Cherokee, NC can be found at the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The area is rich in history, with several historical events that take place throughout the year with an emphasis on Cherokee culture and previous settlements. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Frontier Pancake House
3.New Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant
5.Peter's Pancakes & Waffles
6.Sassy Sunflowers Bakery & Cafe
7.The Chestnut Tree Restaurant
8.Wize Guyz Grille
10.Front Porch Cakery & Deli
10 Best Cherokee, NC Restaurants
- Frontier Pancake House, Photo: Courtesy of Denira - Fotolia.com
- Granny's Kitchen, Photo: Granny's Kitchen
- New Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant, Photo: Courtesy of natashaphoto - Fotolia.com
- Noodle Bar, Photo: Noodle Bar
- Peter's Pancakes & Waffles, Photo: Courtesy of Rebecca - Fotolia.com
- Sassy Sunflowers Bakery & Cafe, Photo: Sassy Sunflowers Bakery & Cafe
- The Chestnut Tree Restaurant, Photo: Courtesy of Dmytro Mykhailov - Fotolia.com
- Wize Guyz Grille, Photo: Wize Guyz Grille
- BJ's Diner, Photo: BJ's Diner
- Front Porch Cakery & Deli, Photo: Front Porch Cakery & Deli
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of kichigin19 - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Santa’s Land
The fun park and zoo called Santa’s Land in Cherokee has been a family tradition for more than 50 years now. Guests love being able to visit with the baby bears, ride a variety of rides, watch magic shows, and just have fun with the family… all for one low cost.
Santa’s Land was founded in 1966, long enough ago that guests who came as children are now coming back with their own children and even grandchildren! The park has been family owned and operated since then, even having many of the same employees for generations. Rated one of the most fun attractions in Cherokee, as well as one of the most family friendly, guests continue to return year after year to experience this unique attraction.
Admission to the grounds is still a single low price, just as it was when it originally opened more than 50 years ago. This includes access to the zoo, park, Santa Claus himself, the rides, shows, and much more… guests can stay all day! There are even season passes offered, allowing visitors to spend time at the park all season long! Group rates are available for school, church, and scout groups.
Be aware that the park does close for at the end of the season and does not reopen until the middle of May, so don’t plan a visit during the time they are closed (generally starting in November).
Zoo: The zoo is often one of the favorite parts of visiting the park, for the whole family! With a collection of animals, from the exotic to the native, guests can see birds, kangaroos, monkeys, porcupines, and black bears! It is the biggest zoo in the Smoky Mountains! Guests can even watch the staff feed the bears from a bottle during one of the three shows offered daily. Watch and take pictures of these cute baby bears as they frolic and play.
Park: The park offers a variety of rides, from the mild to the wild! The rides are appropriate for the whole family, so both children and adults can have fun no matter what their preferred thrill level. One of the favorites is the Rudicoaster, which is a staple at the park. Also at the park there is a fun family arcade, with games like skee-ball, pick-up-ducks, air hockey and even basketball. Bring quarters (or get some while at the park) and play until the park closes.
Santa: Obviously at a park named after Santa, Santa Clause will be present to greet and visit with guests! Check in with the man at his home in the mountains. The best guests will even be able to receive an official diploma for their good conduct.
Magic show: Not only can children of all ages watch the magic show, they can also be part of it! Admission is included with each ticket. It is a guaranteed smiling, laughing experience that the entire family will enjoy. After the show, stop by the gift shop and pick up magic supplies to try some of the tricks at home!
Although there aren’t many special events hosted throughout the year, the park and zoo go all out for both their opening and closing days.
Opening day, held usually toward the middle to end of May, starts with a bang. Staff is on hand and excited to start the season and that enthusiasm is contagious. Guests will be able to ask staff anything and the bears are always excited to be able to come out of their off-season hibernation to greet guests and get more attention than they do during the off season.
For closing day, all guests are welcome into the park for free! Come and celebrate another successful season with the park and zoo, ride rides, watch the magic show, and see the baby bears for the last time this season… all at no cost!
Keep an eye on the website for additional special events, as the park and zoo will occasionally host musical guests like Mala Patterson. Price is included with admission to Santa’s Land.
Dining and Shopping
While visiting Santa’s Park, make sure to check out the variety of food vendors that sell fudge, homemade candies, sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, nachos, and other family favorites. No one in the family will go hungry. There are also multiple gift shops at the park, offering a huge array of different gift options and collectibles. Check out the shirt shop, magic store, and the Christmas gift shop and take home a memory of the visit that will last for years to come.
Santa’s Land Fun Park, 571 Wolfetown Road, Cherokee, NC 28719, Phone: 828-497-9191
Attraction Spotlight: Museum of the Cherokee Indian
Visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, allows visitors to learn much more about the Cherokee people than is generally taught in school. This immersive, accurate experience is a must see for anyone wanting to know more about such an important section of American history.
Called a “model for museums” by Disney Imagineering, the museum was established in 1948 in a log building located on the Quall Boundary. The majority of the artifacts located in the museum were originally donated by Samuel Beck, a local businessman from the Cherokee tribe. After a fire devastated the original museum building in 1958, funds were raised, and it was eventually rebuilt in 1976 in its current location. It has also been voted as one of the Top 10 Best museums for the Native American Experience.
The museum offers a variety of permanent exhibits, each designed to help people understand the Cherokee Indians better.
Story of the Cherokee: Learn about the lengthy, 13,000-year history of the tribe. Starting during a time when mastodons roamed the area around the Southern Appalachians and running all the way through the present, the story of the Cherokee is told through a variety of computer created animation and other special effects. The exhibit also makes use of life sized figurines, artwork, and other priceless artifacts.
- Paleo artifacts: Artifacts from the Paleo time period act as proof of how long the Cherokee have been on the land. See some of the stone tools they used as they hunted and foraged.
- Archaic artifacts: As the Cherokee learned and developed, so did their tools. Guests can see some atlatl “points,” which they used to hunt deer after the mastodons went extinct.
- Woodlands: As the people started to live in towns all year round, their rituals and daily life changed. They started using blow guns and bows and arrows to hunt, and gathered together for ceremonies using stone pipes (which can be seen at the museum).
All facilities at the museum are ADA compliant, including the restrooms, store, education wing and exhibits. There are handicapped accessible parking spots located in the front of the museum. Service animals are allowed at the museum as well.
Emissaries of Peace: See the Cherokee world as Henry Timberlake did in 1762, as well as being able to see London the way the Cherokee leaders would have when meeting with King George III during that same time period. See Timberlake’s Memoirs in real life, through archeological treasures, artifacts, music, period artwork, video, and life-sized figurines. Learn how two very different (and contrasting) cultures learned how to make peace with each other in the midst of war. For children, there are graphic panels as well as pop-up books to help them learn at their level.
Trail guides: For guests who want to get out of the museum while still learning about the Cherokee, trail guides (all certified) are welcome and happy to join tour buses, groups, or just larger families as they voyage on the Heritage Trails. Members of the Eastern Band segment of the Cherokee provide guests with stories, directions, legends, and answers to any questions guests may have while visiting the Cherokee homeland.
The Cherokee museum offers a host of year-round special events meant to engage the community and further their mission. They maintain an up to date calendar of their offerings on the website and host many special guest speakers as well as events throughout the year.
One of the largest attended is Cherokee Heritage Day, which happens in September. Come and celebrate Cherokee culture with fiddle music from Cherokee fiddlers Manco Sneed and Tatiana Hargreaves. There is food (one of the favorites is often the Indian fry bread), arts and crafts to take part in and take home, traditional dance presentations, and storytelling.
The museum also offers up a series of courses and workshops for visitors to attend and learn more about the history, language, and culture of the Cherokee people. From a full ten-day immersion course in the Cherokee language to workshops on basket making, pottery, and other skills, guests who want a little more hands on learning have many options.
The gift shop at the museum helps support the mission of the non-profit organization, as at least 75% of their budget comes from sales from both tickets and the museum. They sell a huge variety of Cherokee themed merchandise, including books, decorative items, jewelry, and clothing. Pick up a souvenir from the visit and help support the museum while doing it.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian, PO Box 1599, Cherokee, NC 28719, Phone: 828-497-3481