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9 Family-Friendly Gatlinburg Activities (That Won't Break Your Budget)

Budget-friendly things to do outside of the National Park

The Vacationeer
Stunning mountain vista, Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural reason to visit the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area. However, plenty of on-budget, family-friendly activities are nearby to keep your whole crew entertained. 

River raft pulled ashore, Pigeon River, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.          

Here are nine fun things to do during your Gatlinburg vacation — from adventure-seeking to theme park thrills, each with tickets under $100, including a few free options.       

1. Ride the Rapids

Tucked along the Pigeon River, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to take a heart-pumping family float. Spend the afternoon tubing through cool waters or even tackle some whitewater rapids.

Guided tours from a company like Tripadvisor Travelers' Choice seal recipientSmoky Mountain Outdoors, let you choose the ideal level of adventure for your family's preferences.

2. Go to the Birds

Head to Parrot Mountain and Gardens, where you can explore 4-acres of lush gardens and feed the many free-flying birds. During the park's open season from March through November, you can help hand-train youngsters — and if you bond with one of your new feathered friends, you can even take home a family pet.

4. Take a Bike Ride

Two men riding bicycles along tree-lined dirt path, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.    

Pedal your way along the 4-mile Pigeon Forge Greenway Trail to enjoy river views, or delve into the forest on the 2-mile Gatlinburg Trail. Rent a bike in either city to begin your ride. If you'd prefer to hike, read "Try These 8 Easy Hikes on Your Next Smoky Mountains Getaway" to inspire your next great adventure. 

3. Hurray for Dollywood

Dollywood® and Dollywood's Splash Country offer a nearby getaway to experience nature, simple living and adrenaline thrills in the same place. The seasonal theme park hosts more than 40 rides, delicious dining and lively entertainment from March through early January.  Or head next door to the water park from mid-May through Labor Day weekend and explore 35 acres of slip and slide-worthy fun to cool off on a hot afternoon.

Smoky Mountains with purple dusk skies overhead, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.    

5. Seek Out a Spooky Experience

If you like getting your adrenaline pumping with a journey through a haunted house, you won't have to wait until Halloween. The Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg is open year-round.

Make your way through the 19th-century mansion, with furnishings and antiques of the period, terrifying props and ghouls hiding around every corner. Kids under five are free — but think twice before bringing young kids who scare easily to this attraction.

6. Embrace Your Sense of Wonder

When weather necessitates you spend the day indoors, head to WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge for a cross between an amusement park and a science museum. The premise of the attraction is a top-secret laboratory from the Bermuda Triangle turned upside down on fictional Music Drive. Six themed "wonder zones" feature attractions that appeal to all ages, including extreme 360-degree bikes, a rock-climbing wall, virtual sports and bubble-making machines.

7. Take a Bite Out of History

The Old Mill, blue skies and bright wildflowers, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.   

Lunch in historic surroundings with authentic Southern hospitality at The Old Mill Restaurant, an old-time grist mill situated along the Pigeon River that grinds about 1,000 pounds of grain daily. Sink your teeth into some crispy fried chicken or other Southern meals. When you're finished with lunch, head outside to browse through artisan stores that include a pottery shop, handmade confectioners, a creamery and a general store.

8. Believe It or Not

With eight attractions in town, Ripley's Gatlinburg serves up multiple ways to spend your days with discount savings for their attractions. See downright strange sights at the Odditorium, swim with rays or play with penguins at the aquarium, and try to set records at the Guinness World Records attraction. Other Ripley activities include a mirror maze, mini-golf, a 5-D movie theater and a haunted house.

9. Ride the Trolley

You can add to the above fun adventures with a trolley ride to whisk you to some destinations without worrying about taking a wrong turn or looking for parking.

You can't go wrong with the cost of $2 to $3 per day for unlimited rides, more than 200 stops, and several routes that weave throughout Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Planning to focus your activities on Gatlinburg? Even better — there are no fares or fees to ride the trolley around Gatlinburg

Read "National Park Road Tripping with Kids (and Hilton Grand Vacations)" for more family- and budget-friendly vacation ideas. 


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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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