DOLLY’S SPLASH COUNTRY
Pigeon Forge, TN
Review by: Lance Hart
(4/23/16) Here at Screamscape our family are big fans of waterparks, and we've traveled across the country to visit many of them over the years, and have written quite a few reports about our favorites which you can find scattered throughout our many "Features" articles.
Today we add to this famous list another waterpark that is very deserving of your attention: Dollywood's Splash Country. The park is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, just across the road from the world famous Dollywood theme park, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, nestled right in-between the theme park and Dollywood's DreamMore Resort, surrounded by the lush and beautiful hillsides that make for the perfect terrain for a truly incredible waterpark.
In fact once you get your ticket and head down the path to the park entrance, you may just quickly forget just where you are, as you pass into what may be one of the most well themed and beautifully landscaped waterparks anywhere. Your ears will be filled with the sound of waterfalls, trickling rivers, laughing children and gentle music as you enter the first area where the entry to the Downbound Float Trip (aka: Lazy River) sits to your right, with a backdrop of cascading waterfalls. To your left is the Little Creek Falls kiddie play area for the little kids, and there are plenty of lounge chairs on either side here if you wanted to plop down and park your stuff.
Of course this is just the tip of the ice-berg, as Splash Country has several great areas you can sit and relax in. You can keep walking straight ahead and up a rise to find the huge Mountain Waves area, dominated by a 25,000 sqft wave pool. Or head down the hill to your left and you can hang out at Bear Mountain Fire Tower area, dominated by a huge water fortress structure, complete with a massive bucket of water on top that dumps down on everyone below every couple of minutes. Keep walking down the path from here and you'll come to one of my favorite and very secluded areas, The Cascades... a highly themed 8,000 sqft lagoon that you can wade in, with a zero-depth entry point on one end for the kiddies with fun interactive elements, or play on the two kiddie sized slides in the middle, or wade out to the far side to hang out under the rocky waterfalls.
While The Cascades is surrounded by plenty of lounge chairs, the area also features a deluxe upgrade that can really up the relaxation factor of your day at Splash Country to the 100% satisfaction level. I'm talking about the Retreats and Canopies the park has available for rental. The Retreats are bigger (200 sqft) and offer you not only a shaded space where you can relax, but a safe place to keep your valuables (with a locker box) and your own sun-deck if you want to catch some rays. The Canopies are smaller (65 sqft) shaded spaces, perfect for couples, complete with two chaise-lounge chairs.
You will spy Retreats and Canopies scattered out around the park in various areas, though a large number of the Retreats are in The Cascades. While I've never been one to try out this kind of thing before at other waterparks, my family and I were able to try out a Retreat in The Cascades and I may never be able to go back to roughing it again. Ours also featured a nice table, a phone where you can order food to be delivered right to you, and a TV to watch if you so desired (so no missing the big game!). However sometimes the benefits of the Retreats are more than what is advertised... especially as a parent. The Retreat gives your group of kids a "base" where they can not only keep their stuff for the day, but your kids can venture off on their own, allowing the older kids to go wild and slide for a bit while you focus on the smaller kids, and everyone knows to come back to the Retreat to check in. The park also offers refillable drink bottles, which you can't take on the slides with you, but the Retreat makes a perfect place to take a break every so often, rest, get re-hydrated, maybe eat something and head back out for more fun in the sun. They are available on a first-come basis as you enter the park, so inquire about availability, it really will make your day.
With everyone's gear settled, sunscreen applied, its time to head out into the waterpark for some wet fun and wild thrills. I've already mentioned a few of the more mellow ways you can spend your day, so lets focus now on the more WILD times you can have. If you are near The Cascades or Mountain Waves I'm sure you've spotted the huge Fire Tower Falls slide tower, featuring a pair of near vertical dive slides that you wont soon forget. Not far from here is the Big Bear Plunge (big raft) slide that winds through twists and tunnels along with a big splashdown, or take on the parks newest thrill slide, RiverRush, which has Tennessee's first and only water coaster slide that will take you on a wild experience like no other.
Venture over to the other side of the park and you'll find a wild assortment of other slides like the Wild River Falls (raft slides) or the short but wild Butterfly slides that are themed to look like the Dollywood butterfly logo. Near here is the Raging River Rapids (big raft) slide, the three Mountain Scream body slides, the SwiftWater Run bowl slide, the Mountain Twist slides that you go down head-first on matt that are much wilder than they look, or venture up the valley to race your friends down the always fun Slick Rock Racer.
After visiting so many waterparks that are essentially giant concrete pool pads, roasting under the harsh sun standing in long lines, a day spent at the lush Splash Country waterpark where you are never far from the natural green landscape that surrounds the whole park will change your mind about how a great a day at the waterpark should really be. Check the park website for the official schedule, but it’s usually open from about Mid-May to Early to Mid-September. So treat yourself to an enjoyable and relaxing experience at Dollywood's Splash Country... you'll thank me later if you've never been.