I remember going to Gatlinburg with my parents right after Christmas. As a kid growing up in Florida, I loved the snow and the winter events and lights that Florida just couldn’t touch. It was on these trips I realized I didn’t want to be in Florida when I grew up. One year we went in the spring, and we always stayed at the round hotel up the mountain overlooking Gatlinburg. The one that has made the cityscape famous. We parked our car and walking into the hotel we saw a baby black bear raiding the hotels trash can. My first black bear encounter and I loved it!
15 Free Things to do in Gatlinburg Tennessee
Because we would always visit in the winter we never really got to experience the National Park and all it has to offer along with other things to do in Gatlinburg Tennessee. So when I made it a point to spend a week here with my family this year, it was on the top of my list to check out! I won’t lie after spending just a day at the park I called my parents and told them how much they were missing out on. You can spend a whole vacation at just the National Park itself but here are a few other free things to check out when visiting the area! Make sure to check out our top 10 Things to do in Gatlinburg TN.
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1. Tour a Moonshine Distillery – The Great Smoky Mountains are famous for moonshine and in Gatlinburg there are several distilleries that will give you free tours, and if you are of age even free tastings! Ole Smoky Moonshine is one of the most popular but the other two to check out would be Sugarlands Shine and Doc Collier Moonshine. I suggest calling before showing up to check tour times.
2. Roaring Fork Motor Trail – This is a scenic drive. This 6-mile one-way loop includes several historic homes, Roaring Fork Cemetary, and the remains of an early settler villages. There are stops all along the way and several great hiking trails.
3. Cades Cove – Another scenic drive in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this one is an 11-mile one-way loop. The buildings are also open for taking tours, this a fantastic open-air museum.
4. Visit Smoky Mountains Visitor Centers – There are 4 of these around the park, and they each have their own appeal. The Cades Cover Visitor Center has an open-air museum around the center to walk. The Sugarland visitor center has a museum of animals found in the park plus a video about the park, and the Oconaluftee visitor center has a farm museum. All visitor centers and museums are free.
5. Drive Newfound Gap Road – Driving this main road through the heart of downtown Gatlinburg and into the National Park take it all the way to the other side of the park, while the drive is 30 miles it is breathtaking! There are so many stops along the way to take in the views and not to mention a the start and end of the road are a visitor center mentioned above!
6. Watch Animal Life – Another benefit of driving the Newfound Gap Road is the wildlife. Every time we drive on it even part way we saw something. Everything from a herd of Elk feeding, deer, turkeys, and black bear!
7. Climb Clingman Dome – Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains at an elevation of over 6,600 feet. The hike up to the dome is half a mile but the equivalent of climbs over 13 sets of stairs. The views are completely worth it!
Related: Top 10 Things to do in Gatlinburg TN
8. Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community – There is a section of downtown called the Arts and Crafts Community and has tons of amazing handmade goods, everything from paintings, to glass work, to leather works and more.
9. Walk Downtown Gatlinburg – There so so much to see here, shops, attractions and places to eat. The people watching is fantastic, and we were able to talk to some fo the more interesting people!
10. Take a Walk downRiver Road by the Little Pigeon River – A few blocks over from the main strip in Gatlinburg is river road, named because it is the road along the river. This is perfect for a nice scenic stroll along the water.
11. Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill – This is another open air museum with an old mountain farm and working mill.
12. Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook – If you take the Gatlinburg Bypass going around the down you come up a few scenic byways with breathtaking views of the city!
13. Take a Hike – There are so many hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail. You don’t have to hike the whole trail but how cool would it be to do a mile or two on it?
14. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Don’t forget to take in even more at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is so much to do from seeing the fireflies, to the leaves during fall, to taking in a great hike or a waterfall or even just taking a picnic in to enjoy the views.
15 Head to Pigeon Forge – Don’t forget to head over to Pigeon Forge and take a look around. There are plenty of free things to do in Pigeon Forge and just driving the main road is a sight to see!
Did I miss any free things to do in Gatlinburg Tennessee? Please share!