Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains are the kinds of places that show up on a lot of lists. You know, the “Best Family Vacation” and “Best Affordable Destination” type of lists. With summer vacations quickly approaching, we’ll play host to thousands of new families over the next several months. Where will you be traveling from? We want to help you get here—and enjoy the trip along the way.
We’re in a good spot—within a day’s drive for most of the folks who live east of the Mississippi. And, Dollywood is only about four or so hours from several large cities.
If you will be flying in, Knoxville is the closest airport. We’re also an easy drive from Atlanta, Nashville and Charlotte if you fly into these hubs.
Below, we’ve tabbed some regional cities. Check out the map and our recommendations for enjoyment along the way!
There are a few options to get to Dollywood from the Atlanta area. The most direct route will take you north on I-75. If you choose this path, and you’re looking for a memorable trip from start to finish, here are a couple of my suggestions for some roadside family activities along the way: Lost Sea Adventure (an underground lake) and Mayfield Dairy Farm (see how some of your favorite dairy products are made! Plus, Mayfield is one of Dollywood’s food partners, so you can get a preview of what you can taste at our park).
For a more scenic route that will take roughly the same amount of time, try I-85 North to ultimately get on US-441 N. You’ll go through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With ample opportunities to stop at overlooks, this is always a popular choice.
Birmingham is located about four hours from the beach and about four hours from the Great Smoky Mountains. How convenient! If you’re traveling with children, it’s easy to break up the car time and keep them entertained by making a quick stop at Lookout Mountain.
Here’s another thought: plan your trip to Dollywood in April when Lodge is hosting its annual Cornbread Festival because that’s when they allow tours through their foundry. You can drive through Huntsville, stop at Lodge and continue on your way to Dollywood for more great Southern flavors!
Charlotte is another nearby city. Take 1-40 West and arrive in about four hours. Add some interest to your trip and take the Blue Ridge Parkway into Great Smoky Mountains National Park when you hit Asheville, or continue on I-40 and exit a little later to take US 411 S/US-70 W toward Sevierville. That way, you can make a lunch stop at the Bush’s Beans Visitor Center. Trust me, this is a roadside stop you’ll want to make!
If you’re journeying from Lexington, Kentucky, you can make a stop just across the Tennessee state line at Cove Lake. It’s a state park with wetlands and woodlands located just off the interstate. It’s a good place to stretch your legs and let the kids get some air. If you want to spend a little more time checking out the views, plan a little extra time and make a reservation at McCloud Mountain Restaurant & Lodge. From the top, you can see the valley below including Norris Lake, the Smokies, and Knoxville.
Dollywood sees a lot of tourists from the Nashville area. If you’re coming from middle Tennessee, you’ll make the easy drive on I-40 E. To get a taste of what’s to come, plan a stop about halfway and hike Cummins Falls. You’ll be rewarded with a waterfall view.
Check off another bucket list item with a stop in Knoxville to see the Sunsphere and World’s Fair Park. Then, instead of jumping back on the interstate, take US 441 S for a straight shot with less traffic. Enjoy the mountain vistas as you take this back road.
There are some fun roadside options to enjoy as a family if you travel to Dollywood from Roanoke, Virginia. Travel South on I-81 and take a break at the halfway point. You’ll be at the Virginia-Tennessee state line and you can tour the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a Smithsonian Museum, or even visit Bristol Motor Speedway before you hop back on the road—just remember the speed limit after seeing the world’s fastest half mile!