Free Things To Do in Gatlinburg

Don’t let the gossip of Gatlinburg being a “tourist trap” sink any hopes you have of coming to the Smokies, there are plenty of free and affordable things to enjoy throughout the area that you can get to easily from Sidney James.

Twin Creeks Mynatt Park Sidney James Free Things to DoGatlinburg City Parks

The city of Gatlinburg provides three municipal parks spread throughout the city limits – Herbert Holt Park in the north part of Gatlinburg (right as you come in from the Spur out of Pigeon Forge), Mynatt Park at the top of Airport Road middle of the way through Gatlinburg, and Mills Park out in the Arts and Crafts Community on Highway 321 towards Cosby.

Each of the city parks offer great fun for large groups! With creeks, tennis courts, basketball hoops, picnic tables and pavilions, you can easily plan for a fun-filled afternoon for your entire reunion party. You can also reserve a pavilion through the Gatlinburg Parks and Recreation Department at (865) 436-4990 (please note that pavilion reservations are not free and cost between $25-$45, depending on the park).

Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community

This historic 8-mile loop has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts and Crafts Trail and features the largest group of independent artisans in North America. Established in 1937, these artisans whittle, paint, sew, cast, weave and carve to create original collectibles such as candles, baskets, quilts, brooms, pottery, jewelry, dolls, ceramics, scrimshaw, silver smithing, leather, stained glass, wearable fashions, fine photography, frameable art, oils and watercolors.

Visiting the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community will allow every reunion member to find a Smoky Mountain souvenir to cherish. Plan to ride the Gatlinburg Trolley through the community and stop for a bite or cold drink in any of the several restaurants, cafés, tea room, soda fountain and candy shops.

See more information on the Arts and Crafts Community, visit

Sugarlands Visitor Center

The best first step to exploring the natural beauty of the Tennessee Smokies is Sugarlands Visitors Center on Highway 441 towards Cherokee, NC. You can get there either by taking the Bypass on The Spur just before you get to Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge, or you can get there after driving through downtown Gatlinburg past Stoplight #10.

The center is open every day except Christmas Day, and offers a small museum, theater film, gift shop, and special programs all year long. Your group can easily spend more than a couple hours at Sugarlands alone.

Features ranger-led programs conducted seasonally (check at the visitor center for locations and times), extensive natural history exhibits, Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop, public restrooms and telephones, soda and water machines and a backcountry permit station.

Sugarlands Hours of Operation

January – February
8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

April – May
8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

June – August
8 a.m. – 7 p.m.

September – October
8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The entire reason there is even life and economy in this part of the world at all, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park can provide endless affordable opportunities for families visiting East Tennessee looking for fun and a way to connect with nature at its simplest and most unpretentious.

Inside the GSMNP, you can go hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing, and picnicking in large picnic areas with tables, grills, and restrooms. Swimming in a cool mountain stream on a muggy summer day is also an excellent idea and an experience like no other. Always use caution, common sense and never swim alone. Remember your camera!

Picnic Areas in the National Park

• Chimneys – Newfound Gap Road. Large picnic area on banks of Little Pigeon River, with picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and huge boulders that can put you in the middle of the river.
• Deep Creek – Hwy. 19 from Cherokee. Covered amphitheater with several waterfall hikes nearby.
• Greenbrier – Hwy. 321 from Gatlinburg. Open and sheltered picnic areas in a perfect setting.
• Heintooga – Balsam Mountain Road. Highest picnic area in park offering great views.
• Metcalf Bottoms – Little River Road. Shady picnic tables in the cozy woods or along the river.

For a full list of Gatlinburg attractions, see