Even though we’ve lived in Atlanta for almost five years, we’ve yet to explore all this area has to offer. And really, the idea of a quick weekend trip without a long car drive is really attractive when funds are low and you’re chasing after a bunch of kids, which is exactly what I discovered when I visited Dahlonega, a small town about 70-ish miles north of Atlanta as a guest of their Chamber of Commerce.
With my two older kids in tow, we enjoyed the outdoorsy small town that’s known as the starting point for the Appalachian Trail. However, what we discovered was that there’s much more to enjoy, whether it’s a quick overnight with girlfriends, a short getaway sans kids with your SigOth, or a weekend trip with your family.
Here are a few reasons why Dahlonega should be on your map, besides the fact that it’s just a super fun word to say.
1. The Nature
As the start of the Appalachian Trail, you can imagine that there is no shortage of outdoor activities here. Whether you love hiking and walking trails, or boating and tubing, you’re in luck. Even if you’re not a serious sportsman (or woman), you’ll appreciate the beautiful, quaint mix of farm and forest.
We stayed in the Cavendar Creek Cabins, a family run establishment with 10 stand alone cabins that were immaculately kept and rustically decorated, complete with a full kitchen. My kids enjoyed seeing wild turkeys out their windows in the morning, as well as the nature hikes around the property. Don’t expect WiFi in the cabins; instead, they’ve got plenty to keep you occupied and unplugged (hot tubs anyone?). Fair trade for a few days, I think.
2. The History
As I quickly learned, there’s a long gold mining history in Dahlonega, and you’d be remiss not to check out the gold mine tours, including the Gold Mine Museum, Crisson Gold Mine and Consolidated Gold Mine. We panned for gold, collected gemstones, and even took a tour 200 feet down in an old mine shaft, complete with hard hats. My kids were in rock and sand heaven.
You’ll also want to be sure and make a stop at the Smith House, which is a hotel and restaurant, serving a traditional southern family style lunch. Fried okra, please. And they recently discovered a mine shaft while doing some renovations, so there are lots of interesting artifacts to look at while you visit.
3. The Wineries
Don’t expect the sweet Muscadine wine that’s traditional for Georgia for–these wineries use European grapes to make their award-winning wines. Since I was visiting with my kids, I wasn’t able to personally visit the
wineries, but I’ve been told that adding a tour, tasting, or grape stomping event (!) is a fun thing to add onto your list of activities with a partner or girlfriend.
However there’s not yet a bus service to take you to and from each winery safely. From what I hear, that’s coming soon; until then, you’ll need a designated driver.
4. The Culture
As a college town, I was impressed with how much culture Dahlongea has to offer. From the historic theater that features traveling shows and community theater to a surprising number of live music events and festivals, there’s no shortage of things to do beyond exploring wine or nature.
The small downtown square area is full of small, independent shops and restaurants, and everyone is extremely friendly and helpful. I loved jewelry artist Grant Searcy, a Los Angeles transplant, there selling his own designs in the small spa in town with other US artisans.
5. The Chocolate
Please know you’re not going to Dahlongea for the food. I admit being somewhat disappointed with the lack of variety and ingredients, but I also got the sense that there’s a rejuvenation happening, with folks paying attention to the needs and desires of visitors.
However, I think our favorite stop was the Paul Thomas chocolate shop, where my kids were able to make their own chocolate-covered jelly candies. Everything is made by hand right in the shop and sold to visitors and locals, as well as online shoppers, and wow, it’s amazing.
Right now they’re churning out seasonal Easter candies, plus lots of artisan yummies too, like handmade truffles and
chocolate-covered bacon. Seriously. It’s awesome.
Dahlongea is not a touristy vacation town; if you’re looking for a luxury vacation, head to a bigger city. But if you want an affordable overnight or weekend small town getaway that’s within a reasonable driving distance from most Southeast cities, this is a terrific option to check out.
If you’d like to learn more about Dahlonega, Georgia, head over to the Dahlonega Facebook page. And thanks to the Dahlonega Chamber of Commerce for providing accommodations and a few extras for me and my kids.