Gatlinburg, Tennessee has a reputation as a tourist dreamland. This remarkable city offers opportunities to play, eat, explore, and relax in one of the most beautiful places in the country.
If you want to do and see everything, however, those experiences can add up. We recommend our visitors check out the free things to do in Gatlinburg to balance out the higher ticket experiences. It’s a great way to keep your visit affordable without adding too much downtime or missing out on the highlights.
Luckily, there’s a huge selection of fun, free things to do here in Gatlinburg, TN. We’ve created this list to help Bear Camp guests create a dynamic, affordable itinerary. Whether you want to explore the Smoky Mountains or visit quirky attractions, this list has something for you!
Continue reading to discover 6 spectacular free things to do in Gatlinburg for adults, families, and solo travelers!
1. Take a Trolley Ride Downtown
The Gatlinburg Trolley runs 365 days per year. This is a quirky way to see the entire city at once, especially if you have little ones in tow.
Boarding the trolley is always free at any of the stops within the city of Gatlinburg. Visitors are free to get on and off as they please. That makes it a fun and flexible way to tour the area. If you spot something you want to explore (and you will), jump off and check it out!
If you’re visiting Gatlinburg without a car, taking advantage of the trolley can save you stress and money. Frankly, the ride itself is a great way to keep kids busy and occupied! Take advantage of the photo opportunities on the rustic-style benches. Plus, you’ll already be near some of the best dining and attractions in the downtown area.
2. Take Advantage of the Great Smoky Mountains
If you love to explore the great outdoors, you’re in luck. Great Smoky Mountains National Park includes 150 trails of varying difficulty levels. Those trails cover 800 miles of gorgeous, all-natural beauty.
You can visit waterfalls, pick wildflowers, search for native wildlife, and photograph breathtaking scenery. Best of all, a visit to this stunning destination is always free.
In fact, you don’t have to get out of the car to enjoy the majesty of the Appalachian landscape. Consider enjoying a scenic drive and taking in the sights from the comfort of your vehicle.
The Greenbrier drive will take you through fields of colorful wildflowers. Consider driving Newfound Gap in the Autumn for a brilliant look at the seasonal foliage.
If you’re willing to pack your own lunch, you can enjoy a picnic along the way. Consider a stop at Cades Cove or Metcalf Bottoms for spectacularly scenic picnicking spots.
3. Browse Local Artworks in the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community
Another wonderful free thing to do in Gatlinburg is explore the popular Arts and Crafts Trail. This 8-mile loop contains over a hundred studio spaces and galleries where local artists work year-round. You can visit open studios, watch demonstrations, or simply walk through gallery spaces and appreciate local talent. Other than eateries and gift shops, nearly every stop on the trail is free and open to the public.
4. See Candy Making in Action
The Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is a beloved destination for tourists and locals alike. If you can resist the temptation to buy out the entire store, it’s a great, free place to visit. You’ll be able to watch taffy-making demonstrations throughout the day. It’s like watching “oddly satisfying” YouTube videos in real life!
Visitors of all ages find the process fascinating and compelling. If you’re lucky, you might even enjoy a free sample of one of their 33 taffy flavors!
5. Tour an Open Air Museum
Gatlinburg is home to several open-air museums that are free to roam and explore. One of our favorites is the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill. You can find the real working mill along the river, making it a relaxing and scenic place to explore.
Take photos in front of the historic log buildings. If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter a local park ranger who can explain the intricacies of the preserved 19th-century structures.
6. Explore a Local Moonshine Distillery
The final item on our list of free things to do in Gatlinburg is for adults only! The Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery offers free daily tours of its moonshine production facilities. Visitors over the age of 21 can try a free sample at the end of the tour. There are two locations in Gatlinburg, so you can always visit them both for an extra buzz!
As a bonus, Ole Smoky Distillery often offers free live music. You can grab a drink of fruit-infused moonshine and make a night of it.
Make Bear Camp Your Base Camp in Gatlinburg, TN
If you try these free things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, expect to feel exhausted and satisfied. You’ll be grateful you chose to stay in one of our Bear Camp Cabins at the end of the day! We offer accommodations for groups of all sizes. When you see the fantastic amenities, you might not want to leave the cabin at all!
We have plenty of Bear Camp properties to choose from right in the heart of Gatlinburg. Don’t forget that every stay comes with $565.30 worth of free attraction tickets for each paid night of your stay.
Book your dream Gatlinburg cabin today and start building your trip itinerary! Your best Smoky Mountain vacation starts here!