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Thanksgiving Adventure in Bryson City, NC: A Family-Friendly Guide

When the leaves start to change and a crispness fills the air, there's no better time to plan a family getaway than Thanksgiving. My family and I decided to ditch the traditional holiday routine and we embarked on an unforgettable trip to Bryson City, North Carolina.

If you're thinking about planning a Thanksgiving trip with your loved ones, this guide will help you make the most of your visit to this charming Hallmark like, mountain town.

Road Trip

We set out on an 11-hour road trip from Naples, Florida making occasional stops along the way for breaks, food, and gas. Our kids handle long trips exceptionally well because we come fully prepared. We like to pack them a variety of snacks, engaging activities, and ensuring that all of their electronics are fully charged.

Here are some of things I like to have for each kid:

I highly advise that if you're not used to driving through the mountains at nighttime, you should take the time to plan your trip meticulously to ensure you arrive during the daytime.


Before leaving on our trip, I always plan out what meals we will be cooking at the cabin that way I know exactly what we'll need from the grocery store when we arrive. I think it's great to plan yourself out. We brought the turkey (frozen) with us from Naples in a cooler.

Here are the two grocery stores we like to shop at:

  • Ingles (Address: 19/23 Hughes Branch Rd, Bryson City, NC 28713)

  • Walmart (Address: 210 Walmart Plaza, Sylva, NC 28779)

Cabin Rental

We stayed at the Three Little Bears Retreat that sits on 40+ acres bordering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Bryson City, NC. It has 1 master bedroom up stairs with a loft and 2 bedrooms down stairs. Their basement is another room that has bunkbeds and I think it sleeps 11 people. In their garage is a game room with a pool table, foosball table, arcade console, and dart board. It also leads outside to the bottom floor deck that has a swing, a sitting area for bonfire and hot tub. There's a little creek at the bottom that you can hear from the cabin and there's a little hiking trail on the property.

It was the perfect cabin for our Thanksgiving trip and it had everything we needed. I should also mention that it was not scary to get to. We have a Kia Sportage and didn't need to turn on the 4wheel drive setting.

You can find more information about the cabin and booking info for your next trip here :

Downtown Bryson City

We love downtown Bryson City especially when it's all decorated for Christmas. There are so many unique stores to shop from. Perfect time to shop for some souvenirs or Christmas gifts.

There is a train there that you could ride and it goes from Bryson city to Dillsboro, which is another cute little town.

We like to eat pizza at Anthony's Pizza. The address is: 15 Depot St.Bryson City, NC 28713

Dillsboro Town

This is the little town the train stops at. There's a lot of cute stores to shop from and our favorite restaurant there is called Haywood Smokehouse. They're closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. There's also a brewery there that you'll want to check out it's called Innovation Station.

Clingmans Dome

You'll want to add this to your list of hikes because wow was it an unforgettable experience. It is about an hour from Bryson City but so worth it! The drive there was breath taking and the mountain still had ice on the side of it.

It is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is a must do/see destination for nature enthusiasts and hikers. The elevation is 6,643 feet and it stands as the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains.

To make the most of your visit, remember to check the park's seasonal opening and closing dates, as the road leading to Clingmans Dome is closed during winter.

The paved path to the observation tower is steep but accessible, making it suitable for all levels of hikers, and it's a must-visit spot for anyone looking to capture stunning sunset or sunrise photographs. Don't forget to bring layers of clothing, water, and comfortable shoes, as well as a pair of binoculars to enhance your experience at this captivating mountain peak!

It is stroller friendly, so parents, do not forget that stroller because you'll regret it! We visited twice and the first time didn't bring a stroller. It was a rough hike holding a toddler.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Less than 30min from Bryson City, located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this visitor center offers a lot of information on the park's diverse ecosystems, history, and recreational opportunities.

Be sure to stop by for helpful trail maps, wildlife spotting tips, and insights into the fascinating history of the Cherokee people who once inhabited this area.

You won't want to miss the chance to explore the Mountain Farm Museum that's there. Remember to check for the center's operating hours and any seasonal events, as they can vary. We usually go before sunset to see the elk.

Important Info:

  • It is stroller friendly but some paths are a little bumpy

  • Keep a safe distance from the elk

  • There is parking at the center but some people also park on the side of the road

  • There are park rangers monitoring traffic and protecting the elk

For more information, visit their website here:

Road To Nowhere

This unique and hauntingly beautiful destination is the perfect place to explore. It's scenic drive leads you to a mysterious and unfinished road that was meant to connect Bryson City to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Due to environmental concerns, the project was abandoned, leaving a scenic, 6-mile road that ends at a tunnel. Literally, a road to nowhere! There are also spots where you can pull over and get pictures with Fontana Lake. It is absolutely beautiful!

Things to bring:

  • Bring bug repellent

  • Stroller friendly

  • Closed toes shoes is a must!!

  • Bring your camera because you'll want to capture the haunting graffiti throughout the tunnel

If you want to learn more about the history of this place, you can click this link here:

Waterfalls to Visit:

  • Deep Creek Falls (7min from Bryson City)

  • Waterrock Knob (41min from Bryson City)

  • Soco Falls (30min from Bryson City)

  • Mingo Falls (32min from Bryson City)

  • Whitewater Falls (1hr 21min from Bryson City)

  • Bridal Veil Falls (1hr from Bryson City)

  • Cullasaja Falls (48min from Bryson City)

  • Dry Falls (57min from Bryson City)

  • Bust your butt Falls (50min from Bryson City)

Ending the trip at Buc-ee's: The Largest Gas Station

We always stop at Buc-ee's in Georgia on the way home. They have literally everything and anything you could possibly need. Their pulled pork and brisket sandwiches are pretty popular. If you haven't visited a Buc-ee's, then you must add this to your list!

Michael's Recommendations:

  • Beef Jerky

  • Brisket Sandwich

  • Trail Mix

  • Fudge

Our family trip to Bryson City, NC for Thanksgiving was a journey filled with natural beauty, adventure, and heartfelt moments. It was a Thanksgiving to remember, and it reminded us that sometimes breaking away from tradition can lead to the most extraordinary and cherished experiences.

As we left Bryson City, we knew that we were taking with us more than just souvenirs – we were taking with us a sense of gratitude, a renewed appreciation for nature, and the bond of family that had grown even stronger during this remarkable Thanksgiving adventure.

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