One of the reasons I love Christmas so much is because it’s a season. It’s not a one-day deal. And it’s a time I’m motivated to be intentional with my family. I have been gifted with an incredible husband and two precious boys. We should slow down and enjoy each other. We should laugh a lot. We should make memories.
Because I work at Dollywood, my family visits the parks often. Admittedly, it can be easy to go through the motions—take the boys to see the lights at Dollywood: check. But this year, we’re going to approach our outing differently. I challenge you to do the same. Because I love old and new traditions, here are five ways to celebrate Christmas at Dollywood with your family:
1.) The Lights
When you visit Dollywood during Smoky Mountain Christmas, you go to see the lights. Duh. There are four million of them. Have you noticed that some years, there are different trees wrapped in the beautiful lights? Or that, some areas have a whole new look? Make it a tradition for your family as you oo and aw to point out what’s different. Wear good shoes, walk through all areas of the park and pick out your favorite displays. There’s always something new to enjoy.
2.) A Train Ride
I can be a wimp. There. I said it. I don’t like being cold, so I may have come up with excuses to avoid a December open-car ride on the Dollywood Express in the past. Don’t be like me. One, it disappoints my 2-year-old, and two, the train offers a great opportunity for families to participate in some Christmas tunes. Ride the Dollywood Express during other times of the year and you’ll get to hear the conductor share the history about our park trains—our engines are WWII vets! During Smoky Mountain Christmas, the conductor gives guests the opportunity to listen to Dolly sing some holiday tunes. Go ahead, and join in with your family!
3.) Take Pictures
Dollywood does its part to inspire families to take lots of pictures. There are so many places that beg for your crew to stop to say, “Cheese!” Make it a tradition to take a picture in the same spot every Christmas season so (moms) you can compare year-to-year. But, I challenge you to also find a new spot every year. As my family grows, I can see that becoming a competition—who can find the best spot where we haven’t already snapped a photo?
4.) Enjoy a Treat
If you think about it, a lot of family traditions revolve around a meal. It only makes sense to duck into a restaurant to eat at some point during the visit. My choice would be Front Porch Café. And, because we’re making memories, I would make it a point to splurge a little and order a specialty hot chocolate—I can’t decide between macadamia nut or crème brulee. Make Christmas a little special and say yes to the extras!
5.) Take it To Go
It’s a crime to leave Dollywood hungry. So, while I plan to eat my fill, I’m also planning to get a loaf of cinnamon bread to go. This trick will extend your Dollywood visit into the next morning when you enjoy the Grist Mill treat for breakfast! Lots of families line up to treat themselves to cinnamon bread before leaving Dollywood—but see if you can jump in that line without the satisfaction of immediate gratification. Tough in the moment, but worth it to savor a taste of Dollywood with your family the next day.