Sunset over the Great Smoky Mountains

There’s no more refreshing way to start the new year than with a taste of the outdoors and a breath of fresh air! Families, couples and individuals looking for a change of scene should consider escaping to the Great Smoky Mountains this season. If you’re wondering how to pull off a vacation without an impressive budget, we’re here to reassure you that it’s not as hard as you would think! There is plenty of free stuff to do in the small mountain towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Start planning your vacation now with these low-cost options.

Pigeon Forge lodging

Budget-Friendly Hotels

Aside from transportation costs, the most expensive part of any vacation is usually the hotel. Pigeon Forge is home to two budget-friendly hotels in particular that don’t skimp on comfort or luxury. Book your reservations as soon as possible to take advantage of off-season rates.

EconoLodge Grilling Area on the River


EconoLodge boasts competitive value relative to their affordable pricing. Their property features a 500-foot walkway next to the Little Pigeon River, complete with picnic tables, a fire pit, barbecue grills and a cedar wood pavilion. The hotel’s indoors keep you as entertained as the outdoors with free things to do during your downtime, such as swimming at the indoor pool and kiddie pool, relaxing in the steaming hot tub, or competing against your family members in the game room. When it’s time to call it a day, you’ll be pleased to find their newly renovated rooms come with comfortable beds and modern amenities, including a microwave, refrigerator and free WiFi.

Quality Inn Hotel Room with Jacuzzi

Quality Inn

Situated on the Parkway, the Quality Inn is close to a number of free activities, like hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and strolling through the sights and sounds of The Island. They also have convenient access to the Trolley, an easy means of getting around that also saves you gas money. A fantastic option for families on a strict budget, this hotel comes with a free hot buffet every morning for breakfast, plus Double Queen and King bedrooms. Take playtime to their indoor and outdoor pools with hot tubs, or enjoy a hot tub all to yourselves when you book a Premium King suite. Quality Inn lets you vacation in style without costing an arm and a leg.

Shopping for All Budgets

Out of all the free stuff to do, window shopping is a clear favorite among visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains area. It doesn’t quite feel like a vacation without a promenade in the sunshine to admire all the most exquisite crafts and goods a town has to offer. If you know the insider’s scoop on where to find insane discounts and deals, you don’t have to settle for window shopping when you’re strapped for cash.

Boot Factory Outlet

Boot Factory Outlet

Looking to buy new high-quality boots? The Boot Factory Outlet houses over 20,000 pairs of boots in a wide range of men’s, women’s and children’s sizes. Whether you’re a sweet country gal or swaggering cowboy, a hardcore biker browsing motorcycle-friendly kicks, or an adventurer in need of arch support on the trails, you’ll find styles that suit your tastes as much as your everyday needs. If you prefer a little variety and can’t settle on a sole (pun intended) pair of boots, then you’re in luck! The Boot Factory Outlet is running an incredible deal. When you buy one pair of boots, you get to take home two extra pairs for free. That’s three new pairs of boots for the price of one. Not only this, your fourth pair of boots qualifies for 50% off if it is a children’s boot. For your next footwear purchase, shop efficiently at Boot Factory Outlet.

Great Smokies Flea Market

Great Smokies Flea Market

Take your shopping trip to the next level at Tennessee’s largest and most popular flea market. The Great Smokies Flea Market showcases over a thousand rotating vendors of antiques, collectibles, arts and crafts, hunting gear, apparel and beauty products, books and media, and so much more! Explore over 200,000 square feet of hole-in-the-wall shops to find that rare item you can’t find anywhere else or affordable souvenirs and gifts for folks back home. The market is handicap accessible, pet-friendly, and full of kid-friendly entertainment. The kids will love getting their faces painted, watching tractor parades and magic acts, listening to musical performances, and celebrating the holidays at the Christmas parties and Halloween costume contests. With free admission and parking, a tour of the Great Smokies Flea Market is one of the most fun and intriguing free things to do in the area.

Bennett's Pit Bar B Que

Budget-Friendly Restaurants

When dining out on a dime, the Johnson Family of Restaurants is a phenomenal place to start. This collection of budget-friendly restaurants serves up outstanding entrées that won’t starve your wallet.

If you’re in the mood for a hand-cut, oak-grilled juicy masterpiece of a steak, paired with wine for an ideal date night, then Alamo Steakhouse has got you covered. Meat-lovers will also love a taste of heaven at Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que, where the Smokies’ best hickory-smoked barbecue ribs, chicken, brisket and pulled pork have been perfected after 29 years of service. After a satisfying meal, treat yourself to classic ice cream desserts and specialty desserts you won’t find anywhere other than at Pigeon Forge’s favorite dog-friendly ice cream parlor, Mad Dog’s Creamery. You’ll need to visit their Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg locations a few times throughout your stay to try inventions like the “ice cream nachos,” a snackable chocolate-y heap of waffle chips topped with a scoop of your favorite ice cream flavor, or the “cotton candy burrito” that envelopes scoops of ice cream in a gigantic cotton candy wrap with sprinkles.

Ready to try the best pizza of your life while playing arcade games for hours? Big Daddy’s Pizzeria’s wood-fired brick oven, savory homemade dough and specialty sauces bring pizza to unprecedented heights while you compete for a new high score. Or, if you’re looking for a quick bite so you can get after more free activities, J.O.E and Pop’s Sub Shoppe won’t disappoint. Delight your palate with one of their specialty subs and cheesesteaks, or create your own chef-d’oeuvre with fresh ingredients to accompany your choice of southern-style sides, wings, and salads.

When in Tennessee, Southern cooking is the way to go. Mama’s Farmhouse and Mama’s Chicken Kitchen honor the Johnson family’s great-grandmother and her legendary fried chicken. At Mama’s Farmhouse, the homey atmosphere of family-style dining elevates the flavors of their homemade buttermilk biscuits, honey-glazed ham and country-fried steak. Meanwhile, Mama’s Chicken Kitchen’s six homemade and hand-breaded wing flavors and family-sized chicken buckets will make you swoon in nostalgia for your own Southern momma’s cooking — even if you have no Southern heritage!

Contrary to popular belief, a well-deserved vacation does not have to break the bank. The budget-friendly hotels in Pigeon Forge allow you to stay for as long as it takes until you miss home again. With a variety of budget-friendly restaurants around town, your palate won’t have to miss out on savory excellence due to a mere lack of Benjamins. When there are so many free things to do in Pigeon Forge, why postpone your fun-filled getaway any longer?

Content on this page is subject to change. Please contact the locations mentioned to see if promotions, hours, pricing, etc. are still valid.

About Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller is a native Tennessean who currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina. She loves spending time in the great outdoors, such as camping, hiking, and mountain biking. She also enjoys exploring all that the Smoky Mountains have to offer.

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