One of the best free things to do in Gatlinburg
August 3, 2022

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. To help you plan a budget-friendly vacation, we’ve made a list of some of the top affordable and free things to do in Gatlinburg!

1. Go Hiking

hiking trail in the smoky mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular things to do in Gatlinburg, and there’s no entrance fee! It has over 800 miles of trails for visitors to explore. That means there are numerous hiking trails for people of all ages and abilities. Gatlinburg Trail, Abrams Falls Trail, and Laurel Falls Trail are just a few of the almost 100 hiking trails in the park.

Although there is no entrance fee, keep in mind that there is now a $5 daily parking fee if you plan to park for more than 15 minutes.

2. Visit Clingmans Dome

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 an observation tower for a free view as far as the eyes can see. It’s a great spot to catch a Smoky Mountain sunrise or sunset!

3. Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a fun and free way to see wildlife without leaving the car. It covers 5.5 miles of terrain and includes visions of waterfalls, forests and historical sites. The route is a one-way loop to prevent drivers from getting lost. There are also walking trails near the motor trail. This is one of the most common places to spot black bears in the Smoky Mountains!

4. Gatlinburg Trolley

Gatlinburg trolley

As part of its small town mountain charm, Gatlinburg’s trolley system provides an easy way to see the town for free. You can leave your car at our Gatlinburg hotel and ride the trolley for free anywhere you want to go in town! You’ll be surprised at how much you can save on parking fees. It has special lines for the National Park, Arts and Crafts Community and winter light displays as well.

5. 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 8-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.

6. Cades Cove

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. It’s one of the best places to spot wildlife, including white-tailed deer and black bears!

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Ober Gatlinburg

ober gatlinburg sign downtown gatlinburg

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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Go on a Photo Scavenger Hunt

couple walking in downtown gatlinburg

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 is where lifetime memories are made!

13. 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.

14. Join in on Annual Celebrations

In Gatlinburg, there’s always something to celebrate! Join us for the New Year’s 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.

15. Tour the Rocky Top Wine Trail

sugarland cellars winery

Swing in one of the Rocky Top Wine Trail locations in town and let the tour begin! This is one of the best free things to do in Gatlinburg! 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!

There is so much fun to be had in Gatlinburg! And with the abundance of affordable and free things to do in Gatlinburg, you don’t have to break the bank to have an exciting vacation. When you stay with us, you’ll be just minutes from all of these attractions and activities! Learn more about the location of our Gatlinburg hotel and see what else is nearby.

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