One of the great things about living at Santeetlah Lakeside is the proximity to so many fun things to see and do in Western North Carolina. If you’re looking to venture out for a day, a perfect getaway is to the peaceful river town of Bryson City, just 30+ miles east of Santeetlah Lakeside. It’s a great place to spend time with family and friends enjoying the quaint community, sightseeing, and exploring some great outdoor activities amidst the Great Smoky Mountains and local rivers.
When you arrive in Bryson City after a short 45-minute, scenic drive, you’ll find yourself in a charming downtown area surrounded by the beautiful mountains and streets lined with cute shops, bookstores, and restaurants. You’ll feel the fresh mountain air and hear the sounds of the Tuckasegee River and train whistles from the nearby Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which takes passengers on a scenic ride through the Nantahala Gorge along the Nantahala River.
Bryson City is a mix of old and new with a vibrant offering of outdoor fun, including watersports, biking, hiking, ziplining, fishing, and so much more. Whether you’re in the mood for a relaxing stroll around town and some tasty treats or an adventure to gratify your outdoor, excitement-seeking side, there’s much to choose from in this little town.
A Day of Shopping, Dining & Sightseeing in Bryson City
For a day of low-key fun, you can explore the town of Bryson City and find all kinds of entertainment and treasures, from shopping and outdoor dining at some of the popular cafes to sightseeing. The downtown area is strollable with plenty of boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, and other unique shops. A favorite of locals and tourists alike is touring the murals and street art around downtown. The walkable art shows off a little history and the local creativity that abounds in this cute town. You can pick up a map at the Visitor Center or check it out here.
After shopping and taking in the art, you’re sure to be hungry. Everett Street is a great destination to find something to satisfy your cravings. Here are some of our favorites:
Eateries & Breweries
- Soda Pop’s Ice Cream Parlor (125 Everett Street)
- Everett Street Diner (126 Everett Street)
Delicious diner serving up American favorites in a super-friendly atmosphere.
- The Chocolate Shoppe (134 Everett Street)
An old-fashioned confectionery shop featuring handmade chocolate, fudge, and so much more.
- High Test Deli (145 Everett Street)
With a saying of “Let R Deli Fill Yer Belly,” you know this deli is a great spot for lunch – sandwiches, soups, salads, and sweets.
- Nate and Nick’s Pizza (225 Everett Street)
Delicious hand-tossed pizza made with fresh ingredients and offered with a selection of unique, hand-crafted beers.
- Mountain Layers Brewing Company (90 Everett Street)
Serves up great beer, good music, and fun times with its outdoor deck overlooking downtown and regular food trucks.
- And a bit off of Everett Street but worth the stroll is Nantahala Brewing Company (234 Deep Creek Rd)
A rustic taproom with draft beers and regular live music – a great place to relax with a beer or learn about the brewing process.
FUN FACT: A scene from the Harrison Ford move “The Fugitive” was filmed on Everett Street, and the escape scenes – including the incredible train wreck – were filmed in Swain County and the surrounding area.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention what Bryson City is probably most famous for – the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Many parents have made the trip here to take their kids on the popular Thomas The Train excursion or The Polar Express train ride during the Christmas holidays. New for 2021, the railroad is offering The Bunny Hopper Express Easter Train April 2 and 3. It’s a four-and-a-half-hour trip departing from the Bryson City Depot. It travels along the Nantahala Gorge River to a layover destination for Easter-themed activities and, of course, an egg hunt for the little ones.
Regardless of your age, trains are just plain cool. Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a must-do on your list and taking a train ride is a journey you and your family will remember forever. Click here for more information.
For the More Adventurous: Activities for Your Inner Adventurer & Outdoor Enthusiast
If sightseeing, dining, and riding trains aren’t enough to fulfill your sense of adventure, you may want to experience some local outdoor activities for a change of scenery while away from Santeetlah Lakeside. Known as a river town, Bryson City has plenty of opportunities for water fun as well as exploring the North Carolina mountains. The town sits right on the Tuckasegee River. You can walk to the riverbank, fishing pole in hand, and check it out.
INTERESTING FACT: Sections of the Tuskasegee River have salvaged cars stacked along the banks to prevent erosion. This was a popular practice back in the day – these cars have been on the riverbank since the 1950s and 60s.
When you’re in Bryson City, America’s most visited National Park is just a stone’s throw away: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here, you can spend more than a day, weeks even, exploring hundreds of miles of hiking trails and rivers, wildlife, historic buildings, campgrounds and so much more.
Fishing & Flyfishing
Fishing is a way of life for many people in Swain County with all of the rivers in this area. Regardless of if you’ve ever held a rod and reel, fishing in Bryson City, NC is a great way to spend a day in the mountains. Slightly more than two miles of the Tuskasegee River have been designated by Wildlife Resources Commission as Delayed Harvest Trout, so if you enjoy trout fishing, trout fishing in Bryson City could be a great way to spend your day visiting here.
Guided fly fishing trips in the Western North Carolina mountains are plenty, and Bryson City is no exception. If you want a change of scenery for your next fishing trip, contact one of the many companies that offer professional fly fishing guides, all of the gear (waders, boot, fly rods, fly reels, flies, and more), and the perfect spot – and maybe even lunch – for a great fishing experience while checking out this nearby town. Check out Bryson City Fly Shop or Tuckaseegee Fly Shop to learn more and plan your trip.
Tubing & Whitewater Rafting Fun
Just outside of the city, Deep Creek River waters are not only perfect for fly fishing, but tubing is a fun favorite here. Deep Creek offers a lazy relaxed ride to enjoy the river and scenery, or you can choose a crazy, water adventure tubing down sections of the river that offer a bumpier, more exciting ride.
But for the true adrenaline junkie, whitewater rafting might be more your speed. With all of the rivers in and around Bryson City, there’s a place for every level of boldness and whitewater rafting skill. The typical season for tubing and whitewater rafting begins in April, so you can begin planning your adventure soon. Whitewater rafting near Bryson City options:
- Tuckasegee River
Offers Class I and II rapids for white water rafting and is a perfect destination for first-timers, groups and families due to the gentle rapids and easy river access.
- Nantahala River
Only about 12 miles west of Bryson City on Us 19/74, Nantahala River is one of the most popular whitewater rafting rivers in the country. It’s great for whitewater paddling, too.
- Cheoah River
Located west of Bryson City just outside of Robbinsville, the Cheoah River offers quite the thrill with Class IV-V rapids.
Ziplining & Horseback Riding
If you’re looking for another exciting outdoor activity that doesn’t involve water, how about hitting the sky with some ziplining? Soar through the trees and gain a whole new perspective of the NC mountains with some high-flying fun ziplining in Nantahala Gorge in the Great Smoky Mountains. There are several companies offering multiple zipline courses and adventures for kids young and old and all levels of “daredom.”
And what better way to explore the outdoors than on horseback? Just inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the Smokemont Riding Stables. Opening March 20th for the 2021 season, the stables offer horseback rides and wagon rides. Saddle up and get ready for a scenic ride along the river, by waterfalls, and through the lush NC mountains.
Nearby Bryson City is worth the trip when you’re ready to explore the beautiful mountain region surrounding Lake Santeetlah. After a fun-filled day, you’ll enjoy coming home to the perfect waterside setting at Santeetlah Lakeside in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you would like to discover life on the relaxing and breathtaking mountain lake, schedule a tour of our private waterfront community today.