14 Most Amazing Things To Do In Bryson City, NC

things to do in bryson city north carolina
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Good things come in small packages. Western North Carolina has a little treasure, surrounded by mountains, that serves as the perfect destination to relax and enjoy nature. Bryson City has small town spirit, kind people, and a quiet downtown, but still, has an impressive range of activities to fill an itinerary for weeks. From hiking and mountain bike trails to fishing and water sports, it is an outdoor paradise, par excellence. It also offers many hotels and luxury cabins for your accommodation needs.

However, Bryson City’s history and identity provide attractions filled with culture, as well. Discover the best things to do for a magical trip into the heart of the Smoky Mountains and get ready to fall under the spell of this North Carolinian gem. Read on for the most amazing things to do in Bryson City, NC.

1. Book a scenic excursion to Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

#1755 diesel-electric locomotive
Source: Photo by Flickr user Todd Fowler used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Considered among the best train rides in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad provides amazing, scenic excursions through the natural beauty of the mountains, in Western North Carolina. The ride travels across tunnels, rivers, lakes, gorges, and valleys and can be taken in a diesel engine train and in a restored steam engine, as well.

They have different tours and excursions and it is recommended to book your tickets in advance, since it is a very popular attraction. You can purchase packages that include other activities, like rafting, or arrange a lunch menu. This is one of the best ways to experience North Carolina’s spectacular scenery, as well as its rich history.

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Address: 45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City, NC 28713

Website: Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

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2. Go on an adventure at Nantahala Outdoor Center

Nantahala River raft 2009
Source: Photo by user anoldent used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Are you ready for adventure? National Geographic Adventure has rated Nantahala Outdoor Center as “One of the Best Outfitter’s on Earth”, and you will surely love it, too. As the largest outdoor recreation company in the United States, they provide more than 120 different river and land-based activities, that can please everyone, from families to adrenaline junkies.

You can try whitewater rafting, take a world-class paddling lesson or go lake kayaking. If you are not into water sports, you can rent a mountain bike or visit their leadership institute, for wilderness medicine and river rescue training. Nantahala Outdoor Center provides guidance and gear, so you can have an unforgettable experience.

Nantahala Outdoor Center

Address: 13077 Hwy. 19 W., Bryson City, NC 28713

Website: Nantahala Outdoor Center

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3. Check out Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine

20110929 55 Cherokee, NC
Source: Photo by user David Wilson used under CC BY 2.0

Located 20 minutes away from Bryson and a favorite among children, the Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine gives the chance to return home with some precious souvenirs from North Carolina. With free admission, you will choose from a variety of bags and buckets and look for emeralds, rubies, sapphires, amethysts, garnets, topaz, and more. Remember to visit their gem, gift, and rock shop: they have a nice selection of items to add to your findings.

Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine

Address: Highway 441 North, Cherokee, NC 28719

Website: Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine

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4. Visit Smoky Mountain Trains Museum

Smoky Mountains 039
Source: Photo by user BrianBoardman used under CC BY 2.0

After your ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, you can visit the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, a very nice way to continue your adventure on rails. It displays a collection of 7,000 Lionel™ engines cars and accessories that delight kids and adults, alike. Admission is free if you have train tickets, but it is also open to the general public, with a fee.

Smoky Mountain Trains Museum

Address: 100 Greenlee St, Bryson City, NC 28713

Website: Smoky Mountain Trains Museum

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5. See the exhibits at Swain County Heritage Museum

Swain County Courthouse, Bryson City, NC
Source: Photo by Flickr user Warren LeMay used under CC0

If you are interested in learning about the history of the area, you should head to the Swain County Heritage Museum. It is a place where the story of Swain County and its people is told through exhibits, photographs, and videos. The museum is located on the second floor of the 1908 historic courthouse, in downtown Bryson City, and the admission is free.

Make sure to stop by the information center and the bookstore, that are in the same building, for directions, maps, and additional information on the area.

Swain County Heritage Museum

Address: 2 Everett Street, Bryson City, NC 28713

Website: Swain County Heritage Museum

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6. Try ale tasting at Nantahala Brewing Company

Nantahala Brewing Taproom and Brewery, Bryson City, NC
Source: Photo by Flickr user Warren LeMay used under CC0

Thirsty? The Nantahala Brewing Company is the perfect solution. This microbrewery produces award-winning, unfiltered ales and provides a friendly atmosphere in which to hang out after a day of sightseeing, yet, their most popular choice is their beer to go. They offer tours and tastings in their taproom on Fridays, a wonderful option where you can try up to eight different beers.

Nantahala Brewing Company

Address: 61 Depot Street, Bryson City, NC 28713

Website: Nantahala Brewing Company

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7. Fish at Cooper Creek Trout Farm

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Cooper Creek Trout Farm on Wednesday, June 1, 2011

This is the perfect place to spend an afternoon or even the whole day. Cooper Creek Trout Farm raises 750,000 rainbow trout, annually and offers a public pond so that visitors can catch their own fish. They provide fishing equipment and picnic facilities, as well as guided tours. Their location includes access to hiking trails and waterfalls.

Cooper Creek Trout Farm

Address: 3365 Coopers Creek Rd, Bryson City, NC

Facebook: Cooper Creek Trout Farm

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8. Spend the day at Deep Creek Recreation Area

Deep Creek Loop
Source: Photo by user TimothyJ used under CC BY 2.0

One of the most beautiful areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Deep Creek is 5 minutes away from Bryson City. If offers lots of outdoor activities to enjoy, such as trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The most popular routes are the ones that pass by Indian Creek, Tom Branch and Juney Whank Falls, some of the loveliest sights in the park.

You can also spend the day fishing and there are plenty of stops perfect for a picnic. Another great activity available is tubing: access is free and tube rentals are about 5 USD a day, from companies on West Deep Creek Road.

Deep Creek Recreation Area

Address: 1090 W Deep Creek Rd, Bryson City, NC 28713

Website: Deep Creek Recreation Area

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9. Explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee, USA
Source: Photo by user dconvertini used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The border between Tennessee and North Carolina holds the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the United States. This stunning place is also the largest protected area in the Eastern United States, at 522,419 acres (211,415 hectares). From waterfalls, camping areas, shelters for backpackers, to black bears, reptiles, other animals and unique flora, the park has everything you need to guarantee you get the best out of North Carolina.

Before your visit, it’s a good idea download the Smokies Trip Planner, an official free guide, with lots of priceless information about the park, available on their website.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Address: US-441, NC 28719

Website: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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10. Drive to The Road to Nowhere

road to nowhere tunnel
Source: Photo by user woodleywonderworks used under CC BY 2.0

With so much to see in Bryson City, your visit won’t be complete without a trip to…nowhere. That’s right: this scenic mountain highway was started as an alternative route to replace an old road, buried under the waters of Fontana Lake, as a result of a dam, but was never finished. So now, Lakeside Drive, known to locals as the Road to Nowhere, serves as a lane that goes six miles (9.7 km) into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ends at the mouth of a tunnel, offering stunning views of the mountain and lake.

You can drive to the park and leave your car in the parking area after Nolands Creek, from where you will have a short walk to the tunnel. It’s a destination with an interesting story and many beautiful views to offer.

The Road to Nowhere

Address: Lakeview Dr E, Bryson City, NC 28713

Website: The Road to Nowhere

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11. Visit Darnell Farms for hay rides, fun and fresh food

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Darnell Farms on Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Darnell Farms is a family-owned farm where family fun and the freshest food is uppermost in their minds. The farm is wonderful for kids, as there’s a hay ride. Adults enjoy it too. Fish, sit by the stream or sing and dance on the stage. The Darnell family is friendly and knowledgeable.

Food is fresh and they manage to keep it seasonal. There are strawberries in summer and pumpkins in fall. As they don’t use chemicals on their fruit and vegetables, the produce is better for you. If you’re passing by, stop in for some jams, country veg, and other goodies.

Darnell Farms

Address: 2300 Governors Island Rd, Bryson City, NC

Website: Darnell Farms

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12. Have a relaxing time at Bryson City Island Park

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

If you are looking for a quiet place to take some time off, then you should definitely visit Bryson City Island Park. Being a pet-friendly park, your furry friend is definitely welcome here. Visitors like to go fishing on the waters around the park as it’s home to a vast assortment of fish species like rainbow trout, carp, white bass, and more. Pack a picnic and make use of the picnic tables in the park or enjoy a walk on the dirt trails. Whatever you decide to do at Bryson City Island Park, you will surely have a wonderful time.

Bryson City Island Park

Address: 213 Bryson St, Bryson City, NC 28713, United States

Website: Bryson City Island Park

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13. See the beauty of Tom Branch Falls

Tom Branch Falls, Smoky Mountains
Source: Photo by Flickr user Katie Taylor used under CC BY 2.0

Located in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tom Branch Falls features undeniable beauty. The beautiful, majestic waters are enough to leave you in awe. Among the waterfall hikes in the area, the trail towards these falls is among the most unchallenging so don’t worry if you don’t usually go for outdoor activities, as you can definitely get there with ease. Go all the way from Deep Creek Trailhead to the beautiful falls and admire the magnificent view as soon as you arrive. Whether you are looking for a little adventure or a well-deserved break, this waterfall hike is a great activity to add to your itinerary.

Tom Branch Falls

Address: Deep Creek Trail, Bryson City, NC 28713, United States

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14. Meet the artist and browse the artwork at The Charles Heath Gallery

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

The Charles Heath Gallery is full of different types of art from photos to paintings and more. There are even paintings done on rocks. You can meet Charles if he’s in. Buy a bottle of wine with one of his labels on it. There’s bound to be something that will appeal to you. Take home a memento of your Bryson City vacation.

Browsing art is always a fun way to pass an hour or so. The studio is neat and there are many different mediums of art to choose from. Visitors enjoy going back because Charles is helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.

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A mountain dream

Bryson City is one of the best destinations to explore the Smoky Mountains but it has gained a value of its own, by providing a beautiful little town to enjoy. Take your time to stroll down its streets, to discover lovely shops and craft galleries, while you choose among all the exciting adventures this jewel has for you. Look up to the sky, breathe in the fresh air and relax: Bryson City’s got your back.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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When she is not backpacking round the globe, Emilia Lugo works as a Digital Content Specialist in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She considers herself a museum geek and loves destinations that can take...Read more

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