FREE Fun in the Great Smoky Mountains

While every vacation is about having fun, eating some great food, spending time with family and friends, and maybe treating yourself a bit, not every vacation is the splurge-on-everything type. Budget vacations are popular for a reason! You work hard for your money all year, and you want it to stretch the furthest when you’re on vacation. We totally get that. So along with our budget-friendly cabins that start at under $100/night for YOUR OWN PRIVATE CABIN, we also have some great ideas for FREE or cheap things to do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smoky Mountains.


Cades Cove

This 11-mile loop road is home to black bears, wild turkey, deer, wildflowers, historic buildings, and more. It’s FREE to drive around, and you can bring along a picnic to enjoy when you find the perfect scenic spot.

Dollywood – on your 2nd Day
If you buy tickets for Dollywood and arrive after 3 p.m. on your first day, you get your second day FREE!

Ole Smoky Moonshine
FREE – $

Want a taste of the Smokies? Try FREE moonshine samples at Ole Smoky Moonshine and other distilleries along the Parkway – if you’re 21 and over.

Dinner Shows
FREE – $$

While the adults tickets aren’t free, many area shows offer FREE kid’s admission, depending on age. Be sure to check that out as you’re planning!

The Old Mill
FREE – $

If you decide to eat or buy candy or gifts, of course you’ll spend a little money. But if you just want to walk around The Old Mill square and check out the still-working mill, it’s FREE! If you’re looking for a hearty meal that won’t break the bank, this is another good bet. You’ll get a heaping plate of Southern foods, including fritters, mashed potatoes, grits, and more.

Clingman’s Dome

If you take the ½-mile hike to the top lookout (at 6,643 feet), you’ll get views from the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community
FREE – $$

The 8-mile loop of local – and talented – artisans is scenic and packed with treasures! The talented artists showcase and sell their work, but it’s always free to browse and explore! There are also cafes and spots for snacks and drinks if you’re spending some time here.


Gatlinburg Farmers Market
May 5 – October 27, 2019
FREE – $

Set up at 849 Glades Road in Gatlinburg, TN, the Gatlinburg Farmers Market brings together local farmers with homegrown goodies like veggies, fruits, and jams and jellies made from their spoils. Pick up nuts, honey, and plenty of delicious baked goods to enjoy back at the cabin (or take home as gifts). During summer, the farmers market hosts Kids’ Days, where they have scavenger hunts and fun activities.

Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales
June 21 – July 31, 2019

As you stroll the streets of downtown Gatlinburg, you can’t miss the musicians and costumed storytellers giving you a true taste of the Smokies. The summer street festival is FREE and super-convenience, since it’s located along the streets (from 6 – 11 p.m.) where you’ll likely already be shopping, eating, and exploring!

FREE Parkway Trolley
June 15 – August 10, 2019

If driving along the Parkway isn’t your cup of tea, hop aboard the Gatlinburg Trolley! It’s a great way to check out the sights without the stress of driving in traffic. Running from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the open-air shuttles (specially marked) offer 40 convenient stops along the Parkway. And even when it’s not during the free season, the trolleys are incredibly budget friendly, with fares starting at just $0.50.

First Independence Day Parade in the Nation
July 4, 2019

Bring your water and your snacks and find the perfect spot along the Parkway to watch this parade sizzle by! It starts at 12:01 am on July 4 – thus cementing its first 4th of July parade in the nation status. The parade runs from Baskins Creek Bypass on East Parkway to the Parkway at traffic light #3 to traffic light #10 on Ski Mountain Road.

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