I admit we used to scoff at the "gem mines" that we'd pass on our way through tourist traps like Gatlinburg and Myrtle Beach. I still can't vouch for them but I can say that the Sugar Creek Gem Mine in Banner Elk is a lot of fun!
The kids love the place and they pull enough stuff out of the buckets that you feel like it was money well spent. Semi-pro tip: the bigger buckets come with bigger gems so if you have several kids, get a giant bucket rather than a small one for each kid.
They have some neat stuff in the gift shop, too, like soapstone candle holders and geodes that haven't been cracked open yet so you can discover what's inside on your own.
This photograph was captured with a Sony a6300.