10 Free Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains
By Bennie McCann © 2010, All Rights Reserved

Looking for fun the Smoky Mountain way, but a little short on cash?  No problem!  There's plenty to do that won't cost you a cent.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

1. Wildlife Watching - From whitetail deer to the famous black bear, you'll want to have your binoculars and your camera at hand for a wildlife walk through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Many animals are more active at night so consider touring the park after sunset.

2.  Cades Cove - One of the most popular destinations in the park, and certainly one of the prettiest, Cades Cove is rich with history having been inhabited by both the Cherokee Indians and the Europeans.  As you meander through the loop of the cove, you'll feel a true sense of times gone by when you explore the "three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and many other faithfully restored eighteenth and nineteenth century structures," according to the park’s website.

3.  Hiking - With over 150 official trails in the park, your toughest decision will be which one to choose.  Want to wander around waterfalls? Visualize exceptional views?  Tour old-growth trees?  There are trails for that and much more.

Seasonal Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge Festivals

4.  Winterfest - From late fall all through the New Year, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg & Sevierville, TN create a winter wonderland that's beyond imagination. Thrill at the seasonal parades that stretch on for miles. Feel the chill on your cheeks as you enjoy free trolley rides that give you a bird's eye view of the Christmas lights below.  From breakfast with Santa to ice-carving contests and much more, it's a holiday you'll not soon forget.

5.  Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival - The best of autumn unfolds during the Harvest Festival.  As the leaves begin to change from bright green to a stunning rainbow of burnt orange, rustic red and deep gold, you'll find no better place to be than the Smokies. Pile the kids up on the back of a wagon for an old-fashioned hayride.  Search for the perfect pumpkin to turn into a family masterpiece on Halloween or show off your angling skills at the annual Trout Tournament.  From county fairs to bluegrass festivals, there's no better place to be.

6. Smoky Mountain Springfest - Billed as "three months of homespun fun," Springfest in the Smokies is a fabulous way to watch the world reawaken after a long, hard winter.  A collection of exciting events and festivals will keep you coming back for the entire three-month stretch.  The annual Easter Arts & Crafts Show, the Wildflower Pilgrimage and Ober Gatlinburg's yearly Easter Sunrise Service are just a few of the many activities designed for family fun.

Events

7.  New Year's Eve Ball Drop - Who needs Times Square when you have the Space Needle in the Smokies?  Bundle up the kids and head to the liveliest New Year's celebration in the South: the New Year's Eve Ball Drop & Fireworks.  At the stroke of midnight, the ball drops and triggers a musical program and fireworks display that is absolutely camera-worthy. It's truly a sight to behold.

8.  4th of July Midnight Parade - There seems to be something about midnight and fireworks in the Smoky Mountains.  At midnight every year, the first 4th of July celebration in the nation kicks off with a parade every bit as exciting as Macy ever dreamed of.  Floats, bands and - of course - fireworks create a birthday party for our country that's fun and memorable.

9.  Gatlinburg Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade - Everybody loves a parade and that's why you'll find them year round in the Smoky Mountains.  At Christmastime, you and the kids will love all the sights of the Fantasy of Lights parade.  With marching bands, helium balloons and lots of lights (of course) you'll quickly forget the frosty temps as you thrill at every display.

Attractions

10.  Grist Mills - Want to see some old-fashioned ingenuity at work in a modern world?  Tour one of the four grist mills in the Smokies.  Water powered, these giant marvels would quickly grind a variety of fresh foods (such as wheat or corn) into meal or flour. It's an interesting walk down memory lane for seniors and a great lesson in history for children.

Bennie McCann is Reservations Manager of Volunteer Cabin Rentals specializing in Smoky Mountain cabin rentals. Visit the main website to book cabins for your next Smoky Mountain vacation.