Dollywood celebrates everything pumpkin

A Day Away By Mike Steely

You’ve only got until next Tuesday, October 30, to visit Dollywood’s Pumpkin Festival where you can see huge, prize-winning pumpkins, hundreds of pumpkin characters, pumpkin-flavored food, and all of the festival staples like music, shows, and many displays.

My wife and I visited recently and took in about as much as our older bodies and legs would allow. It’s been several years since we last visited Dollywood, recently named Tripadvisor’s Number One Theme Park in America.

The parking lots were full of cars from many, many states. We went pretty early, about an hour after the park opened, and found we had to park in an overflow parking lot and then catch a shuttle to the entrance along with hundreds of other visitors.

From the shuttle drivers to the park attendants, we found everyone friendly and helpful.  The park was crowded with early fall visitors, everyone from older people like ourselves to young couples with small children.

We took our time and came back with dozens of photos of the pumpkins and pumpkin displays. We sat in on a Gospel quartet show and then started up the hill to eventually make a big loop back to the entrance.  There were nine music shows going on while we were there. It took us a couple of hours, stopping here and there to take in the various restaurants, country music outside performances, and the raptor and birds of prey display. We watched people on the new and old wooden coasters and other rides.

“I wouldn’t ride that, would you?” I think we said more than once as the rides full of screaming visitors whizzed around above us.

The park was fully “pumpkinized” for the festival with illuminated displays, character interaction, eats and treats and various pumpkin displays including a huge spider and smaller pumpkins in camping and water scenes.

Dollywood seemed to have doubled in size since our last visit a few years ago with twice or thrice the number of visitors, but the crowd was festive and moved pretty quickly. There is so much to see and do on a general admission that one couple on the tram back to the parking lot said they were going go to their motel, take a nap with their two kids, and go back to the park that evening when the place is alive with lights.

A real treat in our day trip was coming across a white-bearded man on his way into the park. I asked if he was Santa Claus and, surprise, he was the Dollywood Santa. We chatted and I’m following that up but that, as they say, is another story.

My wife said Dollywood was nice and had a lot of things to do and see. She was disappointed with the long line to buy some cinnamon bread but managed to find a postcard at the gift shop for her collection.

My most prized memory of the visit was seeing the reproduction of Dolly’s childhood home, a small frame farmhouse that was very much like my grandmother’s house. For Dolly or anyone to have started from such humble beginnings and rise to become a major country music and motion picture star is commendable.

You can find Dollywood on the internet at  or call for tickets and information at 1-800-365-5996. The regular one day admission price is $89 each for people 10 to 61 years old with senior and children discounts available. There are also discounts available for 2- and 3-day passes.

The park opens “Smoky Mountain Christmas” on November 4 and the theme will run through January 6.

The One Day ticket allows visitors to come and go at the park that day and Dollywood is open from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Nighttime admission is $55 after sunset and the park is closed on Tuesdays. Parking is $25 per vehicle.