Theme park food is notoriously expensive, so is it possible to eat at Dollywood on a budget? Yes, it is! Today I’m sharing all my Dollywood Insider tips on how to stretch your dollars further when eating at Dollywood.
When you are visiting Dollywood, the top things that should be on your mind are having fun and making family memories. Although, if you’re like me, staying on budget during your Dollywood visit is also a top priority. One area that can get quite expensive, if you aren’t prepared, is food. Below, I’m sharing my top 6 tips for eating at Dollywood on a budget.
1. Split bigger portion meals with a friend or family member.
This is definitely the easiest way to eat at Dollywood on a budget and why it’s my number 1 tip. Several Dollywood restaurants offer larger portion sizes that are perfect for sharing.
Here’s a few that I recommend:
- Granny Ogle’s Ham ‘n’ Beans – It’s a restaurant that sometimes gets overlooked by families because of its southern sounding name, but don’t skip it. Every table gets a fresh pan of cornbread to split and the meal portions are large enough for 2 to enjoy.
- Dogs N Taters – This one has always been one of my favorites and as long as you’re not starving, a footlong corndog and fries is easy to split between 2 people.
- Iron Horse Pizza – Pizza is a theme park favorite, but Dollywood’s pizza is not like pizza you’ll find at other parks. There’s plenty to share in my favorite pizza restaurant in the park, located across from Dollywood Express Train Depot in The Village.
- Front Porch Cafe – This is my tried and true favorite restaurant at Dollywood. Not only will you get a delicious, unique meal, but you can sit inside in the air conditioning and share some of the great appetizers you’ve ever seen – like fried green tomatoes!
While we’re talking about how to save money – be sure to check out my post about how to find discount Dollywood tickets.
2. Skip the buffets.
I love Aunt Granny’s Restaurant as much as anyone, but if I’m staying on a budget, I have to pass. Aunt Granny’s is currently priced at $26.99/person.
Buffets are delicious and a great way to try all the foods that Dollywood has to offer, and believe me that you’ll get a FANTASTIC southern meal that doesn’t seem like you’re at a theme park, but when you have a large family, the prices can add up quickly. Instead, I would suggest opting for some of those bigger portion options at restaurants I mentioned above.
Or, stick to small snacks or eat before you come into the park and splurge on a delicious dinner at a Dollywood buffet at the end of the night instead of going out to an expensive restaurant after – your choice!
Insider Tip: While we’re talking about all this food, it’s a great reminder to invest in a Gold Season Pass. With it, you’ll save 15% on food, making it much easier to stay on a budget. Learn more about Dollywood Season Passes here.
3. Buy a Festival Tasting Pass.
A festival Tasting Pass is now my favorite way to eat at Dollywood… especially on a budget. A Tasting Pass costs $34.99 [remember to present your Gold Pass for a discount] and allows you to “try” 5 full-size festival foods. If you use the pass to purchase the bigger savory bites or sweets, you can definitely stay on a budget.
For example, some entrees cost $9.99 – $12.99. With 5 of the more expensive menu items, you are saving about $20 – instead of just walking up to the booth to purchase an entree without a pass!
Even better, split a tasting pass.
If you are using a Tasting Pass for only the larger menu items, there’s no way you’ll be able to eat all 5 as they are full size portions. I like to split a Tasting Pass with a friend and if you’re close enough friends, you can split the food too – to get to try it all!
Love saving money? You’re going to love this post about all the Ways to Save Money at Dollywood.
4. Take advantage of kid meals.
If you have a child who is a picky eater or just doesn’t eat much, I would definitely recommend a Dollywood kids meal. You can find these at a few restaurants like Iron Horse Pizza, Till & Harvest Food Hall in Wildwood Grove, and Red’s Drive-In. Most are now the PB&J sandwich with pre-packaged snacks, but Red’s Drive-In does offer a Half-Turkey Wrap too.
The reason the kids meals are such a great option when you’re eating at Dollywood on a budget is because they are only $4.99 and come with a sandwich, applesauce, animal crackers, and a drink. They are all pre-packaged so you can save them for snacks as the day goes on too.
You can also find these conveniently packaged snack meals inside some retail stores, along with wraps and salad options too.
5. Drink water – it’s free!
Anytime you see a soda fountain, you are able to get a cup of ice water for free. You can also bring in your own reusable water bottle to fill while at Dollywood.
While drinking water is most definitely the best way to stay hydrated on a budget at Dollywood, I would encourage you to consider at least 1 refillable season mug if you plan to come to the park often. We keep this on a budget because we split 1 mug between 2 of us.
Insider Tip: A Season Refillable Mug is an investment into eating and drinking on a budget for the entire season, especially since it can be used at Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country for free refills all season long.
Look for Shareable Snacks
There’s another reason that I like to share meals at Dollywood… it’s so I can still enjoy a sweet treat or snack! Dollywood’s treats should definitely be on your list of things to try and shareable snacks are where it’s at – try these for the best for your budget snack ideas at Dollywood.
- Cinnamon Bread – It’s one of Dollywood’s most popular treats for a reason and it’s definitely a shareable size. My family of 4 loves to split a warm loaf of cinnamon bread for a snack in the park.
- Funnel Cake – This is my Mom’s favorite snack choice in the park and I have to say, I’m not mad when she can’t finish it all by herself and wants to share it with me.
- Popcorn, Kettle Korn and Pork Rinds – If you are looking for a more savory snack, consider a popcorn, kettle korn or a pork rinds souvenir bucket. It not only makes a great souvenir, but you can bring the bucket back on each trip to get a refill at a discounted price.
- Caramel Apple – You can find the biggest, most delicious snacks in the Sweet Shoppe Candy Kitchen like caramel apples. These are great to take home as a sweet treat to cut up for everyone to share.
- 25 Pound Apple Pie – Speaking of apples, did you know that perhaps the most shareable treat in all of Dollywood can be found at the Spotlight Bakery in Showstreet? It may not be the most budget-friendly snack option while you’re at the park, but I had to give the 25 pound apple pie a shout out.
I’ll stop there, but as you can see, Dollywood treats are some of my favorite things to talk about, and can definitely be enjoyed even when you’re trying to save money.
Staying on budget while visiting a theme park might seem a paradox to some, but my family successfully stays on a budget when visiting Dollywood regularly. I hope these 6 tips I shared with you will make your next trip to Dollywood a tasty one that doesn’t hurt your wallet.