Top 5 Things to do in Cherokee This Summer | Cherokee, NC

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Top 5 Things to do in Cherokee This Summer

Planning your trip to Cherokee, NC, this summer? Whether it’s your first time or your annual family tradition, there’s a ton to see and do—you won’t want to miss a thing! With so much happening, including over a hundred free events throughout the year, we’ve put together a list of our top five favorite Cherokee summer experiences that your whole family will enjoy. Once you’re in Cherokee, you’ll understand why people describe their time here as “coming home.” It’s unlike anywhere else on earth.

Fish, swim, and picnic at Oconaluftee Island Park.

Summers in Cherokee can be hot, and there’s nothing like cooling off at the Oconaluftee Islands Park. When the water levels are normal, the Oconaluftee River is divided by a grassy island complete with bridges, shaded picnic tables, and piers to fish for rainbow trout. Pack a lunch and your swimsuit for wading, swimming, tubing, or simply splashing about. Oconaluftee Islands Park is the perfect stop for families and anyone seeking an island oasis alongside the rushing waters of the Oconaluftee River. When it’s time to get dressed, check out the neighboring nature trails and stroll through the shaded bamboo forest.​

Hiking, biking, and golfing (oh my!).

Love waterfalls? Take in the beauty of Cherokee’s famous waterfalls: Mingo Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the southern Appalachians, and Soco Falls, a twin fall. Both are easily accessible by short hikes. Looking for a longer hike or would you rather mountain bike? The new Fire Mountain Trail System offer seven different trails spanning 10.5 miles, including single-track and wider sections of different difficulty. If golf is more your speed, play a round of world class golf at Sequoyah National Golf Club and enjoy the incredible views.​

Experience Cherokee culture.

Cherokee culture is alive and well, offering a rich, dynamic experience for visitors. Must-dos for your vacation include a stop at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, where your cultural guide will show you live demonstrations including beadwork, finger weaving, pottery, wood carving, basket making, and more. Be sure to stop at the brand new blacksmith shop. And no visit to Cherokee is complete without a visit to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, named a “Best Native American Experience" by USA Today, and filled with state-of-the-art exhibits created by Disney “imagineers,” covering everything from the Paleo period to the Trail of Tears. The Museum also hosts a series of incredible free events, including Cherokee Heritage Day on the second Saturday of the month, and this year’s 21st annual Cherokee Voices Festival, on Saturday June 9. Pop across the street for a souvenir from Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., the nation’s oldest Native American art co-op featuring the work of over 250 artists.​

Entertainment under the stars.

See the story of the Cherokee people in “Unto These Hills,” one of the oldest outdoor dramas in the United States. The original Kermit Hunter production from the ’50s is back, in a highly anticipated show with cultural updates and the iconic Eagle Dancers. The 2018 season runs from June 2 to August 18, with shows starting at 8 p.m. Before performances on Fridays and Saturdays, check out the Cherokee Bonfire, a free, family-friendly event from 5 to 7 p.m. at Oconaluftee Islands Park, on Tsali Blvd.​

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Powwow

Perhaps the biggest event of the summer is the 43rd Annual Eastern Band of Cherokee Powwow—it’s the largest powwow in the Southeast! Dance competitions kick off the excitement with over $100,000 in prize money. Dancers and spectators travel across the country to see the spectacular festival. Partake in authentic tribal foods, browse traditional Indian crafts, and get an insider’s look at rich, ancient cultures. Cost is $12 daily (cash only). Children 6 and under are free.

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