Maggie Valley is steeped in rich Appalachian culture and a fascinating history filled with people, stories, and song. You can find it whispering through the mountains, burbling down the streams, and peeking around every corner of nature. But you can also find it in many of the wonderful museums that are tucked away in Haywood County and beyond. Read on for a list of some of our favorite museums that showcase the vibrant heritage that makes this corner of the Smoky Mountains come alive.
The Storytelling Center of the Southern Appalachians
There’s nothing like hearing a great story. Way before the onslaught of social media, the internet, and even the written word, the people of the Smokies told stories as a way of passing down their history and culture from one generation to the next. For centuries, these mountains have been filled not only with its mystic fog but with stories and songs, prayers and proverbs, myths and legends.
The Storytelling Center of the Southern Appalachians in Bryson City makes it a priority to “collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret, and promote the musical and oral heritage of the area.” They host special storytelling events as well as public programs and exhibitions as a way of carrying on their beloved oral traditions. Rediscover the magic of stories that you knew as a child when you visit this awe-inspiring museum.
Smoky Mountain Trains Museum
Also located in Bryson City, you’ll find the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum. Discover an eye-popping collection of 7,000 Lione engines, cars and accessories, impressive operating layout, children’s activity center, and gift/toy shop. This place truly has something for everyone.
Train lovers (and kids of all ages) will have a blast touring the museum, but the big thrill is riding on the train itself! Chug along on either a diesel or steam powered engine, and choose from several routes that will take you through the Nantahala Gorge or past the Tuckasegee River. There’s even a moonshine experience that includes a tasting of locally made ‘mountain dew.’
Museum of the Cherokee Indian
Immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of the native Cherokee tribe when you visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC. It’s vibrant and engaging displays as well as interactive video are inspired by the grace and ingenuity of the Cherokee people and create a complete sensory experience.
As you stroll through each fascinating and educational exhibit, you’ll learn all about the Cherokee people’s inventiveness, resilience, and will to survive through many troubling periods in history. You will gain a greater understanding of who the people of Cherokee really are, where they came from, and why they’re still here.
Shook-Smathers House Museum
The Shook-Smathers House Museum in Clyde, NC was originally built as a three-story cabin around 1795. It holds a significant place in Methodist history as being a host to the traveling Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury, who was a major influence on the region and an early spreader of Methodism in the area. The home also hosted regular worship services as well as singing and music lessons before a church was built nearby.
Today, you can explore the home’s antiquities like the Shook family’s original pump organ and Granny Shook’s antique platter that had been passed down through the family from mother to daughter over the past 200 years. Family treasures like these and so many more will give you keen insight into what life was like for the Shooks and others like the.
Scottish Tartans Museum
The Scots have been in the Smoky Mountains since the early settlements, and much of the Appalachian heritage and history can be traced directly back to their arrival. In fact, North Carolina has one of the highest percentages of Scottish populations in all of the 50 states. By the late 1700s, the Scottish settlers had established small and mostly isolated communities with their fellow countrymen, allowing them to preserve many of the traditions they brought with them such as ballads, folklore, music, storytelling, handmade craftsmanship and even agricultural processes.
Head to the Scottish Tartans Museum in Franklin, NC, where you’ll learn all about the area’s Scottish emigrants, discover your own Scottish heritage by finding your clan or family tartan, and gain a deep appreciation for the rich traditions that surround the kilt and the Scottish National Dress.
Wheels Through Time
Get transported back in time when you visit the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, NC. From two wheels to four, discover how we humans get around the Smoky Mountains. With over 300 classic and rare motorcycles spanning America’s transportation past, this museum celebrates all the ways we get around and will definitely get your engine revving.
Perfect for any kind of bike or car enthusiast, you’ll be wowed by the shine of the chrome and the polish of the paint job on rides from big names like Harley Davidson, Indian, Excelsior, Henderson, Crocker, and so many more! Don’t miss this incredible gem hidden away in the Smokies.
Meadowlark Motel makes the perfect home base to explore the area’s Smoky Mountain museums. Book one of our creekside cabins or an Appalachian-chic motel room to fully immerse yourself in the culture you’ve learned about on all your museum adventures.
Check out this episode of the Gateway to the Smokies podcast, where Meadowlark Motel owner Joseph Franklyn McElroy highlights more nearby museums around Maggie Valley and throughout the Smokies!