Located in the Swain County, Cherokee is a small town in North Carolina and comes in the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Well, this is the home of the Cherokee culture as well as the Cherokee language still spoken by several folks. For the tourists, it acts as the gateway to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Featuring a tourism-based economy, Cherokee has no ‘downtown’ as the overall zone encompasses tourist shops vending the ‘Indian’ themed junk and hotels. So, most of the Cherokee NC attractions involve activities instead of the sights.
The town is only reachable by mountain roads and that visitors come here from Knoxville or Asheville. The only way to explore the town is via your own vehicle. Although there are some taxis, they are mostly for locals. If you do not have your own vehicle, do not worry; a majority of the big hotels offers the shuttle service.
One of the must to attend Cherokee NC attractions is the ‘Unto These Hills’ that refers to an inspiring drama in the outdoors, which reveals the tragic story of the people living here. It starts from the deSoto’s arrival in 1540 and makes its own way up to a moving climax featuring an unkind removal of a Cherokee remnant on the ill-famed Trail of Tears. Also, go through the spectacle of the real fiestas along with the internationally acclaimed Eagle Dance that is performed in the wonderful Mountainside Theatre on the US Highway 441.
In the same area is the Cherokee Indian Museum housing an extensive collection of the regional artifacts such as 10000-year-old pottery made by the unknown folks as well as spear points that are centuries old. By the way, this museum is in the region of the Cherokee Indian Reservation. We know that the nearby Smoky Mountains are the real homes of the black bear, but it is not that easy to look for them in the wild. That is why the Cherokee Bear Zoo, one of the top Cherokee NC attractions, is must a visit for all those who love the bears. This is where all the animals have personal names, which make your trip interesting. So, get ready to see and feed the black bears along with the other native wilds such as the deer, ground hogs, and raccoons along with the tigers and monkeys.
If you are with your family, you just cannot miss to explore the Santa’s Land – a zoo-cum-theme park boasting a Christmas setting as the name suggests. The younger members can enjoy the paddle boats, Santa’s Express Train, Rudicoaster, carousel, kiddie kars, and ferris wheel; while the kids can explore the zoo to feed the baby bears, Rudolph, and tigers. In addition, they can also spot other animals such as goats, deer, sheep, monkeys, llamas, turkeys, pigs, peacocks, and rabbits.
Do take a tour of the Conaluftee Indian Village that takes you into the past via a replica of the Cherokee hamlet that is 225 years old! Adventure awaits you further at the Deep Creek where you can experience tubing, camping with showers, horse riding, and hiking. And yes, from here, you can also visit the Indian Creek Falls, Tom’s Branch Falls, and Juney Whank Falls all within a mile hike. However, the most spectacular one is the Mingo Falls at 120 feet, which is among the most impressive Western North Carolina Falls. The ascent to this fall is really steep making you pass through the 170 steps followed by an easy hike trail. So, people with heart or breathing problems should not go for this one.
The 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail is for the adventurous meandering across the valleys and alongside the ridge crests in the Appalachian Mountains. Here, the highest point is the Clingman’s Dome from where you can enjoy a panoramic vista of the mountains at 6,643 feet. And yes, a 54-foot observation tower allows you to view up to 100 miles reaching 7 states on a clear day.
For a budget traveler, good accommodation options can be Hotel Inn from $53 and Sylva Inn for $55.
Best time to visit
June, July, October, avoid July and August as they are very hot.