For my little boy’s 4th birthday this year, I had a stroke of genius—though, I can’t truly take credit. He has not [yet] asked for a “real” birthday party, so in the previous three years, I’ve just hosted family and friends at our house for a celebration. This year, we were talking about what he wanted to do for his special day and he asked, “Mommy, can we go to Dollywood?” You mean I can avoid the stress of theming a party and cleaning my house?! Sweet child, I love you so much. We’re going to Dollywood!
This is an excellent option especially if you want to keep it small. Our closest friends and family also have Season Passes, so it was pretty easy to invite some of his favorite people to meet us there and have a play day.
What your idea of a party looks like may be different, but I thought I’d share with you what my family did in hopes that it’s helpful for you to plan your very own Dollywood birthday.
Let The World Know
If you’ve come to Dollywood to celebrate, then we (Dollywood hosts) want to join in on your merriment. As you go through the turnstiles, let the hosts know it’s your birthday (or other special occasion) and they’ll give you a button you can proudly wear. Throughout the day, Dollywood hosts (and other guests!) will wish you well. My little boy loved the attention when he wore his button.
Find A Spot
Because this is a non-traditional party, I wanted to secure a place to do a few of the traditional birthday things: eat and sing. There are lots of places you could do this: Lumber Jack’s patio puts you near many of the coasters, Front Porch Café gives you the opportunity for a full-service meal, Hickory House is quick service with the option to sit sheltered from the elements, the list goes on.
For my guy, I selected the patio behind Victoria’s Pizza. One, because he likes pizza (they have pasta, breadsticks and salad for other party-goers who may want something else), and two, I chose this location because of its proximity to the Dollywood Express. Our group took up three tables and it was the perfect little spot for us to eat, laugh, [be loud], and sing “Happy Birthday!”
This tip may be worth your time reading this blog—you can get the incredibly-talented pastry chefs at Spotlight Bakery to create the birthday cake, cookies, cupcakes, you-name-it dessert of your dreams. Right now, my little boy is particularly fond of the new Wildwood Tree cookies, so I ordered a bunch of them about a week before our visit. If it’s a special order that’s not something they already make, the more time you give them, the better. Call 1-800-Dollywood and ask for the Spotlight Bakery. They can take your order over the phone.
Plan Special Encounters
The fun didn’t end at lunch—I mean, clearly, there’s a whole park to enjoy! And because Dollywood hosts are very accessible, we made it as special a day as possible. For my 4-year-old, that meant we spent time hanging out in the train depot. We intentionally showed up between train runs to speak with the engineers. They love chatting with train-loving kids and taking pictures. Just look for them near the engine. And wouldn’t you know it? When it was our time to ride, we ended up on train car #4 for Trevor’s 4th birthday!
During the day, we ran into Frances and once he noticed the birthday button, he made a big deal of it and sang. (In case you don’t know, Frances is one of the roaming characters you’ll meet. He’s our resident park nerd!)
You can also bump into Miss Lillian, AppleJack or the Gem Tones and they’re sure to sing you a song or play you a tune.
Be on the lookout throughout the day for your chance to put a spotlight on your birthday boy/girl.
If you plan to see shows, you are always welcome to head down to the stage after the performance to say hi to the stars and take pictures!
Enjoy The Day
Everyone has their must-hit list when they visit Dollywood. When I’m with my boys, my list includes Dollywood Express, Shooting Star, Rockin’ Roadway, Lumberjack Lifts and Whistle Punk Chaser.
Since this birthday fell during Festival of Nations, I thought we’d try Drumstruck. It’s billed as interactive drum theater—i.e., everyone in the audience gets their own drum. This is brilliant for young families. You’re SUPPOSED to be loud! My birthday boy loved it. And it gave us a place to sit and rest, in lieu of a nap.
Stretch It Out
Here’s a pro tip for you—extend the Dollywood experience as long as possible. That could mean you stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa or you could rent one of our Smoky Mountain Cabins. For us, extending the Dollywood party simply meant taking home a treat to enjoy for later. I ordered enough Wildwood Tree cookies for Trevor to take to preschool and share with his class. He was so proud!