Dollywood’s Harvest Festival Is the Ultimate Autumn Theme Park Experience

Dollywood's annual Harvest Festival and the Great Pumpkin Luminights kick off this week.

Dollywood’s Harvest Festival is the ultimate autumn theme park event. From seasonal pumpkin-spiced treats to some truly massive pumpkins, the park goes all out for fall, and given Dollywood’s prime leaf-peeping location in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s easy to see why this event is a fan favorite.

From Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, guests can enjoy the annual Harvest Festival, complete with fall decor and live music. Colossal pumpkins ranging from 800 to 1500 pounds will be on display, and there will be over 800 Southern gospel and bluegrass concerts on eight different outdoor stages during the festival.

The Southern comfort food the park is already known for is taken to a new level with delightful seasonal offerings, including smoked beef brisket, turkey legs, sweet potato casserole, and more. Of course, you can find plenty of pumpkin-spiced treats, too, including milkshakes, cinnamon rolls, and a twist on the famous Dollywood cinnamon bread.

Large sculpture of pumpkins carved to make out a big friendly spider
Curtis Hilburn/Courtesy of Dollywood

The pumpkin-themed celebration doesn’t stop after dark. At night, thousands of jack-o'-lanterns light up the park for the Great Pumpkin Luminights, now in its fourth year. There’s even a giant, 40-foot pumpkin tree at the center of it all.

“We know folks are ready to get out and enjoy the colors of fall and the fresh, crisp Smoky Mountain air,” Dolly Parton said in a statement shared with Travel + Leisure. “This year has been challenging for everyone, but we hope the comfort they feel from coming and visiting us gives them that warm, familiar feeling they’ve shared with their friends and loved ones for so many years here at Dollywood. We have a few surprises planned this year, and I think everyone will agree this is that special escape ‘back home’ we all need right now.”

A oversized sculpture of a guitar built of carved pumpkins that glow at night
Curtis Hilburn/Courtesy of Dollywood

During the Harvest Festival, Dollywood is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day of operation, and it’s closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Guests planning a short evening visit can opt for $35 reduced-price tickets for entry after 5 p.m.

Dollywood reopened on June 15 with new health and safety measures in place, including mandatory face coverings, limited capacity, and physical distancing measures. It’s the latest American theme park to announce updated fall events amid the pandemic — Disney World recently announced new seasonal offerings at Magic Kingdom and Universal Orlando opened two haunted houses last weekend after canceling its Halloween Horror Nights.

Elizabeth Rhodes is an associate digital editor at Travel + Leisure who covers all things theme parks. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @elizabetheverywhere.

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