Fun & Affordable Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN
If you’re looking for a vacation getaway that is both fun and budget-friendly, take a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This historical tourist town, nestled near the Great Smoky Mountains, is one of America’s favorite vacation spots – filled with shopping, sightseeing, guided tours, and more. And the best part is, you won’t break the bank.
Inexpensive Things To Do In Gatlinburg
There are many affordable things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, plus the area’s southern hospitality helps you feel right at home. Dine, shop, explore, and participate in activities to your heart’s content! Best of all, many Gatlinburg attractions are budget-friendly, cheap things to do that a family can easily enjoy on a budget. Let’s check out some of the activities that deliver a great experience without breaking the bank.
Get around town in style on the Gatlinburg Trolley. It’s free and can be accessed by leaving your car at the Park-n-Ride lot near the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. This is especially great for pictures and if you’re going to do some wine tastings (or visit the Ole Smoky Distillery).
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Surely one of the more cost-efficient places near Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountains Park is a great spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Enjoy nature at its finest – hiking trails, fish, and see historical landmarks and more. You will also see a lot of interesting foliage and wildlife during your trek. The park has plenty of places to rest including some scenic picnic areas.
Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains, this 11-mile loop allows drivers, hikers, or bicyclists the opportunity to explore this vast valley. Enjoy a wide range of plant life, streams, and structures that have been standing since the 1800s. You can even spot wildlife in the area like whitetail deer, black bears, raccoons, rabbits, and more. The great thing about the park is you can do it on foot, car, or by bicycle.
Another loop, this one measures 5.5 miles and is one-way. The scenic drive takes you through the Smokies, with historic buildings and cabins along the way. It’s just one mile from Gatlinburg and 35 miles from Cherokee, North Carolina.
If you want to capture a magnificent view of the Gatlinburg area, this is where you want to be – 6,643 feet up in the air. The observation tower gives you a 360-degree view that can reach distances of up to 100 miles on a clear day! Once you reach the area, be ready for a half-mile trek to the tower (keep in mind that it’s too steep for wheelchairs or individuals who have difficulty walking). Also, it’s a good idea to bring a jacket, because the area can be up to 20 degrees cooler due to higher elevation.
Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook
Peek into downtown Gatlinburg whether it’s day or night with a truly unique experience at the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook. When it comes to free things, sleepy, snowy mountains during the winter and vibrant leaves in the fall are some of the best views you can witness. There are even designated parking areas so you can get the most of the visual experience.
On a trip with the whole family trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee? Check out the miniature golf scene! Here are some of the mini-golf courses to try:
Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini Golf
Located at 188 Parkway in Gatlinburg, this spot has two 18-hole golf courses with animated animals and interactive displays. You can even hitch a ride on the trolley to get there.
Gatlin’s Mini Golf
Learn some local history while playing the 45 holes of fun at Gatlin’s Mini Golf, which is an award-winning mini golf and activity destination. There’s fun for everyone at Gatlin’s Fun Center: escape rooms, laser tag, bumper cars and MUCH more.
Black Light Golf
This indoor golf course truly glows… in the dark! Spend time playing the 9 holes no matter what the weather looks like outside. Then, when you’re done, take time to enjoy everything else Gatlin has to offer.
Baskin Creek Falls
Let an easy, 3-mile, round-trip hike on a nature trail lead you to Baskin Creek Falls. The waterfalls include a two-tiered, 40-foot fall along the Baskin Creek Trail. Once you get there, plan on also exploring the nearby Grotto Falls, Spruce Flats Falls, and Fern Branch Falls.
Gatlinburg Space Needle
View the Appalachian mountains and Gatlinburg from the 407-foot Gatlinburg Space Needle. Not only do you get a 360-degree view, but you can also adjust the view for an even better visual. The ride up to the needle isn’t too shabby – it’s in a glass elevator which really enhances the experience. At the base of the space needle is an arcade and eatery. There’s truly something for people of all ages at this spot!
Sugarlands Distilling Company
Since 2014, Sugarlands Distilling Co. in downtown Gatlinburg has hosted people for moonshine tasting, production touring and more at its barnyard distillery. This tour is for individuals over the age of 21. A fun fact: in 2022, racecar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wife Amy announced a partnership with Sugarlands, unveiling High Rock vodka.
The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
Yes, you read that right – Gatlinburg is home to the world’s only Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum! Check out more than 20,000 sets of shakers from around the globe. While this isn’t among the list of free activities in Gatlinburg, there is a $3 admission for each adult. Children 12 and under are free.
There are endless fun things to do at Ober Mountain. Ride a tram that takes you to the mountain top and ski area. In the winter, take advantage of Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, which has a school run by professionals. Go snow tubing and snowboarding at Terrain Park, and if you don’t have your own stuff, rentals are available.
Visiting in the summer? There’s also a mountain coaster, rock wall, alpine slide and an indoor ice skating rink, just a few of the activities. You have the opportunity to use the tram only or you can include the wristband. It is still one of the most budget-friendly activities you can participate in during your stay.
This mountain-top theme park in Gatlinburg offers ziplining, a Treetop Skywalk bridge and even the Rail Runner mountain coaster.
Located in neighboring Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Dollywood is set in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex and offers a theme park, water park, cabins and gift shops.
Plan Your Visit to Gatlinburg!
If you’re planning a Gatlinburg trip, don’t forget there’s also nearby Sevierville, which has tons of shopping options.
No matter your budget, there are plenty of affordable things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (whether you’re perusing the unique finds from Gatlinburg’s arts and crafts community or looking for something to do in the great outdoors). If you need more information about visiting the Gatlinburg area, check out our extensive resources, ranging from blogs to various services. We’ll see you soon!