses the ice cream counter. He’s a vanilla kind of guy, and a thick milkshake is his thing. Dollywood serves us Mayfield's ice cream, and they bake their own waffle cones and bowls. Truth be told, more than once I’ve bought both ice cream and fudge!  

In addition to the chocolates and candies you might expect, confectioners create regional favorites including potato candy, something called divinity which is made with egg whites and nuts, and a chocolate concoction called Smoky Mountain Mud. As it turns out, Smoky Mountain Mud was an accident. A confectioner messed up a recipe, but kept going to see how it would turn out—and it was a hit! It’s made with milk, Rice Krispies, marshmallows and peanut butter.  Dollywood’s Sweet Shoppe also offers packaged gifts and goodies to bring home including taffy, jams and apple butter.

It’s a sweet way to end a day.  Want to take a closer look at the Dollywood Sweet Shoppe?

Click Here

The master craftsman at the Sweet Shoppe is Linda Rice. She’s been making candy for 35 years—longer than Dollywood has been around! She trains all park confectioners in the art of making taffy, fudge, candied apples, apple butter and countless other decadent creations. Stop by this Dollywood treasure to watch your favorite sweets being made—and be sure to take some to go!










 


Karen George | My Family's Typical Day at Dollywood
Date: February 10, 2017

My family has our Dollywood routine down pat! When we visit, we know exactly what we’re going to do. I’ll share my “typical” day at Dollywood with you, in hopes that your family will make your own traditions when you visit.





Teronya Holmes | Dollywood 2017 "Behind the Scenes" Construction Tour
Date: February 16, 2017

Dolly Parton has proclaimed 2017 The Year of the Family”, and there are some great things coming to ensure that families are the focus! Come along with your Dollywood Insiders’ hosts as we take you on a “behind-the-scenes media construction tour,” keeping you in-the-know on all the latest and greatest new experiences and park upgrades you can expect for the upcoming 2017 season at Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country.

The Dollywood theme park closes every winter from January through the middle of March. During this time, numerous construction, renovation, and remodeling projects are implemented to enhance the Dollywood guest experience upon re-opening in March. It also allows improvements to be made without impacting the day-to-day operations or inconveniencing guests.

This year, before Dollywood re-opens (March 18) and Dollywood’s Splash Country re-opens (May 13), about 250 such construction and remodeling projects, totaling around $11 million in capital investments, are taking place.

Most of these are “behind-the-scenes” projects which focus on improving the “guest experience and comfort.” Dollywood surveys its guests constantly throughout the year and uses this feedback to prioritize improvements. For instance, personnel are busy replacing air conditioning systems in theaters and other locations, repairing and replacing roofs, painting structures, and remodeling walkways and other areas. Dollywood is also working to facilitate time management in the park, which surveys showed is very important to guests. These improvements will include reconfigured lines and food service processes, as well as widened doorways and pathways to accommodate better circulation as the park and attendance grows.

Before I get to the BIG news of the fabulous NEW ATTRACTIONS under construction, let’s talk about a few of the “smaller” projects.



“Backstage Restaurant” Becomes “Front Porch Cafe”

Backstage Restaurant, which formerly boasted a movie and musical theme, is being completely remodeled and renamed the “Front Porch Café.” It’s going to feel like you’ve come to enjoy a meal and a visit “on your neighbor’s front porch up in the beautiful Tennessee mountain farmlands.” The atmosphere will be enhanced by a farm theme, peaceful murals providing farmland scenery on the walls, new hardwood floors, tongue-and-groove ceilings, and mountain music. The new menu will feature healthful farm-fresh food, much of it locally sourced. There will also be some Tennessee favorites, such as country-fried steak and fried green tomatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

“Rainbow Glass Factory” Becomes “Mountain Blown Glass”

One thing Dollywood is known for is showcasing the beautiful and useful handiwork of regional craftsmen and craftswomen of the Smoky Mountains. One such exhibit of craftsmanship at Dollywood since the 1980s has been the art of glassblowing. You may not know that you can actually blow your own glass ornament at what was formerly known as “Rainbow Glass Factory” in Rivertown Junction. Improvements are being made in three phases: reconfiguring the glassblowing equipment to showcase two craftsmen at once; a newly built area to “make-your-own glass ornament;” and a remodel of the retail shop, where you can purchase handmade ornaments and gifts in a myriad of patterns, shapes, and colors.

“Timber Canyon Pass” Goes Big and Bountiful

The 800-foot Timber Canyon Pass, which is the “back way” to the biggest coasters and attractions at Dollywood (take a left upon entering the park), is getting a makeover to enable it to handle large crowds. Construction crews were working hard to widen, straighten, and add new sound and lighting to this oft-used walkway. They’re even adding additional props to beautify the area and provide some new picturesque settings for those family photos.



“Lumber Jack’s Pizza” Sized for Service

Lumberjacks are known for their big appetites after working so hard, but they also, apparently,  want to get their food faster between thrill attractions. Lumber Jack’s Pizza has also been known for its BIG 30-inch pizzas, with individual slices bigger than your head! However, in order to provide dining experiences that will meet the needs of guests requiring faster food service, Dollywood has opted to do away with those humongous pizza slices and start serving 8” to 9” personal pizzas. These pizzas have been promised to retain their deliciousness and will continue to be fired in the large pizza oven, which will remain intact. These changes, along with a remodeled and reconfigured line process, will expedite the dining experience and get all your lumberjacks back in line for the next thrilling attraction as soon as possible!

NOW for the ride enthusiasts… you’re not going to be disappointed in 2017. Three fabulous new attractions are currently under construction, set to open this summer!

“Drop Line” - Sure to Raise Your Adrenaline Levels

Drop Line is going to do just what it says it’s going to do: DROP. Twenty stories (230 feet) to be exact. This thrilling attraction, part of the continued logging story theme in Timber Canyon, will be located across from Lumber Jack’s Pizza, just past Thunderhead. After you’ve been lifted up to the heights of this tower, just before you drop, you’ll be thrilled by a split-second view of the majestic Smoky Mountains and the park. You’ll barely have enough time to prepare yourself for the thrilling rush as you plummet back to Earth! Drop Line will open this summer; exact date yet to be announced.

“Whistle Punk Chaser” to Thrill the Junior Coaster Enthusiast

Right between Drop Line and Thunderhead (the wooden roller coaster), “Whistle Punk Chaser” is opening in the Summer of 2017. What’s a “Whistle Punk,” you ask? In logging terms, it’s a lumberjack who operates the signal wire running to a donkey engine whistle. And in this case, it’s a junior coaster full of thrilling twists and turns for the younger loggers at Dollywood. It fits right in with Dolly’s promise of 2017 being, “The Year of the Family,” with something for everyone. In this case, it provides convenience for families with something to do for the small kids while the big kids get to enjoy the bigger thrill attractions close by.



“Make a Big Splash on TailSpin Racer”

Just in time for the grand opening of Dollywood’s Splash Country in May, a new and exciting waterslide attraction will be opening - bringing the park’s total to eleven splash-tacular slides! Guests will see the new “TailSpin Racer,” which is longer than a football field, as soon as they enter the water park. First you’ll spiral through enclosed AquaTubes, which will finally open up into an open racing slide for your splash-down finish. There are six lanes, so you and five of your competitors can line up for a slip-sliding sprint to the finish line! The winner gets to the Lazy River first!

As you can see, there is something new and exciting for everyone this season at Dollywood! Stay tuned as the Dollywood Insiders promise to bring you all of the exciting news as it comes along!

Our “sneak peak” tour was hosted by various Dollywood personnel, including Pete Owens, Director of Communications; Amber Davis, Ellen Liston, and Wes Ramey from Dollywood Communications and PR; Brian Dudash, Vice President of Maintenance and Construction; Evan Schukman, Director of Facilities; and Mike Brown, Dollywood’s Splash Country General Manager.


 


Katie Van Dyke | Dollywood With Your Little Ones
Date: February 27, 2017

Taking a toddler to Dollywood?  I have survived this stage more than once and am right there with you now.  Don’t worry toddler mamas, you’ve got this.

Dollywood is ready to host you. All you need is a stroller and a plan. So here goes.

Stop one is Dollywood’s Centralized Measuring station. You will find it across from The Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame on Showstreet.  Stopping first will make the rest of your day much smoother. A Dollywood host will measure your child and then give them a color-coded wristband. The coded wristbands correspond to the color-coded information displayed on signs at each ride in the park and helps you quickly identify which rides your littles can ride.  No waiting in line only to find out you’re not tall enough.  Plus they get their very own, very special Dollywood bracelet.  Can you tell I’ve had to sell this stop?

Then it is on to the fun.

We hit Rockin' Roadway first. It is a classic favorite and it is on the way to the Country Fair.  The added bonus is if you happen to have bigs with you, too, they could ride Lightning Rod because it’s right next door.

Country Fair is your area to play. It is full of fun rides for your little guys, and the hosts running the rides are seriously as patient and kind as can be. Don't miss Piggy Parade, Lucky Ducky, Busy Bees, or Amazing Flying Elephants.  Again, Dollywood has thought this through: if you have a few older kids in your group there’s the Scrambler, Demolition Derby, the Dizzy Disk and more rides for them.  Everyone is happy here.

The Village Carousel is another ride your littles will love, it is just up the hill from the Country Fair.  

Toddlers get tired. If you need a midday break or nap, we have a few favorite options: shows or a train ride. The Little Engine Playhouse during Dollywood Summer is perfect, entertaining and air-conditioned. There are three 20-minute sing-along musicals throughout the day, each featuring Dolly via a special video-taped appearance.  There are several other great show options, and they change throughout the season so check the schedule on your visit.  There will be something you will all love.

The Dollywood Express is another tested favorite. An authentic coal-fired steam engine takes you on a five-mile journey through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. It is a perfect way to allow your littles to rest and still have fun.

Water-loving littles ones will want to make a stop at the Firehouse Fun Yard or the Pig Pen, they can climb, build, slide and play in the pop-jet water fountains. These fun play areas are located near some larger rides making the perfect place to play while the bigs in your group ride a ride or two.  River Battle is another great water option.  Guests shorter than 48” can ride with you if they love water or you can simply stand at the water guns on land and get sprayed by the riders. We had one that hated to ride but loved to squirt riders, especially when they were his brothers.

A note for you nursing mamas: the nursing rooms are fantastic. Located in Showstreet, the Baby Care Center offers a private nursing area furnished with multiple gliders with foot stools, two baby changing stations and a restroom. Restrooms with nursing stations can also be found in Country Fair, Jukebox Junction, Market Square, The Village and Craftman's Valley near the Woodcarving Shop. Any park restaurant (this does not include concession stands) can assist you with warming a bottle.

 


Jennifer Chasse | Dollywood's "Secret Sauce"
Date: April 12, 2017

Did you ever notice how some people appear more approachable than others? Think of who you’d look for when you need to ask for directions. That’s the kind of people that work at Dollywood. I’ve been a Season Passholder for years, and many times I’ve enjoyed a conversation with a friendly Dollywood employee—called hosts.

It became apparent on our first visit to Dollywood as our children panned for gemstones in the Lucky 7 Gem Shop. The woman working there was fantastic and took great care to help them sort through the treasure and share characteristics and names of the gems. She was able to create as much interest in the outcome of “mining” as the process itself, and sent the kids home excited about their collections.

Later in the Sweet Shoppe, I was offered a candy sample from a man who sounded like my New England roots. Come to find out, he was from New Hampshire like me, and we chatted a bit. Encounters between guests and hosts like this happen all the time at Dollywood. 

 

But what makes the people at Dollywood so friendly? I spent some time with the Sweet Shoppe’s Master Craftsman Linda Rice and asked her what she thinks is that “secret sauce” that makes Dollywood hosts so pleasant. Linda has worked at the park for 36 seasons—longer than the park has been Dollywood! She started with the theme park at the suggestion of her husband whose own Dollywood career spanned 25 years. They are one of a handful of married host couples. Linda grew up making candy with her mother, and was a natural fit for this position. On the day we met, she was busy making caramels.

Linda and I talked about the kind of person who is likely to work at Dollywood. Dolly Parton fans, certainly. Dolly’s friendly, approachable appeal is notable, and perhaps she attracts hosts who follow suit.

We discussed Dollywood’s family values. Dollywood believes the world is a better place when families spend more time together. They have created a wholesome and loving environment where families enjoy one another and make lasting memories. Dollywood is guided by Christian values and ethics, and perhaps this culture attracts employees who are also guided by love.

Linda told me Dollywood is one large family. Hosts, guests, and visiting entertainers are all part of this family. Loving families are ready to help, ready to listen, and might even enjoy creating things from scratch—like the confections Linda and her team make in front of guests in the Sweet Shoppe kitchen every day. I asked another long-time employee Thelma Ham (an 18-year Dollywood veteran) what she thought about the family aspect of Dollywood and what makes the employees so friendly, and she replied, “There is not one person working here unwilling to bend over backwards for another person—host or guest!”

I’m not the only person who finds the employees friendly. Dollywood has won the popular vote five years in a row for the Golden Ticket Award for Friendliest Park! These awards are the amusement industry’s version of the Grammy Awards. It’s apparent Dollywood attracts hosts who truly enjoy people.

But as I sat and thought more about it, there’s no other theme park I’ve visited that has this many long-time, genuinely happy employees who want to spread that joy to their guests. Why is that? After years of visits and chats with people at Dollywood my conclusion is that the folks who work there truly love it. They’re proud of their park, they’re proud to showcase their Smoky Mountain hospitality, and they honestly enjoy welcoming people into their “home.” These hosts see Dollywood as so much more than a seasonal gig. This park put their hometown on the map. It provides jobs for thousands of locals. And, it’s the economic engine that helps drive their economy. Dollywood hosts are as proud of Dollywood as they are to claim their hometown hero, Dolly Parton. The way I see it, Dollywood hosts believe it is their role to ensure continued growth of their park—that they do their part to bring guests back again and again.

Maybe it’s not a secret ingredient. Perhaps the people of Dollywood are just genuinely pleasant people who enjoy what they do, who they do it for, and who they do it with. 








 

 


Lindsey Galvez | Visiting Dollywood with Three Generations
Date: April 17, 2017

My parents have been taking me to Dollywood since I was a little girl. I spent many, many weekends of my childhood camping in Pigeon Forge and riding the trolley over to the theme park for the day. It's always been one of my family's favorite things to do as long as I can remember.


That's why it's no surprise that when I became a Mom, of course, I wanted to carry on my love for Dollywood and family time. We've visited many times over the past six years and still some of my favorite visits are when my parents come along with us. While it might be tricky to visit some places with three generations together, Dollywood is made for these types of family outings.

  Each area of Dollywood has been carefully thought out to include something for everyone. Although it's pretty obvious, I had never really thought about that fact until I took a behind-the-scenes tour last year as a Dollywood Insider. We were told that the park was planned out so that in each section there was something for everyone in the same small area, which would encourage families to stay together rather than split up.

This is very evident in one of the newest renovated parts of the park, Jukebox Junction. The 1950's area was always one of my classic-car-loving family's favorites, but now with the addition of Lightning Rod, it really does have something for everyone. In this section of the park you'll find the aforementioned Lightning Rod, a coaster themed after a tricked out 1950s-era hot rod that launches thrill seekers that are 48 inches or taller, from zero to 45 mph and up more than 20 stories. But right beside this heart-stopping coaster you'll find Rockin' Roadway, which is a leisurely ride for any age. Just across the road you'll taste the best burgers and shakes in Dollywood, but don't pass up the chicken sandwiches in the food truck either.

While my parents used to enjoy the rides at Dollywood, they've moved on to other things now, but that doesn't mean we have to go different ways. The Pines Theater is just steps from all these attractions and it's easy to catch a great show with several performances a day. There are also lots of themed gift shops for the family members who would rather shop than drop off the side of the mountain on Lightning Rod.

Jukebox Junction is just one example of how the entire theme park is laid out for multiple generations. I appreciate that Dollywood has put so much thought into the design of their park because that's why we're visiting together - to be together as a family!


Check out the map to start planning your next visit and be sure to bring the grandparents along to make multi-generational memories with your family.

 


Katie Van Dyke | Dollywood With Your Middle Kids
Date: April 26, 2017

We have talked about Dollywood with Littles. Now it is time for Dollywood with Middles, those guests who are “too big” for the Busy Bees but not quite ready for Wild Eagle.  If your child falls somewhere in the 39 to 48 inch ranges it is still be a good idea to stop by Dollywood’s Centralized Measuring station. (You will find it across from The Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame on Showstreet.) With their wrist band they can easily identify which rides they can ride.

This group is now big enough for rides all over the park. My guys were always so excited about this. Even if they didn’t want to ride a particular ride that fact that they could was a big deal.  What rides should you start with?

Dollywood is opening a new ride this year that is perfect for this group! Whistle Punk Chaser is a new junior coaster opening in summer 2017. It is full of thrilling twists and turns designed for Dollywood’s younger loggers.  Another top contender in this category is FireChaser Express. It is a family coaster that goes forward and backwards. Don’t discount the Country Fair area. Even for Middles, there are lots of rides and games there to love. It is my favorite place to take the whole family. You’ll find rides for everyone and they are close together.  As for which is the best ride for your Middle’s first bigger ride, there is always a disagreement in our family.  Some would say Blazing Fury is the best first big ride. I would say Tennessee Tornado.  I’m going to leave this one up to you and your family.

 

This group is also big enough for all the water rides. I suggest deciding in advance if water rides are on your agenda.  It matters in how you dress and how you pack for the day.  River Battle is probably the tamest water ride and the adventure progress up to River Rampage on to Mountain Slidewinder then to the 50 mph 60-foot drop of Daredevil Falls.

You’re never too big for a ride on the Dollywood Express. An authentic 110-ton coal-fired steam engine takes that takes you on a five-mile ride you don’t want to miss.  Guests in this group will also love this season’s shows, so be sure to grab a schedule when you arrive.