While most think of Tennessee when it comes to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is a portion in North Carolina as well. The border between the states is dotted with scenic towns that make for an ideal weekend getaway.
Bryson City has its roots in the railroad, which still influences it today, while Cherokee is a Native American reservation that is the ancestral home of the tribes. Visitors come here to learn about the tribes’ history, the Trail of Tears, and modern traditions of dance and crafts.
This post contains affiliate links that generate revenue but using them won’t cost you anything extra.
What to Do
Museum of the Cherokee Indian– There’s nowhere better to learn about the Native peoples of this part of the United States. Exhibits include the 13,000 years of Cherokee history, the arrival of Europeans and their role in peace delegations, and traveling exhibits. 589 Tsali Boulevard, Cherokee
Ocanaluftee Indian Village– The village has been recreated like it might have been in the 1760s, complete with traditional Cherokee dwellings and ritual sites. Interpreters showcase cultural dances and crafts. 218 Drama Road, Cherokee
Unto These Hills– The large scale outdoor drama has been produced since 1950, telling the story of the Cherokees from 1780 to the present, including the Trail of Tears, in a mountainside theater. 688 Drama Road, Cherokee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park- This side of the park is accessible easily from Bryson City. Visit the Road to Nowhere, the Ocanaluftee Visitors Center, and the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill. Tail of the Dragon in Deals Gap is one of the iconic drives within the area.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad– This scenic train winds through the mountains of North Carolina on themed trips, including a trip past the set of The Fugitive. Stop by the Smoky Mountains Train Museum before you board. 45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City
Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians– It’s free to visit this museum that honors notable fly fishermen, displays on the types of equipment used in the early days of the sport, and flies made in the region. 210 Main Street, Bryson City
Nantahala Outdoors Center– Set along the river in the Nantahala Gorge, this is the premier outfitter for whitewater rafting, ziplining, mountain biking, and other adventure sports. Fly fishing and tubing are also popular nearby. They also have a casual eatery and accommodations. 13077 West Highway 19, Bryson City
Storytelling Center of the Southern Appalachians– This center seeks to collect, preserve, and interpret the musical and oral heritage of the region through public programs, events, and exhibitions. 225 Everett Street, Bryson City
Swain County Heritage Museum– Another free museum, this one is set in the historic courthouse and showcases the history of the region and its people through photos, artifacts, and informational panels. 12 Everett Street, Bryson City
Where to Eat
Everett Street Diner– Enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner at this downtown diner. Biscuits and gravy, waffles, and breakfast burritos are a few of the favorites. 126 Everett Street, Bryson City, (828) 488-0123
The High Test Deli– Decorated with automotive details, this deli has hearty sandwiches and soups along with salads and foot-long hot dogs with toppings piled high. Finish with dessert at their ice cream counter. 145 Everett Street, Bryson City, (828) 488-1919
La Dolce Vita Bakery– Sip on freshly brewed coffee and baked goods like pastries, cookies, and cakes. 191 Everett Street, Bryson City, (828) 538-4109
La Poblana– Every town needs a Mexican restaurant and this one is Bryson City’s. The extensive menu has favorites like quesadillas, fajitas, tortas, and huaraches. 1341 Main Street, Bryson City, (828) 488-1701
Loretta’s Snak Shak– Enjoy diverse daily specials from deli sandwiches to hot entrees to desserts. They also have hot dogs, burgers, and chicken tenders. 125 Everett Street, Bryson City, (828) 341-1999
Nabers Drive In– Enjoy carhop service at this old-school drive in, which serves homemade barbecue and classic milkshakes. Bring cash as they don’t take cards. 1245 Main St, Bryson City, (828) 488-2877
Where to Stay
A Loft in the Smokies– The space above a downtown boutique has been broken up into four rental apartments ideal for couples or groups. Each has kitchens, televisions, and laundry facilities. 115 Everett St, Bryson City
Calhoun House Hotel– Set in a historic home in downtown Bryson City, each room is decorated in period antiques and guests have access to daily breakfast and the hotel’s library. 135 Everett Street, Bryson City
The Everett Hotel– For a luxury experience in the heart of downtown, this former bank building turned hotel is a good choice. In addition to the stylish rooms, there’s a full-service restaurant and rooftop terrace. 16 Everett Street, Bryson City
Lakeview at Fontana– Known for its spa that overlooks the mountains, the rustic-chic resort has a swimming pool, daily breakfast, onsite yoga, nightly wine receptions, and access to hiking trails.171 Lakeview Lodge Drive, Bryson City
Whispering Winds Log Cabins– Stay in a riverside cabin for the full mountain experience. Each multi-room cabin is pet-friendly and has a large fireplace to warm up with. 140 Pams Way, Bryson City
Cherokee KOA– Camping is a popular option in this part of the state and this campground has all the bells and whistles for both tent camping and RVs as well as cabins. 92 KOA Campground Road, Cherokee
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino– Try your luck at this casino on the Cherokee tribal lands, which has dozens of restaurants, multiple gaming areas, and top of the line accommodations. 777 Casino Drive, Cherokee
Stonebrook Lodge– If you want to stay in Cherokee but not in the casino, this hotel across the street is a great option. Rooms are simple but guests get daily breakfast. 436 Paint Town Road, Cherokee
Rentals- Another option is rental properties in Cherokee and Bryson City, including the cabins found on Airbnb.