Tour of Tennessee {Dixie Stampede + Dollywood}

Day 3 of our Tour of Tennessee wrapped up our Chattanooga leg and brought us to the Great Smoky Mountains for a few days in Dollywood!

Day 3 (continued): Dixie Stampede

We arrived at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort in the early afternoon and spent a few hours swimming and exploring.  (I’ll share ALL the details on Dolly’s gorgeous resort tomorrow.)  Before we knew it, it was time to get dressed for a hand-clapping, foot-stomping dinner extravaganza at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede!

The show is just around the corner from Dollywood and the DreamMore, so it couldn’t have been easier to get there.  We had tickets for the 6PM show and arrived around 4:30.  There was much to do so it was not at all too early.

The party kicks off in the Dixie Belle Saloon.  You will be treated to new and old country and bluegrass tunes by the fantastic house band, Mountain Ruckus.  We secured a front row seat in the upper level and had a wonderful view of the show.

Popcorn, nachos, Pepsi products and fruit drinks are available to snack on, but don’t fill your gullets too much before the feast!!

One of our favorite parts of the show was the closing number where Mountain Ruckus propelled an entire roll of toilet paper into the air with a fan.  I feel sure this will be recreated at home one day.  ha!

A little before six they moved the crowd into the main dinner arena.  The four course home-cooking feast is served quite efficiently and eaten with your hands.  You read that right – your hands!  The supper starts with yummy creamy vegetable soup and a cheddar biscuit.  The main course includes chicken, pork, corn and a baked potato half.  The entire thing wraps up with a pretty darn good apple pastry.

Now, on to the real star of the Dixie Stampede… the show!!!  The story line of the show pits the North against South in a friendly competition and you will truly be dazzled by the incredible horses and talented riders.

In addition to the animals, there is fantastic music, dancing, comedy, costumes and more.

And, if you’re not careful, you just might learn something about the history, discovery, settlement and expansion of the USA.

The show wraps up with a patriotic grand finale that is incredibly moving in how it captures the spirit of America!!  Dolly singing and the doves of peace are the icing on the cake.

After the show you can head down to the first row and meet the riders and pet the horses.  My boys LOVED this part so much and they had quite a few questions for the riders about things they saw in the show.

In addition to the Dixie Belle Saloon pre-show and Dixie Stampede, you can also explore the open-air stables!   They are open before and after the show, but we visited after.

The animals are just beautiful and you will be able to learn a little about each one from the signs over their stalls.

My animal lover was in hog… er, horse…. heaven.  I swear these two connected on some sort of level.  :-)

If you go:

  • Purchase tickets in advance.  They can be bought online or by phone.
  • We were in the North Regular section F and had great seats.  I really don’t think there is a bad seat in the house the way the rows are tiered.  The arena is in a U shape and the least desirable seats, in my opinion, would be at the top of the U near where the animals and cast come out from back stage.  I don’t know if you can request a specific section by calling.
  • Be sure to go early to attend the pre-show in Dixie Belle Saloon.  The Mountain Rukus band starts 50 minutes before your dinner time and we found the best seats to be on the upper level.
  • There are small snacks available during the pre-show.  You will find long lines on the main level where you come in but the upstairs concession stands seemed to have fewer people.
  • You eat with your hands.  They provide small hand wipes but if you have little ones you may want to have a package of full on wipes.
  • Kids under 3 are free if they sit in your lap and eat from your plate.
  • When you purchase your tickets online you do have the option to choose vegetarian and gluten free meals.
  • The food is okay.  The show and experience is wonderful.
  • Video and photos are welcome but no flash or video lighting is allowed.
  • It is impressive how efficiently the servers do their job.  Bring cash to tip.  Gratuity is not included in the ticket price.
  • Dixie Stampede is dry.  There is no alcohol available at the pre-show or the dinner show.
  • You will be given a section and row number and are seated on benches.  You just slide in your row and there could be 10 people on either side of you.  It could be challenging to get out of this arrangement (say for the potty) if you have limited mobility so you may want to inquire about accessible seating.
  • The servers offer doggy bags after your meal in case you have leftovers.  We did not :-)
  • Parking is free.
  • Consider purchasing tickets in conjunction with Dollywood to save money if you plan to do both!

My family of four completely and entirely enjoyed the show.  It was a fun experience and a great way to kick things off in the Smokies!!

Day 4: Dollywood

After a delicious buffet breakfast at the resort (full review tomorrow), we were on the trolley to Dollywood!!  As guests of the DreamMore Resort, we were treated to door to door transportation which was a fabulous perk.

The park hours for our day were 10AM-7PM and we walked through the gate right around 10AM having NO idea what to expect!  What we found inside was a beautiful, immaculately clean theme park with SO much fun to be had.  I went in not knowing a whole lot about Dollywood and, being a Disney-nut, thinking that it would be extremely hard to compare.  Let’s just get this out of the way at the get-go, because I know you’re wondering.

How they are the same:

In my opinion, the parks are very similar in their attention to detail and cleanliness, as well as the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff.  They both have a variety of attractions with something for everyone, and both offer high quality, entertaining shows.

What Disney has that Dollywood doesn’t:

Many, many people, me included, have had a lifetime to fall in love with and connect with Disney’s characters and stories.  Disney is a masterful storyteller and this comes through on every single ride and attraction, regardless of whether or not the ride is based on a story we all know.  Think about Thunder Mountain – there is history and a backstory if you pay a little bit of attention walking through the queue.  I didn’t find this at Dollywood so I didn’t feel a real emotional connection to the park.  The rides were just rides for me.

What Dollywood has that Disney doesn’t:

Dollywood is just easy.  It wasn’t crowded, you don’t have to plan where you’re going to eat six months in advance and you don’t have to decide what rides you will be on at what hour two months before you even leave home.  I enjoy planning Disney but I also enjoy walking in somewhere and just going with the flow.  We did every single thing we wanted to do in the park with NO problem.  Dollywood is an easy 4-hour drive from Atlanta and would make a great long weekend trip, even at the spur of the moment!

At the end of the day, we will absolutely go back!

Here is my (very new to Dollywood) list of things not to miss!

1. The grounds –  We spent the first hour or so just walking around and exploring and getting the lay of the land.  There is something to see around every turn.

2. The birds – Don’t miss the Wings of America Show, “meeting” the birds, and Eagle Mountain Sanctuary where you will see the largest exhibit of non-releasable Bald Eagles in the United States!!  These birds cannot be released due to a disability or injury preventing them from being able to survive in the wild, but they do breed and the babies are released!  We’ve been enthralled with these creatures and have watched them on their Nest Cams since returning home!

3. The chapel – There is a non-denominational morning worship service at 11:30 a.m. each Sunday morning for guests, but you can always take a peek inside this quaint little country chapel.

4. The rides – You will find every variety of ride for every age and desire.  We, of course, most enjoyed the coasters and “big” rides.  This Dueling Daredevils swing was the family favorite!!  If you are touring with a variety of ages, we loved that next to every coaster was something family friendly.  So, you didn’t have to stay in different sections of the park to travel together as a family.  Some could easily do a big coaster while others picked the ride next to it and had a laid-back kid friendly experience.

5. Dolly’s story – Be sure to visit Chasing Rainbows and touring her bus.  I’ve always, always loved Dolly.  But what I didn’t know is that is is a cornerstone of the Smokies.  She is deeply and passionately loved in these parts and for good reason.  I loved sharing her story with my kids because they really didn’t know much about her.

6. The food – We ate at Reds and it had a neat little back story that you can learn through posters and signs inside.  We originally wanted Miss Lillian’s and I can’t even recall how we ended up here but it was burgers and fries and quite good regardless.  Another thing I heard not to miss is the chicken sandwiches served out of a truck right in this section.  They weren’t open the day we were in town so we didn’t get to try.

7. The cinnamon bread at the Grist Mill – Oh.My.Goodness.  This stuff is heaven.  We started with two loaves for a morning snack and then took another one home with us for breakfast the next day.  You can see the mill working while in the shop too!

8. The shows – We saw Mother Africa during the Festival of Nations and it was 45-minutes of incredible music, jaw dropping stunts and customary dance.  There was a wide selection of shows but we only saw this one and one with Irish musicians (while downing our cinnamon bread.)

9. Dollywood Express – Take this authentic coal-fired steam train on a delightful excursion through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains!  It is well worth the 20 minute ride.

10. The artisans – Be sure to explore the impressive and fascinating craftsmen performing their trade right there in the theme park.  You can find everything from blacksmiths to leathersmiths to glass blowers.

If you go:

  • While we were there, and think this is ongoing, if you arrive at the park after 4PM you get to return the next day for free!
  • Dollywood still offers rain checks!!  If it is raining when you leave the park, go to the ticket window for a rain check that will allow you to return to Dollywood any day of your choice in the current season.
  • If you are traveling with little ones that don’t meet height requirements, the Parent Swap program let’s one parent wait with the child while the rest of the group rides.  Then the adults swap places and the other parent can ride without waiting in line again.
  • If you need to leave the park, be sure to get your hand stamped at the exit.  You can return the same day with that stamp and your original ticket.
  • No outside food or drinks are allowed.
  • Cups of water are complimentary at all restaurants.
  • Get and use the TimeSaver system!!  This is “fast pass” of Dollywood but is way more flexible.  You will get a bracelet with 10 tickets that get you to a special shortened “fast pass” line at select rides.  You can also reserve seats for as many shows as you want with the TimeSaver by visiting the TimeSaver desk in the park the day of your visit.  TimeSaver is complimentary for guests of the DreamMore Resort!
  • Be sure to wear shoes with heel straps to be able to do all the rides.
  • Download the Dollywood App for iphone and android before you visit to find wait times, park maps and such.
  • If you buy something at the shops you can have it sent to the front gate to pick up on your way out, rather than carrying it around all day.
  • Consider purchasing tickets in conjunction with Dixie Stampede to save money if you plan to do both!
  • The water park had not yet opened for the season while we were there but we would LOVE to go back and do Dollywood again and hit the water park.
  • You cannot take backpacks or bags on to the rides.  There are lockers scattered about the park, but they also had cubbies to leave them in as you board the rides.
  • You cannot take cameras, phones, video cameras, go pros, etc. on to the rides or out in the shows, which is why I don’t have many pictures.  On one hand, it is kind of nice to disconnect, leave your phone in your bag and just live life for a while without documenting it.  On the other hand, it makes it hard to paint a real picture for y’all of the fun to be had :-)

Here’s a little video review of our stay at DreamMore Resort and our days at Dixie Stampede and Dollywood!!

All in all, while the park has over 40 rides with something for literally everyone, it was the beauty of the grounds, the impressive variety of local artisans actually performing their trade for us to watch and learn, the friendliness and the employees, the cleanliness of the park, and the cinnamon bread (!!!!!) that truly impressed us.

Dixie Stampede provided us with discounted tickets and Dollywood provided our tickets.   Neither asked for anything in return and this entire review is completely my own.  We loved every moment at Dollywood!


Dixie Delights Tour of Tennessee

in collaboration with
Dollywood  |  Visit Nashville  |  Memphis Travel

Part 1 – Read House, Ruby Falls, Rock City + More
Part 2 –  Wild Cave Expedition, Tennessee Aquarium + More

Part 3 – Dollywood + Dixie Stampede
Part 4 – Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort

Part 5 – a quick morning in the city

Part 6 – Hattie B’s, Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame
Part 7 – Hermitage Hotel, Wildhorse Saloon, Draper James

Part 8 – Peabody, Beale Street, Graceland
Part 9 – BBQ, Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio


4 thoughts on “Tour of Tennessee {Dixie Stampede + Dollywood}

  1. I went to Dollywood once in high school (this seems to be a theme on your Tennessee posts) – I imagine it’s changed quite a bit in 25+ years! The Stampede sounds like a blast! ?

    1. I’ve never been! And it’s really not far from Atlanta at all. Your boys would love it. Great ages to go!

  2. This is such a great overview. I have always thought of going and this sealed the deal! Thanks, Amanda. Your feature of the resort was great, as well. It looks like a fun and relaxing experience. :-)

    Here’s hoping your parents are both doing well and that your dad is getting stronger each day.

    1. It is really fantastic!! I want my family to ALL go back. They are hanging in there. Thank you so much for asking!

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