Gatlinburg is a premiere tourist destination and it is easy to go and spend a lot of money between finding the right accommodations, and checking out such Tennesse musts like Ober Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Aquarium, or Dollywood in nearby Pigeon Forge.
However, it is always a good idea to plan ahead for various events to make sure you get the most out of your visit while keeping costs manageable.
There are endless exciting things to do around Gatlinburg, and many of them are completely affordable. Check out our curated list of the best cheap things to do in Gatlinburg, TN.
10 Best Cheap Things To Do In Gatlinburg
- Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
- Ole Smoky Distillery
- Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
- Gatlinburg Farmers Market
- Nantahala Outdoor Center
- Gatlin’s Fun Center
- The Apple Barn Cider Mill and General Store
- Arts and Crafts Community
- Hollywood Star Cars Museum
- Gatlinburg Pinball Museum
The Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is one of the best inexpensive things to do in Gatlinburg.
With two locations that are now part of the town’s legacy, the kitchen serves up the most delicious sweets in Gatlinburg. There are 33 varieties of homemade taffy on offer, plus other sweets.
While buying sweets might set you back a few dollars, it’s totally free to visit the kitchen and watch the candy-makers working behind the glass.
For sweet tooths, kids, and those who have never been to a real chocolate factory before, the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is a must-visit.
The aged whisky known as moonshine is a beloved part of Tennessee’s legacy. There are several distilleries to visit in Gatlinburg, including the Ole Smoky Distillery.
One of the oldest legal moonshine distilleries in the country, Ole Smoky Distillery offers free tours every day of the week.
And while only those who are over the age of 21 can taste the moonshine they produce, the tour is open to guests of all ages who want to learn about the history of the beverage.
For those over 21, there are several varieties to sample and purchase, along with merchandise in the way of apparel, candles, and foodstuff.
Gatlinburg’s Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum is the only museum dedicated to salt and pepper shakers in the world, and it’s only $3 to enter.
Plus, the admission price is then deducted from any souvenirs you’d like to buy in the gift shop, and kids under 12 can enter for free!
The museum is a great place to spend an afternoon, where you can browse through more than 20,000 varieties of salt and pepper shakers from around the globe.
The museum has been featured in popular culture in the past, via appearances on shows like The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m.
The Gatlinburg Farmers Market offers the best fresh and seasonal produce in town, but it’s not just a destination for foodies.
With live crafts demonstrations and live music, the outdoor market offers the perfect setting to spend an afternoon, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime (though there’s lots of top-quality produce to purchase).
The market is located on East Parkway next to the Gatlinburg Post Office and runs on Saturday mornings May through October, 8:30 a.m. to noon.
The market also runs a selection of kid-friendly activities, making it fun for the whole family.
The Nantahala Outdoor Center, known more commonly as NOC, is an outdoor outfitter stocking everything you need for a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It costs nothing just to visit this exciting store, which offers several affordable (or free) activities and gimmicks.
In the store, you’ll find a bear cave for kids to crawl through, a swinging rope bridge, an oversized novelty fireplace, and an adrenaline-spiking rock wall that only costs around $5 to climb.
Gatlin’s Fun Center should definitely be on your itinerary if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to entertain kids while visiting Gatlinburg.
Formerly known as Fort Fun, the center offers endless opportunities for kids to lose themselves in fun. From mini golf to laser tag and everything in between, Gatlin’s has the perfect activity for every guest!
There are several pricing deals available to get the most out of your dollar, with per-person admission to four activities starting at $21.99.
You can get an extra discount with group passes, or purchase an activity pass that gives you access to all the activities and courses for a reduced fee.
If you’re a fan of apples, you’ll love the Apple Barn. The eatery and specialty store offer a large selection of apple-inspired treats, including fried apple pie, apple dumplings, and apple stack cakes, all of which only cost a few dollars.
But the Apple Barn’s main claim to fame is their delectable apple cinnamon donuts which cost around $5.
Most visitors pair them with a $1 glass of apple cider, and if you’re over 21 years old, a free wine tasting at the nearby Apple Barn Winery. The Apple Barn is located in Sevierville, a short drive from Downtown Gatlinburg.
8. Arts and Crafts Community
Gatlinburg first emerged from a community of artisans, so visiting the modern Arts and Crafts Community while in town is a fitting tribute.
The community, which is the largest organization of independent artists in the country, is based a few miles from Downtown Gatlinburg and features a collection of ongoing workshops and bustling studios where local artists work hard on their crafts.
There’s no admission price to drive or walk through the community and soak up the culture. However, you’re always welcome to make a purchase and support the resident artists who create marvelous products, from candles and jewelry to leather goods and glassware!
The Hollywood Star Cars Museum displays some of the most famous vehicles in modern history. Within, you’ll find cars owned by celebrities as well as those that have appeared in movies and TV shows.
Some of the most renowned automobiles to look out for include two original Batmobiles, the 1967 Volkswagen Beetle from 2007’s Transformers, and the 1981 DeLorean Time Machine from the Back to the Future Franchise.
Adult tickets are only $12.99 if you buy them online, with discounts available for children under 12, and children under five can enter for free!
There are a few arcades in Gatlinburg, but the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum has the widest range of games available.
Inside you’ll find pinball machines from all eras, with the collection including mostly limited edition games. These include Lord of the Rings, Metallica, The Addams Family Gold Edition, From Mars, and The Walking Dead.
Entry is $15 for adults and just $12 for children aged under 10.
3 Best Tours In Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is one of Tennessee’s premier tourist destinations and, naturally, there are several tours to choose from.
While guided tours are traditionally costly, there are a few running in Gatlinburg that will show you the best sights in town without breaking the bank.
Organized tours generally don’t come cheap. But the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Self-Driving Tour is one of the most affordable ways to see the park with a guide. Starting from $10 per person, the tour is run through the Action Tour Guide app.
The tour guides you through a planned route, which you can take at your leisure while giving detailed information about the park’s history and narrating local legends.
The tour, which departs from Gatlinburg, also features animated videos that help participants to imagine the park as it looked at different points throughout history.
For just over $10 per person, the Gatlinburg City Scavenger Hunt is one of the best cheap things to do in Gatlinburg. The activity operates like a normal scavenger hunt, where participants search for items and locations around the city to earn points.
It is run by an innovative app that sets challenges for participants to complete, however, a remote host is also available to answer questions during the hunt.
This is a great activity for a group of people, as parties of 10 can participate together throughout the two-hour hunt.
Gatlinburg has a long history, and not all of it is happy. The town has also been the location of murder, revenge, and hauntings that still shake the local community to this day. You can learn all about Gatlinburg’s dark history with the Ghosts of the Smokies Haunted Walking Tour.
The tour lasts an hour and starts at an affordable $25 per person. During that time, an experienced guide will take you to the most haunted parts of town, regaling you with tales of terror along the way. And who knows? You might even spot a vengeful spirit lurking in the shadows …
Free Things To Do In Gatlinburg
While many activities in Gatlinburg come cheap, there are also those that are completely free. And ironically, they are some of the best! Here are four totally free things to do in Gatlinburg.
A stone’s throw from Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the town’s premiere highlight. With sublime views of the dense forest and rugged mountains, the park also boasts miles of hiking trails, visitor centers, wildlife, and campsites within.
The park is a gateway to the great outdoors, offering fun recreational opportunities for all ages. And the best part? The Great Smoky Mountains is one of the country’s few national parks that is totally free.
The Giant Marble (Ripley’s Odditorium)
Outside the Ripley’s Odditorium in Downtown Gatlinburg, you will find one of the city’s starring attractions: the Kugel Ball.
This Giant Marble that sits in front of the Odditorium is free to view and touch, and can easily be turned and tilted despite weighing nearly a ton.
Its suspension on the water makes the heavy marble move as if by magic—a sight that is sure to wow everyone in the family.
Gatlinburg has a long and rich history, much of which is still evident in the town today. The Mountain Farm and Mingus Mill are preserved historical relics of a time long gone, giving visitors insight into what Gatlinburg was like in its early days.
On the grounds, you’ll find a house, a smokehouse, an applehouse, a springhouse, a barn, and a visitor center. The staff also runs demonstrations of agricultural and gardening practices. The museum is completely free to enter!
Mynatt Park is one of Gatlinburg’s hidden gems. Lying beside the tranquil LeConte Creek, the park houses sheltered picnic tables and grills, tennis courts, and basketball goals, plus a romantic footbridge over the trickling stream.
It’s the perfect place for a picnic or a simple quiet stroll after a long day of fast-paced fun in Gatlinburg.
The Gatlinburg Trolley dates back to 1980, when it was first founded with a network of six trolleys to service the town.
Today, there are more than 20 trolleys that residents and guests can use to get around Gatlinburg. Even if you have nowhere specific to go, riding the trolley is a fantastic way to explore Gatlinburg for out-of-towners, as it makes several convenient stops around the city.
The trolley system also doesn’t charge an admission price, so it’s a wonderful addition to your Gatlinburg itinerary that won’t set your budget back at all.