Fun and free things to do while visiting Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg overlookIf you are looking for some great ways to have fun in Gatlinburg without breaking the bank, here are some suggestions for fun and free things to do.

There is adventure walking along Parkway (which is the main street through town). If window shopping is your game, you’ve discovered paradise. There are over 200 unique shops to grab your attention. You can witness taffy being pulled (they give samples), look up and see the 407 foot Gatlinburg Space Needle, walk by Fannie Farkle’s and smell the sausage, peppers and onions being grilled. Cooter’s Place offers the “Dukes of Hazzard” museum. Your feet will need a rest before you’re through looking at the sights. Sit on a bench, rest your feet and enjoy people watching.

Take the trolley or a short drive out of town to visit the eight mile loop housing the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, known locally as The Glades. This community is recognized internationally as the largest group of independent artisans in North America with nearly 100 shops, studios, galleries, cafes and lodging options. Watch craftsmen use simple tools to whittle, carve, cast, sew, weave, paint and transform raw materials into works of art and functional products.

Take a walk down River Road that runs along side the Little Pigeon River.

Forget the traffic noise and listen to the sound of the swift flowing river below you. Feed the ducks or dip your feet in the mountain stream. Find a seat and relax. Don’t forget your camera.

To get an idea of old Gatlinburg, drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and explore a collection of historical sites including the homestead owned by the Noah “Bud” Ogle family who lived in Gatlinburg after the Civil War. You can view log cabins, the Roaring Fork Cemetery and the remains of a village that supported some two dozen families more than 150 years ago. The motor nature trail is an eight mile one way paved road with several stops that allows one to visit the sites and enjoy the atmosphere of the mountains.

The Sugarlands Visitor Center is located at Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s main northern entrance two miles south of Gatlinburg along Newfound Gap Road, (U.S. 441). The center offers a free 20 minute motion picture that provides an in-depth look at the Smokies. Ranger talks and slide shows are presented daily from spring through fall.

A few miles from Gatlinburg is Greenbrier. A surplus of daytime fun and free outdoor activities are enjoyed in this area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located just east of Gatlinburg. You can tube, swim, picnic, hike, sunbathe and mountain bike. Take your choice. Ramsey Cascades Trail Head is also located here.

Cades Cove is a western valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was first settled in 1819 and today the park service maintains a historical and cultural preserve of log cabins, churches and other structures. The eleven mile one way road passes by 19 numbered tour stops. Wildlife, such as deer, bear, turkey, owl and fox roam the cove.

See Gatlinburg from a bird’s eye view from the two overlooks in the park. It’s one of the most popular places to watch the sun rise. Bring your camera and enjoy the view.

The Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is an international haven of contemporary arts and crafts education. Founded in 1945, the school has developed into a leader in arts and crafts education with an annual enrollment of more than 2,000 students from the United States and abroad. Tour select collections of the art galleries, the resource center and the book and supply store.

Gatlinburg offers something for everybody, including a casino just over the mountain. But, it isn’t free!

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