This great family destination is the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush.
Published: September 30, 2017
By: Carol Muse Evans
If you’ve never visited Dahlonega (pronounced “Dah-lahn-e-ga”) in north Georgia, just an hour north of Atlanta at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, fall might be the time to go. A visit to Dahlonega is pure gold for the whole family.
This great family destination is the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush. It’s also the heart of Georgia wine country. There’s plenty here to do and see for all ages, and charm abounds in this quaint town full of history and fun.
Since the FIRST gold rush in the U.S. started here around 1828, before prospectors headed to California, you can still see several mines and even a museum here. There’s a great museum with a video about the Gold Rush in the center of town, at the old county courthouse. This is definitely worth the visit and explains what happened with gold here.
Be sure to visit the Consolidated Gold Mines. Your kids can pan for gold and gemstones here and take home what they find, and a knowledgeable tour guide will take you down in the actual mine, which now runs underneath the local Walmart. See the actual tracks where miners used to ship out the gold they found, and here the stories of another time. It’s a lot of fun, but it does involve a good bit of walking. Then the Crisson Gold Mine will give you a taste of a hard rock mine with a working century-old stamp mill. Again, you can pan for gold and gemstones here.
Pick up a money-saving Gold Fever Package with admission to the mines and the Gold Museum at the Dahlonega-Lumpkin Visitors Center. It will give you maps, suggestions for restaurants and hotels here, too.
For mom and dad, you are in the heart of Georgia wine country in Dahlonega, with five vineyards and wineries. Just about everything downtown is about wine and wine-tasting opportunities. You can sample different local wines in just about any shop in town, and there’s even a “Wine Walk,” where you purchase a souvenir wine glass at the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Visitors Center for $5 and get two wine tastings at each participating downtown tasting room. There are all sorts of opportunities at the individual vineyards and shops, so check out the local website if interested.
If you decide to visit Dahlonega in warm weather, the Chestatee River (http://www.chestateeriveradventures.com/) provides some fun with tubing and other water activities such as fishing, kayaking and canoeing. But one of my favorite things I saw was Amicalola State Park’s waterfall, the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi, just eight miles from the tip of the 21,000-mile Appalachian Trail. There’s a short way in that the guide at the gate can share with you. Just ask for the “shortcut to the falls.”
Before you go, check out Dahlonega’s Theatrical Season at the Holly Theater, www.hollytheater.com. There’s even a Holly Children’s Theater option. Performances run all year long, including Christmas performances in December.
Kids will enjoy the North Georgia Zoo & Farm (www.myfavoritezoo.com). Check out the seasonal times. The zoo features more than 200 animals, close encounters and a guided wildlife walk.
Speaking of animals, find some great non-live ones at an adorable shop on the square, Giggle Monkey Toys. Great toys, games, puzzles and books for kids of all ages are here. (www.gigglemonkeytoys.com).
Just off the square in Hancock Park you may see a strange looking, large metal “building” that reminds you of a large kiln. It’s part of the gold history in Dahlonega, an 1875 Chestatee River Diving Bell. Once wanted by the Smithsonian, Dahlonega leaders decided to keep it, as it is a large part of their gold heritage. It was used for miners to work at the bottom of the river. They actually sent men down in it to mine for gold! It was put on display in Dahlonega in 2010. It is the only known surviving diving bell of its kind. Be sure to see it!
For more information on Dahlonega, visit www.dahlonega.org.
Carol Muse Evans is publisher of Birmingham Parent and visited Dahlonega in July.
WHERE TO STAY:
Forrest Hills Mountain Resort & Conference Center
706-864-6456 or 800-654-6313
While it is a short drive, it is worth it! Great for couples and families, it features restaurants, horseback riding, a spa, a pool, general store and more. (Watch for a story on Forrest Hills in an upcoming issue of Birmingham Parent.)
WHERE TO EAT:
GrapeVine’s Italian Restaurant
I cannot say enough good things about this Italian restaurant. I could have eaten there every meal! Affordable prices, lovely atmosphere, but not too fancy for kids, delicious food, within walking distance of the town square.
Right off the square, you can imbibe in an alcoholic beverage, eat a delicious meal and be sure to ask them why they REALLY call it Spirits Tavern – it’s not about the drinks. It’s a terrific place for lunch.
Capers on the Square
This delicious Mediterranean restaurant has an extensive menu with lots of Greek favorites. Kids eat free on Tuesdays!
Forrest Hills Resort
706-864-6456 or 800-654-6313
Have dinner here, or definitely check out the buffet breakfast, featuring just about anything you could want for breakfast!