One of the best times of year to visit Dollywood is in the Fall. The Harvest Festival is in full swing and it’s the 3rd year of the Great Pumpkin LumiNights – an extremely popular, family-friendly display of thousands of glowing pumpkins all throughout the park! Here are 7 INSIDER TIPS to make your visit even better!
It’s no secret that Dollywood is indeed my happy place. I’ve been visiting since I was a little girl and in truth, the friendliest theme park in America only gets better every year.
One of the newest festivals in the park is the Great Pumpkin LumiNights that runs the same length as the Dollywood Harvest Festival, from September 29 to November 2nd. It’s the 3rd year of the Great Pumpkin LumiNights and definitely time for me to share some photos and insider tips on how best to enjoy your visit during October!
Great Pumpkin LumiNights recently was named the country’s Best Theme Park Halloween Event in the 2019 USA TODAY 10 Best Readers’ Choice travel awards! It comes as no surprise to me because the park is absolutely decked out in amazing decorations and themes. I’ve been to other theme parks who boast special Fall and Halloween decor and I have to say, our Smoky Mountains theme park tops my favorites. There are decorations at every turn and the pumpkins… I do wonder how many pumpkins are on park during this time – there are a TON!
That leads me to my 7 SECRET INSIDER TIPS on how to best enjoy your time visiting Dollywood during Great Pumpkin LumiNights.
Don’t miss the exclusive Fall Treats.
While I’ll always recommend visitors heading to Grist Mill to get a loaf of Cinnamon Bread [my favorite tip for EVERY visitor to Dollywood], you don’t want to miss some of the amazing specialty Fall menu items like the Pumpkin Spice Funnel Cake at Crossroads Funnel Cakes in Rivertown Junction.
You’ll also find some delicious baked goods at the Spotlight Bakery. And don’t miss out on the Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwich from the Sweet Shoppe!
Aunt Granny’s and Miss Lillian’s are buffet-style restaurants and will also offer Fall-themed desserts. One of our favorite park restaurants is Front Porch Cafe and they’re adding new menu items just for the festival like the Cabbage Roll Dinner and Reuben Wontons!
You can find all the specialty Fall food items that can be found around the park here.
Follow the NEW path for Great Pumpkin LumiNights.
Since it’s the 3rd year, the pumpkin path keeps growing. This year you’re encourage to enter the Great Pumpkin LumiNights in a different spot than years past. This year, you’ll want to enter through Craftman’s Valley. You’ll find the start right before Blazing Fury.
While you can, of course, walk the park in any direction, by staying along the path and entering through Craftman’s Valley you’ll see all the displays in the best way. Plus, the path even goes up through the new Wildwood Grove addition!
Visit near the end of the night.
While it might be tempting to see the glowing pumpkins as dusk falls, don’t. This is my best insider tip. This is when the path will be the most crowded. Since the park closes at 9pm each night, I’d suggest you start the path around 8:30-8:45 instead.
Visit during the day too!
While you might think that all the fun to be had is at night, there’s plenty to do during the day too. The lovely harvest decorations are not to be missed and along with that comes that amazing crafters too.
During the Harvest Festival, however, more than two dozen visiting artisans from across the country provide in-depth demonstrations including woodworking, chainsaw carvings, fiddle-making and more.
Guests can find inspirational jewelry, historic handmade games, pottery, hand-painted Christmas ornaments, and even Windsor chairs available for purchase.
The Southern Gospel Jubilee is also happening during these dates, so if you’re a fan of that genre, you’ll definitely want to catch the amazing singers throughout the park. Headlining acts include The Martins (Sept. 27-28), The McKameys (Oct. 4-5), Ernie Haase and Signature Sound (Oct. 12-13), The Isaacs (Oct. 18-19), Karen Peck and New River (Oct. 20-21), Gold City (Oct. 27-28) and many more.
Behind the Glow Tour
New this year is a VIP Experience for anyone who wants to go behind the glow! The VIP tour is a little pricey if you’re a regular Dollywood season passholder like me and go a lot, but if you’re just visiting for a few days, it’s definitely worth the price. Not only do you get special VIP treatment, but you’ll get some of those great Harvest Festival treats and a TimeSaver pass! Get all the details and pricing on the Behind the Glow Tour here.
Special Fall Activities for Kids
The Plaza at Wilderness Pass serves as a centerpiece for the event with an area for character interaction, additional displays—and the focal point—a 40 ft. tall pumpkin tree featuring larger-than-life carved pumpkins. The tree is simply amazing!
The flower wall pumpkin display is one of my favorites from the entire park.
While there are a ton of things to do all over the park, Wilderness Pass provides fun activities like meet and greets with Harvey the Pumpkin and Patches the Scarecrow. You can also find special Great Pumpkin LumiNights souvenirs and Glow in the Dark face painting booths throughout the park.
“I’m so glad to hear families are just lovin’ Great Pumpkin LumiNights,” Dolly Parton said. “When I was a kid, we’d love to get pumpkins, scoop out all those guts from the inside and carve these beautiful masterpieces—at least us kids thought they were masterpieces! But, it makes me just feel good to know families are able to spend time together exploring during what really is the most beautiful time of year in the Smokies.”
Dollywood has always been about spending time together as families and you’ll find that nothing in Great Pumpkin LumiNights is scary, which is very much intentional.
Along those lines, here are the rules and regulations about wearing costumes to the park during the Harvest Festival:
- Masks may not be worn.
- Guests may not dress as Dolly Parton or Santa.
- Wig, hats or other accessories may be worn as long as they do not cover the face.
- Portions of costumes may need to be removed when boarding attractions based on the loose article requirements.
- Costume accessories may not look like a weapon of any kind and no accessory can be sharp or have any component that could cause injury.
- Costumes may not drag the ground or cause a trip hazard.
You can find more about these rules here.
Enjoy the rides with a unique glow.
Just like the glow of Christmas lights puts a totally different look throughout the park, the glow of pumpkin lights does too! Some of our favorite Dollywood rides like Mystery Mine, Wild Eagle, DropLine, and even a ride on the train are even more fun during Great Pumpkin LumiNights!
I definitely encourage everyone to see all of the amazing Fall and Halloween decorations for themselves. Before you buy your tickets, be sure to grab the Dollywood Ticket Discount Code in this blog post.
And there’s still plenty of time to visit as the festival doesn’t end until November 2nd. Dollywood hours are daily from 10 am – 9 pm through the entire festival and is only closed Tuesday October 22nd and Tuesday October 29th.
While Smoky Mountain Christmas has always been my favorite Dollywood festival, the addition of Great Pumpkin LumiNights to the Harvest festival has quickly pushed it up there as one of my favorites now!