Our family was recently invited to experience Dollywood Park and the Dream More Resort and Spa in Pigeon Forge, TN. With a 6 hour drive one-way, we were excited to possibly add Dollywood to our staycation and weekend trip list for our Ohio family. The challenge: we had to do Dollywood in 4 hours, or less.
How To Visit Dollywood In 4 Hours
Our challenge was created because we only had 1 night at the beautiful Dream More Resort, and we were only able to enjoy Dollywood park on Saturday morning and early afternoon. We needed to be back on the road between 2pm and 3pm to get back to Columbus, OH at a decent time. Could we do it? Heck yes.
Even though this was our first time visiting Dollywood, I could see how we would be able to enjoy most, if not all, of the park before we had to hit the road. The first hack is to hit up what’s new.
Hit Up Thunderhead and Whistle Punk Chaser
As soon as you enter the park, take a hard left toward Timber Canyon and Wildwood Grove.
These coasters are two you need to check out before making your way to Wildwood Grove. Whistle Punk Chaser was one our little one could enjoy, so we made sure to ride it first. Thunderhead was for the taller members of our family, so 3 of us ventured onto this wooden coaster.
These are two coasters that you will want to do twice, if you have time. You won’t be able to do them again before you have to leave the park.
Visit Wildwood Grove Next
Wildwood Grove is Dollywood’s newest expansion to the park, and it’s currently attracting large crowds. Within the first 2 hours of park opening, Wildwood Grove slowly builds to be very crowded.
Because we stayed at the Dream More Resort, we were able to enter the park an hour early on Saturday, and I made a plan to hit up Wildwood Grove as soon as possible.
If you have little ones, let them get on all the attractions they are tall enough to enjoy. Let them go more than once. You won’t be able to do this again, as this part of the park will stay crowded the rest of the day.
Dragonflier was a favorite for our family, and we saw the queue for this ride reach a 30 minute wait around 10:30am. Go on this roller coaster as many times as you can before you leave the area.
Ride Mystery Mine
The queue for Mystery Mine starts to get pretty long early in the day, because it’s located right next to Wildwood Grove.
Crowds either ride this one before entering the new Dollywood expansion, or they ride it after they are done enjoying the Grove. Ride it before 10:30am, if you can. If you time it right, you may even be able to do it twice.
Book It To The Back
I was told that Dollywood Park is 150 acres with 11 themed areas. Being a theme park junkie, I took this as an indicator to use my theme park hacks. The oldest and best hack for new Dollywood park attendees? Work from back to front.
After enjoying Wildwood Grove, make your way to Wilderness Pass then work your way back to the front of the park. Here’s why this will currently work at Dollywood park:
Most of the crowd will want to make their way to Jukebox Junction to ride Lightening Rod. Lightening Rod is the fastest roller coaster in the world right now, so it’s a big draw.
When we checked out the queue after grabbing a quick lunch, the wait was 65 minutes. In this plan, you’re going to do Lightening Rod last.
Divide and Conquer
Did you know Dollywood offers a Parent Swap service on attractions? I didn’t! This was so helpful, since our little one is under 48 inches tall and couldn’t ride all of the attractions.
You can use Parent Swap on those attractions that don’t have a partnering attraction for small kids. I do have to note that I was impressed with the fact that most of the big roller coasters had some kind of kid-friendly ride nearby.
Eat In Craftsman’s Valley
Craftman’s Valley is FULL of delicious food places. By the time you reach this part of the park, you’ll be ready to chow down. When doing Dollywood in 4 hours, this is where you can take a breather. There are lots of food options, and places to sit within this themed area.
This is also the place to grab your cinnamon bread from Grist Mill & Cinnamon Bread. The line was reasonable, but we didn’t get a chance to have it since there was lightening in the area and we had to book it to the Dream More trolley.
Walk Off Your Food To Lightening Rod
Remember how I mentioned the long queue for Lightening Rod? Now is the time to make your way towards Jukebox Junction. If you have time, you can stop at Barnstormer in the Owens Farm area to enjoy that ride.
Ending the day at Lightening Rod just makes sense, because you’ll have time to let your food settle while in the queue, and you’ll be able to see the 3pm show at DP’s Celebrity theater, if you can stay a little longer.
Grab A Snack To Go
If you want to do Dollywood in 4 hours, grabbing a snack on the way out makes sense.
The Front Porch Cafe was a great place for us to grab some delicious snacks, and even a sandwich. One of my favorite food deals within the park was the chicken salad sandwich at Front Porch Cafe. It was $10, so big you pretty much had to share it, and it included a bag of chips.
There were also awesome pastries, plus cute, large cupcakes. We tried the red, white and blue cupcake, as well as the watermelon cupcake. Both were 3.99 each, and the watermelon cupcake actually tasted like watermelon. Weird but cool.
Showstreet Ice Cream is right across the way, in case you’re more of a cold treat person. Either way, grab a snack before you hit the road.
Super Hack – Get A Time Saver Pass
I was excited to learn about the Dollywood Time Saver Pass, because it basically made it so we could cut our park time in half.
The Dollywood Time Saver Pass gives you 10 passes to use on almost any attraction in the park. There are 3 orange blocks that must be used for only those 3 attractions — Lightening Rod, FireChaser Express, and Dragonflier. The other 7 Time Saver blocks can be used for:
- Drop Line
- Mystery Mine
- Wild Eagle
- Tennessee Tornado
- The Waltzing Swinger
The Time Saver Pass also gives you early access to the Dollywood shows throughout the park. While you cannot just walk up to a show to get Time Saver access, you can visit the Time Saver Reservation Center to reserve seats.
If you are a Dream More Resort guest, you can reserve seats for shows at Guest Services before you even leave for the park. Time Saver passes are included in your resort stay. You can purchase them for $45 before you enter the park.
Time Saver Unlimited Pass
If you don’t think 10 passes per person will be enough for your family, you can purchase the Time Saver Unlimited Pass. For $55, you’ll have unlimited access to the rides within the park.
If you are a Dream More Resot guest, you can upgrade your pass to unlimited at any Dollywood Park ticket booth for $10.98.
We Lost An Hour
Now for the bad news: due to lightening in the area during our last hour of our visit, we weren’t able to enjoy Lightening Rod. Bummer, right? We were actually on the ride, and they had us go back into the queue because of the lightening watch.
If you are visiting in the summer, be sure to check the weather for the day. If you see scattered thunderstorms in the Dollywood Park area, prepare for all of the rides to be temporarily shut down when lightening is in the area.
Within that extra hour, we were planning to ride Lightening Rod, and re-visit any rides that we all enjoyed before we started our drive back home.
What To Do When Lightening Is In The Area
These are the times to hop into a show, grab a snack, or stand in a queue and wait it out. If we had the time, we would have just stayed in the queue for Lightening Rod, and waited until the storms passed.
But, this means we’ll have to make sure we ride Lightening Rod at least 3 times during out next visit. Another challenge? Sounds good to me.
Thanks for having us, Dollywood and Dream More Resort and Spa! We can’t wait to visit again, and hopefully explore the park at night.