In a country with nearly 800 theme parks, Dollywood has consistently managed to land top-10 rankings from publications such as USA Today, and it’s easy to see why. Not only was this amusement complex created with the same joyful, fun-loving spirit that made Dolly Parton herself a household name, but it offers record-setting rides, award-winning food, and some of the most dazzling live entertainment in the world. Here’s our guide of the best things to do in Dollywood.


Ten Themed Villages

There are 10 Dollywood themed areas in total, and you’ll probably want to visit at least three or four. Start with Rivertown Junction, whose whitewater-rafting river caters to adventurous and nature-loving guests, and the nostalgic Country Fair section (complete with a Dumbo-style flying-elephant ride). Another village of note is Timber Canyon, which references the history of the Smokies’ logging industry.


Dollywood Express

The Dollywood Express heritage trains have been in operation since World War II, before Dolly Parton was even born, and so along with taking you among the Smokies scenery, they offer quite a bit of history. Wave to fellow park-goers waiting alongside the tracks, enjoy the fresh mountain air, and take in picturesque views of the woods surrounding Dollywood on this attraction that is just as iconic as the various villages.


*Please note that the train pumps out coal smoke and visitors may get soot in their eyes.


Live Entertainment

As you would expect from a theme park inspired by an exuberant, over-the-top country-music superstar, Dollywood offers a staggering amount of entertainment. Among the numerous music, dance, and cinema venues are the Heartsong Theater, which takes you on a multi-sensory video journey of the Smokies; the Pines Theater, hosting the nostalgic Dreamland Drive-In spectacular; and the Showstreet Gazebo, featuring Dollywood’s own resident string band.


Record-Setting Rides


Have you ever heard of a wing coaster? A ride where seats are placed on either side of the tracks, as if suspended in mid-air, rather than directly atop the tracks themselves? If you haven’t, it’s because there’s only one such coaster in the U.S., located at — you guessed it — Dollywood. And the Wild Eagle is just one of many record-breaking rides at Dolly’s theme park, which also houses the world’s largest wooden coaster (the Lightning Rod) and a steel coaster shaped like a butterfly.


Southern Gospel and Chasing Rainbow Museums

As the name suggests, the on-site Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame celebrates pioneers of the namesake music genre and displays artifacts from many of their lives and careers, making for yet another fascinating Dollywood stop. The second museum at Dollywood, however, the Chasing Rainbows Museum, is just as destination-worthy, showcasing artifacts from Dolly’s own life and career.


Dining-and-Drinking Outlets

The culinary offerings at Dollywood are arguably as enticing as those throughout surrounding Pigeon Forge. From Dippin’ Dots outposts to funnel cake to fudge and popcorn from the fully operational gristmill, there’s something for everyone at Dollywood’s 25 food-and-drink venues, which received their own Golden Ticket from Amusement Today magazine.

Pigeon Forge is set among the Great Smoky Mountains, which are known for a cuisine that combines Scottish, Irish, and Native American influences. With such a rich culinary tradition, the town and surrounding region have become foodie hubs and now play host to dozens of full-service restaurants, alongside top-rated barbecue joints and farmhouses. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites, as well as our favorite things to eat when we visit them.


J.T. Hannah’s Kitchen

J.T. Hannah’s is one of the most popular restaurants in Pigeon Forge, with more than 1,700 five-star TripAdvisor reviews. The establishment is best known for thick burgers paired with sliced mushrooms, green onions, cheddar cheese, and other indulgent toppings, but specialties such as the Supreme Fajitas and St. Louis spare ribs have also contributed to the restaurant’s loyal following.


Local Goat Tavern

Another TripAdvisor favorite, Local Goat Tavern specializes in New American cuisine with a Tennessean twist — fittingly, as it resides right at the base of the Smokies. The menu features such delicacies as whiskey-glazed jumbo wings, sirloin steaks, burgers, fried green tomatoes, stone-ground cheese grits, and whiskey cocktails.


Bullfish Grill

Yet another TripAdvisor favorite is Bullfish Grill, which — as the name suggests — is known for its steaks and seafood dishes. Cilantro-lime grilled shrimp, seared ahi tuna, and grilled salmon number among its many options, though its chefs also pride themselves on the slow-roasted Grand Champion Angus Beef prime ribs.


Old Mill Restaurant

Old Mill Square is a top gathering place among Pigeon Forge locals and tourists alike, and the river-facing Old Mill Restaurant is by far its best eatery, as a whopping eight thousand five-star TripAdvisor reviewers have now attested. Here, the order of the day is Southern comfort fare, like buttermilk biscuits, country ribs, and fried shrimp.


The Bistro at Courtyard Pigeon Forge

Courtyard Pigeon Forge’s signature all-day eatery is a fantastic spot for modern-American light bites, salads, and hearty entrées, like crispy Brussels sprouts, vegetable-baked pasta, and the Mediterranean grain bowl. This particular eatery also takes quite a bit of pride in its craft cocktails, like the Whiskey Buck and Black Cherry Old Fashioned.



Mama’s Farmhouse

The “mama” in Mama’s Farmhouse is actually a great-grandmother, whose recipes have now lasted three generations, so you know they’re good. Served family style, these include sweet-potato pancakes, fried chicken tenders, and mac ’n cheese — always finished off with peach cobbler or banana pudding (and optionally paired with award-winning biscuits).

In Pigeon Forge, autumn is a truly spectacular season —  the Smokies turn red, green, and gold; Dollywood transforms into a larger-than-life pumpkin patch; and Southern wineries and distilleries release limited-edition bottles. Here’s our guide to the best autumnal happenings in this Tennessee resort town.


Old Mill Heritage Day

Old Mill Square was built around, and named for, a 19th-century gristmill, and autumn is the season when the plaza celebrates its history. September brings Old Mill Heritage Day, where you can watch moonshine- and sorghum-making demonstrations, catch bluegrass performances, take part in old-fashioned games and square dances, make arts and crafts, and learn about Pigeon Forge pioneers.

September 28;


Seasonal Wine-and-Spirit Tastings

Though Smith Creek Moonshine’s Pigeon Forge outpost and the Rocky Top Wine Trail organization’s wineries are popular year round, both offer enticing autumn-specific offerings that you’ll want to add to your Pigeon Forge itinerary. Smith Creek Moonshine releases a seasonal apple-pie flavor, and the Rocky Top Wineries host the “Chocolate Wine Trail” event, pairing wines with handmade desserts and wine-themed souvenirs.

October 26;


Dollywood Harvest Festival and Great Pumpkin LumiNights

Each autumn, Dolly Parton’s famous theme park takes a cue from the singer’s flamboyant, over-the-top style by hosting its annual Harvest Festival. The event transforms Dollywood into a larger-than-life pumpkin patch, with pumpkin-picking activities, an after-hours “LumiNights” jack-o-lantern spectacular, more than 500 gospel performances, and demos by local artisans, including glass painters, Appalachian woodworkers, and even fiddle-makers.

September 27-November 2; and



The Island shopping and entertainment complex features hundreds of square feet of bare concrete (alongside its famous Ferris wheel), and this particular Pigeon Forge venue honors autumn with a celebration known as Chalkfest. For one afternoon every October, dozens of artists take to the park’s grounds, drafting larger-than-life chalk illustrations of Tony the Tiger, the Mona Lisa, and more.

October 5;


Colorful Smoky Foliage

If there’s one truly iconic Pigeon Forge autumn experience, it’s a hike or drive around the surrounding Smokies themselves, a sub-range of the Appalachian Mountains. Take in sweeping views of the colorful landscape from lookouts atop Clingman’s Dome, Charlie’s Bunion, Andrew’s Bald, Cades Cove Road, or Newfound Gap Road. For something a little more exciting, visit Legacy Mountain Ziplines, where you can zoom through the trees at up to 50 miles per hour on one of seven ziplines.