South of the Great Smoky Mountains on U.S. 441 lies the Qualla Boundary Cherokee Reservation. This land is home to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, descendents of those who refused to leave and evaded the forced relocation to Oklahoma called the "Trail of Tears". Roads are winding here and the forest dense until the view opens upon entering the town of Cherokee where history and modern casino entertainment combine.
There are many opportunities to learn about Cherokee culture here. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian houses artifacts and tells the story of the native people. Oconaluftee Indian Village is a replica 1750 Cherokee community complete with demonstrations of crafts like beading and skills such as how to use a blowgun. The outdoor drama "Unto These Hills" presents Cherokee history from the first contact with Europeans to the 1838 Trail of Tears deportation. Qualla Arts and Crafts offers visitors the chance to purchase authentic Cherokee handmade crafts.
One of the biggest draws to the town is tribal-owned Harrah's Cherokee Casino, offering video games, a museum and several restaurants such as Market Square Buffet in addition to gambling. Cherokee Pavilion Theatre offers big-name entertainment like B.B. King, Loretta Lynn and Wayne Newton. Nearby, Smoky Mountain Jamboree offers country music in a family environment.
Accommodations range from camping at one of 13 nearby facilities such as Indian Creek Campground. Harrah's Hotel and Conference Center offers 15 stories of rooms. On a smaller scale, try Freeze House in nearby Sylva, once a guesthouse for those seeking cooler mountain air. Outdoor recreation centers on the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Cherokee is located in western North Carolina on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at the junction of US 441 and Rt. 19, roughly one hour west of Asheville, NC.