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Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?

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Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?

I will be visiting Gatlinburg this coming July. I thought about driving over to Cherokee to go to Mingo Falls. I was not sure what else was in the Cherokee area, but was hoping to get the most out of the immediate area parks/attractions after my drive over.

I started doing some research, but wanted to get some feedback from the T.A. experts!! I saw there is a Cherokee Indian Museum, The Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill. I see there is also the Harrah's Casino, Cherokee Phoenix Theatre, Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine, Santa Land, Qualla Arts and Crafts, Oconaluftee Islands Park and the Cherokee Bear Zoo & Exotic Animals. I see people posting pictures of the painted bears on T.A. too. I might like to check some of them out. Where are most of them located?

Are there any other highlights that are in Cherokee that I am missing? What are the best activites that you would recommend? I couldnt find much info on the Islands Park. Has anyone visited it? How much time do you think I will need for a visit to Cherokee? Also, if we wanted to get lunch over in Cherokee..where would you recommend?

Thanks in advance for any and ALL help!!

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1. Re: Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?


Look at my trip report and pictures we went to Cherokee and loved it.I took alot of pictures there and of the bears and elk.I have every angle of Cherokee I love snapping pictures.

The hand painted bears are all over Cherokee everywhere,Its fun trying to find them.

We went to Cherokee around 10;00 am and got back to Gatlinburg around 3;00 pm.We walked around,shopped,lunch,bears,bears,and real bears.

The drive is sooooo pretty over there.

Look for the waterfalls on the side of the road.

The Tn Nc sign is at the Newfound Gap entrance

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2. Re: Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?

The Mountain Farm Museum is a nice place to stop and walk around and see how life was many years ago. I've been to the Cherokee Bear Zoo a couple of times. My kids enjoyed seeing the bears. It's not very big so it won't take long at all to see everything. I would like to go to the indian village again. I haven't been since I was a kid and don't remember much about it. I'm not a big fan of Cherokee anymore. It's changed a lot over the years. Maybe some others will have some ideas for you.

Canada, Kentucky
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3. Re: Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?

I would suggest taking a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beautiful views of the mountains. The entrance is right near the Mountain Farm Museum. I may be wrong about this but I think Island Park is a place geared towards kids. Golf, games and stuff. Maybe someone else can clear that up. As far as eating, keep in mind Cherokee is not a huge place so there is not an abundance of places. There are some chain restaurants. What is referred to as the bear zoo is not really what I would call a zoo. They have some bears in enclosed pits that you can feed and see but don't go expecting a "zoo". When we go to Cherokee we usually go to the farm, the mill, the parkway and sometimes the shopping village. I guess we easily spend half a day just for those things. Hope you have a great trip!

Glen Carbon IL
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4. Re: Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?

If you're not traveling with kids, I suggest going on Balsam Mountain Road and Big Cove Road for a scenic drive. Mingo Falls is off Big Cove Rd if I remember right. I don't like attractions, I'm into the scenery. Blue Ridge Parkway, you have to see it!

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5. Re: Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?


I answered your question on the Cherokee page.

The Island park is a public park on an island in the middle of town. It is not a fun park. Since you will be there in the summer go to the nightly outdoor drama Unto These Hills.


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6. Re: Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?

Mingus Mill, Lufty Baptist Church, the river trail, the visitor center, and the Mountain Farm Museum are the main to-do's at Oconaluftee. If you explore anything you could spend a few hours. In Cherokee I have visited Mingo Falls and the Cherokee Museum. Both were good experiences, though there were audio problems at the museum (speakers making the info hard to read) and the trail to Mingo is too short. Oconaluftee Islands Park is not an amusement facility but a simple park in the middle of the river with bridges to the shores. Nothing much to it, but a nice green space. I have heard good things about the Indian village and Qualla Arts and very, very negative things about the bear zoo. The "mine" is very touristy; I would only do it for kids really interested in it. Both Ruby Falls in Chattanooga and the Lost Sea in Sweetwater offer much better mining, and there's a -real- mine in Franklin.

A wonderful auto tour begins and ends in Oconaluftee. It takes the Blue Ridge Parkway up to a high elevation, then crosses into the park on Heigntooga Ridge Road. You'll pass by Balsam Mountain Campground and Nature Trail and eventually come to the beginning of unpaved Balsam Mountain Road which winds deep into the park, finally depositing motorists on Big Cove Road which offers a good look at life in the reservation. (Scenic if you look up, not as scenic if you look around.) The drive as a whole is wonderful and will take half a day at least. Many places for good picnics.


Nashville, TN
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7. Re: Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?

Hi daisyferret1,

Besides the great ideas above, you my want to consider the outdoor drama "Unto These Hills".



8. Re: Day Trip to Cherokee from Gatlinburg, recommendations?

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