Make Plans to Join Dollywood's Light the Way 5k Make Plans to Join Dollywood's Light the Way 5k

Make Plans to Join Dollywood's Light the Way 5k


December 01, 2022

I ran my first 5k at Dollywood! That's right. Dollywood hosts an annual race called Light the Way 5k. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew that it was scheduled late at night after the park closed so participants could enjoy an empty park glowing with millions of Christmas lights. I didn't know if I would be able to finish the whole race running or how serious of a race it is. Light the Way 5k is open to the first 1,500 registrants, and from what I saw, there were people of all ages: children, teens and adults. I ran with two other Dollywood Insiders, Aaron and Katie. Running is always more fun with friends. The atmosphere was pretty jolly: a number of runners were dressed for the holiday occasion. I ran with a few Santas and some elves!

It was such a novel experience running through Dollywood at night with 6 million twinkling lights and seasonal tunes playing all throughout the park. As we made our way to Jukebox Junction, we became more dispersed, and I began to pick up the pace. Some pathways of the park were taped off to keep everyone on the right path, and volunteers were stationed at pivotal points to motion people with illuminated wands.

I initially signed up for the race for the Christmas lights and the experience, but there was such an energy in the air that I became competitive. There was another runner I consistently tried to outpace. He was wearing some festive jingle bells, so I could always hear him approaching and knew when to pick up my step. As I raced through the far end of Craftsman's Valley, I began to feel a bit winded, but a bald eagle from Dollywood's Eagle Mountain Sanctuary called out. I took it as he was cheering me on. The race was two laps around Dollywood. On my second lap, when I was racing down Timber Canyon, I gave it my final push and crossed the finish line strong at the front of the park. I was handed a medal, and there were mounds of bananas, apples and granola bars on tables, as well as bottles of water and milk.

I felt so accomplished. I ran the whole race, and my time wasn't bad at all. I stood there for a while, cooling off, snacking and watching others come across the finish line. At 12:15 a.m. there was an awards ceremony in the Showstreet Palace Theater. Awards were divided into male and female categories with a first, second and third place category in each age division. In total, there were 80 runners recognized. Each one was awarded a special Light the Way 5k ornament. What fun! My first 5k was excellent. I will not pass this up as an annual tradition.

Proceeds from this 5k benefit Keep Sevier Beautiful (KSB) which promotes good stewardship and the beautification of public places in Sevier County and also the Share It Forward program (SIF) which helps Dollywood's employees and families in times of need. Next year, come be a part of the Light the Way 5k! It's an excellent way to ring in the holiday and get you in the Christmas spirit. See you at the finish line!

Insider Tips

– There is a walking option as well. Walkers start 20 minutes after the runners.
– Some bathrooms in Dollywood remain open during the race.
– Every participant gets a Light the Way 5k medal and t-shirt.
– The park is well lit with all the Christmas lights to keep you on your way!
– You can register in a team. I registered with the other Dollywood Insiders.
– The 2023 date has not been announced yet, but it’s usually held on a Friday night in mid-November.
– Find more information at



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