Smoky Mountains – Top 10 Attractions

The Smoky Mountains encompass over 800 square miles between North Carolina and Tennessee and is home to activities and attractions that will delight every member of the family. Whether you like contemplating the beauty of the ancient mountains, feeling the rush of whitewater rafting, exploring Southern Appalachian mountain culture, or dancing to honky-tonk, the Smoky Mountains offer everything you need to make a fabulous vacation.

Great Smoky Mountains National Forest
– As one of America’s most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers visitors a number of ways to enjoy the park including auto tours, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, visits to historical buildings, and more. The park is also a fantastic site for wildlife viewing including elk, white-tailed deer, and black bear. Visitors can tour the tumbling mountain streams, weathered historic buildings, and mature hardwood forests of the park. Several auto tours are available, and numbered posts along the way provide background information on park history, wildflowers, wildlife, waterfalls, day hikes, and more..READ MORE

John C. Campbell Folk School – Visitors to the Smoky Mountains will terrific Appalachian hospitality at the John C. Campbell Folk School’s day-classes in crafts, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing. Launched in 1925 in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, the Folk School offered noncompetitive (no credits, no grades) to the area Appalachian community as a means to provide an educational opportunities.

Today, the Folk School offers a unique combination of rich history, beautiful mountain surroundings, and an atmosphere of living and learning together. Guests can find a supportive, hands-on learning environment with 800 classes including blacksmithing, early American hardware, calligraphy, mixed media, drawing, clay, music, spinning, beginning fiddle, quilting, watercolors, woodworking, writing, and more…READ MORE

Museum of the Cherokee Indian – You can experience the Cherokee’s rich history and culture by visiting the Cherokee Cultural District in Cherokee, North Carolina. Immerse yourself in the triumphant story of the Cherokee People by traveling to Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual, Unto These Hills Outdoor Theater, and the Oconaluftee Indian Village.

The Oconaluftee Indian Village recreates 18th Century Cherokee life before the Cherokee world drastically changed. Visitors can take self-guided tours to explore the historic events of the 1760’s, and can interact with Cherokee villagers as they conduct their daily activities…READ MORE

Gem Mining – Grab your boots, rubber gloves, and favorite mining gear (old clothes) and Lady Luck to experience the Smoky Mountains gem and gold mining boom. With more than 10 local mining outfitters to choose from, you can shovel, buckets, or screen for exquisite precious gems during your Smoky Mountain vacation.

Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains who try their hand at gem mining, and may very well find sapphire, ruby, emerald, amethyst, topaz, citrine, tourmaline, gold, and more. North Carolina’s mining history dates back centuries to 1799 when the first authenticated discovery of gold was made in the United States with a founding a 17-pound gold nugget in North Carolina. By the early 1900s, gold output has been minor, but mining has regained current favor due to the high price of gold…READ MORE

Highlands Aerial Park – You’ll fall in love with the breathtaking views from high above the lush mountain woods of Western North Carolina on the Highlands Aerial Park, one of most highly praised sites in the Smoky Mountains.

Guests can choose from a number of activities at the park including the zipline canopy tour, the kids’ Brave Indians zipline (also good for grandparents), and the Nature Trail. The park’s Canopy Tour is a unique zipline experience which begins near the top of High Holly Mountain. From there, the park’s guides will take you on a fantastic journey across 15 elements, including seven ziplines where you’ll see various tree and plant species which only grow in the N.C. “temperate rainforest.”…READ MORE

Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery – As a’s 2014 Certificate of Excellence awardee, the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery is a great activity to enjoy on your next trip to the Smoky Mountains. During your visit to the distillery, you’ll see authentic moonshine stills still at work, and will smell the cooking and fermenting grains as they waft through the air.

The distillers are on hand during the tours and are happy to answer your questions about the history and lore of moonshining in East Tennessee. Free moonshine sampling is also included so be sure to taste flavors like Original Unaged Corn Whiskey, White Lightnin’, Moonshine Cherries, Watermelon, Blackberry, Apple Pie, and more…READ MORE

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – Although Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is hundreds of miles from the ocean, the aquarium treats visitors to a world-class aquarium of water life. Voted America’s #1 aquarium by TripAdvisor, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies allows visitors to view the ocean’s most strange and spectacular species including octopus, sea stars, corals and jellyfish.

Protected by a 360 degree surrounding glass tunnel, visitors will marvel at thousands of fish of every shape and size in the aquarium. As you travel along a 340-foot long moving walkway, you’ll come face-to-face with snappers, tarpons, grunts, squirrelfish, a green sea turtle, giant stingrays, sawfish and enormously-sized sharks…READ MORE

Sugarlands Riding Stables – Guests at the Sugarlands Riding Stables will enjoy a peaceful view of the Great Smoky Mountains while riding horseback on some of the most beautiful trails inside Smoky Mountain National Park.

With the blue sky above, fresh air, and the hypnotic sway of the horse’s walk, you’ll escape into a magical world of Appalachian beauty. Whether you are a novice, or an experienced rider, you are guaranteed a great ride on a well-trained horse that will be individually chosen for your unique personality and level of riding skill. Sugarland’s experienced guides will lead your horse through wooded terrain and streams where you may come upon a flock of wild turkeys, wild deer, or a black bear climbing a tree…READ MORE

Dollywood – Dollywood, Tennessee’s most visited theme park and a favorite attraction for Smoky Mountain visitors of all ages is the innovative musical theme park created by country music legend Dolly Parton.

Designed to showcase the rich heritage of the Appalachian mountain area where Dolly was born and raised, Dollywood features lively music, spectacular shows, thrilling amusement park rides all packed into 10 themed areas. More than 2 million visitors each year visit Dollywood’s Showstreet, Rivertown Junction, Craftsmen’s Valley, The Village, The Country Fair, Timber Canyon, Jukebox Junction, Dreamland Forest, Adventures in Imagination and the Wilderness Pass…READ MORE

Nantahala Outdoor Center – With almost 40 years of experience in the industry, the Nantahala Outdoor Center has become a favorite outfitter in whitewater adventures and rafting trips along seven of the Smoky Mountains’ rivers.

Rated “One of the Best Outfitters on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure, the Nantahala Outdoor Center has been taking visitors rafting on the Nantahala, Ocoee, Chattooga, Cheoah, Pigeon, French Broad and Nolichucky Rivers. In fact, for many families, rafting with the Nantahala Outdoor Center is the highlight of their Smoky Mountain vacation…READ MORE