I’m always getting questions from friends and emails asking for tips about visiting Dollywood. Today, I’m covering one of the most frequently asked… Ways to Save Money at Dollywood!
I feel like I’m a frugal lady at heart. I don’t pinch pennies, but if I’m buying something online, I’m the lady that’s scouring the internet for a discount code before I complete my purchase.
If that’s you and you’re planning to visit Dollywood… keep reading because I’m sharing all my tips and even Dollywood hacks to save you money while you’re at the park!
If you’re already planning a visit to Dollywood, and I’m guessing you are hence why you ended up on this post, you likely know most of the history of the theme park. If you don’t, I’d highly suggest checking out my Dollywood page to learn a few things… you might even learn something you didn’t know in this post too!
Going to Dollywood, especially as a family, can get expensive. Although, I’ll definitely tell you that it’s not as expensive as other parks you’ll visit in Florida. But I’m here to help you think about how to save some money when you visit. And you should DEFINITELY visit!
Did you know that Dollywood actually outranked those “big name” theme parks down south in 2022?! TripAdvisor ranked Dollywood the #1 Theme Park in the USA this year! Actually, Dollywood even ranks as the #8 Theme Park in the whole word!
You know I’m somewhat frugal and you can probably tell by now that I love the park, but what else gives me my Dollywood authority to share these topics? I’ve grown up going to the park since before it was actually even Dollywood! I’ve been a season pass holder for as long as I can remember.
I was an inaugural Dollywood Insider and reclaimed that title again this year as a 2022 Dollywood Insider.
But honestly, I just love the park so much. When I step into the gates, actually whenever I even see a Dollywood sign, my heart swells a little. It sounds cheesy, but Dollywood is my happy place!
And I want it to be yours too – so if helping you save some money when you visit helps make it an even happier trip, then this post was written just for you!
Now that you know all about me and my love for Dollywood, let’s get to it. Here are my top tips on how to save money at Dollywood!
Discount Dollywood Tickets or Season Passes
Let’s talk about saving money before you even get to the park. Should you buy Dollywood tickets or season passes? This post about all about Dollywood Season Passes breaks down it all – types of passes, price of season passes, etc. It boils down to – how many times are you planning to visit Dollywood.
If you’re planning to visit 2+ days, definitely do the math as a season pass may end up saving you a lot of money [discounts on food and free parking for Gold or Diamond passes].
Insider Tip, Bring-a-Friend Ticket Hack: This will only work while Bring-a-Friend tickets are still being given with 2023 Gold and Diamond passes, but since those tickets have NO blackout dates next year, you could buy a pass and bring TWO of your family members in FOR FREE to Dollywood.
This is a major $$ savings if you work it out right and you don’t plan on coming often. [Please note – as of 5/28/23 – no BAF tickets are being given with passes.]
I could break this tip down a million different ways, but you need to run the numbers for your family and how often you plan to visit. But don’t skip the season pass without at least checking it out.
Free Parking Tip
I have a couple tips for getting Free Parking at Dollywood. Parking usually costs $25/day. If you have a Gold or Diamond Season Pass, you get FREE parking! Again, price this out because even if the rest of your family is only buying Dollywood tickets, it might be worth buying at least one season pass for free parking.
Insider Tip: If you’re planning to buy a Gold Season Pass for free parking, buy it BEFORE YOU GO! You’ll show the parking attendant your printed pass or the barcode on your phone, in the Dollywood app, so you can get free parking on the first day you visit! If you wait and buy inside the park, you’ll have to pay for parking.
Ride a Trolley
If you don’t have a Dollywood Gold Season Pass, but you also don’t want to pay that $25 parking fee – you can ride a Pigeon Forge trolley for only $2.50/person. Plus, they drop you off right at the front gate of Dollywood.
According to the Pigeon Forge website, trolley’s run every 15 to 20 minutes to Dollywood and you can even save MORE money by buying an all day pass at the office [Pigeon Forge Trolley, not Dollywood] for $3.00 a person! The parking lot where you catch the trolley is at Patriot Park and is a very nice stop in Pigeon Forge itself. Check here for more information on riding a trolley to Dollywood.
Parking Hack for RVs
This won’t apply to everyone, but if you are camping near Dollywood and you want to visit either before you hook up your camper at your campground or after you unhook and are on your way home, there’s a major parking hack for those pulling trailers or campers! This also applies to RVs and Buses.
Camper parking is located on the hill at Preferred Parking! You’ll get a closer parking space without having to pay that $45 Preferred Parking fee.
*Please keep in mind that some turns are a little sharp and there are a few curves – just make sure you’re comfortable driving the camper you haul!
Ways to Save Money at Dollywood
Now that I’ve shared with you some tips and hacks to save money before you get to the park, let’s get to some of the best tips to save during your visit!
Everything inside Dollywood, besides food and merchandise, is included within your ticket price. All shows, Dollywood rides, festival demonstrations are free. That means most of my tips on saving money will focus on getting the best deals and saving on food and merchandise purchases.
Gold or Diamond Season Pass
I know I’ve mentioned these top tier season passes a few times, but here we go again. You can read ALL the perks that come along with gold and diamond season passes in this post, but in terms of saving money [in addition to free parking and Bring-a-Friend tickets] are the discount on food and merchandise.
A Gold Pass will get you 15% off on almost anything you buy in the park and a Diamond Pass will get you 20% off! Cinnamon bread? 20% off. A Dolly t-shirt from the Dollywood Emporium? 20% off. Definitely price it out because the passes are expensive, but if you plan to spend money at the park, they may be worth the cost.
Free Ice Water
It might seem like a silly tip, but it’s the number 1 one way to save money at Dollywood – drink free water! On the contrary, bottles of water usually cost around $3/bottle.
You can get free ice water at any restaurant or snack stand that has a fountain soda machine. Dollywood has also installed numerous touch-free water filling stations in the last year, which are fantastic to use, as well. They’ll even let you bring in a reusable water bottle now to fill them up!
If you prefer soda to free water, you should definitely invest in a Dollywood souvenir cup, which they refer to as refillable mugs.
There are 2 types of cups:
- One-Day Refillable Mug – 2023’s prices for this mug are $16.99 with free refills on the day of purchase and $1.99 refills for the rest of the year or you can buy a wristband for $6.99 a day and get free refills again.
- All-Season Refillable Mug – 2023’s prices for this mug are $31.99 with free refills for the entire season – at both Dollywood, Splash Country, and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort!
- **These mugs have the potential to save you TONS of money, as small drinks run about $3.50 each. Prices do vary at different restaurants and stands, but that’s the cheapest you’ll find a small soda in the park.
Insider Tip: If you’re ok with sharing the mug, share it. We purchase 2 of the Season Mugs and my girls share 1 and my husband and me share the other. It’s cheaper, plus you’re not carrying around 4 mugs for each Dollywood trip.
Mug Hack: Along with saving tons of money, the best part of having this mug is not waiting in line to refill it! You just go up to the fountains and fill as many times as you want!
Oh, my favorite new feature at Dollywood is the Tasting Pass. It first arrived as a part of Dollywood’s Flower and Food Festival and it was so popular that they have continued to bring it back for every festival so far! I don’t see this pass going anywhere, so here’s how to use it!
A Tasting Pass is a card that entitles you to 5 festival foods [beverages, savory bites, and sweets]. These are full size entrees that can be purchased without a pass, as well. The Tasting Pass can ONLY be used on the special festival foods. They’ll be clearly marked and can also be found on the Dollywood app.
The beauty of the Tasting Pass is you can potentially save a lot of money! First, there’s no need for everyone in your family to buy 1. I find that 2 people can easily split 1 pass.
Insider Tip: Only purchase the bigger savory bites or sweets with your Tasting Pass! Some entrees cost $9.99 – $12.99, where beverages only cost $5.99. With 5 of the bigger $$ purchases, you are saving about $20 – instead of just walking up to the booth to purchase an entree without a pass!
You can purchase a Tasting Pass in advance at Dollywood.com or at the park in the following locations: Sweet Shoppe, Spotlight Bakery, or any Festival dining location [like the small stands in Market Square].
And if you have a Gold or Diamond Season Pass you’ll save an additional $3 on a festival Tasting Pass, which is currently priced at $36.99/pass.
Best Places to Eat to Save $$
Did you know there are 13 main dining options and dozens of small, snack-type stands in Dollywood? There are a lot of places to choose from to eat, so what are the best choices for saving money?
Insider Tip: While it might be tempting to go to a buffet option like Aunt Granny’s Restaurant or Miss Lillian’s Smokehouse, you won’t be able to share [more on that below] and the buffets aren’t cheap. However, you WILL have some great food on those buffets, so it’s not a bad choice – just not $$$ savings.
Just like I shared above that my family tends to share the refillable mugs, we share food too! This isn’t something we only do at Dollywood, we often share entrees when we go out to eat because so often portion sizes are too large.
This happens in some places at Dollywood, not all, so I’m going to give you the scoop of where it’s best to eat when you’re trying to save money!
- Till & Harvest Food Hall in Wildwood Grove – This is the first restaurant that comes to mind because their portions are some of the biggest in the park, especially the delicious Nachos and Create Your Own Bowl options. These are Mexican dishes with a Southern flair. But they also serve Cheeseburgers and Chicken Tenders here too. *They have once again taken out the nachos from this location, but hoping they bring it back!
- Front Porch Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants in Dollywood and the portion sizes are definitely large enough to share – they offer a fantastic menu of Southern food at it’s finest.
- Granny Ogle’s Ham ‘n’ Beans is one to not skip out on – located just past Miss Lillian’s Smokehouse, it’s a bit tucked away and often overlooked. But every meal is served with a skillet of southern cornbread, which makes a delicious meal on it’s own!
- Last, but not least, remember those Tasting Pass options. If 2 people split a Tasting Pass, that’s about $17/person and you’re getting to try 5 different foods. It will cost you about $14 to eat at any of the smaller restaurants like The Dog House or Hickory House BBQ, and there you’re only getting 1 entree with a side of fries.
*Red’s Drive-In and both pizza places, Iron Horse Pizza and Lumber Jack’s Pizza are good options, but portions aren’t quite as big and I feel like the prices run a little high for what you get.
*Kids Meals – I highly recommend taking advantage of the Kids Meals that are offered at just about every dining location. With kids meals you’ll get an entree [there’s usually only 1 or 2 choices offered], side of fries [usually], a cookie, and a drink! Portions are perfect for smaller kids.
My favorite part about sharing meals is that you’ve often got room left for dessert, so let’s look at the best sweet treat options for saving money at Dollywood!
- Cinnamon Bread – It’s the classic for a reason. And one hot and fresh loaf is definitely all you need for a family of 4 to enjoy at the park.
- Funnel Cake – We can share this and all feel perfectly full and our sweet tooth satisfied!
A few dessert options that are definitely on the pricier side are Dippin’ Dots, milkshakes from Red’s Drive-In, and ice cream from Showstreet Ice Cream. These portions are small and not really big enough to share… although delicious!
Picnic in the Parking Lot
You always have the option of packing a cooler and having a picnic in the parking lot. Food is not allowed to be brought into the park, but you can keep it in your car and go have a lunch break. Whether you have a 1-day ticket or a season pass, you can leave the park to go to your car, then come back.
That’s definitely the best way to save money, but honestly, Dollywood’s food is so delicious and you can do it without spending a ton of money, so I highly suggest eating in the park!
Don’t Rent a Locker
Well, I mean, if you need to, go ahead. But there’s really no need. I would highly suggest bringing in as little as possible to the park first.
I’d also suggest bringing either a ziploc bag or a waterproof phone case like this one I purchased from Amazon to hold your phone, passes, and cash with you even on water rides.
There are some rides where loose articles aren’t permitted – that means you can’t take your phone or anything. There are lockers outside the queue of the line, but you don’t need to use them.
Insider Tip: Every single ride at Dollywood has a place where you enter the ride that you can put your stuff, except for Smoky Mountain River Rampage. It’s small, yes, but it will definitely hold a small backpack’s worth of stuff. This will save you $10-$15 by not renting a locker!
If your kids [or you!] like playing fair-type games, you’ll find plenty at Dollywood! Believe it or not, there are ways to make the most of your money when playing these games!
Dollywood sells game vouchers now, instead of paying at each individual game setup. The more vouchers you purchase, you’ll get a little more for your money.
If you’re not looking at spending a lot of money on games, be sure to check out these 2 that I’d recommend, especially for younger kids.
- Duck Catcher [claw machine] – This is a great one because it still takes cash, instead of vouchers, and kids get to play until they win a rubber duck. The above picture is from Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort Arcade, but there’s also one located in the park near the Game Voucher kiosk.
- Play Until You Win Games – There’s a few of these located in the Country Fair section of the park. One is a duck game that kids pick a duck until it has a prize on the bottom. Another is a fishing game with the same scenario, and another is the Balloon Pop where they throw a dart until it pops a balloon. Each of these cost $5, but it’s great because you walk away with a prize!
You can always save 15% or 20% on merchandise at Dollywood if you have a Gold or Diamond Season Pass, but you might not realize that most Dollywood shops will actually have a clearance section! You might be more likely to find clearance items at the end of seasons or festivals.
While you’re not guaranteed to find something on sale, it’s always a good idea to look around! Keep in mind that almost all of Dollywood’s shopping locations have unique merchandise, so you aren’t likely to find the same item in multiple stores. The Dollywood Emporium has a few things that other shops carry, but most are all unique!
There you have it! I’ve scoured my brain and Dollywood knowledge to bring you those 14 tips, tricks, and hacks to save money at Dollywood. I hope at least 1 of them help you and your family enjoy Dollywood just a little bit more!
Thursday 18th of May 2023
Thank you for the great tips! This will definitely help with my family of 5 stay in budget for our vacation.
Friday 19th of May 2023
Thanks so much for your kind words, Michelle! Every little bit you can save definitely helps - it helps our family tremendously to use some of these "hacks"!
Tuesday 14th of March 2023
Great information! THANK YOU! We are excited to try your tips on the season passes and food pass as we live near Nashville and love visiting Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Our wedding Anniversary is April 1st and we will be celebrating there.
Thursday 16th of March 2023
Thank you so much, Diana! You'll be there in time to see the I Will Always Love You Event - be sure to get a photo of yourselves in front of the LOVE installation to celebrate your anniversary! Happy Anniversary!
Friday 2nd of December 2022
The only thing I didn’t see. Can you upgrade bring s friend pass to season pass and how much does it cost?
Saturday 3rd of December 2022
I'm sure you can, Donna. I would think it's full price of a season pass since the Bring a Friend is free. It might give you a $10 discount, but to be sure, you may want to call Dollywood. 1-800-DOLLYWOOD. Thanks!