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Cherokee [1] is a town in Swain County, North Carolina within the Qualla Boundary, the proper name of the Cherokee Indian (Eastern Band) Reservation.


This is the center of Cherokee culture in North Carolina (and indeed the eastern United States). Many natives call this area home, the Cherokee language is also spoken by many in this area. The town was established by the Cherokee who stayed behind while the US Government forced them west in the Trail of Tears. Those who stayed behind hid in the mountains that now make up the Great Smokey Mountains National Park [2].

The Cherokee people are eastern Native Americans, do not ask them where the tipis are. Tipis were made by western Native Americans. The Cherokee people lived in houses made of woven grass covered with mud, and after the European settlers arrived, log cabins.

Cherokee is one of the gateways to the [Great Smokey Mountains National Park], and it's economy is mainly tourism based. There is no "downtown" to Cherokee; the entire built up area is mainly composed of hotels and tourist shops selling "Indian" themed merchandise.

Get in[edit]

Cherokee is only accessible by mountain roads. Most visitors will come from the direction of Knoxville or Asheville.

Get around[edit]

The only way to "get around" is with your own vehicle. There might be a taxi service in town, but it would be mainly for locals use. Many of the larger hotels have a shuttle service.

See[edit][add listing]

Sadly, there isn't much to see in Cherokee. The town mainly exists because of its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and its only other attraction is it's the traditional homeland of the Cherokee people. See the "Do" section below for other attractions.

Do[edit][add listing]

Visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village [3] ($15) and learn about Cherokee Native American culture. The tour takes you through various live demonstrations of Cherokee life, including two educational and informative talks. The description says it shows a "typical day in a Cherokee village", but that's stretching it. There are several small stands when you walk in, one shows a person forming clay pots, another weaving baskets, and another displaying arrowheads. There is a man burning wood to hollow out of log for a canoe. But to say this is an accurate description of a typical village is a lie. There are no children running around, no one is cooking food. You could easily see everything in 30 minutes, and it isn't really worth the cost of entry.

There is also The Museum of the Cherokee Indian [4] ($9), which is a small, dimly lit affair mainly filled with arrow heads and pottery shards. Some of the displays are so poorly lit people were using mobile phones to read the descriptions.

A popular attraction in Cherokee is Harrah's Casino, which is owned by the local Cherokee tribe. There are a limited number of other attractions in the area, most of which are related either to Indian culture or natural landmarks.

Buy[edit][add listing]

The entire built-up area of Cherokee is tourist stores, almost all of which sell Indian-themed merchandise. There is a grocery store on the outskirts of town. If you stop at one of these tourist stores, you've pretty much stopped at all of them.

One stand-out is the Talking Leaves Native American Bookstore [5] (Highway 441 & Highway 19 Intersection) which has a huge inventory of Native American books which would make any university library proud. They also sell clothing and Native American-made jewelry. Bookstore is owned and operated by a Native American woman.

If you really want to learn about the Cherokee people and other Native Americans, stop here and buy a few books. All you'll get in the tourist shops is cheap trinkets and fudge.

Eat[edit][add listing]

There are several locally owned restaurants offering typical American food, but sadly no Native American food. The town panders to it's primary tourist base who tend to be Southern Americans. There are also some franchises such as McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), of course.

Drink[edit][add listing]

There are several biker bars in the town, and several hotels have bars. You can also drink at the casino.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Cherokee has no shortage of hotels, motels and Inns. Best you just drive around and look before you leap, as quite a few appear to be on the verge of collapsing. If you want to support the locals, stay in a local-owned motel, not one of the large chains.

  • Best Western Great Smokies Inn, Highway 441 N & Aquoni Road, +1 828 497-2020, Fax: +1 828 497-3903, [6].
  • Cherokee Microtel Inn & Suites, 674 Casino Trail, +1 828 497-7800, Fax: +1 828 497-7803, [7].
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Cherokee, 568 Painttown Road, +1 828 497-0400, Fax: +1 828 497-4040, [8].
  • Chestnut Tree Inn Cherokee, 37 Tsalagi Road, +1 828 497-9181, [9].
  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 376 Painttown Road, +1 828 497-3113, [10].
  • Magnuson Hotel Great Smokies Inn, 1593 Acquoni Road, 866.904.1309, [11]. This Magnuson Hotels affiliate is the closest hotel to the entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  edit
  • Raccoon Ridge Properties, 162 Everett Street, 828.399.9765, [12]. Offering several privately owned cabins for rent. Raccoon Ridge Properties has owned and managed luxury cabins in the Bryson City/Cherokee area since 2005. They pride themselves in providing the highest quality and comfort at an affordable price. Raccoon Ridge Properties strives to make your next vacation to the mountains a memorable one. Their selection includes waterfront and mountain view cabins.  edit

Get out[edit]

Routes through Cherokee
AshevilleMaggie Valley  N noframe S  MurphyAtlanta

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