The natural outdoor allure of the Smoky Mountain destinations of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is easy to understand. With the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as their backyard, these two vacation destinations allow guests to discover what they’ve been missing… refreshing, all-natural fun!
1. Cades Cove
Cades Cove a great area for a scenic drive! There is an 11-mile one-way loop that winds around the valley, complete with wildlife, campgrounds, bike rentals, spectacular foliage in autumn, facilities for horseback riding and historic buildings. If you do happen to see a wild animal during your auto tour, remember to leave it be! Learn More...
2. Sugarlands Visitor Center
A free 20-minute orientation motion picture provides an in-depth look at the Smokies and the enormous diversity of plant and animal life in the Park. Natural history exhibits include mounted specimens of park animals in recreations of their habitats. Reproductions of journals kept by the first park naturalists are also on display. Ranger talks and slide shows are presented daily from spring through fall. You’ll also want to visit Laurel Falls, a beautiful waterfall located off Little River Road near the Sugarlands Center. Learn More...
3. Patriot Park
Located in Pigeon Forge, this park is home to a big "liberty" bell, all 50 state flags, a historic patriot missile and a picnic pavilion amongst the open fields & a veteran's memorial park. Relax with the family while enjoying the beauty of Pigeon Forge. The park also hosts the free Pigeon Forge Patriot Festival each 4th of July.
4. Clingman’s Dome
Clingman's Dome is a short drive from Gatlinburg through the national park. There is a steep 1/2 mile hike to the top lookout, but anyone can enjoy the views from the level parking lot area. However, the views at the top of the dome are well worth the hike. Pets and bicycles are not permitted on the paved path. In addition, the steep incline makes the path not wheelchair accessible. Learn More...
5. Free Child Admission at Pigeon Forge Shows
Specific Pigeon Forge shows offer free admission for children (with a paying adult ticket). Country Tonite allows guests to bring two children free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket. The show includes talented singers, musicians, and all of your family's favorite songs. Be sure to get your tickets early, as most Pigeon Forge shows sell out far in advance. Learn More...
6. Wildlife Watching
Whitetail deer, turkeys and of course the famous black bear are frequently spotted in the Smokies. You'll want to bring a camera, and even a pair of binoculars, to see all the wildlife on hand at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Remember, keep your distance. After all, this is their home—not yours! If you have questions about a specific animal, ask a Park Ranger at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Learn More...
7. The Old Mill
Visit the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge to tour the shops, including the candy kitchen, where you’ll get a free sample of fudge or taffy. Guests will also want to tour the Old Mill to see how they make corn meal and other products. The tour is about 30 minutes and there is a small admission fee of $3. Each fall, the Old Mill hosts a free festival for visitors to attend. The festival includes entertainment, food, history, and more. Learn More...
8. Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Craft Community
This is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. This historic 8-mile loop has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail. Established in 1937, these artisans create unique and treasured pieces including watercolor paintings, jewelry, basket weaving, and more. Plus, it doesn’t cost a dime to explore the shops and craftsmen at work. Learn More...
9. Newfound Gap Road
The 33-mile drive from Gatlinburg to Cherokee North Carolina along Newfound Gap Road is the only route that completely traverses the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The drive offers a unique opportunity to enjoy an abbreviated experience of everything the Park has to offer, without necessarily trekking far from your automobile. Don't forget to charge your camera or phone for the endless photo opportunities along the way. Learn More...
Enjoy a hike on any of the more than 800 miles of trails through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. With over fifty trails available to hike, you’ll discover a new treasure each time you explore. Top hiking trails include Alum Cave to Mt. LeConte, Abrams Falls, and the Charlies Bunion Trail. Learn More...
11. Douglas Lake
Beautiful Douglas Lake extends its 33,000 lake acres and 513 miles of shoreline to the rolling hills of the Great Smoky Mountains, attracting nearly 2 million visitors each year. Favorite activities at Douglas Lake include fishing, boating, rafting, swimming, camping, and bird watching. For a lakeside vacation, rent a cabin near Douglas Lake.
12. Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum
This free museum teaches visitors about the history of steam logging in the Smokies. It is both an indoor and outdoor museum, with outdoor exhibits featuring a vintage caboose and portable Frick steam engine. The museum is staffed with knowledgeable historians who are available to answer all your steam engine related questions. Learn More...
13. Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook
Simple yet stunning, a visit to the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook doesn’t cost a thing but is something you’re sure to remember. From this spot, you can see the mountains and downtown Gatlinburg. It’s especially beautiful in the fall, but the lushness of summer doesn’t disappoint. If you can, try to visit at sunrise or sunset for epic photo opportunities.
14. Shopping in the Smokies
Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are a shopper’s dream and it doesn’t cost a thing to look! There are several Outlet malls, such as Tanger Outlet Mall, as well as hundreds of unique shops to explore. You could dedicate an entire day to just shopping in Pigeon Forge and still not visit all the stores! Be sure to take advantage of seasonal or holiday deals, too.
Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are a haven for festivals. Many of these, such as the Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival, have free admission and concerts! You don't want to miss free festivals, now do you? Dollywood also hosts various festivals all year long. The best part is, these festivals are included with your Dollywood tickets at no extra charge!
16. Meet the Horses at Dolly Parton's Stampede
One hour before showtime, Dolly Parton's Stampede opens their horse walk to the public. You can visit the horses for free—no ticket required! Of course, as the hottest show in Pigeon Forge, you'll want to get your hands on Dolly Parton's Stampede tickets anyway.
With so many things to see and do in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, you and your family are sure to experience the vacation of a lifetime. These free things to do in Pigeon Forge ensure your fun will stay budget-friendly, too.