How to Spend a Weekend in Pigeon Forge on a Budget - Part 2
This post is second in a series of planning a budget-friendly weekend in Pigeon Forge, TN. To read Part 1, click here.
Book Your Room Wisely
Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg are brimming with accommodations, so don’t limit yourself. Although we had the rewards points for an upgraded stay at Choice Hotel, we often book the same little family-owned and operated motel my parents took me to when I was a kid. I’m fond of accommodations like the Maples Motor Inn because they offer flat rates, and when they’re posted on their website, you can see which weeks are going to cost more than others. This allows you to plan your getaway on the "off" weeks, when Pigeon Forge is going to be less crowded in general.
By contrast, major chains will often change their rates from one day to the next as the date approaches.
What it means for us . . .
When I first looked into booking the Comfort Inn, I wanted to run it past my husband, who happened to be working that night. The total for the fancy hot tub room was going to come in at around $249, and with our gift card, that would have left us responsible only for Pigeon Forge’s exorbitant taxes. By the time I looked again the next day, that rate had shot up by quite a bit. While this won’t likely happen if you’re planning your weekend getaway well in advance rather than two weeks ahead of time, like I did, hesitating could cost you. In my case, it cost me about $50.
Skip the Attractions Altogether
It can be hard to imagine a vacation in Pigeon Forge without spending the day at Dollywood or seeing a comedy show, but there’s plenty to do without busying yourself with attractions. One of my favorite things is taking that lovely drive (or trolley ride) to Gatlinburg and wandering the streets hand-in-hand with the hubby. While we mostly window shop, we’ll make small purchases if we see a souvenir we just have to have.
If you want to take advantage of the freebies, you won’t want to miss:
Patriot Park – Located on Old Mill Avenue in Pigeon Forge, this park hosts several events throughout the year, but it’s simply a nice place for a stroll (you can even bring your dog!). History buffs will appreciate the veteran memorials and all 50 state flags.
The Arts and Crafts Community – If you tune in to the Visitors’ Information Channel in your motel room (a form of entertainment all its own!), no doubt you’ll hear the name "Alewine Pottery." This is just one of the artists in the Arts & Crafts Community, an 8-mile loop featuring artisans and unique shops that are free to explore.
Cades Cove – About a 45-minute drive from Pigeon Forge, Cades Cove is a scenic 11-mile loop that offers spectacular views of the valley from your car. If you’re feeling active, bring your bicycle and bike the loop.
Budget Your Meals
As I've already mentioned, our room is going to cost around $50 after using our rewards gift card. That leaves us with just under $100 for dining and recreation, since we don’t plan on doing much shopping. Ideally, I’d like to come away from the weekend having only spent $100 total, but that’s a stretch, so I’m budgeting that extra $50 for the room.
What it means for us . . .
We’ll need to eat supper Friday night, all our meals on Saturday, and breakfast on Sunday. One or two will probably be meals at nicer sit-down restaurants, but nothing outrageous. Having asked the locals where they like to eat on previous trips, I’d like to think we have some insider information as to where to find affordable eateries (I’ll post an upcoming blog about this after the trip), but this does mean averaging $10 per person, per meal. That’s tough, but doable, especially since our hotel offers free breakfast. If we skip the popular pancake houses and eat both breakfasts at the hotel, I think we can manage.
As with any major tourist destination, it’s easy to blow your budget in Pigeon Forge, but a little extra planning and taking advantage of free and discounted attractions can keep your cash in check.