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Water Park Posts

Morgan Crutchfield | My Favorite Dollywood's Splash Country Tip
Date: March 27, 2017

Water parks can be a vacation’s Great Family Divider: kids love them, parents can see them as an endless stretch of sunburns, snack whining, and missed naps. I understand how some families don’t see the value in paying a full day’s water park admission, especially with smaller kids or older family members. Stay with me when I say that the value at Dollywood’s Splash Country is maximized by spending a little extra – I think you’ll see what I mean.

Dollywood’s Splash Country is a big water park. With more than 25 water attractions spread over 35 acres, it can absolutely be a full day of family fun. Splash Country’s variety doesn’t disappoint, either; the park has everything from a fantastic multi-level interactive attraction for the littles, to wild slides for the adventurers, and a lazy river for those looking to relax.

With all this fun to be had, guests who want to get the most out of their tickets need to be wise about finding places to hydrate, rest, recharge, and reapply sunscreen. And while finding a lounge chair and claiming it for the day is a good stopgap solution for all of these needs, the real secret to being a Splash Country pro is renting a retreat.

Tip: Rent a Retreat

First things first: What is it? A retreat is 200 square feet of shaded space and 100 square feet of private sunny patio that has a ceiling fan, a dining table with 6 chairs, four lounge chairs, a television with select satellite channels, and the option to have food and beverages delivered right to you. I recommend sharing the space and splitting the cost with family or friends. For around $200 for the entire day ($170 if you’re passholders!), your entire family can rest, relax, and recharge in a Splash Country retreat. From experience, I can tell you, it’s money well-invested.


Not sold yet? If you have kids of any age, a retreat is a lifesaver. You can pull the curtains around your building and take a little nap or use the patio as a lookout while the kids splash nearby. You can sit down together for lunch without waiting for a table somewhere and have your food delivered, knowing that you’ll all be able to sit together. You can visit your favorite rides all the way across the park and know that your valuables will be safe in secure storage and your chairs will be waiting for you when you return. You can cool down in your shaded retreat with a ceiling fan when temperatures soar, or watch a quick rain shower pass while you catch some cartoons. In short, you can use every minute the park is open to focus on having fun with your family instead of worrying about the logistics. How does that break down? Dollywood’s Splash Country is open for 8 hours a day during the season. That’s 480 minutes of fun with 0 minutes of worry. 

Retreat Details

It’s recommended (but not mandatory) that guests wishing to use retreats make reservations. Retreats serve up to 10 people, with extra guests adding $10 to the reservation price per guest. ADA-accessible retreats are available within ¾ of a mile of the entrance. Guests may not bring their own food and beverages into the retreats, but a phone is available in each building to make it easy to order snacks, meals, and drinks. You can even decide what you want for lunch when you first arrive and schedule when you want lunch to be delivered.

To make a retreat reservation, call 1-800-365-5996 or visit this link. My favorite retreats are those by the Cascades, marked with letters I through T on the map below. All the retreat locations are on the map below, with blue being ADA-accessible retreats and pink being standard layouts.

Traveling with just a couple of people? You can book a retreat, or go with a smaller Canopy option, which offers 65 square feet of shaded space, two lounge chairs, and personal secure storage space for $45 a day ($40 for passholders!). Either way, for a little extra money you can take your Dollywood Splash Country visit to the next level of fun for the whole family and be a total Splash Country Pro.

Book your Dollywood's Splash Country Water Adventure Park vacation by calling (800) 365-5996 or visiting their website. Dollywood Annual passholders receive special offers and discounts throughout the year, so consider becoming a park passholder for this and other benefits. 


Sami Cone | Dollywood's Splash Country: Open Now!
Date: May 15, 2017

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘water park’? Whatever it is, I can just about guarantee Dollywood’s Splash Country water park will blow it out of the water! (pun intended)

I wouldn’t be a Dollywood Insider if I didn’t give you the scoop on the newest attraction at Splash Country: TailSpin Racer. The 360 degree looping water speedway is a six-lane racing slide that’s five stories tall and longer than a football field. Best of all, you only have to be 42” tall to ride TailSpin Racer, so families can race head-to-head with the fun of a traditional mat racer-style slide, but with the tight turns and daring drops of an enclosed slide. You’ll find this new adventure just after you enter the park on your left.

But you won’t want to stop there! There is so much to experience at Dollywood’s Splash Country. One reason we love it so much is because we can bring everyone in the family, from babies to grandparents. In fact, last summer we had a mini family reunion where over 20 of us gathered for a weekend at Splash Country because there is literally a water attraction for everyone of any age to enjoy. (Dollywood’s Splash Country Retreat: A Multi-Generational Birthday Celebration). 

Although we rented a retreat for our full day at the water park, we took advantage of the “After 3, Next Day Free” deal the day before and set up camp at Little Creek Falls; it’s conveniently located in the center of the park and features a children’s pool, fun slides and a water activity center. But what appealed to our group most (which included four babies under the age of two and three grandmas) were the large butterfly wings that provided shade. The grandmas loved playing with the little ones in the zero-entry pool when they weren’t napping and while the big kids (and some of us adults) ventured out to some of the more daring water slides.

Speaking of daredevils, there are plenty of slides to satisfy the thrill-seekers in your group (those riders over 48” tall). While I’ve taken my turn on Fire Tower Falls and Mountain Scream, my hands down favorite is RiverRush. It’s Tennessee’s first and only water coaster and you only need to be 42” to ride. Yes, I’ve been known to get off and get right back in line for this one! My tweens would tell you this is their favorite water park attraction as well.

Of course, no trip to Splash Country would be complete without a turn (or two or three…) around the Downbound Float Trip. Again, this is a great choice for every member of the family, as life-vests are available for those that aren’t the strongest swimmers (did you know that life vests are available to borrow for free and can be picked up from various locations in the water park?).

And if you’re looking for more family fun while floating, make sure to try Big Bear Plunge and Raging River Rapids; riders only need to be 36” tall and you all get to sit in one big raft together and, if you’re like our family, have a screaming contest on the way down.

Now if you’ve read any of my other Insider posts, you know that no trip to Dollywood is complete without some delicious eats... and you’re sure to find them at Splash Country as well. I’ll admit, I’m a little partial to the desserts over the main dishes. Two that you can’t miss are a berry sundae from Berries & Cream and the Canadian fried dough phenomenon, BEAVERTAILS.

Can you now understand why we needed more than just one day to take advantage of all Dollywood’s Splash Country has to offer? So suit up the family and make sure you add an extra day (or two) onto your Dollywood vacation this summer to experience IAAPA’s “Must-See Waterpark”!


Katie Van Dyke | Best Value at Dollywood's Splash Country
Date: May 26, 2017

Summer is here and that means it is time for some fun at Dollywood’s Splash Country!  

Like Dollywood, Splash Country has great refillable mugs available for guests to purchase. However, this offer is a little different than Dollywood mugs—including an option for free refills and skipping check-out!  To explain everything you need to know about how refillable mugs work at Dollywood’s Splash Country, I called in an expert— Lynette Hill—the Food Services Manager at the water park. 


Katie Van Dyke | Ask a Lifeguard: Best Options for Splash Country Attire
Date: June 07, 2017

Dollywood’s Splash Country is open and ready for summer fun. To help you be ready I recently hung out with veteran lifeguard Brianna and asked her all kinds of questions about what to wear at her water park. Let’s just say the No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service rule does not always apply. 

I prefer flip flops because they are so easy to take on and off. Brianna said shoe type isn’t that important, any flip flop, Chaco, water shoe you want to wear to protect your feet from the hot concrete is good. And she is right—the walkways between rides and attractions can get very hot in the summer sun so you will want shoes. When pressed, she sided with Chacos for comfort and staying put on rides that permit shoes.  

You cannot wear shoes on the body or tube slides where you are going down feet-first. That means no shoes may be worn on the Mountain Scream, Wild River Falls, SwiftWater Run, The Butterfly, Fire Tower Falls or Bear Mountain Fire Tower. It is a major safety issue and Brianna and her fellow lifeguards are serious about safety. A shoe sole is likely to catch a dry spot on the flume, and let’s just say your body is likely to keep going—not a pretty picture, is it?  

So, what do you do with your shoes once you get to the top of the slide? Just hold on to them. If you happen to drop them or if they come off on an attraction that allows shoes, more than likely they will just follow you down the slide then you can retrieve them. If not, a lifeguard can help you.

DO wear sandals or water shoes on your trip to Dollywood’s Splash Country. If you don’t remember where you can and cannot wear them, don’t worry. The friendly lifeguards will let you know at the attraction. Just be prepared to take your shoes off when asked. 

If you want to go down a body slide at the park, you cannot wear a cotton or loose fitting shirt. Body slides refer to attractions where your body is the “vehicle” as opposed to a tube or a mat carrying you down. Again, wearing shirts on these type of slides is a safety issue and there are no exceptions. Tight-fitting rash guard shirts are permitted on all attractions. Again if you don’t remember where shirts are allowed just be ready to take your shirt off when asked by a lifeguard. 

Only swimsuits are allowed on the water attractions. No swimsuits with buckles, rivets, or any sharp objects are allowed. These things can damage attractions but more importantly are a safety concern. 

When it comes to shorts, the same rule applies: nothing with buckles, rivets, or any sharp objects. That means no denim or any kind of corduroy or cutoffs are allowed in the water. In the event of an emergency, these materials are heavy and cumbersome. Again, it is safety first. 

Glasses & Sunglasses

If you need to wear glasses (or really want to wear sunglasses) make sure they have a head strap. No glasses of any kind are allowed on The Butterfly and River Rush

Life Jackets
Life vests are provided free of charge for use at Splash Country. Outside floating devices like rafts or baby floats are not permitted, so leave those at home with the snorkels and pool toys which are also not allowed. I am a parent of littles, so it was noteworthy to me that puddle jumpers are ok, but water wings or donut floats are not.   

Brianna’s other tips for a great day at Dollywood’s Splash Country: 1.) Wear sunscreen. Lots and lots of sunscreen! 2.) No cameras are allowed on attractions, even GoPro-type cameras that you can “wear.” So, just leave those at home or with a friend to catch some pics of you as you come down the slide. 


Lindsey Galvez | My Family's Favorite Food Deals at Splash Country
Date: June 12, 2017

When the hot temperatures hit the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find my family keeping cool at Dollywood’s Splash Country. We all LOVE the water park because it’s the perfect place to spend the day. There’s no reason to leave - they have great food, great places to take a rest, and of course, great places to splash.

One great thing about Splash Country is the availability of food at a variety of places throughout the park. Another great perk is the food is just as good as Dollywood! Today I’m sharing with you my family’s favorite food deals when we’re visiting the water park.


Fill & Chill Mugs

Whether you’re visiting for the day or if you have a Season Pass, you’ll want to get a souvenir mug. My fellow Insider, Katie, shared a great video on how the mugs work and it’s definitely the best deal at the park.


My favorite part, other than the free refills of soda all season long, is the fact that you don’t have to wait in any lines for the refills. Just walk up to one of the five Fill & Chill Zones located throughout the park and refill with your favorite drink.

Hamburger Tray with Retreats

If you’re planning to rent a Retreat during your visit to Splash Country, you’re in for some great deals on food. Not only will you not have to wait in line to order your food, but you’ll be able to order a Family Meal Deal (Cheese Burgers and Fries Tray) for your family at a discounted price. Just pick up the phone in your Retreat and order from the Campsite Grill to have it delivered right to you!


It’s the treat you’ve been missing out on without knowing it. BeaverTails are parties made from whole wheat dough and hand-stretched just for you right after you order. They originated in Canada and Splash Country is one of only five places you can find them in the United States! I will say I’m totally partial to the Reese’s Pieces and chocolate hazelnut topping, but I’ve heard great things about the Cinnamon & Sugar version too!

Ice Cream

When you’re hot, what’s the best way to cool down? With a frozen treat, of course! There are a few different ice cream versions to be found in Splash Country (like Berries 'n Cream), but my family’s favorite is Dippin’ Dots! You’ll find this ice cream of the future in three locations at the park and don’t miss the fabulous Souvenir Bowl deal! New this season—Dollywood’s Splash Country Dippin’ Dots Sundaes! There are four choices, including one with rainbow ice for those who can’t have dairy.




Katie Van Dyke | Tour of New Calming Area at the Water Park
Date: June 30, 2017

I recently toured the new calming area at Dollywood’s Splash Country. As a mom of a child with sensory issues, I can tell you I instantly teared up. The area, while outside and not totally quiet, is well thought out and well equipped. Splash Country has managed to carve out a calm, peaceful place in the middle of the hustle and bustle that can easily become overwhelming for guests with autism or sensory issues like my son.

For me, the gesture of utilizing space and resources for this area speaks volumes about how serious Dollywood is about fun family memories. This is an effort to make all guest and families feel welcome and able enjoy a day of fun together.

Here are a few of the things you will find in the calming area:

Benches under shade trees
A tree with spiral wind spinners
A chest full of sensory toys
Rocking chairs
Weighted lap pad
Noise reducing headphones
Sand table
Magnetic chalk board area with curtains you can pull for more shade or privacy

This area confirms Splash Country is a top destination for my family during the summer. My youngest son can get quickly overwhelmed by what my other children find exhilarating. So, while the rest of the family can enjoy the slides, music, sights, smells and non-stop fun of the park we can take a quick break in the calming area. He can have access to things that we may not take on a day trip with us, like a weighted lap pad and headphones that help him relax. Knowing this accommodation is available if we need it makes me more relaxed and excited about a family trip.

If you need to use the new calming area while visiting Dollywood’s Splash Country, simply stop by the Splash & Dash near the front of the park and a host will show you way.


Teronya Holmes | The Safest Swimming Hole in Tennessee: Dollywood's Splash Country
Date: July 18, 2017

There is absolutely NOTHING my kids love more than spending a hot summer day cooling off on some crazy-cool water attractions at Dollywood’s Splash Country. That’s why I am relieved to know that when I take my kids to Splash Country, (while I do my part to keep alert to where they are and what they’re doing) I can also rest and relax knowing that my children are in the hands of some of the best-trained lifeguards in the industry!

On our most recent visit there, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Jordan Leach, Splash Country’s Aquatics and Safety Operations Manager. Jordan showed me a lot of the ins and outs of this amazing water park with insights into what it takes to have Tennessee’s ONLY Platinum Award-Winning Lifeguards. Here’s some of what I learned:

Water Park Accountability- How Does Splash Country Ensure Guards Do Their Job?

Three times every summer, Dollywood’s Splash Country has audits performed—unannounced and undercover checks performed by a third party, Ellis & Associates. These auditors visit Splash Country just like any other guests, and spend the day observing the lifeguards and discreetly videotaping them doing their duties.

At the end of the day, the auditor will let the management team know they are there. Then, they will watch the videos with Splash Country staff, and based upon what they have observed, will award a score. There are three possible scores: “Deficient” (does not meet the standards), “Meet” (meets standards), or “Exceed” (exceeds standards). Dollywood’s Splash Country just received its 13th consecutive “Exceed” score in June 2017 - meaning they have not received lower than “Exceed” for the past four and a half years!

What is Ellis & Associates?

Ellis & Associates has been acknowledged as the leader in innovation for the aquatics industry, working with more than 600 organizations in the United States and around the world, servicing more than 100 million guests each year, training upwards of 40,000 lifeguards every year, and conducting more than 2,000 Aquatic Safety Operational Audits per year. The firm is dedicated to the prevention and elimination of drowning events through proactive aquatic risk management, providing lifeguard instructor training, aquatic risk management services and more.

E&A has developed many of the standards of safety and training that are used in lifeguard and water safety all over the globe. They are also the first training organization to define a practicable objective when it comes to lifeguard scanning, incorporating a proactive element to lifeguard training that could be measured and evaluated. This is called the “10/20 Protection Standard.”

Lifeguard Expectations and Requirements

The 10/20 Protection Standard ensures that a lifeguard is able to recognize a guest in distress within their zone of protection area in 10 seconds and then be able to reach them and give them aid within 20 seconds of recognition.

Dollywood’s Splash Country certifies and licenses all of their lifeguards and lifeguard instructors via Ellis & Associates, because the management at Dollywood has done their research and chosen the best. E&A’s International Lifeguard Training Program (ILTP) is universally accepted and produces lifeguards that perform at a higher level than those of other training agencies.

This means that all 250 (or so) Splash Country hosts go through the 30-hour training, which is completed in three days before the season begins. This training, the expense of which is covered by Dollywood’s Splash Country, covers CPR, how to watch the water, swimmer safety, basic First Aid, and how to respond to spinal injuries.

E&A requires four hours of in-service training per month to maintain certification, so Splash Country does this for their Lifeguards by requiring them to go through one hour of “rescue-ready skills” training per week.

What You’ll Notice When You Watch Splash Country Lifeguards

So, if you were to watch these Platinum-Award-winning Lifeguards for a while, what could you expect to see? Well, I did watch them, and here is exactly what I saw: efficiency, organization, super-attentiveness, and friendly faces!

Jordan explained to me that the safety strategies at Splash Country are all the same, and yet different according to the size of the attraction. For instance, at Mountain Waves (the wave pool) you will notice the lifeguards remain in their chairs, but then stand when the waves are in action, while the lifeguards at Downbound Float Trip (the lazy river) will “rove” - walking back and forth through their zone the entire time.

If a lifeguard is approached by someone, they must maintain their skill strategy at all times. They also only have only a few seconds, to talk to them, while doing their job. If it’s a conversation that will take longer than a few seconds, they will whistle to the nearest guard and motion for them to watch their zone until the conversation is over. You won’t see this happen often.

The lifeguards do not sit still, and they do not just look around willy-nilly wherever they feel like looking. They each have a specific zone they must watch, and are trained to continuously move their heads up and down, left and right, and then perform a “foot sweep.” A “foot sweep” means they will look down in the area right in front of their chair/standing position, because this is an area that is actually not in their direct line of vision. So many parents advise their children to stay and swim “right in front of the lifeguard,” but did you know this is one of the places MOST water safety issues take place? It’s the hardest for the lifeguard to actually see, so the “foot sweep” is done every few seconds to ensure that they are constantly checking this part of their zone.

The lifeguard must maintain the “10/20 Protection Standard” at all times, taking ten seconds to scan his/her zone, and twenty seconds to respond to an emergency. Studies show that guests in distress have about 30 seconds before unconsciousness, so lifeguards want to catch them in distress while they are still on top of the water, and hopefully still conscious.

Every five minutes the lifeguards will change position for a few seconds, to get a different perspective. This is called the “Five Minute Strategy” and helps them to stay vigilant within their zone.

The lifeguards will rotate to a new zone in 30 to 45 minutes intervals. They work four positions/zones and then have a break, then work four again and have another break. Each lifeguard usually works 30 to 40 hours per week, including their one hour in-service training.

In addition to the well-trained guards, there is also a First Aid Station, with licensed EMT’s on duty. These safety professionals go through training together with the lifeguards, so there is cross-training going on among all hosts in both First Aid and water safety.

The next time you visit Dollywood’s Splash Country with your family and friends, take a few minutes to watch the lifeguards, and appreciate how diligently they are working to ensure that everyone has a fun and safe visit.

Do you think YOU could become a Splash Country Lifeguard? Stay tuned for another post coming soon that will tell you all about what it takes to become a Splash Country Lifeguard, and how Dollywood’s Splash Country keeps their lifeguards happy and motivated!