Gatlinburg, Tennessee is one of the most popular destination spots, especially for families. With all the outdoor adventures in Gatlinburg, there are plenty of inexpensive and free activities for a wide range of interests and ages. These are some of the top inexpensive or free things to do in Gatlinburg without breaking the bank.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest attraction in Gatlinburg. The park stretches through two states, covering over 500,000 acres. With so much space, there are numerous hiking trails for people of all ages and abilities. The Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg Trail and Baskins Creek Trail are just of a few of the almost 100 hiking trails in the park, and all hiking in the park is free.
An adventurous route to take while staying in Gatlinburg is to Clingmans Dome. This is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and visitors find it along the Appalachian Trail. The Dome includes a tower for a free view as far as the eyes can see. The trail does present challenges in terrain, and it experiences closures in the winter.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a free way to see wildlife without leaving the car. It covers five-and-a-half miles of terrain and includes visions of waterfalls, forests and historical sites. The route is on a one-way loop to prevent drivers from getting lost. There are also walking trails near the motor trail, but signs warn pedestrians of entering the motor drive.
As part of its small town mountain charm, Gatlinburg’s trolley system provides an easy way to see the town at either a cheap or free rate. During certain times of the year, there is no fee for the use of the trolley. These are specials, announced at random intervals throughout the year. Otherwise, visitors ride the old-time trolley for less than a dollar. It has special lines for the National Park, Arts and Crafts Community and winter light displays.
Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community
One of the best free things to do in Gatlinburg is visiting the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community. Just a few miles south of downtown, it is home to workshops of over 120 craftspeople. Within an eight-mile loop road, visitors drive or take the trolley to see each workshop. Visitors see the artisans hard at work to construct items such as paintings, brooms, woodcarvings and more. There is no obligation to buy, but the prices are notoriously low. The Gatlinburg Trolley offers a free ride through the area in the summer.
Cades Cove is a section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park all to itself. The area boasts hiking trails fit for beginners that lead to grand views with plenty of waterfalls. Two days a week the motorized trails become bike paths, and the park offers bicycle rentals. The area also features horseback riding and plenty of picnic tables for a cheap meal.
Ole Smoky Distillery
Moonshine is one of the most infamous products of Eastern Tennessee, and Ole Smoky Distillery is one of the oldest legal makers of this high alcohol-content whiskey. Ole Smoky Distillery offers free tours every day of the week, with live music on certain nights. Visitors who are at least 21 get the opportunity to try a free tasting. Adults choose from the original flavor or one of many fruit infused moonshines, such as blackberry. While only those of drinking age can have a taste, people of all ages are welcome for the tour.
Ghost and Haunt Tours of Gatlinburg
For a low admission price, adults and older children can unearth some of Gatlinburg’s scariest secrets with Ghost and Haunt Tours of Gatlinburg. Guides present more than just a tour of supposed haunted sites, as each location is full of historical information. While learning about the powerful people of the city’s past, tourists use ghost hunting tools to try to interact with some of the spirits who supposedly haunt the town.
The activities at Ober Gatlinburg provide fun for the entire family at reasonable rates, with some rides costing as little as a few dollars. Inexpensive passes also allow visitors to experience every attraction at a discounted rate, and children receive a reduced rate. Attractions vary from an ice skating rink, a fake shooting range, miniature golf, carousel, rafting, an 1800-foot slide and a chair lift through the forest.
Gatlinburg Community Center
The Gatlinburg Community Center offers indoor swimming, bowling, day classes, racquetball and a fitness center for extremely low daily rates. One adult swim is just a couple of dollars for the day. Swim diapers are also available for families with small children. While adults are bowling, children can spend some time at one of the center’s day camps for a fee.
Smoky Mountains Tunes and Tales
Smoky Mountains Tunes and Tales is a seasonal event that runs through the high tourist season. It features bands that focus on traditional music of the area, such as bluegrass, and storytellers that share famous stories and legends of East Tennessee. The event is one of the top free things to do in Gatlinburg. Though the main show is in the spring and summer, there is a rendition of Tunes and Tales in the winter that focuses on Holiday stories and music.
Fort Fun is full of inexpensive activities, especially for children. It offers miniature golf, laser tag, bumper cars, a laser maze and a motion theater. Kids can even feel what it was like during the area’s mining days with the Gem Mining experience. The purchase of an activity pass for almost all of the rides provides a discount instead of paying for each activity separately.
There is an abundance of inexpensive and free things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Most activities do not require advanced booking, but visitors should check before their trip to note any time, holiday or seasonal restrictions on activities.