15 Best Things to Do in Cherokee (NC)

As one of the oldest occupants in the history of the United States, the Cherokee people have so many rich historical, social, and cultural backgrounds in the community.

It is the most charming place to visit in the country, both tourists and visitors will find Cherokee an awesome destination in North Carolina.

This small community is abundant in over 11,000 years of fascinating historical knowledge of early tribes and settlements, many outdoor activities, fun experiences, and so much more.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National ParkSource: Wikimedia/Famartin | CC BY-SA 4.0 InternationalPin

One of the most amazing things to do in Cherokee is to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With more than 800 square miles of natural landscape, it is known as the most visited national park in the whole of America.

The park is nested on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina and is easily accessible via Cherokee. Visitors can explore the roads that pass through and around the park spanning over 300 miles. This is truly a great destination for weekend fun with family and friends.

Some of its amenities include biking and hiking trails, riding trails, campgrounds, exhibitions, picnic spots, fishing creeks, and so much more.

Mingus Mill

Mingus MillSource: Flickr/Nicolas Raymond | CC BY 2.0 GenericPin

The next stop is the Mingus Mill which is located not too far from the Mountain Farm Museum. It is surrounded by so many historic landmarks and attractions, and many hiking trails.

The water-powered mill started in 1886 for grinding corn and it is still operational. There are different types of cornmeal which can be found in its shop with a natural and lovely environment to see.

Visitors can only appreciate this marvel when they see its turbine, sluice, and other components in action.

Oconaluftee Island Park

Oconaluftee Island ParkSource: Wikipedia/Billy Hathorn | CC BY 3.0 UnportedPin

The Oconaluftee Island Park is one fantastic place to visit with the whole family be it on a vacation or just a fun hangout.

Whether during spring or summer, the park is always a great place to splash, swim, and so on. This natural fun park is located just near downtown Cherokee and is made up of a grassy island, slow river, and picnic.

Kids will enjoy the most here because the park offers tubing, shady picnic spots, swimming, trout fishing, or just enjoying the views and splashing around with friends and family.

There are bridges that make up the picturesque of the park including piers for feeding ducks and fish, picnic tables, and many more.

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual

Qualla Arts and Crafts MutualSource: Wikimedia/Billy Hathorn | CC BY-SA 3.0 UnportedPin

The Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual is America’s oldest Native American Cooperative and it is a great place to find genuine Cherokee handcrafts.

For decades, the techniques of wood and stone carvings, jewellery, baskets, and so much more are being passed on to the younger generation through the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual. As travellers, some of the best treasures in the town can be gotten here as gifts and souvenirs.

The baskets found here are the top attractions for visitors, it is made from rivercane, white oak, and honeysuckle vines found in Cherokee. It is truly a place to explore.

Cherokee Bear Zoo

Cherokee Bear ZooSource: Unsplash/Rey Emsen (Representative Image) | Unsplash LicensePin

Visitors looking for a safe, relaxing, and lovely place to get cup up close and personal with animals, then the Cherokee Bear Zoo is the place to be.

This small zoo was dedicated to cater for bears and other animals native to the region such as the black bears. It is a delight to visit and see the many different species of grizzlies, and so on.

Experience how these animals eat, play and live their lives on a day-to-day basis. Even though it is known as the Bear Zoo, other animals can also be found here such as lemurs, Tigers, and many more.

Smoky Mountain Gold-Ruby Mine

Smoky Mountain Gold-Ruby MineSource: Unsplash/Jason D (Representative Image) | Unsplash LicensePin

Another fantastic place to visit in Cherokee is the Smoky Mountain Gold Rush Mine which is located near downtown.

This mine offers a spectacular experience to visitors and travellers alike both family and friends. As part of the activity, visitors are provided with the equipment by the mine to find beautiful gemstones, rubies, emeralds, amethysts, sapphires, topaz, garnets, and so much more.

Admission is free so there are no entrance fees and a professional is always available on standby to help identify and find travellers make. It has a retail area where guests can buy gifts, jewellery, rocks, and more with an unforgettable experience.

Mingo Falls

Mingo FallsSource: Wikimedia/P. Hughes | CC BY-SA 4.0 InternationalPin

Mingo Falls is one of the things every traveller should have on their bucket list when planning a trip to Cherokee, North Carolina.

Technically, it is not among the top attractions in Cherokee but due to its tourist activities, it has become a favourite hotspot. Just 10-15 minutes away from town, it is not too far and it is the perfect location for photos.

The Mingo Falls has a 120 feet tall tower that soars into the sky with views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in sight. There are a lot of trails for hikers and bikers to explore this impressive area.

Oconaluftee River Trail Trailhead

Oconaluftee River Trail TrailheadSource: Flickr/Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Public Domain Mark 1.0Pin

Want to take a leisure stroll and see nature?

Then the Oconaluftee River Trail is one good way to explore Cherokee. It is one of the best things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while walking down to the trailhead.

For visitors who would like to reach the trailhead, take a walk from the visitor’s centre towards the Mountain Farm Museum and the trail goes around the museum with views of the river and the forest. There are signages placed around with information about the trails, plants, and animals in the area.

Mountain Farm Museum

Mountain Farm MuseumSource: Flickr/Robert Lz | CC BY 2.0 GenericPin

From the Oconaluftee River Trail, visitors get to see the Mountain Farm Museum which is a unique top attraction in Cherokee.

The museum comprises a collection of historic log buildings gathered from different sites of the Smoky Mountains since the late 18th century which includes a barn, farmhouse, smokehouse, springhouse, apple house, and a blacksmith shop.

These buildings all have unique stories to tell about the area and its people, and it also lets visitors experience what it felt like to be in the 19th century.

Unto These Hills Ticket Office

Unto These Hills Ticket OfficeSource: Wikimedia/Billy Hathorn | CC BY-SA 3.0 UnportedPin

Unto These Hills Ticket Office offers travellers access to America’s biggest outdoor drama with a triumphant and tragic story about Cherokee Indians.

Situated in the background of the Great Smoky Mountains, the drama is presented at the Mountainside Theatre under the stars. The show runs Monday to Saturday only and tickets cost around $28 per person.

The open-air theatre was opened in 1950 and has served more than 6.5 million people with over 2,100 seats. Parking is free and there are food concessions, gulf-cart to transport those show cannot take the steps.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

Harrah's Cherokee Casino ResortSource: Wikimedia/Jared | CC BY 2.0 GenericPin

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is another great place to visit in Cherokee. It is a prime location and one of the best resorts for travellers or visitors.

Set in between a beautiful mountain setting, there are so many activities to enjoy. The resort has 21 floors and over 1,000 rooms spread across, a golf course close by where guests can while away some time.

It also includes other amenities such as shops, restaurants, swimming pools, karaoke nights, and occasional events/concerts.

Oconaluftee Indian Village

Oconaluftee Indian VillageSource: Flickr/Keirn | CC BY-SA 2.0 GenericPin

The Oconaluftee Indian Village is a living history museum of the Cherokee Indians who lived here. The village is a reproduction of how the eastern Cherokee community was in the 18th century with forest surroundings and soothing sounds of mountain streams trickling down.

There is a guided tour by a professional tour guide who leads visitors to various Cherokee woodworkers, beadworks, weavers, potters, and traditional weapon makers who demonstrate their craft.

It is an insightful experience while also learning about the history of the Cherokee people and culture.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian

Museum of the Cherokee IndianSource: Wikimedia/Uli von Oben | CC BY-SA 4.0 InternationalPin

Ideally, this should be the first thing to do in Cherokee but the case may be, it is not a place to miss while on a visit or touring.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indians offers a lot of knowledge about the Cherokee culture, history, and art, as well as other indigenous tribes in the area.

The museum has a variety of exhibits, photographs, digital films, holographs and more that tell the story of the early indigenous people, the coming of Europeans, the Treaty of New Echota and the Trail of Tears. It is a must-see and should not be missed by anyone in Cherokee.

Cherokee Rapids River Tubing

Cherokee Rapids River TubingSource: Unsplash/Paul Pastourmatzis (Representative Image) | Unsplash LicensePin

Cherokee Rapids River Tubing is a great way to enjoy a ride over the clear water rippling through the canopy of trees.

This is the best way to enjoy a family vacation in the town and visitors get to have fun as water trickles down their toes on a hot summer day. It is a safe and fun place to be with scenic views of the Tuskasegee and Oconaluftee rivers.

There are rope swings, swimming holes and a lot more other outdoor activities to relax. Visit the Cherokee visitor center to locate the best spots from which to start exploring.

Smokemont Riding Stables

Smokemont Riding StablesSource: Unsplash/Kajetan Sumila (Representative Image) | Unsplash LicensePin

The last place to be on this trip sightseeing Cherokee is the Smokemont Riding Stables which is located 5 miles north of the town within the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

It has so many trails to explore on a horse with beautiful views on every corner. The Smokemont Riding Stables is home to a lot of horses which are well-trained and maintained by professionals to be friendly and easy to ride on.

For travellers who have never ridden a horse before, this is a must for you to get up close and personal with one


Cherokee is one of the best places to visit for those who would love to learn about the history and culture of the Native Americans.

The city is situated in the Great Smokey Mountains in Western North Carolina with plenty of top attractions to see. It has a lot of museums, parks, and mountain trails to explore whether as a traveller, visitor, or resident.

So, ensure to include this top destination on that bucket list of the best things to do on vacation.

  • Sarah ThackerPin

    Senior Travel Writer, Travelsc

    Sarah is a writer from Ohio, currently living in West Virginia. As an avid baking enthusiast, she always scopes out the best food in an area and can make gre...

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