This Southern City Is One Of The Most Budget-Friendly Destinations In America

Tucked in the foothills of East Tennessee, the small European-style town of Gatlinburg is a mountainside gem. First inhabited by Native American tribes, the surrounding land was adopted by Gatlinburg's earliest settlers from South Carolina during the 19th century. Much of the town's history is still welded in its heritage, including several modern community structures. Today, Gatlinburg is a hotspot for the ambitious wilderness explorer and sensualist searching for luxury.

Swap the neon lights and rambunctious Broadway crowds for this relaxed small town in the Smoky Mountains. Not only is Gatlinburg one of Tennessee's best underrated cities, but it's an affordable alternative to iconic tourist spots like Nashville. Rent a cozy cabin and listen to the crackling fire while saving a good chunk of change on lodging. Spend an afternoon perusing the adorable German-inspired village or getting lost in the serenity of the mountains. Despite its small size, Gatlinburg's resort-style cabins and thriving wilderness arena make it one of Tennessee's most coveted destinations. 

Embrace the great outdoors

Ogle Cabin in Gatlinburg is the oldest preserved cabin in the Smoky Mountains and the first structure built on the town's land. Evidently, Gatlinburg's cabin culture is a beacon for tourists. Keep things cozy (and affordable) by renting a fireside cabin in the backwoods of Gatlinburg's Smoky Mountains. There are plenty of wooded cottages priced around a comfortable rate of $100 per night. If glamping isn't your thing, many contain full amenities while giving guests a taste of fresh mountain air and an Instagrammable setting. To save a few extra dollars, plan your stay during the week when rates are cheaper. Some rental sites also post cabin discounts on popular social sites like Facebook and Instagram.

Situated on the North Carolina border, Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a gateway to the dramatic Appalachian Mountain range. Its hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildflowers coating the valleys create a serene oasis. 

For the best views of the city skyline and surrounding wilderness, visit Gatlinburg SkyPark. This elevated attraction is a highlight in Gatlinburg. The park is famous for its record-holding SkyBridge — the longest elevated bridge in North America, stretching 700 feet! Take a leisurely stroll above the treetops on the Gatlinburg SkyTrail, a floating walkway connecting the ends of the SkyBridge.

Budget-friendly attractions

Tennessee's vibrant country music scene isn't limited to Nashville's dive bars and live music venues. Listen to the industry's newest up-and-coming artists at The Listening Room Cafe in Pigeon Forge, a short 15-minute drive from Gatlinburg. Hear the stories that inspire country music's most talented singers in an intimate gathering space over smoked wings and baskets of fries. This low-key music venue keeps things affordable, with tickets ranging from free admission to $10. 

Nestled at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, the downtown shopping district models traditional European architecture with Romanesque structures reminiscent of Swiss mountain villages. Embrace its quintessential small-town vibes by getting to know the local merchants who are happy to engage in friendly conversation. Downtown Gatlinburg is also home to an assortment of eclectic shops and boutiques. Browse pottery works at The Honey Pot or sweet-smelling candle wicks at The Candle Cottage.

Perusing the streets of Gatlinburg's adorable downtown district doesn't mean you have to empty your bank account (although it would be a shame to skip out on buying at least one donut from Donut Friar). Beginning at dawn, the smell of freshly baked donuts, cinnamon bread, and pastries fills this fairy-tale-like cottage. The donuts are priced at an affordable rate, ranging from $1.00 to $3.00. Balance out the sugar rush with a savory treat from Pop Culture. This family-owned business handcrafts each batch of gourmet popcorn themselves, offering over 25 rich and zesty flavors. Pop Culture is on point when it comes to popping quality corn. Purchase a tin (or two) and choose between flavors like bacon cheddar, birthday cake, and buckeye caramel corn — a well-deserved sweet treat during your stay!