Top 6 North Carolina Attractions near Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The scenery and attractions don't stop at the park border.
For hometown hospitality, Native American culture, and scenic excursions, spend time on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This quieter side of the park offers relaxing, natural vacations away from the crowds. When you can tear yourself away from the scenery, hit these local North Carolina attractions.
1. Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee
What’s the number one North Carolina attraction next to the national park? Head for this outstanding multimedia museum to learn about the Southeast’s largest Native American tribe, the Cherokee Nation, then let their soaring spirit lead you to other sites on the Cherokee Heritage Trails. Be sure to ask which restaurant is serving “Indian dinner” while you’re in Cherokee. (cherokeemuseum.com)
2. Cataloochee Ranch, Maggie Valley
You can come here for a memorable stay, a family-style meal or a guided horseback ride, but the best part of any visit is listening to the daughters and grandchildren of Tom and Judy Alexander, who started the guest ranch in 1938. Its history is tied directly to that of the national park. (www.cataloocheeranch.com)
3. Wheels Through Time, Maggie Valley
The motorcycle bug bites here, home of the world’s premier collection of rare American motorcycles. The place, which has the feel of an old garage, also houses memorabilia, roadsters and other rare vehicles. (www.wheelsthroughtime.com)
4. Whitewater Rafting
Paddlers have their pick of rivers and rapids, from the gentlest on the Tuckasegee to the wildest on the Cheoah. The Bryson City area is a hub for it all with half a dozen outfitters leading trips on the Nantahala River. (www.greatsmokies.com/rafting.php)
5. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City
For another take on history and scenic mountain views, try an excursion on this historic rail line. Packages combine rides with rafting and zip line excursions, wine and moonshine, and child-centric events. (www.gsmr.com)
6. Brewery Trails: Waynesville and Sylva
Less than 20 miles apart, these small towns have seven breweries between them. Mix and match to explore two of North Carolina’s classic mountain towns.
For more information about attractions:
Visit NC Smokies Visitors Center
1110 Soco Road, Maggie Valley, NC 28751
Bryson City Visitor Center & Swain County Heritage Museum
Bryson City Courthouse, 210 Main Street, Bryson City, NC 28713
North Carolina Travel and Tourism