Must Do Activities in the North Carolina Smokies


Looking for what to do in the Smoky Mountains? We’ve got lots of fun activities for families here in Western North Carolina. In fact, there are so many options for what to do in the Smoky Mountains that you’ll need to make a game plan!

For Families – Below are a few perennial favorite activities for kids of all ages and that includes you, mom and dad; such as the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Gem Mining, Horseback Riding, Whitewater Rafting, Kayaking, and Canoeing.

For Outdoors Adventurers – Western North Carolina invites you to come to play in our backyard. For hikers, bikers, swimmers, kayakers, whitewater rafters, campers and anyone who loves to fish—the hardest part about figuring out what to do in the Smoky Mountains is fitting everything into your timeline. We warn you, many outdoors adventurers have fallen so completely in love with this area that they have moved here to be close to all the action. Some activities to give you a taste of what to do in the Smoky Mountains outdoors are Fishing, Mountain Biking, Hiking Trails, Chasing Waterfalls and Golfing.

For History and Culture Enthusiasts – The rich history and cultural heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains offer many distinctive and unique opportunities to learn about the past while enjoying the present. A history buff’s list of what to do in the Smoky Mountains should include these opportunities to learn about Cherokee history and culture.  At the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, you’ll learn about the 11,000-year history of the Cherokee Tribe.  Visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village and go back in time to a recreated Cherokee village of the 1700’s and see artisans make traditional crafts.  See the powerful outdoor drama, “Unto These Hills…a retelling”, that presents Cherokee history from the perspective of the descendants of ancestors who escaped the “Trail of Tears.”

The information below, powered by Smoky Mountain Host of North Carolina can help you plan an exciting and fun vacation. We know what to do in the Smoky Mountains and want to help you have the time of your life. Order our free travel planner or call 1-800-432-4678 to request one.  In addition to suggesting options for what to do in the Smoky Mountains, the guide will help you find where to stay and where to eat.

great smoky mountains railroad

Take A Trip On The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Departing from historic Bryson City, this scenic excursion railroad has a variety of trips and packages for any kind of adventure. Take in the fresh air while riding on open-air gondola car trips, or enjoy a gourmet meal in a first-class dining car during the food-friendly trips. If you’re riding with little ones, check out the kid-friendly specialty trains including Peanuts Excursions and The Polar Express. If you’re looking for something a little more adult—take a ride on the Moonshine Express with, you guessed it, Moonshine, or enjoy a glass of North Carolina’s finest wines on the Railroad Reserve.  Visit to book your trip, or learn more about Train Rides in North Carolina here.

whitewater adventurers in the nc smoky mountains

Book An Adventure With Nantahala Outdoor Center

Named “One of the Best Outfitters on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure, Nantahala Outdoor Center offers a range of adventures to get your family enjoying the outdoors. Choose from family-friendly outdoor adventures including Nantahala River whitewater rafting, a new Mountaintop Zip Line Tour in the Nantahala Gorge and a family-friendly Zip Line Adventure Park. See why NOC is a legend in the outdoors!  Visit to book your adventure or learn more about Rafting the Nantahala here.

oconaluftee indian village living museum

Feel the Influence of Cherokee

Located in the heart of Western North Carolina, Cherokee is a culture, a people and a sovereign nation. After just one visit, you’ll look at things a little differently. It might happen on a mud-spattering romp through the nearby Great Smoky Mountains while hearing the creation legend in the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, or after watching something as profound as the outdoor drama “Unto These Hills.” Suddenly, you’re a little more in tune with the natural world, while having a better understanding of your own. And you’ll certainly have fun. See how the Cherokee lived two and a half centuries ago at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, an authentic working village with dwellings, residents, and artisans right out of the 1760’s. How will Cherokee affect you?  Learn More.

Plan. Play. Visit. And discover at:

blue ridge parkway devils courthouse

Mosey Along The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most visited units of the National Park System, thanks to its outstanding scenery and countless recreational opportunities. Split-rail fences, old farmsteads, mountain meadows and scenic overlooks with endless vistas delight visitors with pictures worth a thousand words (or likes). The Parkway also incorporates numerous campgrounds, picnic areas and trails. Perfect for a quick rest stop or a camping trip.

Named “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Parkway–a National Scenic Byway–offers 469 miles connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. While driving, you’ll witness stunning views, abundant hiking trails, picnic areas, campsites, and informational exhibits. If you need to stretch your legs, there are ample recreational opportunities for all ages and abilities just off the road. However long you drive, make sure to get out and personally witness the natural beauty of one of the world’s most diverse display of flora and fauna the park offers.

Learn about all there is to see and do along this famous scenic drive.

lazy hiker brewery in the nc smoky mountains

Hop Through Breweries

Just because Asheville has earned the title “Beer City, USA” for several years running doesn’t mean craft breweries only exist within its city limits. The explosion of craft breweries is happening all over the Smokies! Craft breweries are now operating in Andrews, Bryson City, Cashiers, Franklin, Hayesville, Highlands, Murphy, Sylva, and Waynesville, with more opening all the time. Travelers could spend days exploring each small town’s unique breweries and never visit the same place twice.

Here’s a guide to exploring the best breweries in the NC Smokies

cellars at bettys creek

Wind Down At Wineries

The North Carolina Great Smokies isn’t just craft beer; several beautiful wineries call this place home. While you wind your way through the mountains, take some time to explore the scenic beauty and taste the fruits of our vineyards. Even better, stay for a picnic or perhaps some live music while watching the sunset. Whether you prefer to enjoy it over a glass of white or red, Merlot or Muscadine, Western North Carolina’s wineries and vineyards provide the perfect setting to imbibe, relax and revel in the natural beauty of this region.

Visit for a helpful interactive map of all the wineries in the region.

harrahs cherokee casino in the nc smoky mountains

Count Your Luck at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino

A casino, luxury hotel with fine dining options, world-renowned spa and event center, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort offers a luxurious experience within the North Carolina Smoky Mountains. Enjoy the thrill of gaming, dine at one of their many fine restaurants or enjoy cool cocktails before seeing a show at the 3,000-seat event center. Acts from Hank Williams, Jr. to Lady Antebellum have performed at Harrah’s, and they continue to draw big-name talent. If you spent all day on the trails and are looking to relax, imbibe at their renowned Mandara Spa. Located in the heart of Western North Carolina, the casino offers easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all of its natural wonders. The new Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in Murphy offers many of the same amazing amenities with over 60,000 square feet of gaming. Both casinos provide a thrilling way to experience the North Carolina Great Smokies.  Learn more.

Book your stay at

mountain biking in the nc smoky mountains

Mountain Biking

It’s hard not to notice that mountain biking has become one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the Smokies.  A quick drive down the highway and you’ll see vehicles with mountain bikes strapped on zoom by on the way to hit the trails.  For those outdoor enthusiasts looking to feel a rush while enjoying nature, the Smokies contain some of the best bike trails anywhere.  Learn more about Mountain Biking in North Carolina.