You’re finally here! The Smokies called, and your love of adventure and family time answered. You’ve booked your Dollywood excursion, eaten some expensive cuisine and have plans for other high-cost thrills later in the week. But what to do with some down time when your vacation budget has already been spent or planned for as the week runs on?

Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with low-cost fun ideas that will help stretch your budget. You’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you’ve got a phone with a camera and a significant other to join you, you’ll fill those hours with incredible memories. There is a wealth of free and lower-cost activities you will thoroughly enjoy right here in the Gatlinburg area.

Take Out for Picnics in the Smokies
Grab Your Food to Go and Head to the Smokies

The first and most obvious answer pairs the beautiful scenery with good food. There are many restaurants where you can get quality takeout for less. So grab your cooler (or buy a Styrofoam one) and get some barbecue, sandwiches or other goodies to go and enjoy a fun picnic. Anywhere off the main road leading out of Gatlinburg and into the Smokies will work. There are so many pull-offs overlooking cascading river water where you can eat and enjoy the sound of the birds. You may even see a river otter or two playing in the sunshine. Cades Cove is a popular picnic spot, and for good reason. There are spots along the loop where you can park, spread your picnic blanket and feast with the Smokies as your backdrop. Cades Cove is also known for abundant wildlife, so have your cameras ready!

While in Cades Cove, you’ll want to consider taking a book of East Tennessee birds and a set of binoculars so that you can check off the species they spot. Over 200 species have been spotted in the Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s a birder’s paradise! On Wednesdays, you can bring your bikes to the Cove. No automobile traffic is allowed! What a fantastic way to shut off all electronics and soak up the sun and conversation.

If you’d like a fun, but not exhausting, fresh-air experience, consider the Gatlinburg Trail. A bike-friendly zone, the 1.9 mile (one-way) trek runs from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to just outside Gatlinburg. The Oconaluftee River Trail is also bike-friendly. Whether you want to cruise along or walk hand-in-hand, these trails are great for couples.

Gatlinburg offers several low-cost entertainment options for vacationing couples. Take the Skylift from the heart of Gatlinburg up to the top of Crockett Mountain for a tour of the Gatlinburg Skypark. You’ll have the chance to walk the longest pedestrian bridge held by cables on the entire continent. Spanning the length of nearly two football fields, the bridge has thirty feet of glass in the center and affords a breath-taking view of the surrounding mountains. It’s a fully authentic Smokies experience! There are reduced ticket prices for seniors. Buy your tickets online here.

After the Gatlinburg Skypark adventure, enjoy hours of shopping along the Parkway in Gatlinburg. It’s a mall-walker’s dream! Burn calories while enjoying the therapeutic benefits of browsing an astounding variety of gift and personal items. How much you spend is up to you! Maybe you want to simply browse, stopping for a latte or an ice cream cone. It’s your family’s choice.

Other Low Cost & Free Things to Do in Gatlinburg and Surrounding Areas
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