Free Things To Do in the Pigeon Forge Area

Harrisburg Covered Bridge with historical sign is a great secret spot

The words “vacation” and “expensive” don’t have to mean the same thing when you are staying in Pigeon Forge! There are plenty of free things to do in the area for all ages and special interests. If you are looking for free things to do in the Smoky Mountains, you have clicked the perfect post.


1. Explore The Old Mill Square

For history lovers, The Old Mill is a must-see when staying in Pigeon Forge. The mill was built in 1830 to grind corn, and a saw mill was added in 1859. The Old Mill was partially made from Tulip Poplar, which is now the Tennessee state tree. It is one of the major stops on the Civil War Trail of Tennessee due to the fact that the mill owner was a Unionist. The second floor of the mill held looms to make Union uniforms, and a makeshift hospital was located on the top floor. They did all of that while also operating a mill! The mill is still used to grind meal today, and the fresh products are used in the restaurants. Don’t feel pressured to buy anything, they love simply sharing the rich history of the site with visitors. If you have not been by The Old Mill yet, this is your sign to go.


2. Drive the Foothills Parkway

Image of new addition to Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

New section of the Foothills Parkway in Tennessee.

Do you want to see the Tennessee Valley outside one car window and the Great Smoky Mountains outside the other? You need to take a drive on Foothills Parkway! Take in 33 miles of beauty with the windows down and the radio playing in the background. Stretching from US Highway 129 at Chilhowee Lake to Wears Valley, this is a perfect activity for people who love to go on relaxing drives to take a break from the world. Guests can see stunning views of Maryville, Townsend, Walland, Chilhowee Lake, Wears Valley, and even the Cumberland Mountains on a clear day. Note: This activity is free as long as you continue driving. If you plan to park for more than 15 minutes, you need to purchase a GSMNP Parking Pass. Daily passes are $5, and weekly passes are $15.


3. Explore The Island in Pigeon Forge

Walking around The Island in Pigeon Forge is a great activity for people who want that feeling of exploring a downtown area in a walkable city. While the Island is full of restaurants and retail shops, visitors are free to window shop and take in the atmosphere! Laugh as you watch people scream on the carnival rides, or sit and enjoy live music on the Ole Smoky stage. You can also take a seat in the chairs around the fountain and get whisked away by the sound of falling water. On the stroke of every hour and half hour, you can see the wonderful fountain show! This breathtaking experience showcases the power of synchronizing music and lights with fountain technology to create something memorable. Visiting The Island is a common favorite activity, and it is easy to see why!


4. Visit Douglas Lake

Lake view of a sunset over the mountains

If you love water activities, make sure to visit Douglas Lake while you are staying in the Smokies. You and your family can make some amazing outdoor memories here! This is a great place to lay out and tan on sunny days then jump into the water to cool off. Douglas Lake is also an ideal place for fishing, as it is rated one of the nation’s top lakes for crappie and largemouth bass. For kayakers and paddleboarders, this is a fun place to drop in and explore. Nature lovers will admire the diversity in bird species and opportunities for birding. Families are welcome to set up picnics, play games, and have fun together around any of the 550 miles of shoreline.


5. Check Out the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

For those who appreciate the arts and good craftsmanship, a trip to the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is a great way to explore the Smokies. This 8-mile loop is full of shops that have every kind of craft. Whether you are looking for mosaics, macramé, pottery, glass blowing, weaving, painting, carving, or something else, there is surely a shop that will appeal to you. Speak with the shop owners about how they got involved in their work, and see some of it being made in person! If you want to deepen your understanding of craftsmanship and your respect for artisans, driving this loop is a must.


6. Enjoy the Pigeon Forge Greenway 

Cyclists, runners, and casual walkers will enjoy the scenic views that come along with travelling the Pigeon Forge Greenway. Also known as the Riverwalk Trail, this 6-mile path provides a great place to enjoy the outdoors without travelling too far out of the way. This trail stretches all the way from the Pigeon Forge Community Center to Patriot Park. Take a seat on one of the benches to read, or cut up some fruit and feed ducks along the river. There is no way to go wrong! For families that like to prioritize time outdoors, this is a great option.


7. Hang Out at The Mountain Mile 

Wide shot of the Mountain Mile Tower Shops in Pigeon Forge

Do you want a relaxed, kicked-back atmosphere with fire pits and outdoor games? Make sure to check out The Mountain Mile on Teaster Lane! This is a great place to spend time with loved ones, make memories, people watch, and shop if you wish! The Mountain Mile has multiple firepits set up with chairs around them so you and your family can recall funny stories in the light of the flames. For the competitive friend groups, games of cornhole and Connect 4 await on the turf lawn. Give the kids coins to toss in the fountain so they can wish to their hearts’ content. The Mountain Mile also has beautiful architecture and sculptures to be admired.


8. Discover Historic Bridges 

Harrisburg Covered Bridge with historical sign is a great secret spot

If you are looking for an easy outdoor adventure with some great photo-ops, make sure to find some of the historic bridges in the area! To see a list of several near Pigeon Forge, click here. One of our top picks is the Townsend Swinging Bridge. Located at 7802 West Old Highway 73 in Townsend, this bridge offers a great view of the Little River and is fun for pedestrians to walk across. A little wobble gives the perfect rush of adrenaline! Wave at other visitors as they pass below you on tubes floating down the river. Another great bridge to visit is the Harrisburg Covered Bridge in Sevierville at 617 Harrisburg Road. These bridges are fun to walk over, under, and around, and they make great backdrops for family photos, engagements, and more!


9. Visit Wear Farm City Park 

Wear Farm City Park playground is a Pigeon Forge points of interest

Having fun with little family members doesn’t have to break the bank! Visit Wear Farm City Park in Pigeon Forge to spend quality time with your loved ones and enjoy the great outdoors. Children can play on the playgrounds, and families can walk around the trail to get some exercise. The Story Walk is a great way to get kids excited about exercising since they have to keep walking to find the next page of the storybook. Wear Farm is also a great place for picnics and outdoor games. This is an ideal place to connect with community members and get to know new people.


10. Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains 

national park trails

Waterfalls, historic sites, mountaintops, and more await inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Whether you and your crew are at novice level or master, there is a trail for all skill levels. While it is free to hike, parking passes are required when parking for more than 15 minutes. Don’t fret, daily passes are only $5! Hiking is an incredibly popular activity within the national park, and it will be easy to see why once you get out there and start exploring!


11. Drive Through Cades Cove 

If you aren’t able to hike, you can still enjoy the quiet, slow beauty of nature by driving through the Cades Cove scenic loop. This 11-mile loop offers wonderful views of the Smoky Mountains, open fields, chapels, and cabins from a historic settlement. Cades Cove can be enjoyed by all ages, and visiting is a great way to disconnect from the rest of the world. On a lucky day, you can see multiple kinds of wildlife such as deer, turkeys, and even bears! If you stumble upon these creatures, please remember to keep your distance and do not feed them.


Did you find something free to do with your friends and family during your stay in the Smokies? Make sure to share this post with others so they can also make greater memories while saving money.

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