With breathtaking views, a rich history, and plenty of outdoor adventures for all ages, there’s a lot to love about the Great Smoky Mountains. However, a vacation to the region’s charming mountain towns can seem like an expensive endeavor for many. Luckily, there are ways to experience all the magic of the Smokies without breaking the bank. From free samples to affordable accommodations, we’ll let you in on the most unique yet cheap things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Sip and Savor Local Spirits
Just as everyone loves Tennessee for its whiskey, the Smokies are specifically known for moonshine. The Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee once provided a secure and isolated terrain for bootleggers to make illicit ‘shine during the Prohibition era. Now that liquor distillation for commercial purposes is legal in the U.S., several moonshine distilleries have popped up around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to keep the centuries-old Scots-Irish tradition alive.
Proud to be the first legal distillery in Tennessee, Ole Smoky Whiskey & Moonshine Distillery is a must for traveling spirits enthusiasts. Additionally, Sugarlands Distilling Company boasts authentic Smoky Mountain moonshine recipes from legends like Mark Ramsay, Digger Manes, Mark Rogers, and Steven Tickle. Meanwhile, Old Forge Distillery uses stone-ground grain from the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, one of the oldest still-operating grist mills in the country.
Visits to distillers like these are a delicious and eye-opening way to experience an authentic Smoky Mountains tradition, and many of them offer free or cheap tastings. Sip on some local flavors and take home your favorites at an affordable price.
Shop the Local Arts & Crafts
When you don’t have much to spend on souvenirs, window shopping is always still an option. You aren’t obligated to buy anything, but it can be fun to browse unique items you wouldn’t get to see elsewhere. In the Smokies, artisanal crafts are a huge part of the local history and culture.
Catch a glimpse into these extraordinary traditions at the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. The 8-mile loop offers plenty of parking for guests visiting the shops of local artists and craftsmen. Take a stroll, admire the handcrafted items, and don’t be too shy to talk to the artisans about their work. If you do feel inclined to buy something, you’re sure to go home with a one-of-a-kind piece. You’ll find arts and crafts like handmade dulcimers, ceramics, photography, jewelry, leather products, basket weaving, glass blowing, and so much more.
Another excellent place to go window shopping is located in Kodak at the Great Smokies Flea Market. For those who love bargain hunting, you’ll get plenty of practice with a walk around the property’s 43 acres. Over 1,000 vendors offer discounts up to 70% on everything from hunting knives to pet supplies. With free entry, parking and WiFi, you might as well stay awhile to try some free samples and check out any seasonal events.
Use Discount Coupons
The Smoky Mountains area is known for its variety of family-friendly offerings and attractions, from dinner theaters and concerts to mini-golf courses and adventure parks. Vacationing on a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing these kinds of fun experiences. Thankfully, websites like Mobile Brochure, the Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Monster Coupons offer discounts on a wide variety of popular attractions and activities in the Smoky Mountains. By using these resources, you and your travel companions can still have a shopping spree or visit popular theme parks without overspending.
Explore the Great Outdoors
The Great Smoky Mountains possess some of the most stunning natural beauty in the world, and you don’t have to miss out on it due to financial restrictions. Take advantage of the many free hikes around Cades Cove. Embark on a scenic drive via the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail or Foothills Parkway. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a relaxing afternoon with your loved ones while soaking up the scenery. The entrances to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park do not have an entry fee, and it only costs $5 for a parking tag.
Choose Affordable Accommodations
Aside from the airline tickets or fuel costs required to bring you to the Great Smoky Mountains, the next largest expense of your travels is bound to be your hotel. If you’re traveling with your family or a group, sleeping accommodations can quickly add up. That said, there are plenty of affordable options in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge that won’t strain your budget.
Budget-friendly hotels like La Quinta Inn & Suites and EconoLodge are close to the Parkway in Pigeon Forge, where you’ll find most of the major attractions. In Gatlinburg, check out the Hampton Inn hotels on the Parkway and on the Historic Nature Trail. Hotels like these that are close to downtown will help you cut down on transportation costs to and from the attractions. If you opt to take the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg trolleys, you can spare your wallet even further from gas and parking costs.
If you and your group are no strangers to living on the wilder side, then also consider booking a site at one of the area’s many campgrounds. Many of them have accommodations suited to basic tent camping as well as RV sites with hookups. Staying at a campground allows you to immerse yourself in the mountain experience. Plus, you’ll have convenient access to other budget-friendly activities such as hiking trails and exploring nature.
Just because something is cheap or free doesn’t mean it is lacking quality. In fact, many of the cheapest things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg also represent the best the area has to offer. Who doesn’t love sampling authentic spirits, cashing in on local discounts, and experiencing the outdoors without emptying the piggy bank? If you’ve been dreaming of a getaway to the mountains without financial strain, this is your sign. With the ability to delight visitors of all budget sizes, the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee await!