Things to Do in Cherokee NC

9 Best Things to Do in Cherokee, NC

By Olivia Williams

Discover the top 9 must-try activities in Cherokee, NC! From cultural experiences to outdoor adventures, explore the best things to do in this vibrant destination.

Located right outside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Cherokee is home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

If you are interested in learning more about history, a new culture, or exploring nature, then Cherokee, NC is the perfect place for you!

Around 2000 BC, the Cherokee were hunter/gatherers who resided in the Great Smoky Mountains. They expressed their culture through dancing, ceremonies, and storytelling.

In 1830, the Cherokee were removed from their land and forced to travel about 1200 miles on foot to the west. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians was established by a group that resisted and/or returned to the area.

Museum of the Cherokee People - Things to Do in Cherokee NC
Museum of the Cherokee People – Things to Do in Cherokee NC

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From hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to exploring museums, Cherokee has something for everyone. Now, let’s get into the 9 best things to do in Cherokee, NC!

Editor’s note: We ensure the accuracy of our guides through thorough fact-checking. The information in this guide reflects the most current details available as of Feb 2024.

Best & Fun Things to Do in Cherokee, North Carolina: Can’t-Miss Attractions

#1 Drive On the Blue Ridge Parkway

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469 miles long, the Blue Ridge Parkway is known as “America’s Favorite Drive.” Spanning from Virginia to North Carolina, there is a ton of amazing stops along the way to admire the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. You can drive as far (or as little) as you would like.

If you are getting on the road in Cherokee, We recommend doing the three-hour drive to Asheville for beautiful views. Stop at Waterrock Knob, Devils Courthouse, and Graveyard Fields for short hikes with amazing overlooks.

If you plan on driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, make sure to download a map in advance. There are plenty of places where cell service will be weak, and it is easy to miss the good pull-offs.

Before you plan on a journey, there are a few alerts by the park:

  • There may be temporary traffic closures along the parkway due to inclement weather, maintenance tasks, or emergency situations. Thus, it is preferable to check in advance. The NPS consistently provides updates on the status of Parkway sections, indicating if they are closed, open, or ungated, on the NPS website.
  • Several Parkway portions undergo winter maintenance operations by park staff from late fall to winter. All uses throughout the workday must be completely blocked off with two lanes due to these daily closures. To find out what’s scheduled for a given season, please refer to recent press releases and the park’s social media accounts.
  • Due to the parkway’s high elevation and subsequent colder, wetter, and windier climate, there may be temporary closures due to winter weather. For updates on the state of the roads, please visit the page dedicated to road and facility closures.

If you want more information on the Blue Ridge Parkway, check out their website here.

#2 Visit Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls is a beautiful 120 ft waterfall located about 5 miles from downtown Cherokee. If you can, visit right after a big rain to see the waterfall at its fullest.

While it is only a short 1/4 mile hike from the parking lot, there are 161 stairs! If you are looking for a workout during your trip to Cherokee, visit Mingo Falls!

Where: Find on Maps

#3 Learn About Cherokee History at the Museum of the Cherokee People

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We highly recommend visiting the Museum of the Cherokee People to learn more about the tribe’s history and culture. While some museums are boring, this one is not! It is interactive and does a great job of immersing you in history and culture.

If you would like more information on the Museum of the Cherokee People, including operating hours and ticket prices, check out their website here.

Where: Find on Maps

#4 Watch the “Unto These Hills” Performance

If you are visiting Cherokee during the summer, be sure to attend the drama Unto These Hills. This outdoor performance tells the story of the Cherokee people from the year 1780 to the twenty-first century.

While it is family-friendly, there are violent, action-packed scenes and moments that will move you to tears.

Find on Maps: Unto These Hills Ticket Office | Unto These Hills, Outdoor Drama

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#5 Visit Mingus Mill

Built-in 1886, Mingus Mill is a water-powered mill that was used to grind corn into cornmeal. During the summer, there is an operator on-site daily to demonstrate how the old mill works and you can purchase some cornmeal.

You also can take a nice hike on the Mingus Mill Trailhead.

Note: Mingus Mill is closed temporarily for restoration and preservation efforts. You can check the latest updated here on the NPS website.

Where: Find on Maps

#6 Have Fun at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino

Even if you are not a gambler, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is a great place to hang out during your visit to Cherokee. They often have big concerts and performances, just be sure to get tickets in advance.

They also offer an arcade, bowling alley, restaurants, and spa. When visiting Cherokee, we recommend staying here for a more upscale experience. Otherwise, bring a tent and enjoy some camping!

If you want to learn more about the casino or book your next stay, check out their website.

Where: Find on Maps

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#7 Visit Oconaluftee Indian Village

Transport yourself back in time with a visit to the Oconaluftee Indian Village! You will follow a guided path full of traditional Cherokee housing, ritual sites, and workstations.

Admire the local Cherokee’s craft baskets, canoes, pottery, and so much more. You also will get to see a blowdart demonstration. The Oconaluftee Indian Village makes for a great fun thing to do while visiting Cherokee.

Where: Find on Maps

#8 Admire the Elk

Herds of Elk can be spotted in Cherokee, especially near the Oconaluftee visitor center. Once plentiful in the Appalachian mountains, the elk population quickly declined in the 18th century due to overhunting.

In 2001, the Elk was successfully brought back to the area, and they are now thriving! Be sure to keep your camera on you to get some amazing pictures.

Things to keep in mind if you encounter Elk:

  • They are wild animals, so don’t get too close. They have injured people before.
  • It is illegal to get within 150 ft of one.
  • Do not stop on a busy street where it may be dangerous for you to pullover.
  • Don’t try and feed them.

Where: Mostly around Oconaluftee visitor center (Find on Maps)

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#9 Go Hiking in and near Cherokee, NC

Hiking Near Cherokee - Things to Do in Cherokee NC
Hiking Near Cherokee – Things to Do in Cherokee NC

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If you enjoy hiking, you will love both the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the hiking areas in Cherokee! There are many different trails to choose from.

You can hike to the top of a summit, admire a beautiful waterfall, and take in all the amazing views. Pack water, snacks, and lunch to go on a nice day hike.

Here are some of our favorite hikes near Cherokee:

If you plan to go hiking while visiting Cherokee, we highly recommend investing in some good hiking equipment, especially boots.

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Now You Know the Best Things to Do in Cherokee, NC

Cherokee, North Carolina, is an amazing place to visit if you are interested in history, culture, and nature. Gather your friends and family, pack a tent, and escape to the relaxing, smoky mountains of NC.

While you are visiting Cherokee, we also recommend that you check out Bryson City for a charming, small-town experience and to go on a train ride through the smokies.

Now that you have information on 9 fun things to do in Cherokee, are you ready to plan your trip? 

A virtual walk through Cherokee, North Carolina

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