November 09, 2022
Visiting Dollywood is fun for people of all ages, but if you or a family member have accessibility needs, you may be a bit apprehensive about your visit to the park. Thankfully, Dollywood has you covered with amazingly helpful hosts (what Dollywood calls employees) and hospitality services. I recently visited the park with my mother who decided to rent an Electronic Convenience Vehicle (ECV) for the first time to help her navigate the park easier. Today, I'm sharing how our experience went and tips to help you with your ECV rental experience, too! Before our visit, I made sure to do some research beforehand. I bet that's what you are doing now! In addition to the tips I share below, I suggest reading this helpful article about Visiting Dollywood in a Wheelchair and you'll find even more great information in the Guest Accessibility Services section of Dollywood.com.
My #1 tip for renting an ECV is to book your rental early! Dollywood reserves 20% of their ECV fleet for online bookings in advance, and if you do reserve ahead of your visit, you have to do so at least 48 hours before your trip. I booked about a week before and had no issues, but during busier seasons like Dollywood's Harvest Festival and Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas, you may want to book as soon as you know your trip is planned.
If you choose not to book online, I highly recommend arriving at the park at least 30 minutes before it opens. The rest of the ECV fleet is sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and the line starts forming as soon as guests arrive. Whether you book online or plan to rent an ECV at the park the day of your visit, there are two locations where you can pick up your ECV. The annex location is a large white tent in the parking lot to the right, before you get to Dollywood's entry screening. This is where my mom picked up her ECV. It's just past Parking Lot A.
The hosts were extremely helpful and eased my mom's nerves about driving an ECV in the park for the first time. Our host showed her how to operate the vehicle and gave her instructions on how to return the vehicle at the end of the day. Returns are made to the Rental Services building located next to the Ride Accessibility Center. You can pick one up, here, too. I recommend picking one up from this spot if you enter through the Preferred Entrance turnstiles.
Even if you pick up your ECV in the annex location, be sure to visit the Ride Accessibility Center. This is where you will find hosts who are knowledgeable and trained about what rides and attractions will be best suited for you, based on any limitations or concerns you may have.
My mom has trouble walking long distances or standing for long periods of time, so the host took that information and made suggestions to make my mom's experience at Dollywood more accommodating. This process wasn't about what my mom couldn't do on her visit, but what she could do to make it even better. We both really appreciated this!
The Ride Accessibility Center building is also where you will get a Boarding Pass. Since my mom would have trouble standing in lines, she was given this pass. It doesn't help you "skip" lines, but instead, it essentially stands in line for you.
For example, when my mom went to ride FireChaser Express, she went into the Accessibility Entrance line. The wait for the family roller coaster was 30 minutes at 10 a.m., so the ride attendant wrote 10:30 a.m. on her pass. This meant that she could get in line and ride another ride starting at 10:30 a.m. This means she didn't have to stand and wait 30 minutes, but also she didn't get to abuse the system.This post about Getting Around Dollywood with Moderate Mobility Issues by a fellow Dollywood Insider has more great information about this pass, as well.
One of my last tips to anyone who has any type of mobility or accessibility concerns for their visit to Dollywood is to take advantage of Guest Drop Off and Pick Up locations. Instead of parking in a lot as you enter Dollywood, keep driving up to the front until you see these signs near the front of the park (to your right).
There are a few clearly labeled parking spaces so that guests can be dropped off right outside the front gate. The driver will then circle back around to park in a lot. You can do this for both Guest Drop Off and Pick Up at the end of the day. Also, there is a Guest Drop Off location in the Preferred Parking lot. Dollywood is committed to making sure every visitor has a wonderful and safe visit to the theme park. Before our visit, my mom was very nervous about driving an ECV around the park for the first time, but her nerves were put to ease with the process of booking online and the helpfulness of Dollywood's hosts. She was able to explore the park more than she has in years, and we all left with lots of wonderful family memories.
All Insiders Trip Planning
All Insiders Trip Planning