Looking for things to do in Cherokee during your next visit? We can help with that!
Located close to the Tennessee border, Cherokee North Carolina is home to incredible nature, rich indigenous history, and friendly people. As a result, there are tons of things to do in Cherokee, NC for nature and history lovers.
Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Or, hit up Santa’s Land for a taste of Christmas all year round. Cherokee may be in the South, but culturally you’ll be transported to a whole different world. The vibe of Cherokee is small town meets mountain oasis meets native culture just waiting to be discovered.
With so many facets to its unique personality, what exactly are the best Cherokee, NC, activities? We recommend getting a good mix of everything, which is why we’ve put together a list for you.
Table of Contents
Things to Do in Cherokee, North Carolina
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smokey Mountains are one of the main reasons that most people visit Cherokee, North Carolina. The beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park spans over 800 square miles of land here, so there’s plenty to explore.
It’s also the most-visited national park in the country. With 300 miles of roads, driving is probably the fastest way to discover all the park has to offer.
You can check out GetYourGuide’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park Self Driving Trip if you’re not sure where to start.
There are also plenty of hiking and biking trails you can use to explore on your own two feet. The most popular hiking trails are the Oconaluftee River Trail, the Mingus Creek Trail, and the Smokemont Nature Trail.
You can also visit historical sites within the park, such as the Mingus Mill and the Cataloochee Valley. When you’re done with the adventure activities, there are also plenty of good spots for camping and picnicking.
Have a look at our article on waterfall hikes in Gatlinburg for some amazing hiking suggestions!
Museum of the Cherokee Indian
This is probably one of the most important activities you should do during your visit to Cherokee, North Carolina. This award-winning museum is home to artifacts preserving over 13,000 years of native history.
You’ll be able to sift through dozens of photos, animations, videos, music, arts and crafts, and more. There’s also an interactive exhibit specifically designed for kids, so the whole family will enjoy this learning experience. Dive into all there is to know about the story of the Cherokee Indians. Just be sure to bring some tissues, as the story is an incredibly emotional one.
Oconaluftee Indian Village
The Oconaluftee Indian Village will transport you back to the late 1700s as soon as you step foot inside. The village is set in 1760 and is meant to display the struggles and lifestyle of the Cherokee community.
You’ll experience traditional Cherokee handicrafts, rituals, dances, and dwellings. You can watch the natives at work sculpting pottery, weaving baskets, creating beads, and preparing for battle. This is one of the most interesting and educational things to do in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual
This is the oldest Native American cooperative in the country, so you shouldn’t miss it. Home to acclaimed Native American artwork created with methods dating back almost 10,000 years, it’s worth a visit.
You’ll browse through beadwork, pottery, woven goods, tools, dolls, and more. You’ll also experience traditional singing, dancing, and storytelling practices. Promoting the work of more than 350 artisans, this is the best place to get authentic, one-of-a-kind Native American products.
The Cherokee Bonfire
Would you like to gather around a crackling bonfire and hear stories from the dawn of time? As day gives way to dusk over the land Cherokee story and history tellers don native garb and share tales passed down through the generations.
Located along the banks of the Oconaluftee River these bonfire events will memorize children and adults both. Best of all, this series of events is totally free for any and all visitors. If you are visiting Cherokee in the summer this definitely an activity you don’t want to miss!
Tube or Kayak the Cherokee Rapids
Head down the Oconaluftee River in a tube or a kayak during your visit to Cherokee, North Carolina. This is home to about two miles of rapids, places to swim, and beautiful scenery.
The rapids are grades I and II, so it’s not terribly difficult but will provide that adrenaline kick you’re craving. You can choose either a tube or a kayak for your float down this two-mile stretch of river. Once you’re done, finish your day off with a bit of swimming and visit one of the many restaurants nearby.
Mingo Falls is the tallest waterfall in the southern Appalachians, and therefore one of the most popular. Dropping more than 120 feet from the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, the falls are the subject of many legends. It’s easy to see why – it’s not hard to have a spiritual experience while gazing at this wonder of nature.
To get to Mingo Falls, start at the Mingo Falls Campground and take the Pigeon Creek trail. The trail ends at the waterfall’s viewing platform. As a bonus, this is a free activity and is the perfect photo spot!
Fire Mountain Trails
These trails are located within the Oconaluftee Indian Village and stretch for about 10.5 miles. This network of trails is perfect for hiking or biking, with views of the Smoky Mountains throughout the entire adventure.
Along the way, be ready to encounter native wildlife, rock gardens, waterfalls, and serene forest clearings. Completely free and also dog-friendly, this is the perfect activity for nature enthusiasts looking to get their heart rate up.
Soco Falls is another secluded waterfall surrounded by lush foliage. This double waterfall stands 120 feet tall. There’s also an observation platform nearby if you wish to get a better view for your photo op.
And to make it even better, the Soco Gap was used as an entrance to native settlements during the 1700s. So not only is this waterfall gorgeous to look at, but this is a key historical location for Cherokee Indians.
Mountain Farm Museum
This is one of the best cultural things to do in Cherokee, NC. The Mountain Farm Museum is home to an impressive collection of historic log buildings dappling the Smoky Mountain landscape.
These 19th-century buildings include a spring house, a barn, an apple house, and an active blacksmith shop. The farm also displays gardening and agricultural methods from 100 years ago. You can walk through and explore the entire area, or you can choose to take the 30-minute self-guided walking tour.
Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine
The Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine is one of the most unique experiences in Cherokee, NC. Located on the Oconaluftee River, this place will teach you exactly how the pioneers of the 1800s mined.
You’ll pan for gold, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and other precious gemstones at Cherokee’s oldest gem mine. And as a bonus, the whole experience is for free. At the end of your time here, you can choose which gems you want to purchase. Don’t forget to have them identified and polished by professionals before you take them home.
This event has been in operation since 1949 when Cherokee natives started performing Unto These Hills. This is the third oldest American historical drama and documents Cherokee history.
From its beginning until the mid-1800s when they were relocated via the Trail of Tears, you’ll learn the whole story. The Mountainside Theatre has about 2800 seats and the show takes place nightly from June to August. Even in the off-season, though, the Mountainside Theatre is home to traditional dance performances, music, and other cultural events.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort
Nestled deep in the Smoky Mountains, this is one of the area’s top resorts and casinos. With 1000 rooms spanning 21 floors, it’s one of the best places to stay if you’re looking for top-notch facilities.
The casino itself is the main attraction, with tons of games and opportunities to try your luck. But it’s more than just a casino. The resort also features shops and restaurants, live music, karaoke, a few swimming pools, and a spa. There’s also a program of events so you’ll have to check the calendar for your travel dates.
Sequoyah National Golf Club
Only seven minutes by car from Cherokee’s downtown area, this beautiful golf course is nestled deep in the Smoky Mountains. This 18-hole course is characterized by incredible vistas and panoramic views from almost every hole.
This is the perfect way to relax, have fun with family, and try your hand at golf during your trip. There’s also a restaurant onsite offering nonalcoholic and adult beverages if you want to cool your heels after your game.
Where to Stay in Cherokee, NC
There are plenty of options for where to stay in Cherokee, including both luxury hotels and cozy mountain lodges. Here are a few options we recommend:
- Stonebrook Lodge: If you’re looking for easy access to the casino without paying resort prices, this is your spot. Located right across the street from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, this highly rated hotel is cozy and affordable.
- Rivers Edge Motel: This hotel is conveniently located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As a bonus, all rooms include a panoramic view of the Oconaluftee River.
- Bay Mountain Inn Cherokee Smoky Mountains: This hotel is located close to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. All the other major attractions in the area are just a short drive away.
There you have it folks! Some of the best Cherokee activities to check out during your trip.
Home to rich cultural history, fantastic nature and wildlife, and many outdoor adventure activities, this destination is a treat. Get started with these activities and explore everything Cherokee, NC has to offer.
As always, happy travels and we hope to see you all on the road!