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Best Things to Do in Cherokee, North Carolina

Many towns are known for their central features. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, and New York has the Statue of Liberty. There’s nothing wrong with visiting to see these landmarks, but it can distract you from all the other things the area has to offer.

The central destination in Cherokee, North Carolina is Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s worth a visit, especially if you take the time to see all of its best spots. When planning your trip, though, take the time to explore the surrounding historical and natural wonders.

Keep watching to learn about the best things to do in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

This is one of the best things to do in Cherokee, North Carolina. It’s not only the most popular attraction but the most visited national park in America with over 141 million visitors every year.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park takes up 800 square miles and has 300 miles of winding roads. There are biking and hiking trails, campsites, picnic spots, exhibition areas, creeks, and more.

Set aside more than a day if you want to see everything the park has to offer. Many of the best things to do in Cherokee, North Carolina sit right within it.

Mountain Farm Museum

This unique museum sits inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the Ocanaluftee Visitor Center. It’s a haven for fans of agriculture. It has a collection of farm structures and buildings from the 1800s to the present day. Most were built elsewhere but relocated, except for the barn with its 16,000 hand-split shingles.

The museum houses homes, such as the one John Davis built out of chestnut logs in 1900. It has commercial structures such as a meat house, blacksmith shop, woodshed, hog pen, ash hopper, and more You can see all of the original agriculture practices and may even find pigs in pens or elk roaming around.

Mingus Mill

This mill sits near the Mountain Farm Museum and is another one of Cherokee’s most historic spots. It dates back to 1886.

The water-powered mill was originally used for grinding corn, and it honors that history. Many components, such as its turbine and sluice, work the way they always have. You can also buy several varieties of cornmeal in the shop.

Smokemont Riding Stables

Why not try exploring the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains in a whole new way? These stables, found within the national park, are full of well-trained and beautiful horses.

Take them through the beautiful trails. Beginners can get their bearings thanks to knowledgeable guides. Children can go on a wagon ride.

Most rides last 2-4 hours. They’ll take you along the Occonalufte River.

Mingo Falls

These impressive waterfalls are close to the national park but sit 10-15 minutes out of Cherokee. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to see them. They sit 120 feet in the air and are one of the tallest in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Get to the Mingo Falls Campground via the Pigeon Creek Trail. It’s only half a mile long, but it has 160 steps to climb. You’ll eventually arrive at the viewing platform, and the view is worth the effort.

Parking is free. You can also stay at the Mingo Falls Campground if one day wasn’t enough.

Soco Falls

Cherokee, North Carolina offers more than one natural waterfall. This one is a double waterfall that’s 120 feet high.

Natives used it as an entry point to their settlements in the 1700s. Today, you can climb up to the observation deck and enjoy the beautiful view and lush greenery.

Fire Mountain Trails

This network of over 10.5 miles of trails welcomes bikers, hikers, and runners. It’s split up into sections based on difficulty, from smooth single-track roads to challenging and bumpy trails.

The trails connect with beautiful features such as rock gardens, berms, tables, and blinds. They also provide beautiful views. The best part is that it’s all free.

Ocanaluftee Indian Village

This unique attraction sits right next to the Fire Mountain trails. It’s a living museum that lets you learn about the lives and customs of 16th-century Cherokee people.

An expert will guide you through and show you their sacred sites, working areas, and homes. You can also see them make crafts such as canoes or baskets and watch traditional dances or war reenactments.

The village offers tours every day. It’s only open from May through late October, so plan your trip accordingly.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian

This museum is one of the best things to do in Cherokee, North Carolina after you’ve visited the native village and want more. USA Today has even put it on its list of the ten greatest Native American Experiences.

The museum was opened in 1948 and now houses thousands of years of artifacts, photos, videos, animations, music, figures, and more. Exhibits for children have pop-up books, graphics, animations, and effects.

You can also participate in the trail hike held by the native Eastern Band and workshops to learn native skills. Buy crafts from the gift shop or take your picture with the stone carving outside before you leave.

The museum opens every day at 9 but is closed on major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 6-12. Children under 5 are free. There are also group rates and discounts for AARP or AAA members.

Unto These Hills Cherokee Theater

This has been one of the best things to do in Cherokee for theater lovers and history buffs since 1950. The drama department of the nearby university and the local tribe worked together to tell the story of the “Trail of Tears,” a historical period from the 1780s to the 21st century. 16,000 Native Americans were forced to relocate west of the Mississippi River.

The show combines music and dance to create an unforgettable experience. There are also more music and dance performances at the theater to enjoy.

The Unto These Hills production is held every night from June to August. The theater has 2,800 seats, so be sure to get in early. Tickets are $18-22 for adults, $8 for children 6-12, and free for children five and under.

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc.

This is America’s oldest Native American cooperative. That makes it one of the best things to do in Cherokee if you’re looking for an authentic Native American handicraft.

The collective has been in operation since 1946. All 350 artisans are Cherokee Indians who put a tag with their name on everything they make.

You’ll find wood and stone carvings, jewelry, pottery, and more. The most famous items are the baskets. The Cherokee people make them from white oak, rivercane, and honeysuckle vines.

Like and subscribe for more ways to add nature, culture, and fun to your next trip itinerary. Keep watching to learn about more of the best things to do in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Sequoyah National Golf Club

This club sits three miles outside of Cherokee. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones II. He gave every hole on this 6,057-yard course a historical twist.

You’ll see bluegrass fairways and bentgrass. The terrain is beautiful, but it can be complex with a mix of 5 par 3 and 5 par 5 areas. Bring plenty of golf balls so you can enjoy them.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort

This casino resort has over 1,000 rooms and 21 floors. Its mountainside setting and range of activities make it one of the best places to stay in the country.

In addition to the casino, there are also restaurants, shops, karaoke, pools, and occasional concerts. Guests also get privileged access to the Sequoyah National Golf Club.

Smoky Mountain Gold and Ruby Mine

A trip to this old mine will have you feeling like an old prospector. Visitors of all ages will love looking through the mud for gold and gems.

Take your prize to an onsite location to be polished and identified. You can take it home as-is or have it turned into jewelry. If you didn’t have much luck, you can buy a shiny souvenir at the gift shop.

Cherokee Rapids Tube and Kayak Rentals

This shop will take you to the right location on the Oconaluftee River on a bus. Once they give you all the necessary equipment, you can float down and see all the best sites.

Most trips are calm, but there are a few rapids and obstacles to be aware of. Go to the ice cream and candy shops at the end to reward yourself for taking the plunge.

Santa’s Land Fun Park and Zoo

This attraction is three miles away from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s southern entrance. It’s open from May to October and has been delighting visitors of all ages since 1966.

Trains, sleigh rides, and a Rudolph rollercoaster will help you get in the festive mood. It also upholds its name as a zoo with exotic animals like monkeys, kangaroos, and bears.

Other attractions include paddle boating, magic shows, and an arcade. If you can find him, Father Christmas himself will even give you a diploma for good conduct!

Cherokee Bear Zoo

This is one of the most specialized zoos in the world, but that’s what makes it so fun. Bear lovers can see species from grizzlies to black bears. Other species include tigers and lemurs.

Children can hand-feed animals such as baby goats in the petting zoo. There’s mini golf, a gift shop, and an ice cream shop as well.

The Bear Zoo opens at 10 am year round, weather permitting. Admission is $6 per person, and there are also tour packages available.

Oconalufutee Islands Park

This natural wonder may not be as breathtaking as a national park, but it’s still a wonderful place to visit. It’s clean and well-maintained. The land is lined with benches for you to take in its splendor and watch the geese and ducks walk by.

The shallow waters attract more than wildlife. They’re also a favorite of visitors who love to spend hours playing in them. Oconalufutee is also a perfect photo and picnic spot.

Sassy Sunflowers Bakery and Cafe

Nothing reinvigorates you after a long day traveling in Cherokee better than a treat. Sassy Sunflowers Bakery and Cafe is one of the best places to get one.

The menu ranges from full meals to small snacks. They all have healthy twists, and there are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. The drinks are also inspired, and outdoor seating lets you enjoy Cherokee’s natural beauty.

Have you ever been to Cherokee, North Carolina? Let us know in the comments.

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