Dahlonega, site of the first gold rush in U.S. history in 1828 and the heart of Georgia wine country, is where the best of art, history, cuisine and nature merge in a mountain setting surrounded by the layered peaks of the Blue Ridge and at the first steps of the Appalachian Trail. This three-day getaway will familiarize you with the best of Dahlonega!
DAY 1 :: Strike Gold!
Begin your 3-day Getaway at the 1833 Public Square, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center. Here you can gather brochures and a “Gold Fever” package for discounted admissions to the town’s gold heritage sites.
Visit the Dahlonega Gold Museum, housed in the 1836 courthouse (the oldest one in Georgia), and located in the center of the Square. Among its many treasures, you’ll see a multi million dollar U.S. Mint gold coin collection and an authentic circa 1850s portable stamp mill with 150-pound stamps.
Shop and gallery hop the Square. Boutiques stock regional arts and crafts, made-in-Georgia gifts and collectibles and a hodgepodge of take-home-worthy goods from unique shops: Great Fynds, The Fudge Factory, Village Toys, Quigley’s Rare Books and Antiques and the Glass Blowing Shop, among many others. Artisan galleries such as Bleu Gallery highlight Georgia local artists; and Hummingbird Lane features the primitive folk art painter known as Cornbread.
For lunch, dig into the crispiest fried chicken you’ve ever had and accompanied by a dozen Southern-style side dishes at The Smith House. Afterward, visit the restaurant’s excavated gold mine and mini-museum of artifacts, including medicine bottles and dental implements. Next tour the Consolidated Gold Mines, where bearded and weathered “miners” guide gold diggers right down into the tunnels of the largest gold mining operation east of the Mississippi. Then join the get-rich-quick hopefuls at Crisson Gold Mine, featuring Georgia’s only working 124-year-old stamp mill, for gold panning and a tour.
Check into your accommodations before returning to the Square and settling into a pre-show dinner at the Corkscrew Café, a homey eatery with an uptown twist. Then it’s off to the Historic Holly Theatre, recognized as the home of one of Georgia’s best performing companies, for an evening performance. Located just a few steps off the Square, the recently renovated former movie palace hosts concerts and stages Broadway-style musicals year-round.
DAY 2 :: Hang with Mother Nature, Rockin’ with the Music
Grab a pastry and coffee at The Picnic Café & Desertery on the Square while waiting for your gourmet picnic lunch to be packed and then head to the Kangaroo Conservation Center. This wildlife educational experience brings visitors up-close to the largest kangaroo population outside Australia: 300 bouncing ‘roos in nine species. You’ll also meet other Australasian animals and plant life and a variety of birds, including the boisterous kookaburras. If you love animals of all kinds, the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve is not to be missed; home to exotic and domestic animals, they believe in preservation through education.
Commune with nature at some of the more than 30 waterfalls in the area, including the cascades at Amicalola Falls State Park, home to the highest waterfall in the Eastern United States: Amicalola Falls. It’s the perfect place to spread your picnic before an afternoon of outdoor adventure here or other scenic spots, including the Chattahoochee National Forest and Chestatee and Etowah Rivers: hiking, canoeing, kayaking, tubing or relaxing in the midst of rushing water and singing birds. Dahlonega is fast becoming famous for it’s mountain biking terrain, check out the business directory on this website to find bike shops and maps of numerous bike trails.
Mother Nature isn’t the only one providing music: Dahlonega has a rich music scene, compliments of its Appalachian heritage, and a variety of musical genres may be enjoyed in night spots around town and at various festivals throughout the year. Pop into the Crimson Moon, a charming café that showcases acoustic performances almost every night, including bluegrass, Celtic, blues, jazz and folk. For a nightcap, join the locals at favorite downtown watering holes Shenanigan’s Irish Pub or Dominique’s, a cozy nook with French flair and fine dining.
DAY 3 :: Fine Wines; Fine Times
Tour your choice of wineries: the timber-framed informality of Frogtown Cellars with its unique underground, tri-level, gravity-flow winemaking facility; the rustic lodge coziness of Blackstock Vineyards and Winery with its barrel room waterfall and hand-crafted wines complex enough for the serious enthusiast yet approachable for the casual sipper; and the breezy, drop-by-anytime Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery sitting in the shadow of the peaks for which it is named. Throughout the year, the wineries host many festivals such as Three Sisters annual Georgia Wine Country Festival each June.
Save the European-style Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery for last, arriving just in time for a tour and lunch at the Vineyard Café. (Gourmet food and wine pairings available 12-3 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.) The winery, fashioned after a raised, Craftsman-Style cottage, sits atop the fieldstone-encased cellar and holds early winemaking artifacts; the deck, with its sweeping mountain views, is the perfect place to sip one of Wolf Mountain‘s award-winning wines, aged in French oak barrels in the Old World ambiance of its Cask Room.
Time permitting, enjoy down-home delicious with a gourmet zing for dinner at the comfy Oar House on the Chestatee River.