Looking for an easy budget getaway? Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains offer a mix of inexpensive activities and attractions that work for all kinds of travelers, from thrill-seekers and hiking nuts to kids and foodies. Here’s just a sampling of our favorites, broken down by the type of traveler…
For Active Travelers: (free)
Established in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not only the most-visited national park in the United States (who knew?), it’s also the only major federally funded park that is completely free to visit. Explore areas that only a hundred years ago were farmland, and where you now can find the remains of stone cottages and mountain cemeteries in the forest. Or, opt for a more serious hike, climbing one of the area’s high peaks, which reward you with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
For (Responsible) Adults: (free)
At the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, located in Gatlinburg, the Baker family continues their heritage of moonshine-making in Tennessee’s first legal moonshine distillery. Learn about the production process, then treat yourself to free samples of flavors such as apple pie, pink lemonade, white lightnin’, and some signature moonshine cherries.
For Families: (free to $29.95 per person)
Take a horseback ride at the Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa (near Pigeon Forge), which offers an affordable package. It includes a 1-hour horseback ride through the forest, an ice cream, a bottle of water, a bag of corn for the petting zoo, and a museum pass for $29.95 per person, available all year long. Besides the petting zoo, they also have a picnic area and a kids’ playground that visitors can use free of charge.
For Thrill-Seekers: ($57 per person)
Dolly Parton’s Dollywood amusement park is Tennessee’s number one ticketed attraction and home to rides for all ages, including America’s first wing coaster, the Wild Eagle, where riders sit on either side of the tracks, which creates the effect of flying over the Smoky Mountains. The theme park also offers a glimpse at traditional life in the Smoky Mountains with live music and seasonal events. Don’t miss Chasing Rainbows, an interactive Dolly Parton museum, displaying memorabilia and interesting facts and figures about this local entertainment legend. Tickets cost $57 per person, per day, and food and souvenir items inside the park are surprisingly affordable.
For Couples: (from $120 per night)
The Smoky Mountains are a great place to spend some quality time with a loved one. Rent a cabin, cozy up next to the fireplace, and enjoy a romantic getaway amidst stunning mountain scenery. Wyndham Vacation Rentals offers cozy cabins, studios, and one-bedroom rentals that offer all the amenities of home, such as a fully equipped kitchen and a dedicated living room, while many rentals also offer a private deck and a hot tub starting from $120 per night.