How to Spend a Perfect Day in Cherokee, North Carolina

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Outside of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Caroline

History. Culture. Adventure. Natural beauty. What small town in the mountains of North Carolina possesses all of these things? Cherokee, North Carolina. Let’s check out this unique stop at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Blue mountain ranges with pine trees in the foreground is the view of the Great Smoky Mountains from Clingmans Dome in Cherokee, North Carolina.

About Cherokee, North Carolina

Sitting in the heart of western North Carolina, Cherokee offers travelers rich history and culture. Because of this, Cherokee is a tourist-oriented area with attractions, shows, and events for travelers of all ages. One of the most popular events is the drama “Unto These Hills,” performed in an open-air mountainside theatre. This historical drama recounts the story of the Cherokee people. But history and culture aren’t the only qualities you’ll find in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Cherokee offers spectacular views and adventures for outdoors types and bird watchers. Only a short drive from Clingmans Dome, the tallest point in the Great Smoky Mountains, Cherokee is a prime area to take in nature. Horseback riding, birding, hiking, biking, fishing, and more await you in this small North Carolina town.

Since Cherokee lies in the mountainous region of North Carolina, winters can be cold and snowy. But for the majority of the year, the weather is calm and comfortable, with the prime tourist season generally going from May to September.

And you can’t mention Cherokee, North Carolina, without talking about Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Hit the gaming tables or enjoy the luxury of Mandara Spa.

Morning in Cherokee 

As you start your day in Cherokee, get a filling breakfast to fuel your adventures.

Get Breakfast at Granny’s Kitchen

Granny’s Kitchen offers southern, homestyle cooking. This is the place to be first thing in the morning (though it’s closed on Mondays).

Address: 1098 Painttown Rd. (US 19 North), Cherokee, NC 28719

Menu Options: Enjoy different southern dishes served buffet-style for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Reasons to Love It: From smoked sausage and grits for breakfast to chicken and dumplings and fried okra for lunch or dinner, visiting Granny’s Kitchen always offers a satisfying meal. Come experience some true southern cooking.

Visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian

After breakfast, take a seven-minute drive down to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Tickets start at $12. You’ll learn about 13,000 years of history about the Cherokee people. View ancient artifacts like the atlatl, a hunting weapon from the Archaic period, and blowguns, hunting weapons from the Woodland period. There’s also a Trail of Tears exhibit. You can learn about contemporary Cherokees who still live in the area. 

Afternoon in Cherokee

You might need a pit stop after your tour, but there’s lots more to see and do in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Eat Lunch at Brio Italian Grille

Take a seven-minute drive from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and enjoy lunch at Brio Italian Grille. Brio Italian Grille offers delicious pasta and Italian dishes.

Address: 777 Casino Dr., Cherokee, NC 28719

Menu Options: Choose from a variety of pasta dishes like fettuccine alfredo or spaghetti bolognese. Or go lighter with a healthy salad option. They also serve other land and sea offerings like lobster, chicken, and steak. And finish with tiramisu for dessert.

Reasons to Love It: With so many delicious pasta dishes to choose from, you’ll have your hands full deciding which one to try. And with daily lunch specials, you’ll enjoy a salad, entree, and sourdough bread for only $12. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village

After filling up on pasta and bread, head over to the Oconaluftee Indian Village for a unique experience. A Cherokee cultural expert will lead you along the way as you visit with villagers living as if it’s the 1760s. Hulling canoes, sculpting pottery, and weaving baskets are a few ways you’ll experience history right before your eyes. 

Spending an Evening in Cherokee 

After a long day enjoying the history and culture of Cherokee, North Carolina, you’ll want to sit down and savor dinner. You can also take a beautiful sunset drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Get Dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Ruth’s Chris Steak House isn’t unique to Cherokee; it’s known for its delicious steak dinners across the country. You can’t go wrong getting dinner here.

Address: 777 Casino Dr., Cherokee, NC 28719

Menu Options: If you’ve never visited a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, you’re missing out on scrumptious USDA prime beef. Known for their 500-degree plates, these locations offer filets, ribeyes, New York strips, and T-bones along with shrimp, crab cakes, and lobster tails. This legendary steakhouse won’t disappoint.

Reasons to Love It: The history of Ruth’s Chris Steak House centers around one woman, Ruth Fertel, who bought a steak house in New Orleans in 1965. Enduring struggles that many single moms and restaurant owners face, Ruth’s story truly inspires.

Take a Sunset Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway

You can’t visit Cherokee, North Carolina, without taking a drive on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. Breathtaking overlooks accompany this 469-mile adventure through the Appalachian Mountains. Depending on the time of year, you’ll see stunning orange, red, and yellow fall foliage or blossoming dogwoods and rhododendrons in spring.

Find a spot and embrace the glow of the sunset over these beautiful, blue mountains as the day comes to an end. If you don’t mind the drive, venture out to Waterrock Knob (about 40-45 minutes from Cherokee). This overlook sits on top of a ridge that faces the sunset.

A Day in Cherokee 

Although you can spend several days in this area, if you have just one day to visit Cherokee, you’ll find a unique experience in this small western North Carolina town. Put Cherokee, North Carolina, on your list of places to visit when you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains or Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Have you ever swung by Cherokee?

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