Cultural and Educational Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina

Museum of Cherokee Indian group photo
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

As the home of the Cherokee people, early Scotch Irish settlers and countless generations of self-reliant Appalachian folk, the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina offer many opportunities to encounter the ways of the past.

Enjoy a performance of traditional Appalachian music while seated inside a renovated 1920s schoolhouse. Visit a century-old general store. Experience a local theater performance. Or learn a new hobby at a folk school, where you can try your hand at a time-tested craft such as weaving, carving or blacksmithing. Discover more about local craft traditions as you explore the Blue Ridge Craft Trails.

A visit to Cherokee is not to be missed. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian guides visitors through 11,000-years of Cherokee history. Step into the Oconaluftee Indian Village to find yourself standing in a recreated 1700s village. Watch skilled artisans at work making traditional wares, and experience re-enactments and traditional dances.

Watch the story of the Cherokee unfold beneath the stars at Unto These Hills, a powerful outdoor retelling of the Trail of Tears. The nearby town of Murphy was the site of Fort Butler, which played an important role in this chamber of American history. Visit the Cherokee County Historical Museum there to see artifacts and replicas from this time period.

Other museums in the N.C. Smokies focus on the culture and contributions of Scottish settlers, on the popular pastime of fly fishing, on the geological history of the mountains and on the enduring love of the American housecat.

American Museum of the House Cat
Our American Museum of the House Cat is a Mecca of antiquities and oddities that will fascinate, amuse, and even educate you about he House Cat. As you travel back through the centuries you will be introduced to cats from all over the world through an immense collection of fine art, to folk art; carousel cats to comical cats and more. From tea pots to art glass, antique wind up cat toys to musical cats; and cat games to cats used in advertising our museum is full of stories just waiting to be told. Our Curator, known to the locals as Catman2, owns and operates WNC largest private feline only, cage free, no kill, Cat Shelter serving the residents of Jackson County. Proceeds from the Museum benefit the Catman2 Shelter and their services.
5063 US 441 Highway South Sylva, NC 28779 (828) 476-9376 www.wnccatmuseum.org Get Directions
Cherokee County Historical Museum
The museum is housed in a historic Carnegie Library building in downtown Murphy.The Museum's exhibits include: over 2,000 Cherokee artifacts, 40 exhibit panels with drawings and photographs that interpret local Cherokee history and culture, antique farm implements and vintage household items (many hand-made) used by early pioneer settlers, over 700 collectible dolls. The museum serves as an interpretive center for the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Murphy was once the site of Fort Butler, one of the main holding areas for Cherokees who were being removed from North Carolina in the 1830's. Other sites in and around Murphy play a prominent role in Cherokee history, mythology, and culture. The museum houses a replica of the log cabin dwellings used by the Cherokee residents of the area at the time of their removal. This type of dwelling was also typical of that used by pioneer settlers, many of whom moved into the vacated Cherokee cabins. In front of the building rests an ancient stone turtle carved from soapstone that is associated with a Cherokee creation legend. Hours of Operation Monday - Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Saturday - from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Elevator accessible. Tours are offered to school children, elderhostels, seniors and other groups by appointment. Admission Fees Admission is $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for children.
Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center-CCDO
Built in 1943 on the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, the Cowee School served thousands of students until it was closed as a school in 2012. Efforts are now underway to preserve and reuse the historic school as a community and heritage center. The Cowee School 2014 Concert Series begins Saturday, May 10 and runs through October 18. This year's artists include: Red June, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeepers, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Town Mountain and more.
51 Cowee School Drive Franklin, NC 28734 (828) 349-1945 www.coweeschool.org Get Directions
Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians
Visit Bryson City's newest museum conveniently located across from the Visitor Center & Heritage Museum. Through exhibits & videos visitors learn about early fly fishing legends, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of fish, regional fishing waters, & the history of fly fishing in the South. There's a Kid’s Corner with fun games & activities.
210 Main Street Bryson City, NC 28719 (828) 488-3681 www.flyfishingmuseum.org Get Directions
Foxfire Museum
Discover Foxfire! Come hike through history at our Appalachian village, made up of over 20 historic log structures and artifacts dating as far back as the 1820s. Get hands on with history by visiting one of our on-site demonstrators, from weaving to blacksmithing. Open Monday through Saturday, 9 am - 4:30 pm and Sundays 12 - 4:30 pm.
98 Foxfire Lane Mountain City, GA 30562 (706) 746-5828 www.foxfire.org Get Directions
Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum
The Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum is located downtown in the historic 1850's jail. There are eight rooms that are filled with fossils, Indian artifacts, flourescing minerals and a huge collection of speciens and minerals from around the world including North Carolina. The gift shop includes jewelry crafte by local artisans, books on mining, gem/mineral-related subjects as well as other gem/rock-related subjects. Admission is free. Donations are appreciated. To arrange a group tour, contact the museum at 828-369-7831.
25 Phillips St Franklin, NC 28734 (828) 369-7831 www.fgmm.org Get Directions
John C. Campbell Folk School
Nation's oldest folk school founded in 1925. Crafts, music, dance, other Appalachian traditions are taught one-week or weekend classes year-round. National Historic District. Craft Shop. History Center. On-campus housing and meals. Tuition for classes. Fall Festival the first weekend in October. Visitors welcome.
1 Folk School Rd Brasstown, NC 28902 (828) 837-2775 www.folkschool.org Get Directions
Museum of the Cherokee Indian
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian takes visitors all the way back to the beginnings of human existence here in these glorious, storied mountains of western North Carolina. The museum provides an educational and interactive experience where concise, chronological stories retrace the 11,000 year documented history of the Cherokees.
589 Tsali Blvd Cherokee, NC 28719 (828) 497-3481 www.cherokeemuseum.org Get Directions
Oconaluftee Indian Village
The Oconaluftee Indian Village is a re-created village of the 1700's. Visitors experience the everyday life of the Cherokee through artisans who perform tasks done by their forefathers. Witness war council meetings, war re-enactments, traditional dances and more.
564 Tsali Blvd Cherokee, NC 28719 (828) 497-2111 www.cherokeeadventure.com Get Directions
Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center
The Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center is a non-profit corporation formed by a group of local citizens after the closing of Stecoah School in 1994. The Center is housed in the restored 1926 Stecoah Schoolhouse. The Center is highly acclaimed for its summer concert and dinner series, An Appalachian Evening, which features mountain roots music in the historic 300-seat air conditioned auditorium. Visitors are amazed to discover prominent and highly regarded musicians playing for small audiences in the quiet valley. The Center also houses a beautiful Artisan’s Gallery stocked with the works of more than 125 local artisans and craftsmen, including artisan foods produced on site in the commercial Stecoah Kitchen from locally grown sources. Other offerings include a Cherokee history display, beautiful grounds and walking trail, culinary workshops, and arts and crafts classes.
121 School House Rd Robbinsville, NC 28771 (828) 479-3364 www.stecoahvalleycenter.com Get Directions
T.M. Rickman General Store
The T.M.Rickman General Store, built in 1895, a part of the 370 acre Cowee/West's Mill National Register Historic District, was acquired by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee in August of 2007. Many of the original fixtures are still in place, including wormy chestnut paneling upstairs. Displays, pictures, live music, store open each Saturday from May until December from 10:00am - 4:00 pm.
23rd Taste of Scotland & Celtic Festival - FATHER's DAY WEEKEND - Historic Franklin - 3 Days of Scottish Fun!! June 18-20, 2021. Scottish Foods, Music, Dancers, Games, Clan Parade
Call or Check Website Franklin, NC 28734 (830) 460-0628 tasteofscotlandfest.org Get Directions
The Scottish Tartans Museum & Heritage Center, Inc.
The Scottish Tartans Museum contains the official registry of all publicly known Tartans. A non profit Tartan Museum and gift shop, the only one of its kind outside of Scotland. Available to purchase at the Museum gift shop, Scottish foods, clothing and specialty items. Entry to the Museum cost $4.00 for adults and $2.00 for children 6 - 12. Fully guided tours are available with a two week notice.
Western Carolina University

Whether you're visiting in the mountains or live here year 'round, put Western Carolina University on your list of places to explore. At WCU, a campus of the UNC system, you'll find a wide range of award-winning academic programs, distinguished faculty, and small class sizes where students interact closely with the professors and each other. With rising standards, growing enrollment and a strong emphasis on engagement with the community, we're moving knowledge out of the classroom and into the world. Our beautiful mountain campus is one of the region's most exciting destinations for the arts and entertainment. You'll enjoy the annual Mountain Heritage Day in September, a great season of performances and exhibits at the Fine and Performing Arts Center, a full schedule of men's and women's athletic events, and outdoor activities such as rafting, kayaking, climbing, hiking in the mountains and waterways nearby. www.wcu.edu

Admission Office 102 Camp Building, WCU Cullowhee, NC 28723 (828) 227-7317 www.wcu.edu Get Directions