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, June 30 to July 2, 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 1st.

See the Outdoor Drama

Deputing in 1950, "Unto These Hills" is one of the oldest outdoor dramas in the United States. This year, for the first time in over a decade, the original production is back, with some updates. The new season runs June 3 to August 19 and is being hailed as the best production yet! 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), featuring Cherokee songs and dance.​

Cherokee Cultural Eclipse Celebration

For a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, watch the “Great American Eclipse” on August 21 in Cherokee—a prime viewing location! This eclipse marks the first time since 1776 that a total solar eclipse takes place in the United States and nowhere else. The Cherokee Cultural Eclipse Celebration presents a series of special events and programming hosted by the Museum of the Cherokee Indians. Preorder your tickets for a hassle-free way to get in on the fun!​

Free Weekend Entertainment

During the summer, two free family-friendly events take place most Friday and Saturday evenings: The Cherokee Bonfire and Music on the River. The Cherokee Bonfire features Cherokee performers sharing stories, music, dance, and history, around a glowing fire. Even marshmallows are handed out for roasting! (Note there are no Cherokee Bonfire events in September. See the full schedule here.) If you’re planning to attend Music on the River, don’t forget your dancing shoes! This open-air musical series features performances by the river with genres including rock, blues, jazz, country, and gospel. Check out the full entertainment schedule.

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 26 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 Socco 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 15–16 or the Qualla Country Trout Tournament, September 1–3 ($20,000 purse). Children ages 3-11 can get a taste of fishing for free at the Talking Trees Trout Tournament, August 4–5. 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. If you’re lucky, you may also get an autograph from Dr. Jerry Wolfe, Beloved Man of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, or catch one of his storytelling sessions.

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