Thousands of video-gaming machines flash and chime across the 150,000-square-foot casino floor at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort. Up above, however, multiple towers overlook the Appalachian peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the only light is sunshine and the only trilling sound is birdsong. Harrah's unites the exhilaration of 24-hour gaming with the feel of a secluded lodge nestled amid a nature preserve.
The resort's Mountain Tower luxury rooms boast upscale furnishings and fixtures and large bathrooms. Soco Tower suites possess an airy separate living room and a second bathroom.
A number of dining options contribute to the perpetual sensory feast at the 24-hour casino. Brio Tuscan Grille offers fresh fish, steaks and chops inspired by Northern Italian cuisine and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse serves sizzling steaks. Paula Deen's Kitchen serves à la carte meals of southern-inspired fare three times daily, and other spots stay open until the wee hours—including the Noodle Bar, which whips up dim sum and oxtail soup until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and sits beside the new Asian-themed gaming room.
Cherokee, North Carolina: Native American History near Great Smoky Mountain Splendor
Surrounding the town of Cherokee, the Qualla Boundary houses the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation as well as Native American institutions such as the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. There, a series of contemporary photographs commemorates the 1838 tragedy of the Trail of Tears, which forced most local Cherokees to Oklahoma. Nowadays, the tribe endures as an independent sovereign nation and continues to create traditional craftwork, much of which is on display at Qualla Arts and Crafts.
Picturesque woodlands encircle Cherokee, from the Nantahala National Forest in the south to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the north. There, moderate temperatures in low-altitude areas allow year-round hiking amid white-tailed deer and fir trees. The southern tip of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway makes for a great scenic drive thanks to the area's crests, rolling meadows, and recent legalization of rubbernecking.