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Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Provides Stunning Meetings Options Along With Inspiration

Photo of Cherokee Event Cenre and Ocunalufte Indian Village demonstration. Credits: Caesars Entertainment (left); Tyler Davidson (right).

Driving through western North Carolina to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, one notices quaint reminders of the region’s family vacation past, with mom-and-pop-resort cabins in various stages of activity popping into view seemingly straight from the 1950s.

Then near Cherokee, about 50 miles west of the booming mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina, the landscape shifts to a more modern feel upon entering the Cherokee Indian Reservation, home to the 56-acre resort owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and managed by Caesars Entertainment. Located at the foot of Great Smoky Mountains National Park—the nation’s most visited—the sprawling, mile-long resort is a gaming, entertainment, meetings and events gem sprouting from the green expanse of the southern Appalachians.

Photo of Harrah's Cherokee Resort Casino exterior at night.
Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort. Credit: Caesars Entertainment.

Meetings Today got the opportunity to visit the resort as part of a small fam, and our report follows.

An Epic Story of Tribal Perseverance

Photo of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribal leaders performing.
Eastern Band of Cherokee tribe members. Credit: Tyler Davidson

The provenance of this land goes much, much deeper than the scenery belies, as the tribe rebounded after being forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and in 1838 marched on the notorious Trail of Tears for relocation in Oklahoma. The story thankfully didn’t end there as, according to a tribal leader, the band of Cherokees ingeniously adopted and raised a white child who, upon becoming an adult, bought back 57,000 acres of land (native peoples were not allowed to purchase real estate at the time) called the Qualla Boundary. The land is now kept in trust by the federal government. 

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort honors the heritage of the tribe via an extensive permanent exhibition of contemporary Eastern Band of Cherokee art throughout the property, such as pottery, beadwork and masks, along with tribal-focused design flourishes. 

According to the resort, approximately 20% of its staff is comprised of tribal members. Revenue from the resort greatly contributes to the tribe in the form of one of the top medical facilities in the region as well as the Cherokee Development Program, which fast-tracks tribal youth to careers in supervisorial roles related to the property and provides extensive resources to guide them along their journey, including programs focused on women tribal members and tuition reimbursement.

[Related Native American Casinos Have Given Back Big During the Pandemic]

Harrah’s Cherokee Highlights

One of the first things visitors notice upon entering the massive resort is the creek that runs straight through the center of its hotel towers. The morning after our arrival and welcome dinner at Gordon Ramsay Truffles Pub, our group was outfitted in hip waders, water-proof footwear and fly-fishing poles to pluck trout out of Soco Creek. A testament to the stewardship of the land by the tribe, the crystal-clear creek gave up a few of its denizens, but alas, this writer could not land any of his many nibbles.

Photo of fly-fishing on Soco Creek at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort.
Fly-fishing on Socco Creek at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort. Credit: Tyler Davidson.

The Event Center

A true highlight of the property is The Event Center, a state-of-the-art venue that can accommodate 3,035 guests seated and is able to be configured for a multitude of purposes. The venue also offers two large VIP Suites, each of which can seat 65, and two smaller VIP Suites that offer six seats in each with 66 more directly in front of the suites.
The setting for an elaborate final-night dinner featuring the culinary stylings of Executive Chef Carter Alexander, our group members took their seats at a long table set with cosmopolitan flair in front of the Center’s 60-by-40-foot stage framed by 32-foot-tall high-resolution screens.

[Related: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Completes Expansion, Other Openings in the South]

Named one of Billboard magazine’s Top 25 Hottest Clubs in North America for two consecutive years, The Event Center features top acts that have included Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, Billy Strings, The Doobie Brothers, Darius Rucker, Alicia Keys and many others.

Photo of event at Cherokee Event Center.
Event at Cherokee Event Center. Credit: Caesars Entertainment.

Guest Rooms

Photo of Harrah's Cherokee Resort Casino Mountain Tower King room.
Mountain Tower King room. Credit: Caesars Entertainment.

The resort’s three current towers—Mountain, Creek and Soco—offer a total of 1,108 guest rooms, including 107 suites. All rooms feature a furnished sitting area, Italian marble vanity and Berber carpet, with the Super Suites also offering marble foyer entrances, glass-front terraces and the services of a full-time concierge.

The property is set to open a fourth tower, named The Cherokee Hotel, in October. The 19-floor addition will offer 725 rooms, including 70 suites, along with a separate terrace, fitness center, lobby bar and a Starbucks.

Dining and F&B Outlets

Photo of Guy Fieri’s Cherokee Kitchen + Bar at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort.
Guy Fieri’s Cherokee Kitchen + Bar. Credit: Caesars Entertainment.

The resort contains 12 dining options, including Guy Fieri’s Cherokee Kitchen + Bar, Gordon Ramsay Food Market, BRIO Italian Grille and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, with additional outlets Selu Garden Cafe, Lobby Cafe, Noodle Bar, Wicked Weed Brewing and a food court with a Johnny Rockets and Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Patio area of Selu Garden Cafe, in particular, is a great option for small breakfast receptions overlooking the resort’s meandering creek.

Located on the bustling casino floor, Myst Bar serves up entertainment that includes live music on an elevated stage every weekend, along with high-definition large-screen TVs for sports broadcasts.

Another fun on-property entertainment option and lively event venue is the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, packed with video arcade games and offering 24 bowling lanes, along with private party rooms, an Esports Zone and Strikes Lounge, serving up a boutique bowling experience and alcohol for guests 21-plus.

Photo of UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort.
UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Credit: Ceaesars Entertainment.

In early July, the resort opened a new comedy club, The Comedy Zone, a 3,000-seat venue that stages top touring comedians and provides yet another onsite group entertainment option.

The property also features a fitness center, heated indoor and outdoor pools (with cabanas that offer bar service), the 18,000-square-foot Mandara Spa, the 300-seat Laurel Lounge, 11 retail shops and the par-72 championship Sequoyah Golf Club located about three miles away and providing privileged hotel guest access.

Photo of bulldog mural at Gordon Ramsay Truffles Pub, Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort.
Gordon Ramsay Truffles Pub. Credit: Tyler Davidson.

Offsite Options

While groups may be tempted to hunker down and never leave the massive resort, our fam group did get to experience a couple standout offsite activity options that provided perspective on both the tribal heritage of the region and its railroad history and natural lures of the southeastern Smoky Mountains.

One can’t-miss offsite activity is a visit to the Ocunalufte Indian Village, a re-enactment of Cherokee village life circa the 1760s that showcases the lifestyle of the native peoples of the region that thrived as a key station in a sophisticated trading route that linked tribes throughout the Southeast.

Photo of demonstration at Ocunalufte Indian Village.
Ocunalufte Indian Village. Credit: Tyler Davidson.

Located a little less than three miles from the resort, Ocunalufte Indian Village takes visitors on a guided journey that features tribal members creating crafts, tools and weapons, and ends with a joyous dance ritual in a rustic outdoor stage under a canopy of trees, all amidst the evocative smell of the village’s fires. Taking the opportunity to educate attendees about the culture of their host should always be taken into consideration for trips to this resort that is such a tribal success story. 

The other excursion, departing from the quaint mountain town of Bryson City, North Carolina, about 12 miles from the resort, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Experience provided a relaxing ride on the rails through the verdant Carolina Mountains (which comprises 52% of Great Smoky Mountains National Park) landscape. 

Photo of two people seated and looking out the window during Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Experience excursion.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Experience. Credit: Tyler Davidson.

Rail tours, which include lunch and drink service, last between four-and-a-half hours and a full day and travel 44 miles roundtrip to the world-class whitewater rafting mecca Nanthahala Gorge for a one-hour stop at its Nantahala Outdoor Center. Here, riders disembark and can stroll through its leafy mountain surroundings (and perhaps grab a beer or bite) or even take a selfie on the famed Appalachian Trail, just a short, easy hike from the railroad tracks.

Groups can also avail themselves of a variety of packages, including rail/activity combos that pair the rail ride with a guided eight-mile river rafting adventure on the Nantahala River; a Rail & Trail journey that adds a Waterfall Jeep tour; and private caboose rentals, among other options.

The railroad, operated by American Heritage Railways, also runs a 32-mile roundtrip Tuckasegee River Excursion along the river of the same name.

Our visit to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort was the culmination of a personal goal of mine since first learning about the resort and then moving to North Carolina, and apart from the impressive, state-of-the-art Event Center and other meeting facilities, the story of the unbreakable will and ingenuity of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be what really resonates with me long after the visit. 

Photo of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribal members.
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribe members. Credit: Tyler Davidson.

Key Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Specs

Photo of Myst Bar at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort.
Myst Bar

Some key specs of the resort include the following:

  • Hotel rooms: 1,800 (largest in the Carolinas)
  • Event Center capacity: 3,000-plus seated; 3,905 standing; 800 banquet
  • Conference space: 82,000 square feet
  • Exhibition Hall: 33,000 square feet
  • Largest ballroom: 32,000 square feet with 26 meeting spaces
  • Council Fire Ballroom: 15,000 square feet
  • Prefunction space: 11,100-square-foot off ballroom; 6,000 square feet off Exhibition Hall 
  • Mandara Spa: 18,000 square feet
  • Retail: 11 outlets
  • Gaming floor: 150,000 square feet, including Caesars Sportsbook, WSOP poker room
  • Parking spaces: 4,900
  • Dining outlets: 12
  • Table games: 160-plus
  • Slot machines: 3,000


Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

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About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.