Dollywood is a pretty magical place. And while you’d like to think this magical place is all sunshine all the time, there are days when nature doesn’t cooperate. Being in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, this un-cooperation typically comes in the form of the wet stuff.
That’s right…sometimes it actually rains at Dollywood.
The thing is, you’d be mistaken to think this is an all-together bad thing. Far from it. With a little prep and luck, a rainy weather forecast may actually create a touring advantage on your Dollywood day.
Soggy Forecast, Sunny Result.
So how is a rainy forecast advantageous? Simple. It gives you a chance to zig when others zag. For example, on a recent visit, our Dollywood day forecast called for all-day rain. Seriously, it looked bad. One glance at the radar suggested a complete washout. After almost rescheduling though, we instead decided to forge ahead.
Did it rain? Yep.
Did it ruin the day? Hardly.
After catching our favorite indoor shows and eating lunch at Till & Harvest – one of the many covered dining areas around the park – the rain forecasted to last all day vanished. Instead, we were left with a Dollywood largely devoid of guests and attraction wait times.
Months later we still talk about the great Dollywood “day we almost didn’t have.” It’s a day that would’ve never happened had we not “zigged” against conventional wisdom and rescheduled our trip.
A Rainy Snapshot
In highsight, we probably over-thought our go/no-go decision.
In the stress of the moment though, it’s easy to forget that a 100% chance of rain really just means there’s a 100% chance rain will occur somewhere in the forecast area for some duration of time. It doesn’t always mean the washout it seems to imply.
It’s also easy to forget Dollywood is really a park tailor-made for uncooperative weather. A majority of outdoor attractions operate in steady, light rain and only close on area lightning and heavier downpours. During those closures, you’ve got a second-to-none entertainment slate that’s fully available in nearly any inclement weather.
Insider Tip: Check out When it Rains On Your Trip for more ideas on tackling a rainy Dollywood.
Lies, Darn Lies, and Weather Statistics
When are you most likely to encounter “advantageous” weather on your visit?
Historical data says it tends to rain 128 days in the Dollywood area each year – a little above the U.S average of 106 days. Here, a rainy day is most likely from May to August where you have a 35% chance of any given day being soggy.
Your best month for wet weather is July which sees an average of fourteen wet days. If you’re dead set on having a rainy Dollywood day, July 9th has the highest historical probability of being wet – more so than any other day of the year. And while summer has the greatest wet weather probability, it’s actually December that sees the highest rain totals of the year.
I suppose you might say rain in the Smoky Mountains “keeps on falling” in December.
At the exact opposite end of the soggy spectrum is October which has the fewest wet days and the lowest rain total volume.
While snow and extreme cold is definitely a thing in the Great Smoky Mountains, there’s not a high likelihood you’ll be able to use it as a touring advantage. The peak of the snow and extreme cold season is early January to mid February – the same time Dollywood is closed for the season.
Keeping Your Advantage
One caveat – if you’re not prepared, the weather advantage you’ve gained may not be much of an advantage after all.
First, you’ll want to make sure you have the necessary gear. We take ponchos and leave the umbrellas at home. With an umbrella, you’ll have something else to keep up with and be down a hand when trying to hold onto kids or push a stroller.
Speaking of strollers, don’t forget your stroller cover. You never know when an unexpected rain shower might leave you with a wet stroller. This has happened to us once (or twice) and has left me carrying the baby while the stroller dried out.
It’s also not a terrible idea to bring an extra pair of socks with you on rainy days. We usually throw a pair into the bottom of the stroller just in case we have to traverse a particularly soggy park path. Rain boots also fit the bill if you’re so inclined.
So to recap…poncho + cover + socks = advantage held.
Since inclement weather is such a tricky thing to predict, I tend to rely on a mix of local weather resources. For Dollywood, that’s is going to be your Knoxville, TN news sources like:
In-park, I usually rely on Accuweather hourly updates and radar to keep track of what is going on. It’s fair from reliable, but seems to be the best of available weather apps. Dollywood also has a team keeping a close eye on the weather in case there’s a need to make operational changes.
Weather Is Your Friend
So while you can’t ignore some of the minor annoyances that come with uncooperative weather, I think the low probability of an all-day wash-out, a park that’s very much prepared to entertain you regardless, and the high likelihood of smaller crowds all make the argument for visiting regardless of how inclement the forecast looks. This is especially true when visiting during a popular time where weather is likely the only thing potentially lowering crowd levels. It’s worked out especially well for our family multiple times and I suspect it will for yours as well.
Plus there’s always this – a rainy Dollywood day always beats a non-Dollywood day.