As the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City, North Carolina is an idyllic vacation destination in its own right. Its charming downtown, abundant wildlife, and scenic vistas make it perfect for those looking to get away from it all without being too far away from it all (you know what we mean). And with all the things to do in Bryson City NC with kids, you’ll never be at a loss for family-friendly fun! Here are our favorite family-friendly things to do in Bryson City NC.
Are you going on an adventure in Bryson City with your kids? We recently went with our large family of 8 for an end-of-summer North Carolina trip. And we had so much fun that I wanted to help your family with a quick list of things to do in Bryson City, NC.
If you’ve never been, you need to know how beautiful North Carolina is. There are a plethora of mountains, trees, and rivers to enjoy.
In fact, there are so many fun things to do in Bryson City, NC – near the Smoky Mountains and just 70 miles from Asheville – that we left sore and full of nature (just how we like it!).
Keep reading for our favorite things to do in Bryson City, NC, with kids.
Family Friendly Things to do in Bryson City NC
Rent a Cabin
You may be sick of hearing this, but…due to the pandemic, we have really changed how we think about vacations. Being outdoors is now the center of our vacation fun.
There are lots of things to do in Bryson City, NC, that involve the great outdoors. But first, you need to find a great place to stay.
We think renting a cabin is a perfect choice for traveling with family and here are the reasons why:
- It’s safer than staying at a hotel with lots of other people. (a real plus with the pandemic)
- It’s a great way to accommodate a large family like ours.
- You can bring and prepare your own food to save some serious cash on meals.
- It places you right in the middle of nature and all the outdoor fun.
- The amazingly beautiful mountain views.
Renting a home, cabin, or kitchenette suite is my favorite vacation hack. You may spend a little more on the accommodations (though I’ve found that to fit our large family, homes/cabins are actually LESS expensive than two hotel rooms), but the peace of mind and the money we save on food certainly makes it worth it.
Everyone is more comfortable and has way more fun.
Boating on Lake Fontana
Lake Fontana was a definite family favorite. This enormous 29-mile lake has 240 miles of shoreline. One of our favorite vacation days was renting a pontoon and enjoying this massive lake and gorgeous views.
Lake Fontana also has wonderful fishing, but the only fish we caught that day were the two-legged giggly kind. Our kids enjoyed swimming in the fresh lake water for a full, and exhausting, day of fun.
If you have time we recommend going by the Fontana Dam. It’s another great view. The Fontana Dam is 480-foot-high and became the highest dam in the Eastern United States in 1945.
It’s an impressive sight for the kids, and it’s super cool to know the Appalachian Trail crosses right over it. This was an added fun and educational bonus during our trip.
See Bald Eagles
The Appalachian Mountains are home to one of two major bald eagle nesting areas east of the Mississippi. Luckily, you don’t have to travel all that far—several different species of eagles are known to nest within miles of downtown Bryson City. The rivers and forests surrounding the area are prime real estate for these magnificent birds, and if you want a glimpse into their amazing lives then you only need to spend some time along the beautiful shores.
More Outdoor Fun
When it comes to things to do in Bryson City, NC there are lots of museums and historical sites, which are fun as well! But the true jewel is nature.
The best part of the Appalachian Trail runs through the Smokey Mountains and some of that is right here in Bryson City.
We think it’s pretty cool to be able to say we hiked some of the Appalachian Trail. But even if you don’t venture along the trail, there is tons of hiking to be enjoyed.
Hiking Near Bryson City
Bryson City’s Smoky Mountains are a picturesque and serene place for everyone—young or old. The best part? Hiking through mountain paths is easy enough that even small children can enjoy themselves. Check out Deep Creek Trail, one of our favorites. The 4-mile trail is easy to moderate and passes by two beautiful waterfalls if you take on the full trail. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch so you can eat when you reach the falls—the view is so refreshing!
Tubing Along Deep Creek
Another family favorite is river tubing. It’s refreshing on hot days and heaps of fun. The crystal clear water can be found at both Deep Creek and the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee.
Our family loves the beauty and simplicity of Deep Creek, plus it runs right along Bryson City. There are areas of calmer water for the little ones to play, while the older ones can tube along the river (not quite hitting white-water status, which is what we prefer for our younger age group).
Pro-tip: You need to be near Bryson City in the warm season (early May through Labor Day) to find open river tubing/mountain tubing rental companies.
There are two types of rafting including a “whitewater” adventure and a calmer section. If you have young children avoid the white-water experience since the rider is often thrown off the tube.
Fontana Village Resort
We spent a day enjoying the Fontana Village Resort pool and lazy river.
The ability to stay close to our vacation accommodations was a nice way to end our vacation. It was less stress and less mess, and we also enjoyed stocking up on our souvenirs from the General Store on the property.
And since it was a change of pace from our other activities, the kids had a blast.
Visit Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
When looking for fun things to do with kids in Bryson City, it is hard not to mention a visit to Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. This operating tourist railroad has been providing scenic train rides throughout North Carolina since 1887. Trains travel through southern crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pisgah, Cherokee, and Nantahala National Forests where visitors will see stunning mountain scenery, including wildlife such as black bears, bald eagles, and white-tailed deer.
Taking a trip in December or January? Hop aboard the Polar Express Train Ride with a special visit at the North Pole!
Walk the Road to Nowhere
Take your kids on a morning hike, and they’ll be worn out for an afternoon nap! If you’re lucky, you might even see some wildlife along your journey. Take a walk along an abandoned road that was once meant to connect Bryson City and Cherokee, North Carolina. The 6-mile drive into Great Smoky Mountains National Park ends with a short walk to what is also referred to as the Tunnel to Nowhere, after which the road really does end. It’s a perfect outing for a family hike, plus you can extend your walk on the loop hike which will take you onto three different trails: Lakeshore Trail, Goldmine Loop Trail, and finally Tunnel Bypass trail.
Check out Deep Creek Winery
When mom and dad need a minute for themselves! For the adults on the trip, if you’re traveling through Bryson City, make sure you stop by Deep Creek Winery for a tour and a taste, available on request. You can also purchase their small-batch handcrafted wine on-site and take it back home for later!
Try Gem Mining with the Family in Bryson City
Gem Mining is a popular pastime for families visiting Bryson City, and it’s easy to see why. You can keep what you find! Miners will show you how, give you tips and tricks on finding rare stones, and let you keep anything you find. It’s fun for everyone! (Our kids had a blast!)
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Bryson City NC
I hope this list of things to do in Bryson City NC inspires you to have a fun family trip. Outdoor adventures are safer during this worrying time. But more importantly, these are the kinds of activities that will build lifelong memories with our kids.
We only have a couple precious years with our oldest home before she ventures off to college. Contrast this with our toddler twins, and we have a wide range of personalities and needs during a vacation.
A wonderful outdoor-centered vacation encourages us to unplug from phones and media, all while making personal connections with each other that mean SO much.
Like I said, we left our vacation sore from all the activities, but our hearts were full and our family ties rejuvenated. I can’t recommend it enough!
If you like this post I think you may also enjoy this other vacation post on things to do in Nashville.
Which of these things to do in Bryson City NC would you love to do? Let me know in a comment below!