One of Harrah's "Total Rewards" properties, owned and operated by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, this casino is on the Cherokee Indian Reservation just across the stateline in North Carolina. Full casino with video slots, video poker, live poker and blackjack, plus a buffet and various shops. Your usual casino fare - way too smoky, but my husband and I did fairly well. After about 5 hours of play, I was up $5 on the penny slots, and he was up $135 playing live poker.
6/2013 - UPDATE: the casino has designated a section of the slot floor as "non-smoking" - hurray!! There are still moments when someone will walk through the section with a lit cigarette, but it is a marked improvement over previous visits.
When is the last time you went wading in a real river? The water in the Oconaluftee River originates from springs bubbling up and filtering through the ferns and moss in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
As the Oconaluftee passes through Cherokee, it is split by an amazing, grassy island – the Oconaluftee Islands Park – sheltered by canopies of oak and sycamore. The water ranges from ankle deep for toddlers to chest deep on Mom and Dad, and flows over soft sand and flat, time-smoothed river rocks shed from the world's oldest mountains. These rocks are the perfect size and weight for kids to build dams, or encircle Dad as he chills out in the shallows. This island is both physical and metaphorical. On this cozy island, the world at large just ... disappears. Wading. Splashing. Tubing. Salamander-hunting. Cloud-watching.
This is a place where a kid can be a kid, no matter how old he/she is ... wading through clear, fresh water with nothing more than their imaginations, or perhaps with their parents, hand in hand. It's just what kids need today: unstructured, mind-freeing outdoor time to balance all the time they spend in class, in structured activities, or sitting in front of TVs, computers, and video games.
Here, the frustrations and anxieties that feed sibling rivalry wash down the stream and are replaced with self-confidence and big smiles. To be complete, the Cherokee believe, one must allow time for the mind to get lost in the stream and then return, especially children, who need such opportunities to learn who they are and who they can be. This is "duyuktv" or “the right way," the Cherokee Way.
Come to Oconaluftee Islands Park and enjoy a very happy irony. Here, the very moments too precious to measure in dollars, are free.
At the Oconaluftee Indian Village, you will see that it's more than just a place. It is also a time: 1760. Centuries-old techniques for survival have been passed down from generation to generation and preserved in this living history site.
The best way to get back to Oconaluftee, circa 1760,, or, better still is to un-tether yourself from the world that you know. Turn off your stress. Put your watch in your pocket, or, better still, leave it at home. (I quit wearing mine about ten years ago.) Sit under the trees, breathe the pure mountain air, and notice that the only sounds here come from nature. No cars. No blaring TVs. Instead of burnt fossil fuel, the faint, but warmly inviting tang of wood smoke wafts by on the breeze. Follow it. Embrace it at your own pace. As you step into the Oconaluftee Indian Village, you’re transported back to witness the challenges of Cherokee life at a time which can only be fondly dreamed of today.
The Village is open daily 9:00 - 5:00, with tours every 15 minutes except 11:30 - 12:30 and 2:30 - 3:30. The last tour is taken at 5:00. Visitors can experience traditional medicine and interact with villagers as they hull canoes, make pottery and masks, weave baskets and beadwork, and participate in their daily activities.
Unfortunately, their 2011 season ends this Saturday, 22 October, but if you do not get there within the next two days, mark your 2012 calendar to remind yourself that they will return from their winter hunting grounds in early May.
We took a drive out to Bryson City and had a picnic at the riverfront park. Lots of ducks to feed and you can put in your canoe/kayak in this area too. Also, there is a very cute and fun July 4th celebration at this park!
Trees overhang the river, if river is high enough you could jump off into water, make sure you have on a PFD. There's also a place downriver to boogie board on some small rapids.
The Trail of a 1,000 tears started in Cherokee, North Carolina and there are monuments reflecting the history of the Cherokee nation in the western North Carolina mountains.
The area is full of history and natural beauty of these people which are recreated in villages, their art and their handicrafts.
There are events, festivals, and daily activities from rafting local rivers, taking a trip on the Great Smoky Mountains Railway, museums, and cultural arts and events.
We wanted to see the new Harrah's casino.
The casino itself was a huge disappointment. All the gaming was computerized and there were no dealers.
We literally spent maybe 20 minutes inside. The smoke was too much.We did manage to win $60 on slots. Also, Cherokee is in a dry county so there was not drinking allowed. But there are free soft drinks.
Vegas has nothing to worry about!
Harrah's is probably the most popular attraction in Cherokee. The large casino has all of the features of a Las Vegas casino within the town of Cherokee, which gives the place a curious twist. Here you can get your fill of slot machines, poker and blackjack, eat at the buffet (not recommended. See restaurant tip) and perhaps see a show. The Village People were in town when I visited. An evening of fine entertainment if there ever was one. Harrah's also operates a hotel and has a large selection of expensive rooms available for those who don't want to venture outside the casino on their visit. Just like Vegas.
The Cherokee Museum is definitely worth a stop. After you pay the entrance fee, you'll enter a small theatre where a short film explains the Cherokee concept of creation. From there, a series of exhibits traces the lives of the Cherokee from prehistoric to modern times. Numerous exhibits are devoted to the forcible removal of the Cherokee from this land and the march which later became known as the "Trail of Tears".
A visit to the museum takes about an hour if you want to examine most of the postings and exhibits. The museum tries to end on a positive note with a look at the present day Cherokee as they have adapted to the culture that took over this land .