By Darryl Payne
Posted on July 18, 2017
There's so much to enjoy in the Great Smoky Mountains during a summer vacation, but Dollywood theme park is always a family favorite. This year Dollywood is better than ever with tasty new restaurants, exciting new rides, and new high-tech shows. Dollywood also has a new mission for 2017: keeping families together while they enjoy the park. You'll see evidence of the shift all during your visit.
Whistle Punk Chaser: The Intro Coaster
At theme parks, families or groups with children of different ages usually have to split into two groups. One parent or chaperone takes the little ones to age-appropriate rides while the other adult takes older kids on more adventurous rides. Teenagers may even spend the day by themselves while parents tend to smaller children. At the end of the trip, a family may feel as if they went on separate vacations.
Dollywood is aiming to change that dynamic by bridging the age gap with innovative rides like the Whistle Punk Chaser. This less-intense coaster is meant as a gentle introduction to thrill rides for children who may or may not end up liking roller coasters, and a fun experience for older children. Kids only have to be 36" tall to ride, and the adventure is centered on twists and turns instead of drops. If kids like Whistle Punk, as long as they're 48" tall they can try the more advanced Thunderhead wooden coaster.
Drop Line: Unbeatable Views and Thrills
If you love leaving your stomach in the sky while your body plummets toward the ground (and who doesn't), you'll also love the hair-raising Drop Line ride at Dollywood. Drop Line takes riders up a 200-foot tower for a bird's eye view of Timber Canyon. Look fast, though - in a few seconds you're going to drop 20 stories. Riders must be at least 50" tall.
Modern, Family-friendly Shows
Dollywood may be born of a culture that loves to preserve the past, but that doesn't mean they don't love progress and technology. Developing a show that keeps everyone entertained - from adults to the littlest kids - is a tall order, but Dollywood pulls it off in style with the new Tokyo-based dance company show "enra."
This show is a combination of dance, martial arts, acrobatics, and cutting-edge technology. In fact, it may be the technology elements that keep children glued to the action on stage. "enra" features 3D multimedia elements that make it look like live performers are moving through video game–like scenarios. People who have seen the show say they had trouble figuring out what was real and what wasn't - which is part of the experience. This is a futuristic, brilliant show that you won't want to miss.
New Restaurants, New Crowd Flow
Wear the kids out before lunch because you're going to want to take a break at the new Front Porch Café. This is a sit-down restaurant that mimics the front porch of a traditional mountain home. The menu has a wide range of healthy options and light salads, a broad kids' menu, and a variety of home-cooked favorites so you can keep your energy up.
During the family-friendly revamp, even the restaurants got a makeover. LumberJack's Pizza restaurant is always one of the most popular (and crowded) restaurants in the park. Children and adults like LumberJack's wood-fired pizza so much that this eatery frequently had long lines. The park solved that problem by adding more ordering lines, large, high-tech screen menus, and self-serve soda machines to speed up the process.
More Family Fun at Tree Tops Rope Course
The Smoky Mountain goodness doesn't stop at Dollywood. Near the park you'll find Adventure Park's Tree Tops Rope Course, another most-ages attraction that keeps the family having fun together. Tree Tops Rope Course features suspended bridges, ziplines, cargo nets, tic-tac-toe bridges, and beautiful mountain views.
Each action-packed tour is led by a guide who will literally show you the ropes. Kids must be at least 48" tall to participate, and adults must be at least 60" and not weigh over 250 lbs. Participants go through a brief "ground school" safety class, then follow a guide through different zones of the park that range from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours to complete.
Tree Tops Rope Course has a special Junior Course for kids 8 to 11 years old, and every participant is always connected to secure cables and in a harness while they're on the course.
Fun for All Ages in the Smokies
Summer is here and all of the new attractions are ready for action in the Great Smoky Mountains. Plan an exciting, family-friendly day at Dollywood and a lively afternoon at Tree Tops Rope Course in Sevierville. Combined with a peaceful hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or a drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a summer vacation in the Smokies has something for everyone.
About Darryl Payne
Darryl Payne is a native of East Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. He is a web developer with a passion for building great websites. As a local, he can offer a unique perspective on where to stay and things to do while on vacation in the Smokies. To read his latest recommendations, please click the Google+ follow button.