While all the flashy destinations like Dollywood and Ober Gatlinburg are exciting, these eye-catching attractions can sometimes put a real damper on your finances. Balance days of roller coasters and dinner shows with these top 20 fun free activities in the Smoky Mountains:
- Tour the gorgeous 11-mile loop road through Cades Cove
Cades Cove is hailed as one of the most scenic areas in the Smoky Mountains, and for good reason! Peaceful rolling valleys filled with high grass and wildflowers are home to restored historic cabins, with the stunning mountains towering in the backdrop. The 11-mile loop road is open to cyclists only before 10 a.m. from May to September, so be sure to pack the bikes!
- Meet the stars of Dolly Parton’s Stampede
Before and after show time, the family can visit the Stampede Stables to see the majestic equestrian team that stars in the riveting shows each day! Seeing the horses up close is a fun little extra whether or not you plan on attending a show.
- Discover hidden historic cabins along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Another scenic road through the Smokies, this trail runs along one of the largest and fastest mountain streams crawling through the forests. Along your trip, study the lush, untouched forestry while catching glimpses of well-preserved log cabins and other historic structures sleepily hidden from the world in the Smoky Mountains.
- Walk across one of the last remaining historic covered bridges of Tennessee
Built in 1875, the Harrisburg Covered Bridge is 1 of 4 of the remaining covered bridges in Tennessee. The faded wooden bridge passes green waters of the Little Pigeon River surrounded by the thick overhanging forestry. The bridge is a historic gem and great scenery for a family vacation photo opportunity.
- Witness the rich artistic culture of the Smokies along the Arts & Crafts Trail of Gatlinburg
Watch steady hands and inspired eyes create beautiful, one-of-a-kind pottery, quilts, candles, blown glass, and so much more in the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community – the nation’s largest and oldest group of independent of artisans.
- Voyage back in time in the Old Mill District
Located on the Pigeon River, the Old Mill District was modeled for an old cabin marketplace. Watch candy being made, study the amazing art from local artists, and visit the Mill Bridge Winery and relax on the patio on the river.
- Take a tour of Smoky Mountain wine country along the Rocky Top Wine Trail
Speaking of the Mill Bridge Winery, go ahead and pick a passport for the Rocky Top Wine Trail during your visit to the Old Mill District to begin your adventure through Smoky Mountain wine country! Next stop, nearby Mountain Valley Winery of Pigeon Forge!
- Indulge your longing for Christmas, year-round, at the magical Christmas Place
Do you have a borderline unhealthy passion for Santa, Christmas lights, and tree decorations? Then discover your personal paradise at the Christmas Place in downtown Pigeon Forge!
- Swim where the locals do, in a natural swimming hole!
Pack a picnic lunch and head to the trailhead of Big Creek Trail tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After enjoying your lunch at the pavilion beside the trailhead parking lot, make the short, easy hike along Big Creek Trail where you will stumble upon a babbling stream feeding into a beautiful natural swimming hole, Midnight Hole!
- Drive the quiet countryside through Wears Valley
Crank some of your family’s favorite tunes and enjoy a relaxing drive through the rolling countryside of Wears Valley. It’s a dreamy, romantic way to do some sightseeing with a significant other before heading to downtown Townsend for lunch.
- Peruse the odds-and-ends finds of the huge Sevierville Flea Markets
Only open on the weekends, the Sevierville Flea Markets are a favorite pastime! Get hot boiled peanuts and funnel cakes after exploring aisles and aisles of the giant Sevierville Flea Markets before heading back to the cabin for the perfect afternoon nap.
- Picnic among the clouds of Andrews Bald
This short hike is a favorite among visitors! After venturing 1.7 miles through varying Smoky Mountain terrains, the trail opens up to a dream-like grassy meadow where you can take in 360-degree views of the Smokies before settling for the perfect picnic spot among the wildflowers.
- Gaze across 360-degree views of the Smokies from Clingmans Dome
The trailhead parking lot to Andrews Bald is shared with Clingmans Dome. After a peaceful picnic lunch on Andrews Bald, make the short walk to Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Smoky Mountains, for more breathtaking 360 views.
- Visit the outdoorsman’s paradise of Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville
This incredibly large store has gorgeous indoor recreations of Smoky Mountains nature, along with a great selection of outdoor sporting goods. There’s an impressive 2-story indoor waterfall that empties into a pond/aquarium with live fish!
- Go to the movies…in the cabin
Book a cabin with a private home theater, and you can have a FREE movie night! Bring along popcorn, your favorite candy, drinks, and your favorite DVDS, and you’ll have a movie night without kids kicking seats, patrons on cell phones, and sticky soda floors!
- Enter the Ogle Cabin
Visit the cabin of the area’s founding family, the Ogles! Located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, it’s a great stop before touring The Village or grabbing some lunch at any of the numerous mouthwatering eateries.
- Get to know the Smokies at the Sugarlands Welcome Center
After watching a free informational video and touring the Smoky Mountains museum in the Sugarlands Welcome Center, walk the short nature trail behind the building that ends with the beautiful Cataract Falls!
- Drive the scenic mountain road of Newfound Gap
Talk about the perfect Sunday drive… The winding roads through lush, green mountain forestry opening up to soul-stirring views of the mountains makes for one of the most relaxing trips. If you are traveling away from the Sugarlands Welcome Center, the road leads to one of the few remaining Cherokee communities east of the Mississippi River, Cherokee, North Carolina.
- Get to know the long-standing traditions of the mountain Moonshiners
The Sugarlands Moonshine Distillery is a must-see! Preserving the long-standing methods of moonshining along with new-age techniques, get a taste of unique spirit flavors like Maple Bacon and American Peach.
- Relaxing in a Pigeon Forge, TN cabin after hiking through the Smokies
Hundreds of trails await adventurers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! After hours of exploring the woods and discovering beautiful waterfalls, head back to the cabin for a rejuvenating soak in the hot tub and cuddling on the cozy furnishings.
More Advice & Tips:
For many of us, planning a family vacati...
With the wide variety of color cascading...
There are many things you shouldn’t pack...
Watch out, guys! Wife Appreciation Day i...
Pack layers in case the weather chan...
Thanksgiving is a time to say “thanks”...