One of advantage choosing to vacation in the Smoky Mountains is that you can easily craft an itinerary that won’t bust your budget. Sure, many attractions charge for admission, and restaurants aren’t free. But not everything you do has to burden your bank account. We found a few fun—and f-r-e-e—activities that we’re suggesting you think about.
Free Vacation Activities in the Smokies
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Nothing says outdoors adventure—and provides it—like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is paradise not only for hikers, but also for nature lovers, wildlife lovers, bird watchers and general outdoorsy activity lovers. There are over 800 miles of trails, spots for camping, fishing, picnicking and wildlife watching. The Smoky Mountains offer more species of birds than the entire continent of Europe. So put your hiking shoes on and grab a pair of binoculars; you’re in for some great views.And to help plan your park visit, you can download a free park visitors guide.
Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum
This quaint, roadside museum was founded in 1982 to preserve the heritage of the Smoky Mountains. Located in Townsend, Tennessee, this museum represents the lumber industry that once fueled the town’s economy. Upon stopping by, you’ll find early 20th century buildings and replicas, including the original Walland Depot building and a replica of the Elkmont Post Office. Two vintage flatcars, a steam engine and an original “setoff” house, (used by families of loggers in the Smokies) can be found on the museum grounds. A gift shop is onsite as well, and helps fun the upkeep and maintenance of the property. You can stroll around here for hours, enjoy a picnic and learn a little about the area you are visiting. For free.
Douglas Dam Headwater Campground
Douglas Dam Campground is just pretty, and a nice way to spend a morning, afternoon or whole day. Pack up the family, friends and loved ones and head to Sevierville. The lake rests at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, allowing for temperate weather and beautiful views of the rolling hills and heavy tree line. For scenic views of the damn, travel along the Trotter Bluff Small Wild Area. It ribbons through 30 acres of hardwood forest and limestone sinkholes and amongst wildflowers and wildlife. Thee are campsites, barbecue grills and a playground for families and loved ones to enjoy. Because the majority of the lakeside is private, save the two sites operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, your experience will be rather calm and quiet.
Bass Pro Shops® Events
Merely walking through the front doors of the Bass Pro Shops® store in Sevierville, Tennessee always leads to an adventure. Maybe you simply need a new pair of shoes for that hike tomorrow, or you just want a whole bunch of interesting and fun things to look at, you’ll find what you came for at this outdoorsman’s paradise. An indoor aquarium is fully stocked with bass, trout and alligator gar. There are wildlife exhibits, complete with a waterfall and historic regional photos and artifacts. It’s a cool store, needless to say, and will entertain you even if you’ve come just to window shop, let alone if you’re in serious search of shoes, shirts, hats, fishing gear, camping equipment, sleeping bags or other outdoors accessories. There might even be free in-store activities the day of your visit, such as craft days and skills or outdoors education classes, so make sure to consult the website.
So go ahead, visit a museum. Treat the spouse to a show or the kids to a theme park. Certainly, there’s no need to skimp on dessert at your favorite restaurant. You can always find Smoky Mountains freebies … free attractions or activities that are fun for the whole family and require as much, or as little time, as you want to devote.