Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg on a Budget

Road Trip! Time to make those epic family memories with the kiddos! But you can’t even take the family out to eat without dropping some serious coin. How are you supposed to travel for the weekend/week!?   Simple, just follow these basic guidelines;


  • Research the best places to stay & get the best deal! Search….travago.com, expedia.com, kayak.com, Airbnb.com, pigionforgejellystone.com (they have  Glamping tents, ladies…and Yogi Bear will personally deliver cookies & milk to your camp site for a small fee), etc. some are as low as $44 a night, depending on day. Always read the fine print & look out for added fees. When possible book at places that offer FREE breakfast & a pool…going out to eat for breakfast can get pricey (save $20+ a day with free breakfast) and pools are the BEST when traveling with kids. Lastly, EBATES, baby! (10% cash back on bookings on their hotels, just FYI)Tenn33
  • Only visit places you don’t have at home (For example- we have Cedar Point at home, thus we opted not to go to Dollywood)
  • Pack Food -Toss whatever you have in your fridge in a cooler. Then, only purchase what you need. (PB & J sandwiches, veggies, & fruit were our go-to…kids literally had that for lunch every day, lol! Buying 3 loaves of bread, a jar of PB, jelly, veggies and fruit was actually cheaper than taking the entire family to McDonalds just once for a meal).Tenn31
  • Seek the free and splurge on three (As a family, decide on 3 things you will splurge on during your trip and then seek out all free things to do for the remainder of the trip). We found a lot of fun FREE things to do…..



Free Things to do in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, TN

Enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Website: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm

That’s right; entry into the park is FREE!!

Sugarlands Visitor Center


Website: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm#CP_JUMP_48430

This was our first stop and was extremely helpful! The park is huge, so a map is a must and it is often busy, so do inquire with a ranger and heed their recommendations. There is also a free 20-minute orientation motion picture that provides an in-depth look at the Smokies and the enormous diversity of plant and animal life in the Park. Natural history exhibits include mounted specimens of park animals in recreations of their habitats and reproductions of journals kept by the first park naturalists are also on display. (Ranger talks and slide shows are presented daily from spring through fall). All FREE!

Newfound Gap Road

This is perfect for little travelers…toddlers, preschoolers, etc. The 33-mile drive from Gatlinburg to Cherokee North Carolina along Newfound Gap Road (US 441) is the only route that completely traverses the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And has awesome pic opportunities along the way.Tenn30

Rockefeller Memorial (Newfound Gap Road)

Website: https://www.pigeonforge.com/great-smoky-mountains-national-park/rockefeller-monument/

Rockefeller Memorial, which lies half in Tennessee and half in North Carolina.Tenn26 It memorializes the support and $5 million donated by the Rockefeller family to help establish the Park, which was dedicated here by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.Tenn27

Clingman’s Dome (Newfound Gap Road)


Website: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/clingmansdome.htm

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tenn21It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher. The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.


It’s seven miles to the end of Clingmans Dome Road and there are scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys along the way. The road ends in a large parking area from which a 0.5 mile trail leads to the summit. The trail is paved but steep, and leads to an observation tower on top.


Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen



Website: https://www.olesmokycandykitchen.com/

This can be a fun free experience, but only if you have the willpower. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is an adorable candy shop that was founded in 1950 by Dave and Peggy Dych. The kiddos enjoyed watching the candy be made in full view. Tenn15Candy makers are dressed in white uniforms, and they stirred large copper kettles while feeding taffy into hypnotic machines. This drew quit a crowd. And the best part, free SAMPLES!! That fresh taffy will have you longing for more, this is where that willpower comes into play, you might find yourself purchasing just one box, or three, lol!Tenn14

Photo Ops (Hollywood Wax Museum & other various stops)


As you enter Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg your mind is blown away by the amount of things there are to do and see, there’s the Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Titanic Museum, etc. Gatlin5



And each comes with a hefty admission price. For example, our youngest showed an interest in Hollywood Wax Museum so we inquired about the cost, it would cost us $85 for the family ($23 for adults and $13 for kids). Tenn1So we made a deal, we would stop in the gift store and she could buy something with her money if she wished (kids have money from b-day & helping out around the house, beyond their chores) and we could get a pic. Sold, she loved the idea and to this day it’s her favorite pic. So don’t be afraid to just get a pic, they are FREE.

But wait, there’s more…..Checkout Erica’s Gigantic List of Totally FREE Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge  

Our Splurges

Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction


Website: https://dpstampede.com/

Tenn8This was such a magnificent and fun family experience! Kiddos loved the fact that there was no utensils during the meal…everything was finger food! Lol! Dolly Parton’s Stampede dinner show has thirty-two magnificent horses & a cast of top-notch riders to entertain you while you enjoy your meal. Tenn4There was daring feats of trick riding and competition, princesses, lots of live animals, a pitting North against South in a friendly and fun rivalry, and more. Tenn5The evening was full of music, dancing, special effects and family friendly comedy. The Patriotic Grand Finale was beautiful with flying Doves of Peace, luminous costumes and fireworks, reminding you of the pride and spirit of America. This was our splurge at almost $200 once everything was said and done (we did buy the souvenir mugs for each of the kids in the beginning, did not buy the pics below) $45 for adults and $25 for kids. But when you are having PB & J sandwiches every day for lunch and free breakfast at the hotel the money saved can go to your “splurge” experience.  Tenn7

Old Tyme Portraits

No website

Address: 965 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

This was one my husband wanted to do and I must admit it did end up being a lot of fun. When was the last time your entire family dressed up and had a portrait taken? This didn’t take too long and wasn’t too expensive ($35 for one, second was half off…so ya know we had to get two, lol!).


Know some additional tips and tricks to saving money on family road trips? Been to Gatlinburg and/or Pigeon Forge, what was your favorite activity? Please share in the comments.

The BEST Indoor Play Centers in NW Ohio: Sky Zone

Need a break from the great outdoors? The bugs, heat, sun, rain? How does a climate-controlled park that is bug free, and doesn’t require you to reapply every 80 minutes sounds? Oh, and while we’re at it how about we throw in a relaxing lounge for parents, snacks available on site, and a price that can’t be beat? (Personally, they had me at bug free; I currently resemble a connect-the-dots worksheet, lol!). Then please make sure all devices are set to airplane mode, seats are in the upright position, and seatbelts aren’t buckled, it’s time to take flight at Sky Zone! Sky Zone is better than ever! The people spoke and Sky Zone listened!

You will still be greeted by a tidal wave of blue and orange, invigorating enthusiasm, https://www.skyzone.com/toledoand energy that just envelops you, however, the prices and attractions are jaw dropping! You’re probably thinking…your idea of jaw dropping and mine are two different things. Well, how does jumping for 90 minutes for just $1 a day sound? It’s like its Christmas in July, right?!

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BEST DEAL: 30 Day Pass

Summer is here! Jump for $1 per day. Play for up to 90 minutes every day with the 30-Day Pass. Limited Time Offer!

Cost: ONLY $29.99(Expires 2018-08-31)


Sky Zone Toledo

Address: 1600 Albon Rd, Holland, OH 43528

Phone: (419) 491-1194



Sunday, 12:00pm – 8:00pm

Monday, 10:00am – 8:00pm

Tuesday, 10:00am – 8:00pm

Wednesday, 10:00am – 8:00pm

Thursday, 10:00am – 8:00pm

Friday, 12:00pm – 8:00pm

Glow Zone* 8:00pm – 11:00pm (Ages 6+)

Saturday, 10:00am – 10:00pm

GlowJam* 8:00pm – 11:00pm (Ages 6+)

Cost: 120 minutes-$22.00, 90 minutes [MOST POPULAR]-$19.00, & 60 minutes-$15.00


Coming Soon…..

Ninja Warrior

Warrior Course-Enter a jumper. Exit a warrior. For athletes looking to push themselves, the Warrior Course will put your abilities to the test. Take on a variety of obstacles in a test of speed, strength, and agility. Go for a personal record or dominate your friends.

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Parkour Blox-Ready to level up? Test your parkour skills to the next level on the Freestyle court using the foam vault blocks. Train your speed, power, and strength by practicing on hurdles placed in your path.

SkyLadder– Another balance challenge, SkyLadder challenges you in a different way: off your feet. Climb this fidgeting ladder to the top and plant your flag. Or fall into the padding below, get up, and try again.


Ultimate Dodge Ball– Remember that ever popular rite of passage game from childhood that would have you ducking and dodging the ball? Guess what happens when you add Sky Zone’s patented wall-to-wall trampolines to the ever popular game of dodge ball? Ultimate Dodge ball!!

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Foam Zone– Run and jump, flip, and fly into a huge pit filled with 10,000 foam cubes. Defy gravity; work on your fancy air poses, or just wing it, no matter how you fly fun will always be your copilot!

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Sky Slam– Wish you could slam dunk like an NBA player? Guess what? Sky Zone is making your dream come true! Pair Sky Zone’s basketball hoops, (each set at various heights to accommodate even the littlest slam dunkers) with a trampoline and you will be dunking like a pro in no time!

Freestyle Jump– The main court offers you the freedom to take flight in your own defined space; you don’t have to worry about anyone else jumping in your square.

Comfort Zone– Sky Zone hasn’t forgotten about parents, grandparents, and chaperons. This is where you can sit, watch television, relax, have a snack, and still chaperon your children.


Ninja Warrior 5

SkyWars -Squad up and lock and load for SkyWars, the newest game at Sky Zone! Guests engage in an epic team strategy battle game using blasters and foam balls or darts in a variety of games including team elimination, capture the flag, duck hunt, and more.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 4:00pm – 8:00pm & Saturday’s GLOW:: 8:00pm – 11:00pm (Included w/ Open Jump, Subject to Availability — Ages 8+)

Ninja Warrior 6

Glow-Sky Zoneis different after dark. Lasers, music and blacklight transform the whole park into a crazy jumping dance club. Flips are limited to Foam Zone during Glow. Waivers are required for all persons entering the park during Glow. Every Friday & Saturday Night, 8pm – 11pm (Ages 6 and Up) | COLORED NEON SHIRTS REQUIRED, NO WHITE SHIRTS PLEASE

Cost: 3hrs = $25, 2hrs = $20, 1hr = $15

So what are you waiting for? Tag friends now & meet-up at Sky Zone, where the kiddos can get their recommended daily physical activity and moms can catch up & chat!