Dollywood Theme Park Treats Ranked From Worst To Best

Tucked away in the most seemingly unlikeliest of places, the Great Smoky Mountains, you'll find the brainchild of iconic artist and humanitarian Dolly Parton, Dollywood. Parton, a native of the area, set her sights on home to draw inspiration for this 150-acre mecca of family fun that opened in 1986. On the rolling hills of the Eastern Tennessee mountains near Knoxville, Dollywood is a charming and unique theme park, tranquil and serene compared to its larger counterparts. In addition to a plethora of fun attractions and live entertainment, Dollywood is home to a water park, Splash Country, and a luxe resort and spa, aptly named DreamMore.

World class coasters aside, Dollywood also dishes out pretty incredible Southern-style dining offerings that have ranked as some of the best theme park food in the United States. There's award-winning barbecue and even family recipes from Dolly herself for visitors to enjoy. From barbecue pork sandwiches to a jaw-dropping 25-pound apple pie, we should all be paying attention to what Dollywood is cooking up. We'll always love you (and your food), Dolly.

Read on to see Dollywood theme park treats ranked from worst to best.

14. Butterfly-shaped pretzel

While larger theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando skew to the more trend-savvy diner, Dollywood's focus is more subtle. Think comfort food and classic American fare. It's only fitting that the park pays homage to traditional theme park food offerings like funnel cake and ice cream. It tears us up on the inside to kick off the list with this adorable pretzel, but the competition is fierce, ya'll. While Dollywood's butterfly pretzel, themed to the park's mascot, is totally Insta-worthy (it's shaped as a butterfly, after all) at the end of a day, it's just a SuperPretzel.

While we won't knock it as we've been known to kick back a few in our day, it's nothing for a foodie to write home about. The pretzel is soft and generously coated with a nice sprinkling of salt, but it would perhaps be more interesting if made from scratch onsite. Available at multiple locations throughout the park, they're fine if you want to carb up for all the hills you'll be walking (Dollywood is quite hilly) on a marathon park day.

13. Lumber Jack's 12-pound pizza

We're all for an eating competition. With the longstanding Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest and even television favorite Man Vs. Food, we'll never shy away from a food contest. It's only human nature to be fascinated by the mass consumption of something — especially food. If your competitive side strikes while visiting Dollywood, test your stomach's capabilities with Lumber Jack's 12-pound pizza.

This pizza is 30 inches in diameter and is advertised to feed between eight and ten people. But, if you and one fellow pizza-loving pal can finish it in one hour, you'll be handsomely rewarded with a Dollywood Gold Season Pass (not to mention a heavy dollop of glory), according to Family Vacation Critic. They say bigger is better, but we don't think that's always the case. Lumber Jack's pizza is freshly prepared, but its taste is that of fairly standard theme park or boardwalk pizza. We will give it props for being an affordable way for a large family on a budget to dine in the theme park.

12. BIG SKILLET® Sausage Sandwich

Dollywood is home to live entertainment, including multiple theaters where they bring in talented acts to be enjoyed free of charge for theme park visitors. But, if you head to the park's Rivertown Junction, there's another sort of show going on at the Market Square. In this breezeway, you can watch up close as a chef prepares the BIG SKILLET® Sausage Sandwich on a seriously BIG skillet. (The park's skillets even have a registered trademark for their name.) It remains to this day a fan favorite to stumble upon the chefs at work and take in the hypnotic aromas.

The BIG SKILLET® sandwich features smoked sausage and is served on a soft roll with a generous portion of onions and green peppers. It's good and classic boardwalk fare, and a fair portion to keep you full for hours. With the ingredients being cooked all together, the flavors do meld together resulting in a rather nice taste due to the rendered fat of the sausage. While it's not unique in of itself, the process is fun to watch. Petite Dolly Parton herself even hilariously stirred the skillet with a large wooden ore-like spoon in this television clip.

11. Red velvet funnel cake

We interrupt the savory food train for the classic theme park and carnival fare that is the funnel cake. This light batter is gently fried to a perfect golden brown and then topped with powdered sugar. The geniuses at Dollywood's Crossroads Funnel Cakes decided to take this one step further and throw on some pretty amazing toppings, including your choice of Reese's Peanut Butter and hot fudge. Seasonally, they also offer rotating specialty funnel cakes, including a standout Fruity Pebbles funnel cake.

The most perfect execution of their funnel cake experiments can be found with their award-winning red velvet funnel cake. Topped with cream cheese icing, this one is the crown jewel of their already stellar lineup of funnel cakes. The cake itself isn't overpowering in sweetness, while the icing adds the right around to curb your sweet tooth. It is rather heavy, so we suggest sharing this one with your near and dear.

10. Meatloaf Stacker

Now, we've made it to the meat and potatoes of our list — literally. Available for both lunch and dinner — although we highly recommend opting for the latter — at Granny Ogle's Ham 'n' Beans, the Meatloaf Stacker is the definition of Southern comfort food. A slice of butter crust white bread is generously topped with buttery mashed potatoes, a slice of their homemade tomato glazed meatloaf, and another generous layer of mashed potatoes before being covered in a brown gravy.

Delicious it is, but light it is not (and it's not exactly ideal for a visit to a theme park where you're walking miles upon miles in the scorching sun). This sandwich does require a nap after eating, so it may be best to save this for the end of your fun-filled day. If you don't want this weighing you down on your next visit, may we suggest making it for yourself in the comforts of your own home with your couch mere steps away.

9. Foot-long corn dog

The next one on our list is classic theme park food with a near-perfect execution. Over at the park's Dogs N Taters, you can find homemade, hand-dipped corn dogs. These aren't just any old corn dogs — each of them are a foot long and coated in a delicious sweet-meets-savory batter. Alongside your dog, you'll have the park's famous tater twirls. These tater swirls are crispy, curly, and fried to perfection. 

The meal is a long cry from your standard carnival dog and worthy of its top 10 position on our list. If you're more of the purist type, they also sell a foot-long standard hot dog. Both are portable wonders and make for a great walking snack. This counter service stand does tend to get backed up during meal times, so you may want to indulge in your dog at an off time.

8. BBQ pork rinds

Pork rinds may be a trendy, low-carb snack, but Dollywood has been long offering this regional favorite. Located in the Craftsman's Valley section of the park, you'll find an entire stand dedicated to the fried pig skin (you'll know you've found it when you hear that sizzle and pop). Here, you can watch a literal pork craftsman cook up fresh batch after fresh batch of the salty delight. It takes just a few seconds of frying for them to puff up, and it's a seriously cool and unique process to watch. We won't judge you if you're utterly mesmerized for hours.

Of course, standard pork rinds are delicious, but we love that Dollywood also throws in some specialty flavors. Our favorite hands down, though, are the BBQ pork rinds. It's salty with the just right amount of smoky sweetness. After all, barbecue makes everything better. You can grab them by the bagful and carry around for the perfect all day snack.

7. 25-pound apple pie

The Spotlight Bakery at Dollywood sells a tantalizing number of baked goods, from snicker-doodles to house-baked breads. They also happen to sell a 25-pound apple pie. (Yes, you read that correctly.) For someone with a serious sweet tooth, this pie weighs around 25 pounds and will set you back only $189.99, with one slice alone feeding four people (via Visit My Smokies). On average, they sell about 29 of these monstrous creations each year with each pie containing 20 pounds of apples, an entire cup of granulated sugar, and three cups of brown sugar. If you're not willing to make that kind of commitment, you can also purchase an individual slice for $18.99.

So, we get the shock and awe factor, but how does it taste? It's actually pretty fantastic. This melt-in-your-mouth pastry is homemade and cooked in a cast iron skillet that gives it a perfectly flaky crust. It's buttery with just the right amount of sweetness.

6. BeaverTails

You'll need separate admission for this next one, but it's worth it. Adjacent to the Dollywood theme park is Splash Country water park. It's home to some amazing waterslides, a mountain themed wave pool, and more importantly, BeaverTails. (Say what?)

Okay, so maybe you haven't heard about them, but we're here to educate you. Part pastry, part donut, the BeaverTail has been around since the 1970s and is a creation from our friendly neighbors of the north, Canada (via Culture Trip). Whole wheat dough is hand stretched and then freshly fried upon ordering. It's delicious in its classic form, topped with cinnamon sugar, but Splash Country also offers several interesting varieties. MoonPie, another Tennessee company, developed their own BeaverTail exclusive to the park. This one is topped with a vanilla spread, MoonPie crumbles, and a chocolate sauce drizzle. There's also a noteworthy version called the Hog Wild that has maple bacon on top. Not exactly your standard water park fare, eh?

5. Cinnamon bread

This is perhaps the most talked about of all of Dollywood's eats and practically a rite of passage for the first-time visitor. It would most certainly not be a proper list of the best Dollywood bites if we did not include the iconic cinnamon bread from the park's Grist Mill. The tiny bakery is surrounded by water, but all you'll need to look for is the usual massive line of hungry, sugar-seeking visitors ready to tackle a loaf on their own. It's worth the wait. Dollywood reports that over 200,000 loaves are sold every year using nearly 2,000 pounds of cinnamon.

Served pull apart-style, the soft and pillowy loaf is the ultimate sugar rush, and a park favorite with the bakery churning them out continuously all day long. Delicious by itself, we also enjoy dipping it into the bakery's icing, which is available on the side as well as apple butter. Pro-tip: If the line is too long at the Grist Mill and cutting into your coaster time, they also sell them at the DreamMore Resort.

4. Dolly's banana pudding

This next one is really special, because it comes from Dolly Parton's own personal collection of recipes, according to Taste of Home. Dolly's creamy and rich banana pudding is available from the park's Front Porch Cafe. The rich yet oddly light dessert is made from fresh bananas, vanilla pudding, and topped with vanilla wafer cookies. It's the perfect cold treat on a hot Tennessee day that won't leave you feeling sluggish.

The dessert is just as sweet as its backstory. According to Woman's World, money was tight in the Parton household, but a local shopkeeper would offer near spoiled bananas at a bargain price, affording the family to enjoy a rare and welcome sweet treat. For that heartwarming story alone — and the fact that it is positively yummy — you have got to try Dolly's banana pudding on your next visit to the park.

3. Ham 'n' Beans

You'll be transported back to grandma's house when you take one step inside Granny Ogle's Ham 'n' Beans. With a welcoming wrap around porch for dining, this casual lunch and dinner stop serves up classic down-home cuisine and all the country fixins your heart desires. While they serve a solid Pot Roast and skillet cornbread in addition to the already mentioned Meatloaf Stacker, our annual pilgrimage here can be attributed to its namesake offering.

Their Ham 'n' Beans is served alongside most of their entrees, but it is so good it often becomes the star of the plate. This side features Granny Ogle's signature pinto beans, sometimes referred to in the South as soup beans, that are generously seasoned and loaded with pulled pit ham. Savory meets salty in this dish Dolly would enjoy with her childhood friend, Judy. It is the perfect side dish, featuring a totally unique flavor with just the right level of salt.

2. Aunt Granny's fried chicken

An ode to Dolly's many nieces and nephews that bestowed this nickname upon her, Aunt Granny's is the epitome of Dollywood cuisine (via Forbes). This all-you-care-to-eat restaurant, was even named one of 2020's top 10 best theme park restaurants in the country by USA Today.

While any choice here is a solid one, the absolute must-eat is Aunt Granny's Southern fried chicken. Juicy and tender meat is coated in seasoned flour and spices and then deep fried to perfection. The exterior is crispy and light, while the inside is chock full of meat. We're not sure what their secret is, but we found the holy grail of fried chicken and it's in a theme park. You're welcome. 

1. BBQ pork sandwich

Barbecue is serious business, and Dollywood stepped up to the plate to quite literally knock it out of the park. Located in Craftman's Valley, you may have walked past on many occasions the seemingly unassuming Hickory House BBQ. This quick service spot may just be a walk-up counter, but it is home to Amusement Business magazine's best pork barbecue of all theme parks in the United States. Our favorite way to consume the meat, which is smoked in-house, is shredded and on their BBQ pork sandwich.

This sandwich is piled high and so good you'll be left believing in a higher, theme park power. The award-winning recipe provides a pork that is so tender and full of flavor, with a barbecue sauce that will have your tastebuds dancing and singing. They also load the meat on top of fries for another wow-worthy dish that is their BBQ pork fries. While barbecue is by no means a standard theme park food, if you sink your teeth into just one thing on your next visit to Dollywood, make it this one.