Liz Vinson In Northeast Georgia, only an hour away from Atlanta, lies a picturesque little mountain town whose people welcome you like an old, beloved friend. They welcome you to their town, their faces smiling, their arms wide open, to a destination so beautiful, so verdant, it’s as if it’s been plucked from the front of a postcard. It’s a town that’s charming and alluring, yet mysterious and surprising. It’sa town whose streets are lined with art galleries upon art galleries, whose wooded forests are sprinkled with waterfalls upon waterfalls, whose lush hillsides are teeming with vineyards upon vineyards. It’s a town full of wonder, full of life. It’s where Asheville meets Mayberry. Where the bountiful beauty of Tuscany meets the South. It’s a town like nothing else, both captivating and alluring. It’s Dahlonega.
Upon entering historic downtown Dahlonega, you can’t help but be lured by its authenticity. It’s a town devoid of tourist traps, a town that meets you with an antiquated appeal, a Norman Rockwell-like feel, the town’s center telling tales of thegood ole days – days when the pace was slow, calming, even melodic. Days when there was no muss, no fuss. From an old-fashioned barber shop complete with a spinning blue, red and white striped pole, to a general store chock-full of quirky finds and creaky floors that lend themselves to a feeling of nostalgia, to a movie theater with an old-fashioned marquee, downtown Dahlonega is steeped in stories to tell and memories to endure.
The memories go back to 1828, when Dahlonega was the site of the first major goldrush in the country, and beyond the town’s courthouse, built in 1836, sits Price Memorial Hall, whose peaked roof is made from gold found during this time. This same gold was also used to create the dome of Atlanta’s capitol building, and visitors to Dahlonega can get to know more about the town’s storied gold history byvisiting the Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site, taking an underground tourof a former gold mine through Consolidated Gold Mining Company, or panning for gold and gemstones at Crisson Gold Man.
But Dahlonega is more than gold. It’s been thought of as being one of the best places to retire, and for good reason, but the town has also become known as a quintessential destination for hikers and lovers of Mother Nature. At Amicalola Falls State Park, visitors flock to hike to Amicalola Falls, the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, where the water gushes and tumbles downward 729 feet from the mountain tops, its size jaw-dropping, mesmerizing. Once you’ve reached the top, an 8.5-mile trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, where hikers begin their trek northward to the Appalachian Trail. For the more novice hiker,there are shorter day hikes provided within the 829 stunning acres that make up thepark, where lovers of The Great Outdoors can wind their way through diverse trails that offer spectacular views of North Georgia’s wilderness. Reward yourself afterwards with a trip to Mountain Laurel Creek Inn and Spa, where you can enjoy some R &R and pampering through a variety of spa services from a hot-stone or
deep-tissue massage, to a facial, or a couple’s de-stress package.
In addition to hiking, Dahlonega is known as the heart of Georgia’s wine country, and their top-tier varietals rival Cakebread’s chardonnay or Jordan’s cabernet sauvignon. As you circle away from your bed and breakfast or cozy inn toward one of the town’s six vineyards, you’ll carve your way through the highway, meandering past sprawling farms and enchanting cottages, the mountains rising in the horizon, making you feel transported. It’s as if you’re lost, but pleasantly so. Here, you’re somewhere else. Somewhere where everything is quiet, everything is still. It’s not until you reach 501 Hightower Church Road that you realize you’ve been daydreaming, and as you drive through the entrance of Montaluce Winery and Restaurant, you’re met with an expansive vineyard offering panoramic views of grapevines and emerald hilltops.
Inside, the ambiance is chic and sophisticated, and wine bottles line the wall behind the bar top, tempting you to treat yourself with a bit of wine tasting. Enjoy their red or white flights, or take a leap of faith and go straight for their sparkling mead. While dining, enjoy pan-seared Atlantic salmon or a prime New York strip steak with confit potatoes, shaved brussel sprouts and baby carrots. The next day, head to Wolf Mountain Vineyards, only a short drive away, for another Napa Valley-type experience. Wine maker Brannon Boegner aims to please, so try the Chanteloup, a white wine that favors a pinot grigio, then order a margherita pizza to eat on the patio that overlooks the wedding pavilion.
For a night out, head to Spirits Tavern for a creative take on a hearty hamburger, or try the oysters and other seafood flown in from around the world at Back Porch Oyster Bar. Owner Lee Creef takes pride in providing Dahlonega with the highest quality of seafood, and the tuna ceviche makes the heart race. After dinner, head toThe Crimson Moon Café located nearby in the heart of downtown. This tiny, intimate music venue is a must while visiting, and like the Bluebird Café in Nashville, singer / songwriters perform in the café’s comfortable and relaxed setting, where the only requirement by patrons is to look and listen. Quickly earning a name for itself as Dahlonega’s best dive bar, The Crimson Moon Café is garnering traffic from artists in Nashville, including Ashley McBryde and Sarah Peacock, who have both performed here.
When sleep gradually calls out to you, you have your pick of where to stay. From Long Mountain Lodge, a bed and breakfast that serves the lightest, airiest and most immaculate tasting waffles, to the newest accommodation in town, Tumlin House, this town has you covered. Should you be traveling to Dahlonega with a group, which many are due to the town’s popularity with weddings, bachelorette parties and family reunions, Tumlin House ups the ante on what an overnight stay in a farmhouse should be. Here, every room has been decorated flawlessly, and no one room is the same. Gold, starburst mirrors juxtapose the dark, wooden walls of one room, while the room beside it is light and elegant, with ivory-colored accent pieces
that make you feel as if you’re in a dreamlike oasis. Bought by Zack and Lauren Tumlin as a second home in July of 2017, Tumlin House is quickly gaining momentum as one of Dahlonega’s best accommodations, so bring your friends to enjoy this enviable and affordable retreat that sits only a block away from downtown.
When the time eventually comes to leave this tiny mountain town, chances are, youwon’t want to. You’ll feel an immediate longing to return once you’ve left. After all, the town has everything you need and want, minus the hustle and bustle of its neighboring metropolis. It’s art. It’s theatre. It’s wine. It’s nature. It’s relaxation and adventure, all mixed into one. It’s Dahlonega.