Sweeping views of the mountains paired with endless family-friendly attractions and shows make Dollywood a pilgrimage that many families make every year. Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Dollywood is Dolly Parton’s theme park that is bursting with southern charm. This was our daughter’s first experience at a theme park, and quite honestly we couldn’t have picked a better park for her to visit. Venturing to a theme park with a toddler in tow can be intimidating. What can they ride, are there healthy options to eat, do they have family restrooms? We have all those answers and more with our tips on bringing a toddler to Dollywood. A special thanks to Dollywood for giving us complimentary admission so that we could share our experience and tips with everyone!
Get There Early
Chances are you already were up at the crack of dawn with your little ones so capitalize on that by arriving at the park when it opens! Not only will parking be remarkably closer, but you can take advantage of little to no lines for an hour or so. This is huge because most toddlers don’t want to wait for anything. Purchase your tickets ahead of time to bypass the line at the ticket counters.
Download the Dollywood App
We utilized this app all throughout the day during our visit. The app will give you wait times for the rides, pull up a park map, show you what restaurants are close by and even give you the times of performances throughout the day. We loved this because it told us where the nearest family bathrooms were located!
Centralized Measuring Station at Dollywood
This needs to be your first stop when visiting Dollywood with kids. Located across from The Southern Gospel Musem and Hall of Fame on Showstreet you will find the Centralized Measuring Station. This station will help determine which rides are suitable for your child. After being measured by a Dollywood employee your child will be given a color-coded wristband to help you quickly identify if they are tall enough to ride. The coded wristbands correspond to the color-coded information displayed on signs at each ride in the Park.
This service not only saves valuable time but also can avoid disappointment after waiting in line only to find out little ones aren’t tall enough to ride.
Dollywood Rides Minimum Height Requirements
There are rides and attractions for all ages and heights throughout Dollywood. Dollywood minimum heights range from 36 inches to 50 inches depending on the ride. Some rides allow guests shorter than 48 inches to ride as long as they are accompanied by someone 16 years or older. A few favorites are The Amazing Flying Elephants, The Vintage Carousel, Tree Top Tower and Dollywood Express.
This is where having that color-coded wrist band comes in handy. It takes the guesswork out if a member of the party is tall enough to ride. A few of our toddler favorites were the Piggy Parade, The Busy Bees, The Lucky Ducky, and the Tree Top Tower.
The County Fair: The Perfect Spot For A Toddler In Dollywood
This is one section of the park you will want to make sure you visit if you have a little one in tow. They have a good selection of rides for the littlest riders here. The first ride our daughter ever rode by herself was the Piggy Parade. She absolutely loved it and rode it more times then I care to admit. Bumper cars, The Amazing Flying Elephants and Lemon Twist are a few other fun rides that can also be found in the County Fair. Want to know a fun fact? This portion of the park is named as such because when Dolly Parton was a young girl, going to the county fair once a year was one of her most prized memories.
Right before you enter the County Fair is the Vintage Carousel. Another popular ride for toddlers and grown-ups alike.
Take Advantage of the Parent Swap
Often times toddlers and small children do not meet the minimum height requirements of rides older children and adults enjoy. Dollywood offers a Parent Swap program to help give guests a hassle-free way of experiencing the attractions at the park. Your party will enter through the regular guest line where a Dollywood employee at the ride will explain how the “Swap” will work. One adult waits with the child in a secure area while the rest of the group rides the attraction. Once the group returns, the adults will “swap” places with each other. To learn more about the Parent Swap head over to the park’s website.
The Dollywood Express
It isn’t every day when you see grown men shoveling coal into a fire engine in 90-degree heat. Dollywood’s famous Dollywood Express is their authentic 110-ton coal-fired steam engine that takes guests on a scenic twenty-minute ride through the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. Toddlers will rejoice at the chance to hop aboard a real live “choo-choo” and this will give everyone a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of amusement park life.
An important tip is that the train only runs at certain times throughout the day. During our most recent trip, the train did not start running till noon and then ran every hour. For a toddler whose fuse for wait times is short, the timing for the train is everything. I would recommend arriving ten to fifteen minutes before the train departs with a snack in hand. Depending on how busy the park is you may want to arrive earlier to ensure a spot on the train. Bring water as well, because you may be waiting in the sun depending on how long the line is.
More Tips For Taking A Toddler To Dollywood
Stroller Rental At Dollywood
This is the one mandatory item you need when visiting Dollywood with a toddler, besides food and water. We did not bring our stroller and immediately regretted not renting one about an hour in. TRUST ME! Even if you think your toddler will not sit in a stroller, they will get tired fast. We ended up carrying our little one out of Dollywood fast asleep. If we had a stroller we could have easily kept on enjoying the park while she took her afternoon snooze. You can rent strollers for $13 for a single or $16 for a double. WORTH EVERY PENNY!
Changing and Nursing Stations
Scattered throughout the park are nursing stations and changing stations. Located on ShowStreet is Dollywood’s Baby Care Center that features a climate-controlled area with six gliders and footstools, two changing stations and a restroom. This is also a great area for those who are pumping.
Where to Eat With A Toddler In Dollywood
A hungry toddler is often an angry toddler, so it is best to prepare yourself for when hanger strikes. Pull up your Dollywood app and look for one of these restaurants that offer kids meals! Aunt Granny’s, Miss Lillian’s Smokehouse and Fried Chicken, Hickory House BBQ, Grandstand Cafe, Red’s Diner and Victoria’s Pizza.
Need a bottle warmed up? All the restaurants at Dollywood can assist you with bottle warming! This excludes concession stands, however, I highly recommend the Pork Rinds! Venture into the Grist Mill for some tasty cinnamon bread!
The shows at Dollywood are not to be missed! They even have a special show for little ones at the Little Engine Playhouse. It is a twenty-minute musical that brings three children’s books to life. This is a great way to take a break from the heat or break up your time during your visit. Check the daily schedule to see performance times.
Play/ Splash Areas
It can get really hot during a summer visit to Dollywood. Ensure that you bring plenty of sunscreen and water. Especially if visiting the new Wildwood Groove, since there isn’t much shade in this new area of the park. The good news is there are a few areas were little ones can cool off! There are four play areas found throughout Dollywood. Each one has a unique theme and fun features. Whether it is a splash pad, musical instruments or a creek, children will love a spot where they don’t have to wait, but rather play! Two play areas are located in the new Wildwood Groove, one in Wilderness Pass and another in Owen’s Farm.
Our Overall Experience With Taking A Toddler To Dollywood
One of the best parts of Dollywood is that children younger than four don’t need a ticket to get in! General admission to get into Dollywood is not cheap so to ensure you get the most of your visit you will want to plan ahead. If you are only looking for a few rides for your toddler and nothing else, I would bypass Dollywood and hit the Parkway for a pay-per-ride entertainment. Dollywood encompasses so much than rides and will provide those who visit with a full day worth of entertainment. For the price that you would take your family to a show and an attraction or two on the strip, you could get a full day of rides, shows and more at Dollywood.
Consider the two-day pass and add in Splash Country to get the most bang for your buck. If you visit Pigeon Forge more than once a year, I would consider the Season Pass as the best budget option. For current pricing visit their website.
Our daughter truly enjoyed every minute of her time at Dollywood. Watching her muster up the courage to ride her first ride by herself is a memory that will be forever with us. It then opened Pandora’s box to her riding everything she could fit on. Her eyes would fill with wonder as rollercoasters zoomed high in the treetops and street entertainers perform. Don’t go in with the expectation to see the whole park in one day, rather enjoy the park at a toddler’s pace to capture these precious moments.
Looking for a great park to visit while in Pigeon Forge? Add Wear Farm City Park to your itinerary!
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