How to Pack for a Day at Dollywood
Category: Trip Planning
Date: February 10, 2017
I have been to Dollywood nearly 100 times over the years—so I’ve learned a thing or two when it comes to preparing for a day at my favorite theme park. One word of advice: pack an extra pair of socks for those who plan to do the water rides! Find out what else I recommend you bring in my “How to Pack for a Day at Dollywood” video.
Dollywood 2017 "Behind the Scenes" Construction Tour
Category: Family Visits
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.
Springtime in the Smokies
Category: Trip Planning
Date: February 28, 2017
Springtime in the Smokies is always truly captivating. The bright sunshine and gentle showers coax the daffodils, tulips, and forsythia into bloom, as the dogwood and redbud trees light up the mountains with colorful cheer. Dollywood is an especially spectacular place to visit to celebrate the return of spring every year, and 2017 promises to be the most exciting yet!
The Grand Opening of the Dollywood Theme Park is March 18, and they’re welcoming everyone back with the Festival of Nations (March 18 - April 9). This annual event is a fascinating multi-cultural extravaganza, featuring traditional music, dance, food and art of nations from all over the world. What better way to remind us how much we share in common than to experience and embrace the colorful cultures and traditions found around our globe! This season, Mother Africa, the headline show, returns for another exciting, entertaining, and high-energy performance. Also this year, Slask Song and Dance Ensemble, a prominent Polish folk ensemble, visits Dollywood for the first time. These shows, along with more internationally known performance artists and groups, roaming musicians, and all of the sites, sounds, and tastes of the nations will ensure your family experiences a fun, educational, and exciting escape around the world without ever leaving the Smokies!
Are you looking for a new way to spend Spring Break this year? Just as Dollywood’s Festival of Nations moves out, Spring Break with Tokyo-based dance company enra moves in (April 10 - 22). The cutting-edge performance routines of this high-energy, multi-media dance, light and video fusion show will surely leave guests mesmerized. This group was featured on America’s Got Talent in 2015, and I believe the only way to truly understand this “motion graphics performance art” is to just go see it for yourself!
And just because one huge festival in the spring isn’t enough, I’m happy to report that Dollywood is once again closing out spring with some fabulous “swine dining and old time mountain music.” Of course, I mean none other than Dollywood’s BBQ & Bluegrass Festival (May 26 - June 4)! Come to Dollywood to get summer started in the South with the tastiest barbecue and some of the biggest and brightest names in bluegrass. Enjoy free daily concerts from performers such as Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Daily and Vincent, Blue Highway, Hot Rize and Steep Canyon Rangers. Honestly, I can’t think of anything my family and I enjoy much more than eating saucy barbecue while listening to the South’s sauciest music!
Don’t forget - Dollywood’s Splash Country opens May 13 for the 2017 season (daily operation begins May 20). So, if your family prefers their thrills to involve lots of splash-tacular fun, be sure to plan your vacation around the grand opening of this theme park! Splash Country features 35 acres of fun, including a brand new exciting water slide this year - TailSpin Racer!
This year promises to bring special enchantment to the Smokies as Mother Nature’s springtime recovery from the devastating wildfires of late November last year takes on a life of its own, literally. Though about 17,000 acres were affected, that is only a very small portion of the 520,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina - so there will be plenty to see and do!
My family has always welcomed spring by making the pilgrimage back to enjoy the great outdoor adventures along the mountain pathways on the many trails throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we look forward to doing so again this year. My boys and I are anxious to go creek-walking in the Chimneys, hike to the overlooks and waterfalls, and explore Cades Cove on our bicycles. As always, and especially this year, I recommend that you check the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website or call to find out about any road, trail, or bridge closures. This is always a good idea, because there are always repairs to be completed after the sometimes severe weather of winter, and as in the case this year - wildfires, in the mountains.
Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg also have their own special ways of welcoming springtime in the Smokies. Tourists are sure to pour into the region this year, not only to welcome spring, but also to bring their support back to this beautiful region as it continues in its recovery from the wildfire damage.
Gatlinburg will bloom with color during the Great Smoky Mountain Associations’s 67th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage (April 11 - 15). During this week of activities, everyone from the serious botanist to the weekend gardner will be able to follow along as the nation’s leading botanical experts and Appalachian wildlife authorities conduct exciting seminars and intimate guided tours. There will be more than 150 programs, instructional walks, guided hiking tours, demonstrations, and guest lecturers. What an amazing opportunity to learn about the abundance and varieties of wildlife native to the Great Smoky Mountains!
Pigeon Forge’s Wilderness Wildlife Week™ (May 9 -13) will delight nature lovers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Educational programs, guided hikes, seminars and workshops will be offered daily from the beautiful LeConte Center in the heart of Pigeon Forge. Come celebrate the features, creatures, and cultures of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park right in the “Center of Fun” in the Smokies!
Sevierville’s Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival (May 20 - 21) takes place during Smoky Mountain Springfest, located conveniently in historic downtown Sevierville - which happens to be the home of a beautiful statue of none other than Dolly Parton—since this is her hometown. This festival is a true barbecue cook-off - an official barbecue championship of the State of Tennessee.
As you can see, there is so much to see and experience during springtime in the Smokies, so be sure to plan your getaway now so you can enjoy the fun, beauty, and adventure for yourself!
Welcome Back to Dollywood 2017!
Category: Best Value
Date: March 20, 2017
Spring is here and it’s time once again to play at Dollywood! With all of your favorite rides, attractions, and culinary treats back within your reach after this long winter, PLUS the addition of new ones added over the off-season, 2017 promises to be full of fun, excitement, and surprises for the whole family.
This season, which Dollywood has dubbed “The Year of the Family,” is hailing all sorts of exciting new things - like two major new attractions (Whistle Punk Chaser and Drop Line), newly remodeled and themed restaurants (Front Porch Cafe and Lumber Jack’s Pizza), and many upgraded services and amenities at the theme park; as well as a splash-tastic new water slide (TailSpin Racer) at Dollywood’s Splash Country. What more, you ask, could they possibly offer to top all that? Well, let me fill you in…
Friday, March 17 Dollywood theme park kicked off its opening weekend with a special “Sneak Preview Day” for Season Passholders before opening to the general public on Saturday, March 18. The folks at Dollywood are especially delighted to be able to thank their loyal customers on this Sneak Preview Day as they open for their 32nd season. It’s going to be a fantastic year!
After a difficult winter in the Smokies with losses due to the wildfires in November of 2016, Dolly Parton and the employees of Dollywood spent many of their own dollars and hours working and raising funds for those who sustained difficult losses as a result. Dollywood’s theme park, water park, and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa were spared the brunt of the damage, thankfully, and the management and employees have been especially grateful to be able to give back to the community and now to be able to open Dollywood’s doors to the public right on time in 2017.
To celebrate, they turned the Season Passholder “Sneak Preview Day” into a grand event to show their appreciation to their loyal customers with some brand new traditions. Curious? Let me take you on a little tour of some of the surprises offered to Season Passholders on this special day…
Imagine pulling up to the Dollywood parking lot, and being told that you’ve just been upgraded to Preferred Parking (for FREE) for the day! That’s what happened for the first 100 cars who showed up to the park! AND the first 50 who asked for valet parking received a discount!
Keep imagining with me….after parking your car, and taking the very short walk to the park entrance, you take it all in and realize this day is really not going to be your typical day at Dollywood - but then again, is ANY day a typical day at Dollywood??? NO!
Today, Dollywood has literally rolled out the “red carpet treatment” for you with a special V.I.P. entrance! As you stroll the red carpet (Dollywood employees REALLY want you to feel special and welcomed on this day!), amidst greetings from your favorite Dollywood employees and friends, you can stop and have your picture snapped by professional photographers, and, if you’re among some of the first to arrive, you even receive your own gift of Hollywo-... er, uh, I mean “Dollywood swag” - a car magnet and a pair of fabulous sunglasses - fit for the celebrity guest you truly are!
They like me! They really like me!!!
In addition to this one-of-a-kind welcome, Season Passholders were delighted to find many other treats in store for them on this special day: coupons for “buy one, get one free” games for the first 6,000 guests (arcade games not included), discounted Sky Zip tours, special discounts on food, drinks, and treats across the park - BEYOND the normal Gold Pass discount, and more!
Don’t forget, Dollywood Season Passholders don’t just get one day of special treatment at Dollywood. They receive a bounty of amazing benefits all year long:
- Unlimited visits to the Season Pass’ respective Park
- Exclusive ride times on select attractions
- Friends & Family Discount - $5 off regular 1-Day admission for friends to the Season Pass’ respective Park (Passholder must be present and purchase)
- 20% off Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins and overnight accommodations (Passholder only); Subject to availability
- For Dollywood Season Passholders only - Passholder discount to Dollywood’s Splash Country - $5 off Regular 1-Day Admission to Dollywood’s Splash Country (Passholder only)
- For Dollywood’s Splash Country Season Passholders only - Passholder Discount - $5 off Regular 1-Day admission to Dollywood (Passholder only)
- Gold Passholders - Save up to 10%, based on seasonality and availability at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, limited to Sunday - Thursday (plus, Gold Passholders receive free parking every operational day, and 20% off food, merchandise, and select rentals at the respective park.)
- Super Passholders - Save up to 20%, based on seasonality and availability at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort
- Fabulous discounts to other regional attractions - just show your pass and save! Attractions such as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede (Pigeon Forge), Chimney Rock (NC), Biltmore (Asheville, NC), Tennessee Aquarium (Chattanooga), Stone Mountain Park (Atlanta, GA), Silver Dollar City (Branson, MO), Silver Dollar City’s White Water (Branson), Ripley’s Attractions (Sevierville & Gatlinburg), Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Bryson City, NC), Cumberland Caverns, and Zoo Knoxville (Knoxville, TN).
All of this and more - just to say thank you, and welcome back to your Dollywood home in the Smokies! It’s not too late to purchase your Dollywood Season Pass for 2017. Just go to Dollywood.com for more information and to make your purchase. So, what are you waiting for? Dollywood and the Smokies are calling!
Drop In to Experience Dollywood's New "Drop Line" Attraction!
Category: Thrill Rides
Date: May 17, 2017
Earlier this month, Dollywood debuted its latest and greatest new attraction- Drop Line!
Now open for all Guests, Drop Line is located next to Thunderhead - one of my favorite wooden roller coasters of all time - and in the area of the Dollywood Theme Park known as “Timber Canyon.”
As you climb the trail up Timber Canyon, just look up and you’ll see the magnificent sky-scraping tower of steel looming above. If you keep gazing toward the heavens, you’ll eventually see a gigantic spinning big orange gondola full of guests - whom Dolly herself said, “either have to be kids or crazy,” to ride such an attraction - spiraling slowly up 230 feet (20 stories) in the air. And guess what. There’s only one way to get back down to Earth, my friends!
I had the great privilege of being among some of the first to ride Drop Line one day before its Grand Opening, along with some members of the media, theme park enthusiasts, and journalists, so I’m happy to tell you all about it.
But before I describe it, you might be wondering, as I was, just what exactly IS a drop line? I’m glad you asked! The logging industry was a big deal in The Smokies around the turn of the 20th Century, and a device such as the one in the drawing below, known as a “skidder”, was often used for transporting the logs. In logging terms, a logger called the “choker setter” puts a short noose of wire rope (a “choker”) around the logs. The chokers are then set to the “Drop Line,” which is suspended from the “carriage,” which is the load-carrying device that brings the logs back and forth along the skyline on sheaves for yarding (conveying them to a landing).
And, “Drop Line” just happened to be the perfect lumberjack/logging name for the perfect Timber Canyon tower attraction that soars high above the tree-tops in Dollywood before dropping you straight down the line in a thrilling whoosh!
In its attractions and shows, Dollywood often pays homage to the logging industry that began in the Great Smoky Mountains in the early 1900s. At that time Colonel Wilson B. Townsend founded the Little River Railroad and the Little River Lumber Company and bought over 80,000 acres of virgin forest in the wilderness that is now known as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The logging industry is responsible for bringing development into the mountain communities which had formerly sustained themselves mainly by farming the land. The history of logging and the railroad industry, and the roles they played in the development of this region of Appalachia and the eventual formation of the National Park is extremely interesting. I encourage you to do some research and learn more about it before you visit. You’ll appreciate your experience at Dollywood all the more!
So, what’s the verdict on Drop Line? From my perspective, which was 20 stories high up in the air, it was THRILLING!
I admit, I was a little nervous about being among the first to try out such a brand new and really intimidating-looking attraction! However, safety is at the TIP-TOP of Dollywood’s list, always, and that helped me to know I could relax and just enjoy the experience.
After we got situated safely in our seats and started ascending, the gondola began slowly spinning in order to afford us a view from every angle. My favorite part was just a few moments in when a collective gasp was heard from almost all of us who were riding as we rose just high enough to really see above the trees to the mountain top horizons beyond. It was, quite simply, breathtaking. There is no beauty that quite compares to the “Land of the Blue Smoke,” and the view you get of these mountains from Drop Line is, in a word, incredible.
As we reached the top and I looked down, I realized just how high I truly was. WOW! If you’re scared of heights, this may not be your thing. But if you’re not sure, and you think you can handle it, the views make it all worth it. At the top, we began our final revolution around the tower, taking in the spectacular 360-degree view of Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains. I remember thinking that I wished I could have stayed up there enjoying that scenery all day. Okay, maybe not all day, but at least for a while...
But you know that’s not going to happen. You KNOW what’s coming next! The only problem is that you don’t know exactly WHEN it’s coming - until IT HAPPENS!!! You suddenly DROP - swift and sure, back down to Earth, in one exhilarating swoosh of excitement, landing with your heart in your throat and a smile as big as Dolly’s!
Do yourself a favor - go a little “crazy,” as Dolly described it, and experience Drop Line for yourself - to capture the thrill of it all and an unforgettable glimpse of the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s guaranteed to bring out the “kid” in you!
Sweet Summer Savings
Category: Best Value
Date: June 21, 2017
Summer is finally here! This is sweet music to my family’s ears because it means we have more time for fun - at Dollywood!
You know that Dollywood is the sweetest summer vacation destination for your family and friends, right? Well, just to sweeten things a little more the good folks of Dollywood have provided all kinds of amazing opportunities to make sure that your visit is the greatest value ever this summer! Be sure to check out the Dollywood website to find out all about the “Special Offers” this summer.
As great as all these deals are, I still want to make sure that I’m leaving no stone unturned when it comes to sweetening the deal on our vacations. The good news is, there are even MORE ways that you can save when you visit Dollywood!
Here are a few of our favorite tried and true Dollywood Deals and Savings Sweeteners:
Arrive After 3 p.m., Next Day is Free!
Normally one of the main tips you get when you visit a theme park is to ‘get there early so you can get all the main attractions done before the lines get too long.’ Well, here is an exception! If you can work it out to spend more than one day at Dollywood, then arrive after 3 p.m. your first day - and your next day will be FREE! This is truly one of the best kept secrets out there, especially since Dollywood is open for extended hours this summer - until 10 p.m. now until Aug. 6. After that, check the operating calendar for how late the park is open. The good thing is, though, you can still arrive after 3 and get the next day free through October!
Arrive Early - Avoid the Lines
For the early bird who loves to get the worm, or if your vacation only allows for one day at Dollywood, then arriving at the park early is a great way to get the most bang for your buck. You will definitely be able to get in a lot of the major attractions before the lines begin to get longer. This leaves more time for shows and CINNAMON BREAD!
Avoid the Busiest Days
Let’s face it, we always want to “get our money’s worth,” and the smaller the crowd, the more you get to do at Dollywood. It is difficult to always predict which days are the busiest at Dollywood. However, in the summer it is usually best to visit on a Wednesday or Thursday to avoid the biggest crowds. Also, a festival or special event will usually be cause for a larger crowd and longer lines. Check the calendar on Dollywood’s website to see if there’s anything going on the day(s) you plan to visit.
Get a Timesaver to Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck
If there is simply no way you can avoid visiting Dollywood on a crowded day and you still want to make the MOST of your time there, Dollywood offers the “TimeSaver Line Management Pass.” If it is important that you make the most of your limited time at Dollywood, this is a superb deal. For the cost of $35 plus tax per person, you will be able to maximize your visit by spending less time in line. The TimeSaver will allow you to visit ten eligible attractions or rides, or to ride your favorite ride(s) up to ten times. Gold, Super Gold Passholders, and Smoky Mountain Cabin guests receive a $5 discount on a TimeSaver. And best of all, the TimeSaver is FREE for Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort guests who have purchased exclusive resort theme park tickets or Season Passes! Check the Dollywood website for more information or to purchase.
One of my most treasured surprises of all time at Dollywood was when we visited the park on a beautiful day and had a glorious time up until 3 p.m. when a huge thunderstorm hit. At most other theme parks we’ve visited, this simply means that you buy a poncho and go for it on the attractions that can stay operational, or, you leave disappointed. At Dollywood, most of our favorite attractions were closing due to the fact that they are the outdoor rides which cannot be operated when lightning is within a 10-mile radius of the park. As we were leaving the park, we couldn’t help but feel a little dejected that we weren’t getting a full day’s worth of fun. Imagine our joy when a cheerful Dollywood Hostess smiled and said, “Good-bye folks! Be sure you pick up your rainchecks on the way out!” Wait. WHAT? Could there really be such a thing? YES, Virginia, there is! Here’s how Dollywood’s “No Worry Rain Guarantee” works: “If the park experiences rain for more than 1 hour on the day of your visit, [Dollywood] will gladly give you a raincheck to return another day. We understand that rain can sometimes lessen your park experience and we are happy to have you visit us again! Please stop by Guest Services to pick up your raincheck before you leave the park.” I call that customer service, folks!
Upgrade to a Season Pass
Let’s say you have an unforgettable day in Dollywood, and you decide that one day is just not enough. STOP. Before you go buy another one-day admission ticket you need to understand that if you are going to visit Dollywood more than one time during the season, a Season Pass is your BEST VALUE. This happens to folks a lot, and Dollywood loves and cares for their guests so much that the good folks there have made it possible for you to upgrade to a Season Pass by applying your paid one-day admission toward the price of a season pass! This transaction must be made on the day of your visit before leaving the park. So head to Guest Services and just get it done as soon as possible - you won’t regret it!
Refillable Mugs for Drinks and Popcorn
Dollywood and Splash Country offer a great deal with their Refillable Fill and Chill Day/Season Pass Mugs. These cute mugs can be used to save on unlimited FREE refills on all fountain drink beverages and $1.99 refills on all hot or frozen beverages either for the day or for the entire 2017 season, according to your purchase. There is also a refillable popcorn container you can purchase, which is great if you have teenage boys with a hollow leg, like I do!
Free Water Anywhere Fountain Drinks are Sold
You can ask for and receive a free cup of ice water at any food or beverage stand in either Dollywood or Splash Country that has a beverage fountain. It is so important to stay hydrated when you are playing hard and walking through the parks this summer. If you can forego the sodas and sweet tea, this one little tweak to your meal plan for the day can save you a LOT of money!
Dollywood offers several more special discounts of which you’ll want to be aware, in case any should apply to you or your family. For instance, deals are available for groups of fifteen or more, as long as arrangements are made at least two weeks in advance. Dollywood has also always been proud to assist military families with a 30% discount on one-day admission tickets. And of course, Season Passholders, Gold Passholders, and Super Passholders have several discount opportunities from which to benefit at Dollywood and Splash Country, as well as discounts at other regional attractions, such as Biltmore, Chimney Rock, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Great Smoky Mountains’ Railroad, Cumberland Caverns, Ripley’s Attractions, Silver Dollar City, Stone Mountain Park, Tennessee Aquarium, Silver Dollar City’s Whitewater, and Zoo Knoxville.
So, there you go! I’m sure there are many other great ideas for enjoying a memorable time at Dollywood while getting the best value possible, but these are my tried-and-true favorites. I hope you enjoy your time at Dollywood and Splash Country!
The Safest Swimming Hole in Tennessee: Dollywood's Splash Country
Category: Water Park
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!