The definition of a fabulous vacation is one that’s not only fun, it helps you experience things you never could at home. While we often associate international destinations with the truly mind-blowing, Gatlinburg is here to change your mind on that.
This Tennessee town is not only a gateway to the glorious Great Smoky Mountains, it also offers endless attractions to keep you busy – whether solo traveler, couple, or family.
From amusement parks to aquariums, adorable and bustling downtowns to delicious meals, it has something for everyone. Plus, Gatlinburg has a great sense of humor.
You probably didn’t know it was named after the most hated man in town, according to local proprietor Chalet Village.
“Before it was known as Gatlinburg, our Smoky Mountain city was named White Oak Flats,” the cabin gurus explain, adding that Radford Gatlin then founded a post office in his general store, leading people to begin calling the city “Gatlinburg.”
However, “Although the city bears his name, Gatlin was hated by his neighbors for feuding with the Ogles [a prominent family] and supporting the Confederacy in the Civil War.”
I mean, anywhere with that much drama right in the name just has to be good … and it is. Let’s take a look at what to do there, when to go, and how to save money wherever possible. Because this trip is totally worth it.
Average Trip to Gatlinburg Cost in 2024
An average one-week trip to Gatlinburg for two people will cost around $3,500:
- Average Accommodation Cost: $100 per night
- Average Flight Cost: $400 per person
- Food, Drink & Activities: $125 per person, per day
- Transportation: $200 total
- Total Cost: $3,500
One of the best things about Gatlinburg is that, in addition to how fun it is, it’s located in the United States. That means no exchange rates, no European prices, no expensive rental cars, and no unforeseen international expenses (e.g. the price of “petrol” won’t shock you here … lol).
Plus, Tennessee has a lower-than-average cost of living for the United States, so your money will often go further than in your home state. A good rule of thumb is to plan to pay about as much in consumables as you would at home.
We will discuss in the following sections what to plan for flights, accommodations, activities, and transportation. That way, you can make the best plan for seeing Gatlinburg affordably!
Gatlinburg Trip Cost: Average by Item
No trip is ever the same as another. Your costs will vary according to the season, the activities you enjoy, how you dine, and who you’re with. Take the following averages with a grain of salt and budget up or down depending on where you want to spend your money.
Lodging in Gatlinburg is reasonably priced, sitting between $75 and $125 for decent hotels with amenities. If you want more character to your accommodations, plan on paying at the higher end of the spectrum, but a $100 per night budget is very reasonable.
Pro tip: nearby Pigeon Forge is also a vacation mecca, and it features more lodging than Gatlinburg does. If you’re planning your trip on short notice or simply want more options, check there.
It’s only 17 minutes away and you’ll still get all the opportunities you would in Gatlinburg. Just note that Gatlinburg, as a gateway to the Smokies, is the prettier choice with better views.
Gatlinburg is located firmly on the East Coast, which means your location will change how much you pay to get there quite a bit. From the West Coast – say, Los Angeles or Portland – you should plan on about $500 per person for a round-trip ticket.
However, from the East Coast – say, New York City or Miami – your cost will be closer to $300. Add in more funds if you’re connecting from a small regional airport. On average, plan for about $400 per ticket, per person.
Food, Drink & Activity Costs
What isn’t there to do in Gatlinburg? That’s really the question you should be asking. With its raft of activities for young and old, incredible range of restaurants, and proximity to one of America’s most storied parks, you’ll have a harder time deciding what to cut from your itinerary than what to add to it.
Let’s start with the park, which features tons of hiking, fishing, horseback riding, camping, and more. Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not require an entrance fee, but charges per vehicle to park. It’s $5 daily, $15 weekly, or $40 annually.
If you want to visit more than one park with your pass, the cost is $80 annually for any park in the states. (Note that 4th graders have a free pass for their entire school year.)
The Great Smokies boasts a number of species of firefly, several of which are synchronous. This means that they time up with one another, blinking on and off at the same time and creating an absolutely breathtaking natural light show.
If you want to see it for yourself, make sure to come in the summer. Just note that you can’t wander up to the park whenever you like; you have to apply for a pass via lottery ahead of time.
If you’re an amusement park lover, you’ll be in hog heaven. Try Anakeesta, the Lumberjack Adventure Park, Ripley’s Mountain Coaster, Moonshine Mountain Center, Wild Bear Falls Water Park, and of course, Dollywood.
These are all located in or near Gatlinburg, so you could easily hit one every day of your trip! Note that entrance fees range between $100 and $200 for a day pass, depending on the park and the time of year as well as the age of the entrant.
Want to spend less? Cades Cove is an amazing and cheap experience near Gatlinburg. It’s about an hour and 20 minutes away and features an 11-mile loop through a gorgeous valley surrounded by the Smokies.
In addition to beautiful scenery and wildlife, you’ll see tons of historical buildings from settlements that existed before the park was established in 1940.
Another cheap activity is the Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum. This is a fun destination that features a massive collection of salt and pepper shakers – more than 20,000 – from all over the world.
Admission is $3, but if you want something from the gift shop, it can count toward your purchase. You might also want to try The Village.
Located in Downtown Gatlinburg, it’s built to mimic something out of 16th-century Bavaria … or perhaps a Harry Potter movie. With adorable architecture, shops, and eateries, it’s a wonderful shopping experience, and you don’t have to pay much (or anything) to be there.
Feel free to take a picnic and just sit in the town square, or hit up the shops dedicated to games, candles, candy, and even socks!
Food and drink in Gatlinburg are about the same as anywhere else in the US. If you want to throw in a few treats and drinks, along with grocery store shopping to supplement meals out, plan on an average of $50 per person, per day.
Overall, assuming a mix of cheap and high-cost activities, as well as food, you should budget about $125 per person, per day.
Whether you need your own car in Gatlinburg depends on what you want to do. The town has low-cost public transportation and plenty of options for getting to the various amusement parks, so you can go without one and pay less.
In this case, budget about $100 for two people for a week. However, if you’re looking to hit up the Smokies, you’ll probably want a vehicle. If you’re renting one, that will run you about $20 a day, plus some gas.
Bump your transportation budget up to about $250 if you’re renting one for an entire week. On average, plan to pay about $200 for your week in Gatlinburg.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other things to consider when planning your trip to Gatlinburg:
- Gatlinburg celebrates every holiday in style. If you want to save money, go outside of the holidays. If you love a good cele-braysh, make sure to budget in extra money. Upping your overall budget by about 20% should give you lots of wiggle room for food, lodging, and activities.
- The city is very walkable. If you enjoy getting around by footpower, Gatlinburg is an excellent place in which to do it. Just make sure to bring supportive, seasonally appropriate shoes.
- A self-guided tour of the Great Smokies is both cheap and amazing. It helps to plan ahead so you know how long your tour will take and how much food and water to bring. Check out this list of destinations from the National Park Service.
- Cades Cove is closed to cars on Wednesdays, making this the ideal time to hike in the area. You’ll enjoy silence, history, and beauty for only the price of a park pass.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about budgeting your trip to Gatlinburg:
What are the best things to do in Gatlinburg?
The theme parks, shopping, and Great Smoky Mountains wilderness are traditionally considered the best things to do in the Gatlinburg area. It also has a raucous social calendar, so make sure to check out the list of events before you go.
What are the best low- or no-cost activities?
If you’re looking to have a great time for no money, try the Cades Cove Hike. A $3 admission will get you into the Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum, while the Great Smokies only cost a $5 per day car pass for entrance.
When is the best time to visit Gatlinburg?
The Great Smokies are pretty forgiving when it comes to weather. Summer is humid but pretty, while winter is cold and often clear unless it’s snowing – though you will get a good bit of rain then as well.
Spring and fall are the wettest, which is why you’ll see lower prices – so these are great times to come if you’re planning a budget vacation!
What should I pack for Gatlinburg?
Gatlinburg has four distinct seasons, as mentioned above. In spring and fall, make sure to bring plenty of layers and rain gear, as the weather is unpredictable and may not match the forecast from the week before.
In winter, bring lots of cold-weather gear. While the average lows in town are right around freezing, the temps up in the mountains can drop much more. If you’re a hiker, don’t get caught out in the snow without warm gear, food, water, and a communication device.
In summer, remember your bug spray, poison ivy wash, and EpiPen if that applies to you. There are tons of mosquitoes, ticks, bees, and yellow jackets in the park.
When should I avoid the area to save money?
First and foremost, stay away during the first several weeks of summer, typically the second half of June and the first half of July. That’s when all the families descend on the area, so you’ll see higher prices and bigger crowds.
Halloween is also busy due to the leaf viewing and the fall festivals in the area (though frankly, it’s worth the cost and bustle if you’re an autumn lover). The holidays are also busy and see major price hikes.
Crowds tend to be less intense and so costs are lower in May and September, the “shoulder seasons.” Early spring is probably the cheapest, so you’ll get the best deals on hotels, cabins, personal vacation rentals, activities, and park entrance fees.
So, What Is the Average Cost for a Trip to Gatlinburg?
|🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost
|$100 per night
|✈️ Average Flight Cost
|$400 per person
|🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities
|$125 per person, per day
|💲 Total Cost
The average cost of a one-week trip to Gatlinburg is around $3,500 for two people. If you want to save money, plan on spending more time outdoors and less time headed to amusement parks and paid activities.
However you approach your trip to Gatlinburg, you’re pretty much guaranteed to love it.
So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that this storied destination has to offer. Happy travels!