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Dollywood or Disney: Why Dollywood is Great for Families

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Dollywood or Disney? More Surprising than You’d Think

When trying to determine the destination for your fun-filled family vacation, you may find yourself asking the question – Dollywood or Disney? It’s true that Disney World may trump Dollywood in annual visitors (52 million versus 2.5 million) as well as sheer size (Disney World is the size of San Francisco while Dollywood is a mere 150 acres). However, what Dollywood lacks in numbers it makes up in an absolutely breathtaking setting in the Smokies, an imaginative, albeit kitschy setting, and tons of heart and love. For many visitors to this famed theme park in the Tennessee, they leave wanting to come back year after year to the most fun place in the Smokies because there is simply no other place like it in the world.

Why Dollywood is Great: Thrilling Rides, Imagination, and Heartfelt Kitsch

Resting in the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is truly labor of love of its namesake, Dolly Parton. Much like the “Coat of Many Colors” she sings of in her famous song, since purchasing the park in 1986, Dolly has stitched together a park that reflects not only the heart of the sequined songstress herself, but in many ways the of the mountains that surround the park – with some exciting thrill rides thrown into the mix.

Thrilling Rides:

It could be argued that in many ways Dollywood boasts superior thrill rides to Disney World. In fact, many of Dollywood’s roller coasters hold record-breaking positions or were the first of their kind in America. Here is a breakdown of the top thrill rides in Dollywood:

The Dragonflier-

This brand new rollercoaster is Dollywood’s first suspended roller coaster offers a unique experience that hangs low to the ground and even goes underground! This latest coaster is part of the new Wildwood Grove Expansion of Dollywood. 

Lightning Rod-

This coaster was marketed as the world’s first launched wooden roller coaster. This classic car themed coaster boasts a 165 foot drop and reaches maximum speeds 73 miles an hour. With several snaps and turns, this wooden coaster offers several thrills on top of the unique ride experience that wood coasters provide.

Wild Eagle-

America’s first winged coaster, this steel coaster reaches a height of 210 feet and reaches speeds of 61 miles per hour. This thrilling ride offers a 135 foot drop, followed by 110-foot loop, a zero-gravity roll, a thrilling Immelmann loop, a corkscrew, a camelback hill, and a series of turns before coming to a halt.  

Tennessee Tornado-

This crowd favorite features a maximum height 163 feet, a 128 foot drop, a total length 2,682 feet, and maximum speed of 63 miles per hour. You can even let everyone back home see your experience on this coaster if you sit in the first 3 seats of the ride!


Ranked in the top 10 wooden coasters for 14 years, this thunderous coaster offers a 100 foot drop and 3,230 feet of track for a thrilling ride. Reaching a maximum speed of 53.7 mph, half the thrill of this coaster is the raucous ride it provides.

Mystery Mine-

At the time Mystery Mine was opened, it boasted the steepest drop of any coaster in America with a drop angle of 85 degrees. After making a few turns, riders are plunged into the darkness of the mine, where you experience a 95 degree angle and into a barrel roll and half loop before ending.

With such thrilling and exciting rides, it’s no wonder why families keep coming back to Dollywood year after year.


Dollywood offers guests a chance to enjoy an imaginative experience comparable to Disneyworld with different park areas that transport you to different places and times. Go back to sock-hops and poodle skits at Jukebox Junction. Throughout the park, you’ll find features that harken back to bygone eras such as Calico Falls Schoolhouse, which offers a look into a turn-of-century schoolhouse in Appalachia. You can also visit a replica of Dolly’s childhood home or the Robert F. Thomas Chapel, a simple one-room country church with wooden pews and hardwood floors.

The latest addition to the park, Wildwood Grove, offers a new immersive, imaginative experience based on a child’s walk through the woods. Complete with characters Flit and Flutter, the Grove’s butterfly ambassadors as well as Benjamin Bear, who loves to play and explore with visitors who come to walk in this creative ode to walking through the forests of the Smokies.

Additionally, Dollywood host several festivals that provide new and unique experiences throughout the year. From the Festival of Nations that transports you around the globe within the confines of the park to the Harvest Festival that offers a captivating display of Jack-O-Lanterns to the Smoky Mountain Christmas experience that brings the North Pole to Tennessee, no matter what time of the year you go to park.  


You really can’t talk about Dollywood without mentioning that the park has a certain bit of charm to it. Much like the park’s namesake’s sequin-heavy wardrobe, Dollywood can be over-the-top at times. And that’s exactly what makes it so wonderful. Just as Disney World offers many characters throughout the park, Dollywood features many kitschy creatures throughout the park. From beavers picking banjos to beaucoups of butterflies, there are plenty of features throughout the park that tap into the hillibilly kitsch that many love about the park.

Perhaps the best example of kitsch in the park is the Blazing Fury. A relic from a time when animatronics were omnipresent in amusement park attractions, this ride has been a park staple since 1978 – before Dollywood was even owned by Dolly and was known as Silver Dollar City.

You’ll enjoy this kitschy ride with a couple of drops and plenty of animatronic villagers to entertain through your ride.

Fans of Dolly and her aesthetic will enjoy a trip to the Chasing Rainbows museum. Offering interactive collections, visitors will be able to enjoy gazing at Dolly’s lavishly sequined gowns as well as costumes from her movie appearances.

With the Smoky Mountains as the backdrop throughout the park, the kitschy elements of the park become endearing, and it becomes apparent that Dollywood in many ways is Dolly’s love letter to the region she grew up in. As a giving individual who sponsors several programs in East Tennessee, Dolly’s theme park generates over $50 million dollars into state and local revenue – making this theme park a loving bit of mountain kitsch.

Stay in a Cabin near Dollywood and Experience the Smoky Mountains

When you visit Disney World, you come to experience Disney World only. However, when you visit Dollywood, you can experience all the Smoky Mountains have to offer – especially when you stay in a cabin near Dollywood.

You can enjoy visiting nearby attractions such as Dollywood’s Splash Country, The Island, Dolly’s Stampede, or a trip to the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Whether you choose to spend the day riding go-carts or hiking a mountains, you’ll be close to it all when you stay in a cabin close to Dollywood with Cabins USA!

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