Dollywood, The Best Family Vacation Theme Park in the Country

by Carmel L. Mooney

Perhaps no better family vacation destination exists than Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in the gorgeous, Great Smoky Mountains. And Dollywood is its crown jewel.

We try to go almost every year and the fun and memories just keep on getting better. Over the years, whether the kids have been toddlers, tweens, or teens, they have always had a special place in their hearts for Dollywood.

Better than anything on either coast, with absolutely everything a family could need or want for fun, delicious food, pampering, educational entertainment, shopping, music, and top-notch hospitality, this gem of a family destination leaves no stone unturned, as far as we are concerned. It’s rare to find such a place where you’d be hard-pressed to find a flaw.

Southern hospitality at its best, southern cooking at its finest, and unlimited attractions for every member of the family, Dollywood has it all and Dolly does it in style.

Every time we’ve gone to the area and done everything from skydiving to Broadway shows to Titanic exhibits, zip-lining, and dinner theaters, Dollywood was still the highlight of each visit when you ask the kids what they liked best.

This impeccably clean, fun, safe, and friendly theme park truly stands alone providing a quality experience.

Visitors will notice that customer service there (yes, even at a theme park) is outstanding. I once asked an employee where the nearest water fountain was on an unusually hot and humid summer day and she not only told me but then asked me to wait while she brought me a cup of cool water.

The rides, restaurants, restrooms, and everything are impeccably clean the way theme parks always used to be.

In Dollywood’s sit-down restaurants your server will typically offer better service than most high-end eating establishments. You won’t feel rushed and you’ll enjoy so many delicious foods that frankly, would never even pose an option at any other theme park.

And we’ve even found the food at the restaurants to be of exceptional quality and fairly reasonably priced. At a theme park? Yes, at a theme park. I know it seems unbelievable. But once you have experienced it, you’ll be ruined for other theme parks, no matter how large or how famous.

Dollywood's wild eagle ride photo by McDoobAU93

The rides and attractions are safe, uncrowded, and pleasant in every regard. It is a class act.

The musical and theatrical performances are top-notch. Excellent costumes, phenomenal talent, and exceptional choreography are predictable. But with Dolly Parton behind it all, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise. She’s a shrewd and talented businesswoman as you’ll learn from many of the museums and exhibits throughout the park.

You’ll find employees who go the extra mile in every regard. I was once standing with my kids looking at a map, deciding what we should do next and an employee politely walked up and inquired as to whether they could help us find something!

The employees who operate most of the rides and attractions tend to be, largely senior citizens. This is wonderful because not only does Dollywood provide an honest wage to these locals but they take exceptional pride in their jobs. They are clean-cut, respectful, and enjoyable to be around, as they take their jobs seriously and truly value the customers.

The fun is wholesome through and through. Rides and attractions and music are all family-friendly with nothing suggestive or inappropriate like other theme parks. You won’t find anything gory or overly frightening, and nothing with dark or evil undertones. This is a place where music and thrills are safe, happy, and utterly enjoyable for all ages.

It’s not nerdy; it’s not boring. It’s thrilling and exciting but with respectability and decorum.

Dollywood is a class act.

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Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist, author, and radio talk show host.

Dollywood train photo by Stevan Sheets