The holiday season becomes even more magical at Dollywood during Christmas. See the shows, relax in a woodland rental in Pigeon Forge and enjoy the cool Smoky Mountain air that might bring snow on your visit. Live your adventurous spirit and “love every moment” at this Tennessee amusement park, which has been voted the best Christmas event in the U.S. for over a decade.

What is Dollywood?

Hands holding and strumming a couple of guitars on stage.

Fans of Dolly Parton and residents of Tennessee likely know about this popular theme park, but out-of-state visitors may not yet have had the chance to visit yet. The park is located next to the Great Smoky Mountains and sits on over 150 acres of land. Visitors can enjoy classic amusement park rides, a water park, and a themed spa! The park originally opened in 1961 and was founded as Rebel Railroad.

For the next 15 years, the park transferred ownership several times. That all changed in 1986, when the American singer-songwriter, actress, philanthropist, and businesswoman Dolly Parton, who grew up in Sevier County, TN, rebranded the park “Dollywood,” a theme park that takes inspiration from her music. It was reported that this Smoky Mountain songstress got involved in order to help boost the local economy. Today, the park is still thriving and annually hosts approximately three million guests!

When Is the Best Time to Visit Dollywood for Christmas?

The wonderful Christmas tree lit up a deep blue color in Dollywood.
Courtesy of Dollywood

In the intervening years since its opening, word has spread that Christmas at Dollywood is a special experience. Rebranded as Smoky Mountain Christmas, the park adds a complete makeover across the board from early November to January 1st. Features include a festive 50-foot animated tree, five million lights, and ornaments that combine to create a magical, jolly aura. Visitors might even run into Dolly Parton herself, as she frequently visits the park around this time of year. We love recommending folks take a holiday vacation to Dollywood to experience this beloved tradition.

Are Dollywood Rides Open for Christmas?

You might be wondering, is Dollywood open for Christmas? While the park is unfortunately closed on Christmas Eve and Day, the rides are still open throughout the winter season. Though the Dollywood Theme Park has weather guidelines you can peruse, know that many of the rides and attractions close if the weather drops below freezing, and at least four — the Whistle Punk Chaser, Mystery Mine, Lemon Twist, and FireChaser Express — don’t open below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Frigid temperatures won’t keep you down for long. Leading up to the holiday, Dollywood Parks & Resorts hosts a holiday bonanza with many things to do and see, including daily entertainment, Christmas shopping, Festivus dining, and more — culminating in a seasonal fireworks celebration. After solidifying its place as a special setting to spend the holidays, the Hallmark Channel was inspired to create a film titled Christmas at Dollywood.

Tips for Visiting Dollywood During the Holiday Season

Christmas may in fact be the best time to visit Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains, which are fun to explore in the cooler weather. If you’re planning to go this year, consider these tips before grabbing a reservation.

1. Make Dollywood Reservations Early

A production of Christmas in the Smokies with a diverse cast on stage.
Courtesy of Dollywood

Dollywood is popular at Christmastime with visitors from all over the country. To ensure you have a spot at the shows, make your reservations early. Review the list of shows that range from kid-friendly performances to concerts and musicals. Check showtimes and ticket prices and reserve your spot. Dollywood season passes can be purchased at various levels, each coming with different benefits. Some include special ride times or discounts on lodging, food, and merchandise. Use a 2-Park Pass at Christmas so you can make return visits to Dollywood Splash Country in the summer.

2. Prepare for Cold Weather in the Smokies

Foggy winter landscape from Clingman's Dome of frosted forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, U.S.

Wintertime can be like a wonderland in the Smoky Mountains. The mornings will likely be cool with frost on the ground. Afternoons will warm slightly, but you’ll still need a jacket and gloves. It’s very possible that snow will fall while you’re there, so you might want to bring snow boots and hats. A vacation home with laundry facilities can be ideal to get clothes dry after sledding and building a snowman.

3. Book a Dollywood Vacation Rental Early (and Don’t Forget to Decorate!)

Festively decorated entrance to a house with Christmas decor.

Finding accommodations in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, to fit your family’s budget will be easy. We recommend planning ahead as this attraction draws many people every year. To make your rental feel more like home, bring some Christmas decorations to decorate your rental cabin. Or, you might choose to chop down your own Christmas tree at a tree farm in the mountains. Decorate with your family or friends, sing Christmas carols, and hopefully watch some snowfall. This is a fabulous place to spend Christmas. Some rentals have outdoor fire pits or fireplaces for staying cozy inside. If yours has one, be sure to pick up some marshmallows to roast and stock up on hot cocoa.

4. Prepare for Crowds

Christmas steam train spewing steam stopped with sparkling lights covering the train.
Courtesy of Dollywood

Because of the theme park’s popularity, crowds might gather on any day during the holidays. The earlier in the season, the less crowded it typically gets, so make your plans accordingly. Dollywood is covered in millions of brilliant lights, so you’ll want to check it out it at night. Get there before dark to beat the rush.

6. Plan Ahead for Food and Drink

Song & Hearth: A Southern Eatery pictured at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa in Pigeon Forge, Tennesse.
Courtesy of Dollywood

Outside food, coolers, and beverages are not allowed in the park. Numerous restaurants on the resort, like the Song & Hearth, pictured above, are available to purchase food and drinks, even if you’re not staying there. However, if you prefer to go elsewhere for meals, be sure to get your hand stamped so you can return as the park allows re-entry. Water fountains are located throughout Dollywood, so you can hydrate at one of them or purchase bottled water.

Dollywood at Christmas

Ready to take part in this time-honored tradition? Find your own rustic cabin in the Smoky Mountains or a hideaway bungalow with a mountain view, and get ready to be seriously wowed by a Christmas spectacle, the likes of which you’ve never seen before.