When planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains, you may be wondering – can you bring food into Dollywood? Today we’re going to show you how to eat in the park.
Dollywood is a popular amusement park located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee known for its family friendly atmosphere, fun roller coasters and other rides, and award winning entertainment. I’ve been visiting since it was Silver Dollar City and I’ve learned a thing or two about the park since then.
While there are restrictions on what types of food and drink can be brought into the park, there are plenty of options for those who want to pack a picnic lunch as we will see in this article.
Visitors can also enjoy food from the park’s restaurants, which offer a variety of Southern cuisine.
Our family of six (mom, dad and four boys) visits Dollywood several times a year, so we have come up with some ways of visiting Dollywood without spending a fortune on food, and today we are here to share some ideas with you.
What types of food and drink are allowed into Dollywood?
Food and drinks are not allowed to be brought inside the park, with the exception of one bottle of water per guest. Guests are also allowed to bring food for infants and the staff at any park restaurant can help with warming bottles if needed.
Today we will be sharing how our family of six handles the food issue at Dollywood without breaking the bank (and no, we don’t sneak food in!), so sit back and get ready because there are lots of ways to enjoy a meal in and around Dollywood without spending a fortune.
Why is there a restriction on bringing in outside food and drink?
The park has a rule in place that prohibits guests from bringing in outside food and drink. Their website states “After careful consideration of park policies across the nation, consultation with health and safety experts and much consideration of the welfare of our guests and employees alike, we are unable to allow coolers, food or drinks into Dollywood or Dollywood’s Splash Country.”
They also let you know that there are many dining options inside the park and also that guests can bring one unopened bottle of water per guest.
Insider Tip: Dollywood offers FREE cups of ice water at any restaurant, all you have to do is ask.
What are some of the options for dining inside the park?
There are plenty of dining options inside the park, with something to suit everyone’s taste and budget. For those who want a quick bite, there are fast food restaurants offering burgers, pizzas and chicken.
For those who want to sit down and enjoy a meal, there are restaurants like Aunt Granny’s, Miss Lillian’s Smokehouse and the Front Porch Cafe. Of course, these types of restaurants get expensive, so we tend to mostly do the fast food type restaurants if we are eating in the park.
If you are visiting Dollywood’s Splash Country for the water rides, they also offer a variety of treats as well as burgers, fries, pizzas and sandwiches.
How much does it cost to eat at the Dollywood restaurants?
Some can get quiet expensive, with the family style Aunt Granny’s restaurant running around $25 per person, but there are many other options for less expensive fare.
We tend to do Red’s Drive In quite a bit, which offers burgers and fries in the Jukebox Junction are of the park. They have kids meals as well, which we will get for each of the boys (and sometimes that’s what I want if I’m not that hungry!). They are popular and often have long lines during peak eating hours, so we try to go in between lunch and dinner if possible.
Other things we have done are visiting the food truck park and getting pretzels and donuts to share (3 of each) from the snack vendors, grabbing just a couple of chicken finger baskets and sharing and also getting the refillable mugs and then refilling our water bottles we bring in.
We do get a few refillable mugs so we can get fountain drinks for 99 cents all season. This would only be worth it if you were visiting for several days or several times per year. Since we have season passes it makes sense for us to get them. We do have to carry them around, but Dollywood is great about all the rides having an area to sit your stuff while you’re riding. We used to keep them in our own stroller before we outgrew it. It’s always a good idea to bring a small backpack or a fanny pack, and it can hold your water bottles anyway.
If you are doing the refillable mugs, you might also want to think of a refillable bucket of popcorn. This is another way to stretch the time between meals.
We also always grab the cinnamon bread from the Grist Mill. A loaf of this is a quick snack that everyone enjoys and keeps us going longer between meals.
There are also special events, like the Flower and Food Festival, where you can get passes to try different foods in the park. These events offer a wide variety of delicious foods but only occur at a certain time of year, typically springtime.
If you have special dietary needs like food allergies, Dollywood says they have several restaurants that will work with you to fit your needs. You can find more information here by visiting the Dollywood website.
Are there any other ways to save money on food while visiting Dollywood?
Yes there are!! Here are some other great tips:
Bring your food in a cooler and leave it in your car
When you leave the park you can get your hand stamped, so head out to the tram and picnic at your car in the parking lot. It does cost quite a bit to park, so unless you have a season pass with free parking I wouldn’t suggest driving somewhere else to eat (might as well use the $20 towards food in the park at that rate!).
Ride the Pigeon Forge Trolley to eat
The trolley is very inexpensive – and you can even park for free at Patriot Park and save the $20 or so on the parking fee at Dollywood! Most of the time you have to park far away and do the Dollywood trams, so why not ride the Pigeon Forge Trolley instead?
If you go this route, make sure you know the trolley schedule. Even if you park at Dollywood, you can still spend a few bucks to ride to Pigeon Forge and eat somewhere else (they have just about every restaurant you can think of) and then ride back to Dollywood for more fun!
If you will be visiting often, become season pass holders with a Gold Pass or Diamond Pass
These offer the best deals for getting into the park as well as free parking and discounts on food. What we do is get Dad the Gold Pass (this year they upgraded to Diamond Pass) so that we can get the free parking, a refillable mug and 20% discount on food. The rest of us just got Silver Passes, so we always make him go order the food! LOL The Diamond Pass isn’t available later in the season (we buy ours in November the year prior), but the Gold Pass is always available and you can get 15% off on food and at the gift shop, so you’re saving on Dollywood tickets and food if you go this route, but this is only a good deal if you will be there 5 days or more in a year.
So when you’re planning a Dollywood trip, consider how you are going to eat. Sometimes we eat in the park when we are having so much fun we don’t want to leave, or sometimes (like on a hot day during the summer months), we might be tired and want to leave for a while and come back, so we will grab some food in town. Have options for both, especially if you have small children, who will tend to get hungry sooner.
Eating at Dollywood can be expensive, but there are ways to save money if you plan ahead. Bring your own food and drinks into the park, or take advantage of the Pigeon Forge Trolley to eat in town. With a little planning, whether its your first time or your next visit, you can enjoy a great meal without breaking the bank!