Cherokee is a town that is named after the Cherokee people, early settlers who have over 11,000 years of history in this beautiful location.
It is famous for holding many remnants of tribal history and being the primary settlement for many of that ethnic descent.
The town is full to the brim with numerous places to visit that are steeped in memories of the past centuries, natural environments full of endless beauty and diverse flora and fauna, and even great locations for outdoor experiences and sports.
Lots of different kinds of people visit the town, primarily those seeking a more laid-back, rural sort of experience that still doesn’t skimp on amenities and facilities.
Whether you’re coming with family, on a romantic trip, with friends, or by yourself, you’re sure to enjoy your time in this lovely locale.
The question is, what exactly should you do while you’re here?
Here are our choices for the 18 best and fun things to do in Cherokee, North Carolina.
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Cherokee, NC.
It takes up a whopping 800 square miles of unfiltered natural landscape and has the much-deserved title of being the national park with the most visitors in all of America.
There are over 300 miles worth of roads that wind through and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it a great destination for wide-reaching exploration this weekend.
Driving on these roads is probably the fastest way to learn about all the different historic sites, lookout points with great views, and unique forest features, but entering the park itself is the most ideal way to immerse yourself in its glory.
Biking trails, hiking trails, riding trails, campsites, campgrounds, picnic spots, exhibition areas, and creeks for fishing are all fantastic ways to spend your time at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The flora and fauna in the park are also incredibly diverse for wildlife watchers.
Most visitors will need more than a day to feel satisfied exploring this large and gorgeous park, so plan accordingly!
2. Mountain Farm Museum
The Mountain Farm Museum is a unique feature of Cherokee, a thriving collection of farm structures and buildings dating back to the 1800s, all frozen in time as they transport you back to the 19th century in a fun experience.
A dirt path leads you into the Mountain Farm Museum, and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by many different buildings that each offer many things to see.
All built throughout the 1800s, most of them were individually relocated to the current site in the 1950s.
Every single structure here has a unique story to tell, but they all hold relevance to history today.
To begin with, there’s the gorgeous home built by John Davis, originally constructed in 1900 next to Indian Creek.
The house is rustic, made with chestnut logs decorated with notches of dovetail style.
There are also “commercial” types of structures.
A meat house, chicken house, springhouse for refrigeration, and apple house are all brought in from many different mountain farms.
A pair of corncribs are relocated from Thomas Divide, a blacksmith shop has been taken from Cades Cove and still works now, and agricultural practices are showcased for visitors.
The only building not relocated here is the barn, which was technically moved by 180 meters but originated on this site in 1880.
It boasts 16,000 shingles, all hand-split, in its make.
It’s a truly magnificent wonder next to other buildings like a woodshed, a sorghum press for molasses, a hog pen, and an ash hopper used in soapmaking for lye-extraction.
Address: Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
3. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is situated within a beautiful mountain setting, and it might be the town’s best resort and visitor location.
It’s filled with stuff to do and isn’t just a casino alone, boasting a wide range of facilities and friendly, helpful staff.
There are more than a thousand rooms at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort arranged across 21 floors in total.
Shops and restaurants liven up the resort, as well as a gym, spa, two swimming pools, live music, karaoke, and even occasional concerts.
Of course, there’s the titular casino that you can play in, or you can head to one of the golf courses close to the property.
Address: 777 Casino Dr, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
4. Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine
The Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine is a fantastic way to follow in the footsteps of the old great prospectors and gold miners from the pioneer days.
It’s one of the places to visit for those with kids, who can spend hours mining for mini-treasures, seeking out gemstones, gold, and more while getting their hands dirty and muddy.
After you’ve found your stones, you can bring them to a location onsite where they can be polished and identified, and then you can bring them home.
You can also opt to have them set into jewelry or turned into something more tangible, or simply purchase a souvenir from the gift shop, which sells gems, jewelry, and panning equipment.
People of all ages can enjoy digging in this North Carolina “mine”!
Address: 971 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
5. Museum of the Cherokee Indian
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is home to artifacts that preserve and showcase more than 13,000 years of native history.
This is home to an exhibit that USA Today rated on its list of the ten greatest Native American Experiences.
But even without that ranking, this is still an amazing place to learn about this rich topic in history, and the museum is one of the fun things to do in Cherokee, NC.
The exhibits at this museum consist of photographs, artifacts, art, video, films, music, animations, holographs, and figures of life-size scale.
For kids, graphic panels and pop-up books allow for easier learning, and computer-generated effects and animations create an entertaining and engaging learning experience.
Apart from its showcases, the museum also offers a wide range of programs, including arts and crafts lessons and a Heritage Trail hike led by native members of the Eastern Band.
There are also workshops that teach you all sorts of native skills, lectures that teach you about the people’s history, and a large store of crafts, books, and clothing.
Address: 589 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
6. Unto These Hills Cherokee Theatre
The Unto These Hills Cherokee Theatre has been providing entertainment to visitors at Mountainside Theatre since 1950.
The local tribe and the drama department of the University of North Carolina come together to tell the tale of the Trail of Tears.
The Trail of Tears involves a historical event that stretched from 1780 to the 21st century.
16,000 Native Americans from the eastern regions were relocated against their will to the Mississippi River’s west.
Traditional music, dance performances, and more are also held at the theatre, and they accompany the production.
The Mountainside Theatre, which seats 2,800, puts on a production of Unto These Hills every night from June to August.
The theatre is an outdoor amphitheater that is located on a lovely hillside, allowing you to watch the show with a forest backdrop.
It’s easy to see why this is one of the town’s tourist attractions!
Address: 564 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
7. Oconaluftee Indian Village
The Oconaluftee Indian Village is a living museum that allows you to learn a huge amount about the 16th-century lifestyle of the Cherokee people.
A cultural expert brings you through the interactive life museum, teaching you about the community that lived in this part of North Carolina.
The Oconaluftee Indian Village has many options for what to see, all teaching you through lifelike structures that resemble the homes, working areas, and even sacred sites.
You’ll learn about traditional crafts like basket weaving, canoe building, and dancing, and you’ll even get to see a fun blowgun demonstration during war reenactment.
Address: 218 Drama Road, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
8. Cherokee Rapids Tube and Kayak Rentals
Not sure what to do in Cherokee?
One of the activities that you shouldn’t miss out on is the Cherokee Rapids Tube and Kayak Rentals.
No visit to this nature-filled historical town in North Carolina is complete without spending time on the delightful Oconaluftee River.
While it’s fair to simply swim in it, you should also try using a kayak or tube!
The grade I and II rapids of the Oconaluftee River are well worth kayaking and boating on.
A two-mile river section gives you plenty of space to float and row.
The team at the Rapids Tube and Kayak Rentals will transport you to the correct destination with a bus and provide you with the necessary kit.
Now all you have to do is float happily along your way!
It’s a lazy and serene way to spend the day, and you can take as long as you like to chill out in the tranquil water, even stopping to swim whenever you like.
Rapids and obstacles pose some challenges, but they’re not dangerous within the correct stretch, so it’s just a bit of excitement.
When you’re done with your hours on the rapids, head out and stop by the candy store and ice-cream shop at the exit.
It’s an awesome family-friendly way to spend your time, though children have to be older than 5.
If you’re not sure what tube sizes to use, staff will be happy to help you!
Address: 1681 Acquoni Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
9. Mingo Falls
Mingo Falls is one of the free things to do in North Carolina.
It’s not technically among Cherokee attractions, but it’s such a staple tourist hotspot and is near enough to the town that most people make it a part of their itinerary when they’re in the area – and you should, too!
It’s just between ten and fifteen minutes away from town and makes for a great photo location.
Close to the famous great Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Mingo Falls tower more than 120 feet into the air, essentially making them the tallest of those in the southern Appalachian Mountains – and the most impressive.
The Mingo Falls Campground is easily accessible via Big Cove Road if you want to stay overnight or for longer.
To get to Mingo Falls itself, you need to travel from Mingo Falls Campground using Pigeon Creek Trail.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at the waterfall’s viewing platform.
Do note that the trail, despite only being half a mile in length, boasts a rather challenging 160 climbable steps, so plan accordingly.
Still, getting to the peak is wonderful and rewarding!
Address: Big Cove Road Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee, NC, United States
10. Santa’s Land Fun Park and Zoo
Santa’s Land Fun Park and Zoo is only three miles away from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s southern entrance, and despite its name, it’s open from May to October and appeals to people of all ages.
Since 1966, it’s been a bright and exciting location for excited lovers of Christmas and the season of festivities and giving.
There are many activities you can enjoy here, including miniature train rides, sleigh rides, a petting zoo packed with exotic animals like monkeys, kangaroos, and bears, a lake that allows for paddle boating, magic shows, an arcade and game room, and even a Rudolph-led roller coaster.
There’s also a gift shop with delicious funnel cakes, fudge, and snowcones.
To tie up this awesome experience, you can head to a little hideaway that Santa uses, where you can meet Father Christmas himself and get a diploma for “good conduct”!
Who would have guessed that Santa lives in North Carolina?
Address: 571 Wolfetown Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
11. Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc
A trip to Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc is one of the top things to do in Cherokee, NC.
East of the Mississippi, it’s the biggest location for authentic crafts and arts of native make.
It’s also the leading – and oldest – Native American Arts Cooperative in the country!
Basically, it’s the most iconic place to head to if you’re seeking genuine traditional native crafts.
The salespeople at Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc are all Cherokee.
They are friendly and very knowledgeable, able to provide you with detailed information about each and every single craft sold.
Baskets, masks, pottery, jars, jewelry, and more are all available, all hand-made, one-of-a-kind, and as authentic as it gets.
The Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc has been open since 1946 and promotes more than 350 artisans and their work.
Each item is tagged with the name of its native artist, and their story is one you can hear and feel.
It’s really magical to be among all these amazing items, etched, carved, woven and made with techniques that date back thousands of years.
Address: 645 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
If thrill and excitement is what you seek, you’d want to check out Charlotte and Fayetteville! If you do plan the trip, here are some of the best things to do in Charlotte, NC, and some fun things to do in Fayetteville, NC!
12. Sequoyah National Golf Club
The Sequoyah National Golf Club can be found in Whitter, just about 3 miles outside of the town.
It’s a go-to in North Carolina and its course is aesthetically pleasing, with a decent amount of things to see along the way as you play.
The Sequoyah National Golf Club is designed by the great Robert Trent Jones II, and you may recognize his magnificent talent and style.
Every single hole boasts a little historic twist thanks to the wonders of the land surrounding you. 6,057 yards of land, with bluegrass fairways and bentgrass, offer an enriching experience.
The course at the Sequoyah National Golf Club can be a little complex, with a mix of 5 par 3 and 5 par 5 areas.
The terrain makes things more difficult occasionally, so you’ll want to bring lots of golf balls.
Of course, you can always opt to hit some on the range instead!
Regardless, this golf club is considered one of the nation’s very greatest!
Address: 79 Cahons Rd, Whittier, NC 28789, United States
13. Smokemont Riding Stables
The Smokemont Riding Stables are among the horse-related Cherokee attractions, located inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but great enough to deserve their own place!
Situated only five minutes to the north of Cherokee, they offer a wide range of different trails within the national park, with gorgeous scenery on all sides.
Many different horses call the Smokemont Riding Stables, and they’re all well-trained to be easy to ride, with friendly personalities.
They’re great for many different levels of experience with riding, and beginners can learn the ropes here.
Guides are helpful, knowledgeable, and eager to teach!
Most trails range from 2 to 4 hours in duration, many taking you to places along the rushing Oconaluftee River.
There are also shorter and longer rides to suit all preferences.
Kids over five years of age can ride, but if you have younger children with you, you can instead opt for a calming wagon ride!
Address: 135 Smokemont Riding Stables Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
14. Cherokee Bear Zoo
The Cherokee Bear Zoo may be quite a niche, but that just makes it one of the most delightful places to visit for its target audience in North Carolina!
The lovely location is packed with many different species of majestic bears, ranging from grizzlies to black bears.
You’ll get to watch them eat, play, and live their daily lives.
Aside from just bears, there are other animals that call this zoo their home.
Tigers and lemurs are among the other options that you can observe.
It’s a lovely, relaxing place where you can get close to animals in a safe and easy way!
Address: 1204 Tsalagi Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
15. Fire Mountain Trails
The Fire Mountain Trails are a newer source for excitement and adventure in the city, and it’s one of the most fun things to do in Cherokee, NC, this weekend.
These trails are multi-use, comprising a network of over 10.5 miles in total where you can run, bike, or hike.
Located pretty near to Oconaluftee Indian Village, the Fire Mountain Trails are popular because of the flow of their different roads, packed with all sorts of features like quick, easy elevation, berms, rock gardens, blinds, tables, and more.
Different sections boast different difficulty levels.
There are single-track roads, areas that are quick and smooth, and more challenging and bumpy trails.
The Fire Mountain Trails incur no fee to use, making them one of the better free things to do in town.
Better yet, the trails may lace through the Great Smoky Mountains in some places, providing beautiful views.
Address: State Rd 1361, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
16. Sassy Sunflowers Bakery and Cafe
Sassy Sunflowers Bakery and Cafe is one of the most popular eateries of its kind in Cherokee, North Carolina.
It boasts a delicious menu packed with all sorts of interesting offerings, ranging from fuller meals to smaller snacks.
Its uniqueness is one that makes it one of the town’s tourist attractions, in a way!
The menu at Sassy Sunflowers Bakery and Cafe is packed with many traditional, common favorites, served with little twists that add healthy value to each bite.
There are also options for vegetarians, vegans, and those eating gluten-free.
Salads and soups serve as great starters while cookies and other desserts add a succulent end to each meal.
Coffees, teas, juices, and smoothies are among the offered drinks.
You can opt to sit on the outdoor seating on a nice day, too!
Address: 1655 Acquoni Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
17. Mingus Mill
Mingus Mill is situated close to the Mountain Farm Museum.
It’s one of North Carolina’s most historic locations, surrounded by many other landmarks and beautiful hiking trails.
It dates back to 1886 and offers all sorts of cornmeal for sale in its shop.
Mingus Mill is all about native history, and it’s something natural and lovely that has to be seen for its appeal to be understood.
It’s a water-powered mill that is still in operation, used for grinding corn.
The turbine, sluice, and many other components are still fully workable, so you can see them in action!
Address: Mingus Creek Trail, Cherokee, NC 28719, United States
18. Soco Falls
Looking for some of the most beautiful places in America?
Soco Falls is one of this town’s most beautiful spots, and a visit is an excellent option for what to do in town.
It’s one of many native waterways, with lush greenery all around and a secluded, intimate location that adds to the cascading water’s magic.
A double waterfall, Soco Falls’ higher waterfall measures 120 feet, and an observation deck can be easily climbed up to if you want to get a nice look at the rush from above.
In the 1700s, the Soco Gap was used by natives as an access point and entrance to their settlements, so there’s plenty of historical value here, too!
Address: US-19, Maggie Valley, NC 28751, United States
Start Planning Your Trip To Cherokee
With a huge range of Cherokee attractions in this North Carolina town, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in deep history, engage in natural attractions and parkland, and enjoy the wonders of this relaxing location.
You’ll love your trip here, and hopefully, this list helps you add the right vacation spots to your itinerary.