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Playtime is All the Time

Swain County / Bryson City / GSMR / NOC

Up the River With a Paddle

Most small towns don’t have much to do, but that couldn’t be further from the truth for Bryson City. If you’re looking for a true mountain town experience that won’t leave you twiddling your thumbs, this is the place to go. The Smithsonian named it “One of 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2016” for a reason. Their downtown is non-touristy and quaint, while still being filled with art galleries, bookstores, museums, a brewery and some great restaurants. But the best part is that the Tuckasegee River flows right through town, which means you don’t even have to leave to find a little adventure. People can be seen with a fishing line in the water, or simply taking in the river’s beauty. But the most recent hit has been stand-up paddleboarding. You are likely to catch people standing on these oversized surfboards with paddles in hand or peacefully flowing through town in their kayaks. You’ll never want to leave!

Deep Creek is a playground for people of all ages. When you compare all of the spots in the Smoky Mountains, this may have the most things to do. Located in Bryson City, North Carolina, this recreation area gives visitors the option to go hiking, biking, swimming, camping and fishing. But most unique is its tubing. Whether you’re looking for a more exciting, whitewater tubing experience, or you’d rather sit back and try out some lazy tubing, the different sections of the creek allow you to choose what you’re in the mood for. There are tube rental companies located right on West Deep Creek Road. Pick some up and head into the park. And what makes this tubing trip extra special is that there are three unique waterfalls that you can easily walk to on your trip. Indian Creek Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Juney Whank Falls all range from smaller, 25-foot waterfalls to bigger, 80-foot cascades. It’s a truly magical place to go with the flow.

Nature's Playground!

Choo Choo Choose Your Ride

There are so many ways to see the sights of Western North Carolina: via car, bike, boat, or even on foot. But if you’re looking to see as much as possible, we recommend hopping on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroadl. This classic mode of transportation will take you across the beautiful region in no time, hitting all of the best spots. You have two options as far as which direction to go in: the Nantahala Gorge Excursion or the Tuckasegee River Excursion. Both are unique in their own way. The Nantahala Gorge route takes you 44 miles down the Nantahala River until you hit the gorge, and back again. The alternative route takes you through the countryside of North Carolina, stopping in the historic town of Dillsboro. It even passes through the Cowee Tunnel, featured in the movie The Fugitive! Travelers also have the option of riding a diesel-powered or historic steam-powered locomotive, in addition to choosing from different class rides, some of which offer top-notch drinks and dining. Don’t worry if you can’t decide – you really can’t go wrong.

Rush down the Rapids to Nantahala Falls

If you want fun, sun, water and adventure you can have it all in Nantahala, North Carolina. It’s home to the Nantahala Gorge, one of the premier whitewater rafting rivers. The river boasts eight miles of waves and swift currents, with a three-hour trip that culminates (for you Class III rafters) in a trip down the Nantahala Falls. Known by the Cherokee as the “Land of the Noonday Sun,” this steep gorge offers Class I and Class II rafting for the majority of the trip and is a favorite training ground for Olympic kayakers. The outfitters offer guided and unguided trips in eight-person rafts or inflatable kayaks. You can bus to one of their outpost locations, hit the river for some fun and catch the bus back. The whitewater rafting season typically lasts from March to October and is a great way to create lasting memories. If you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, look no further than Nantahala!

Let Your Kids Spread Their Wings

Adventure sports in the Smoky Mountain region can get a little intense for the little ones, but that shouldn’t keep you from making the trip. That’s why Wildwater created KidZip Nantahala. It’s the first canopy tour company in the US to open multiple zipline courses for children as young as 4-years-old, which means one thing – now you can spread your wings without having to call a babysitter! They have three different levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced – so children between the ages of 4 and 12 can all participate in the adventure, regardless of their skill level. Packages include education and supervision from trained professionals, so that you can breathe while your kids are flying through the trees. It’s great fun in a scenic wooded location. And don’t worry; you’ll get your turn too! Adult canopy tours are offered in 13 different unique sections, making sure that everyone gets to have their adventure.

Discover How this Outdoor Adventure Oasis is raising up Thousands of Outdoor Enthusiasts

Adventure, adrenaline-rush, heart-pounding, laid-back, scenic, community-focused: all these words speak the language of my soul and are all words that describe the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The NOC knows the outdoors, and they do outdoor recreation right. I recently spent a couple days at the center in Bryson City, North Carolina and was thoroughly impressed by the culture they’ve built united around a love for the outdoors. 
I pulled up to the premises in Bryson City right around the golden-hour and took in sounds of nature mingled with sounds of fun and adventure as I unloaded my gear into the bunkhouse and met some friendly, fellow-adventurers, one of whom said this is his 12th visit! I grabbed a burger and fries onsite and then headed to the zipline, for my pre-booked Moonlight Mountaintop Zip Line Tour. Glowstick in hand and full moon above flying through the trees at night is something I will never forget, especially the half-mile MegaZip! I didn’t think it could get better, but the next day’s 8-mile rafting trip was the perfect mingling of breathtaking scenery, cool mountain water, hard-work, and good conversation. NOC, you’ve got me hooked.

Come On, Ride that Train!

There’s always a train to catch at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Combine the excitement of a train ride with the breathtaking Smoky Mountain scenery with magical events and the combination is simply unbeatable. There are opportunities this fall to ride The Great Pumpkin Express, where the PEANUTS gang will be on board to entertain the littles and provide photo-ops. Get off the train at the The Great Pumpkin Patch to pick out the perfect pumpkin, enjoy a campfire, wagon rides, and bouncy house! And then the most popular themed ride is right around the corner, The Polar Express, where the magic comes to life as guests enjoy hot cocoa and a treat while listening to the magical story as the train chugs its way to the North Pole. The look on the faces of the boys and girls as the train pulls up to the North Pole and meets Santa is truly magic. The ride begins November 9th and runs through Dec 31st. So, sit back and enjoy the ride.

All Aboard!

The elegance and adventure of yesteryears train travel can be found today, on North Carolina’s steam powered Smoky Mountain Railroad. Traveling this historic route, one might expect James Bond and a femme fatal, or Hercule Poirot, to be in the club car sipping a glass of wine while watching the countryside and vineyards roll by. Featuring the best Vintner selections of North Carolina local wines to enhance your palate, choices and tastings can be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, The Hunt Sonoma Country 2014, Vanderbilt Russian River Pinot Noir, and for dessert, Blane deNoir. All offered to compliment your gourmet meal with a side order of panoramic view. Traveling the countryside on an adventure of sight, sound and palate pleasing tastes runs from early May to the first week of January. Smoky Mountain Railroad excursions transport you on a nostalgic train ride, wine tasting journey that memories are made of. Bon Appetite and enjoy.

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