Top 10 Things to do in Cherokee This Summer | Cherokee, NC

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Top 10 Things to do in Cherokee This Summer

Grab your calendar and take note! With so much going on this summer in Cherokee, you won’t want to miss a thing. Here are ten must-see, must-do experiences to top the list for your Cherokee vacation. You’ll want several days to explore so be sure to book a place to stay. Call us at 800.438.1601 and we’ll help get you set up.​


The Cherokee Powwow is the largest powwow on the east coast, drawing contestants and spectators from all over the world. At this three-day event, July 5 to July 7, 2019, you can see colorful tribal regalia and experience authentic Indian dancing, drumming, and food. Don’t miss the Grand Entry (shown above), when as many as 500 dancers come into the arena together and dance for points. There’s also an amazing fireworks display that lights up the sky on July 6. 

See the Outdoor Drama

Deputing in 1950, "Unto These Hills" is one of the oldest outdoor dramas in the United States. The story follows the Cherokee leader, Tsali, and his family during the time of the Indian Removal Act.  It’s a performance filled with songs, dance, and riveting action sequences. Get there early to catch the pre-show (30 minutes before the main performance at 8 p.m.), featuring Cherokee songs and dance.​ The 2019 season runs June 1 to August 17.

Free, Family-Friendly Entertainment

The Cherokee Bonfire features Cherokee storytellers sharing tales, music, dance, and history around a glowing fire. During the break, marshmallows are handed out for roasting! This summer, there's an expanded lineup, with bonfires taking place from 5-7 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from May 22-August 31st and October 2-October 25. (Note there is no Bonfire Series in September.) This year Music by the River also takes place on more nights, across two different stages. This open-air musical series features performances with genres including rock, blues, jazz, country, and gospel. Catch Music by the River on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6–8 p.m. in downtown Cherokee at the Beetle Stage (by the Welcome Center), and from 7–9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings at the River Stage (Downtown).

The Cherokee Concert Series 

New this year, the Cherokee Summer Concert Series is a lineup of shows at the Cherokee Fair Grounds on select Fridays and Saturday, with popular headliners including Edwin McCain, Colt Ford, Kevin Locke, Eve 6, The Kentucky Headhunters, Drive-By Truckers, and Uncle Si & The Sicotics. The shows span different musical styles, including good ol’ country and blues, rock ‘n; roll, hip-hop, soul—and there’s even a flute festival in the mix! Check out the Cherokee Concert Series dates, times, and lineups. Buy day passes or save with a combo pass. While you’re at it, book a hotel, bring some friends, and make a weekend out of it!

Shop Cherokee Made

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual Inc., is the nation’s oldest Native American co-op, with the work of over 250 master artists on display, and available for purchase. From mesmerizing baskets, sculpture, pottery, weaving, jewelry, and more, each piece is expertly handmade. No two pieces are alike! It’s the best representation of Eastern Cherokee craft in the world. The annual Open Air Indian Market on August 24, 2019, is a chance to meet the makers and support their art.

Play in Nature

Take in the beauty of Cherokee’s waterfalls: Mingo Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the southern Appalachians, and Soco Falls, a double, “twin” fall (shown above). With the new Fire Mountain Trail System you can walk, hike, or ride a mountain bike directly from downtown. The views at Sequoyah National Golf Club are also spectacular. Call 828.497.3000 for tee times!​

Cool Off

When the summer is sizzling, there’s no better way to cool off than at the Oconaluftee Islands Park. Close to downtown, the park has spots for swimming, tubing, or easy wading. Pack a picnic and enjoy a shaded spot to relax. The grassy island has bridges, picnic tables, and piers to fish.

Fishing for All Ages

Speaking of fishing, anglers won’t want to miss the Tim Hill Memorial Trout Tournament ($10,000 purse) July 12–13 or the Qualla Country Trout Tournament, September 6–7 ($20,000 purse). Children ages 3-11 can get a taste of fishing for free at the Talking Trees Trout Tournament, August 2-3. Registered children receive a free shirt, hat, hooks, sinkers, and bait, and have the chance to win awesome prizes.​

Step Back in Time

At the Oconaluftee Indian Village, guests can experience what life was like in a Cherokee village in the 18th century. Watch as the villagers make traditional crafts, tools, and household goods, and step inside replicas of traditional Cherokee dwellings from this time period. A guide will lead the way, but there’s lots of room for independent exploring and asking questions. Make sure you stay for one of the scheduled performances filled with Cherokee song and dance, and participate in the Friendship Dance.

Connect to the History

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian was designed by Disney Imagineers and shows the ancient history of the Cherokee in a state-of-the-art facility with lots to see and engaging, interactive displays. Cultural specialists called Cherokee Friends are often on hand to answer questions and demonstrate Cherokee traditions to really enhance the visitor experience. Look for the Cherokee Friends in the lobby or outside on sunny days. 

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