The Smokey Mountains are only about five hours from where I currently live. One weekend in July, my daughter and I took a “girls only” trip up. Here is what we found to do that was either inexpensive or even free.
The first thing I would like to0 talk about is where we stayed for the weekend. Since it was just the two of us, I rented a smallish studio style condo on Air BnB. This was perfect for us and kept the cost way down. The view was worth much more than we paid. Although the drive down the mountain was a bit of a pain, I am so glad we didn’t stay in town. The place was so cute with a fireplace and balcony that I made use of often. There was a pool for use and free WiFi which was nice to have that high up in the mountains.
Our first day there started with getting settled in our condo and then we headed into town. We spent the afternoon seeing the sights and window shopping (some actual shopping too). If you look up Gatlinburg online you can buy advance tickets the Ripley’s Aquarium and then you get a pretty substantial discount on all other Ripley’s attractions. You can spend an entire day just seeing these but we also went to several of the cute local shops, including a store all about fidget spinners (my daughter was thrilled).
There are a surprising amount of shops that also do Hena tattoos. You have a lot of power with price if you shop around for this and it really does last a long time. It can take some time to get done but after walking around most of the afternoon, I was happy to sit for awhile.
After that, we returned to the condo to get all dolled up for dinner. We chose to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. The prices were great and the food was even better. The decor was cute and you even get to take a little quiz on the movie. It was really nice. We didn’t feel rushed even though it was quite busy. We also got some free souvenirs from the gift shop for ordering certain drinks. The drinks were not too pricey and when you add in the free glasses, it is really not bad.
The next day we got up early and headed out in search of hiking trails. What we found was a motor trail. This trail is miles long with several spots to pull off and walk around. The first pull off was near the area that had burned. Seeing the new growth all around and understanding what nature is capable of was wonderful. After that, we saw waterfalls, creeks, old homes, and cliffs. This took us about five hours to get through and we made sure to bring bottled water and some snacks to get us through the day. Lots of free souvenirs there as well. I now have a lovely collection of river rocks in my living room. We live in a small town but it is still more city than I care for because my children don’t get to just go play in a creek or have a game of hide and go seek in the forest.
Dinner that evening was too special. We went to TGI Friday’s. The food was good as always and the service was excellent. What stands out for me that evening was making it back to the condo in time to enjoy a cup of tea with a beautiful sunset. I was so glad we caught this as we had to return home super early the next day and wouldn’t have gotten another chance.
So in short, to make this a wonderful trip without breaking the bank
Drive if you can
Don’t spend more on a room than you need
Make use of all that nature has to offer
Choose larger restaurants for more food at a lower cost
If planning on seeing the Ripley’s attractions, buy them online and in bulk to save a ton
Enjoy the views! They are everywhere.