Katie Van Dyke

Life With a Big Family is a Balancing Act 
Category: Best Value
Date: February 1, 2017

When planning family adventures we try to balance budget against how possible it is that our entire family will have fun. With a wide age range, this can be a lot harder than it sounds.  It becomes even harder when you want a day that offers memories, laughs and fun at a reasonable price. When you want value. 

While considering options this year I did a little quick math:

Full Family Day Option #1 
1. Movie (provided we can find one everyone wants to see) 
$12 x 2 adults = $24 
$9 x 6 kids = $54 
$20 for treats 
$98

2.  Trampoline Park 
$17 x 4 adults= $68  
$12 x 2 kids = $24  
$92

3. Local Hands-On Science Center
$7 x 7 people= $49
$2 x 7 for planetarium show= $14 
$63

Total=$253 for one full day of fun

Full Family Day Option #2 
Day at Dollywood (We buy season passes, so add 245 more days of fun!)

$86 x 4 kids = $344 (We only need 4 because kids 3 and under are Free!)
$98 x 2 adults = $196

Train ride- included
Roller coasters- included
Shows- included
Play areas- included
Water rides- included 
Craft demonstrations- included
Younger child rides- included
Festivals- included 
Museums- included 

Total= $540 for 10 months of visits

Option #2 is a little more expensive but here is where more value comes in: we get 246 possible days of family fun with our season passes. Note we only bought four of our kids passes, our two year old does not need one as kids 3 and under are Free. Obviously, we won’t make it 246 times, but 10 is a realistic number for our family. That averages out to one visit a month and that makes each trip $54—or just $7 per person! 

Now let’s talk about the fact there is something on that list of “included” attractions that each person in my family loves. My 4 year old loves the train and everyone else will have fun riding with him. My older guys love roller coasters, but my toddler will have fun playing in a nearby Fun Yard while they ride. That means no, “I’m bored,” no eye rolling, no asking when we are leaving, no creatively entertaining a toddler because they aren’t big enough for anything. Value with a capital V. 

When everyone has something to enjoy it also allows my husband and I to fully enjoy time with our kids.    

And I get to do the things I love at Dollywood like listening to my older guys laughing at me for screaming the entire roller coaster ride or riding the Rockin’ Roadway cars with my 4 year old for the fifth time. I love watching all their faces light up as they watch a show or waving to my toddler flying by on the Busy Bees.   

A season pass also relieves the pressure I can feel to make everyone cram as much family fun into one day as possible. I know I am not the only mom, who knowing how much money has been spent on a day, has given her kids “the” look and through partially gritted teeth instructed them to start having fun immediately.  With a season pass if one or more of my kids is having a meltdown, we can just pack it in and try another day. When we have an unexpected free evening we can surprise the kids with a quick trip to one of their favorite places.  

So, if you’re wondering if Dollywood is a good value for you family I’m going to say YES.  Dollywood manages to balance big roller coasters, small rides, parks, food, water rides, shows, arts and crafts, music and more.  Everyone will find something to smile about.  So, pack all your precious people into the car and head to Dollywood for your own family fun. 


 


Dollywood With Your Little Ones
Category: Family Visits
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.

 


Dollywood for the Non-Riders
Category: Entertainment
Date: March 15, 2017

When I tell you that Dollywood has something for YOUR family, yes, I even mean something for the non-riders in your group. Don’t hesitate to bring someone who isn’t a big fan of thrill rides. Watch this video and I’ll share with you my family’s favorite mild attractions at Dollywood.