Unless you’ve attended the University of North Georgia, you’ve probably never heard of the small town of Dahlonega. Consider the population is a little over 5,000 and a name that’s hard to pronounce, it’s easy to see why. But unlike other small towns, this one is anything but sleepy. One part college town and one part historic destination town, Dahlonega has much to offer its guests.
Rich Historical Offerings
Georgia as a state has a storied past, and it can be easy for the lesser known towns to have their history lost to better known cities like Charleston, Atlanta, and Savannah. But Dahlonega’s entire commercial district has found its way to the National Register of Historic Places, and there is much to be learned here. For starters, this town was the site of the first gold rush in America, despite what our school’s textbooks and the state of California make you believe. In fact, gold was found here a full two decades before the gold rush in California started.
If that isn’t enough, Dahlonega is home to one of the most bizarre and ill-conceived mining inventions that never had the opportunity to be tested. The Chestatee River Diving Bell was a prototype apparatus for mining inside the river. This tank-like submersible vehicle was made from boilerplates and showed a lot of potential. That is until heavy rains and flooding made it disappear. Residents thought it was stolen, but it was retrieved from the bottom of the river in the early 1980s, where it was restored and put on display. Steampunk aficionados and history buffs alike should certainly take a picture and learn more about this one-of-a-kind invention.
Anything But Sleepy
Despite their small size, the town seems to always have an event planned. In late March the town hosts its annual Literary Festival, a free event opened to the public including over 30 authors, both nationally recognized and native to the South.
For over twenty years, the town has hosted their annual celebration of blue grass and Appalachian life with their Bear on the Square festival held in late April. This festival combines their celebrated traditional way of life, along with many musical offerings. A week before you can find workshops teaching many different kinds of music. During the festival you can enjoy a multitude of vendors as you walk around and listen to the live bands.
Bear On The Square Festival
Like any small town, U.S.A., worth its weight in gold, there is a plethora of 4th of July offerings from a fun 5K, live music, vintage car show, a parade, fireworks (of course), and more fun for the entire family, even dogs.
End of the Year
The autumn season has great offerings as well and is a lovely time to visit as the Appalachian trees take on their fall colors. Swine Wine weekends, hosted by the local Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery, hosts a free-to-attend tasting of wines and BBQ, as well as food trucks being available on site. For something a little heavier on the “spirits” side, the Grapes and Ghosts Wine Tour is a walking tour which visits potentially haunted wine tasting rooms and other landmarks. You can also find traditional autumn family fun at Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch, or enjoy one of the many local Thanksgiving dinner offerings found the local resorts and restaurants, perfect after participating in the annual Turkey Trot.
As the year gets closer to the end, Santa himself has been known to make an appearance every weekend until December 20th, when he returns to prepare for his annual delivery route. You can also expect to see the town covered in holiday lights, as well as an annual Christmas parade. They may not be as large as Time Square, but Dahlonega has their own New Year’s Eve celebration with live music and their Nugget Drop in its inaugural First Night Dahlonega festival.
Any Time of Year is Perfect
Like other historical tourist towns, Dahlonega has done a great job of keeping itself grounded in its historic charm while still having plenty to offer visitors throughout the year. The historic town is home to many local shops and businesses. The town is also home to one of the biggest concentration of wineries in the state. As is the case for any town with a thriving wine scene, your dining options will have many great options to choose from, both in town and the surrounding communities.
If you enjoy the arts, the town is home to many local musical groups who can be heard during the multitude of annual events and festivals. The local Holly Theater offers many musical and stage performances, including cover bands and stage shows for kids and adults.
Cosmopolitan Meets Rustic
You can’t beat the many hiking and walking trails. The quaint small town setting and the surrounding natural landscape will take your breath away. There are plenty of historical tours, nature walks, and scenic drives to enjoy, as well as the nearby Chattahoochee National Forest. If you’re looking for something even more outdoors, there are also plenty of waterfalls, mountain biking trails, canoeing, kayaking, and other outdoor activities to enjoy year round. In many areas, you can see the Appalachian Mountains, and at night you’ll have an easy time seeing the stars.
The surrounding areas are known for their hunting and fishing offerings. Many types of large and small game can be found in the greater Dahlonega area, including deer, bears, turkey, and hogs, and if you’re feeling especially adventurous, raccoon, opossum, fox, and bobcats are also popular choices. For those who love the thrill of the hunt but don’t enjoy the kill, the town is also popular with geocachers who have plenty of room to creatively hide their bounty in the woods. While you could stay at a swanky historic hotel, you could also enjoy camping.
Georgia’s Golden Child
The landmark was constructed in 1836 during the Georgia Gold Rush.
The rush may be over, but the town has several offerings for those who would love to see some gold. In the public square, you can find the local Dahlonega Gold Museum, which explains how the gold rush began in 1828. There are also two gold mines that offer tours, Consolidated Gold Mines and Crisson Gold Mine, both of which offer visitors to pan for their own gold. If you’re grabbing dinner at the famous Smith House, there is a historic pair of mine shafts running inside the building where the original owner found gold during construction.
Dahlonega has already been the best kept secret of Georgia destinations, and is worth a visit. With so many live music and event offerings to outdoor escapes, you’ll find everything you could want all in one trip.
If you love small towns, historical offerings, or outdoor adventures, Dahlonega could be your new favorite vacation spot.