great smoky mountains national park sign in the snow

15 Free Things to Do in Gatlinburg

Are you planning a vacation to Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains? If so, we’re certain that you would love to do as much possible while at the same time saving money but still having fun! That’s why we put together a list of 15 free things to do while staying with us in the Smokies!

1. Experience the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The city of Gatlinburg became a town because of its location in Appalachia and today sitting just outside of it’s backdoor is one of the most beautiful national parks in America. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park doesn’t have an entrance fee and is filled with free things to do! Your first stop needs to be the Sugarlands Visitors Center where you can take in some free activities and also plan your time in the Smokies. They offer a free museum that includes many of the area’s flora and fauna as well as a 20-minute film to view. Once you’ve been by Sugarlands, you’ll be ready to start exploring!

overview of downtown gatlinburg2. Go On A Photo Scavenger Hunt: Charge up your camera and phone then hit the streets for an afternoon of selfies and family photos! You’ll find photo op spots all over Gatlinburg! From the friendly snowmen hanging out around town during the winter months to the Gatlinburg Overlook with a backdrop of stunning views of the mountains. The Smoky Mountains afterall is where lifetime memories are made!

3. Take a Sippin’ Stroll: Moonshine, whiskey, hard cider, wine and more… We like to do some sippin’ here in Gatlinburg and you’ll find spots with free sips on every corner!

4. Ride the Trolley: On any given day you can pick up a $2 Gatlinburg Trolley pass at the front desk that will cover rides all day long, but during the summer months they offer a free ride on a specific route. Check the details for your time in town and go for a ride!

5. Connect with the Roots of the City: The roots of Gatlinburg history run deep here in the Smokies and our owner’s family was actually the first family to ever settle in this little corner of the hills. You can view the original cabin that still stands in downtown Gatlinburg for free. If you love history you’ll also enjoy checking out the historical structures on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, the timeline Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and many people places in town that have a beautiful story attached to them.

foothills parkway6. Take a Scenic Drive: When in Gatlinburg and the Smokies you’ll find that we have no shortage of scenic drives! Take a drive across Newfound Gap Road, roll up Little River Road, enjoy the views from the Foothills Parkway or even just enjoy a quiet moment on the gravel roads of Greenbrier or Tremont.

7. Immerse Yourself in Art and Culture: Throughout the city of Gatlinburg you’ll find countless opportunities to view local art. At times you’ll also be able to watch demonstrations by local artists. A couple of places to start your tour of the art and culture of the Smokies? Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts’ art galleries in downtown Gatlinburg and the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community just outside of town.

8. Hang Out in the Holler: On any given day in Gatlinburg you can head over to Ole Smoky’s Moonshine Holler and find them cooking up some shine while there’s pickin’ and singing on the stage. Not only are the shows free, but they have the 2nd best rocking chairs in town to kick back and relax in as well! (The best rocking chairs are at our hotel, along the river!)

9. Go Picnickin’: Speaking of pickin’, while in the Smokies you must go picnickin’ at least once! Swing by Old Dad’s General Store and they can get you set up with some grub! Just remember to always practice Leave No Trace at all time and in all locations to help protect our very loved black bears.

snowman outside of ole red gatlinburg10. Join in on Annual Celebrations: In Gatlinburg, there’s always something to celebrate! Join us for the New Years Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade or the July 4th Midnight Parade. You’ll also find Tunes and Tales happening on every street corner during Christmas time with caroling and storytellers. They can also be found entertaining the crowd during the summer months with plenty of music and stories from Appalachia.

11. Go Window Shopping: Take a stroll through the Marketplace, The Village or on a day when you’d rather be inside – the Mountain Mall. You’ll find plenty of items to dream about, laugh at and maybe even a few to purchase and take back home with you.

12. Pick up a Free Visitors Guide at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center: On your way into town, stop off at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center and pick up a guide, coupons, brochures and gather any extra info you need to make your trip complete!

13. Tour the Rocky Top Wine Trail: Swing in one of the Rocky Top Wine Trail locations in town and let the tour begin! You’ll receive a passport at your first stop and a stamp for that location then you’ll move on to the next. Once you’ve completed 3 locations, you’ll be given a free souvenir wine glass. Visit the final two locations to complete your passport and you’ll be given another special free gift!

elkmont nature trail14. Roam Elkmont: If you enjoyed exploring the history of Gatlinburg you’ll love a trip into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and to the historical district of Elkmont! You can wander the former vacation homes, the site of the Wonderland Hotel, take a walk on the nature trail or hike up Little River! Bonus: See if you can find the troll bridge!

15. Enjoy the Simple Things: Take a few moments during your trip to just enjoy the simple things. Drive up to the Gatlinburg overlook on the bypass and take in the sunrise or enjoy sunset from Newfound Gap Road. Rise early and make a visit to the Donut Friar for a cup of coffee and enjoy the stillness of the morning before the crowds roll in. Take a hike, wade in the river or even kick back with a book about the Smokies on your private balcony at our hotel. Next time you’re in town, take a bit of time to just slow down and enjoy the simplicity of the mountains.

Now that we’ve helped to save you a little cash with some great things to do for free here in Gatlinburg, we would love to also help you Save on Your Stay at Our Hotel! At Old Creek Lodge we also offer a free complimentary breakfast, free wifi, free parking and many more great amenities! All of Our Guest Rooms have a private balcony and sit alongside a tranquil Smoky Mountain river. Our Location is perfect for guests that want to be in a downtown location but also have quick access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and we’re surrounded by the area’s best attractions, dining and shopping! We hope to see you soon!