Step out of the rat race and into the foothills of the Appalachians in Dahlonega, Georgia. Dahlonega is a small town that was settled in 1833 and is located about 55 miles northwest of Atlanta. Dahlonega is credited by modern historians to be the first town to have discovered gold in 1828 which was way before the California gold rush of 1848. However, the Cherokee Indians had knowledge of the gold even before that. Unfortunately, Dahlonega and the nearby area have been also credited for one of the saddest times in American history when the United States government forcibly removed the Cherokees which was later known as the “Trail of Tears”.
Besides learning about the history of gold and the Cherokee Nation, Dahlonega has a lot to offer with its mountains, warmth and charm. While many Georgian towns have declined over the years, Dahlonega continues to grow in population and attracts many visitors around the world to experience not only some good southern cooking but Appalachian culture.
Dahlonega is also the training camp of our brave United States Rangers located at Camp Merrill. Once a year in May, the public can attend an open house at the Camp.
Dahlonega is home to the North Georgia College and State University, which ranks 13th among public master’s degree-granting programs in the South by the U.S. News and World Report; ranked fifth Best Value in public higher education in the nation by Consumer Digest; and ranked among the 100 best Colleges by the Kiplinger Report.
Dahlonega’s town square is made up of many original buildings dating back to the early 1850’s. Most of the stores are part of the Historic Commercial District of Dahlonega listed on the National Register of Historical Places. You will have to check out the Smith House which is well known in the Southeast for its delicious and bountiful family style meals since 1922. In 2006, there was a gold mine shaft discovered under the concrete floor in the main dining room.
You can celebrate with the locals among the many festivals throughout the year; like…
Bear on the Square in April where you can listen to Bluegrass music and watch the locals join in with clogging.
World Champion Gold Panning Competition held the third weekend in April.
The Wildflower Festival of Arts which is in the third week of May.
Family Day/Independence Day celebrated on the 4 of July, this is one of the top 20 events marked by the Southeast Tourism Society.
The Gold Rush Days which is one of my favorites where there is over 300 food and craft booths.
And the Christmas parade where you will see the town lit up looking like a Rockwell painting while Christmas carolers dressed like the early 1800s come out and serenade you.
There are so many places and outdoor activities you can enjoy within a half an hour radius such as:
Gold n’ Grubbin which is in nearby Cleveland where you can buy bags of seeded gems and gold and pan it there or take with you. They were actually showcased on the travel channel last year.
Tour the Consolidated Gold Mine, right in Dahlonega, to see what it was like to work in the gold mines.
Visit the largest Kangaroo Conservation area outside of Australia in nearby Dawsonville. Here you will see a variety of Australian kangaroos and birds. Make sure you call them ahead of time for a reservation because they only allow a certain amount of visitors in the park at a time.
Visit Helen, Georgia which is the sister city of Fulda, Germany. The town is designed with Alpine style architect. It is also known for one of America’s longest running Oktoberfests which begins in September and ends in November every year. You can enjoy tubing down the Chattahoocee River.
Besides tubing, canoing or horseback riding, if you want to enjoy a piece of nature, you can go the largest falls in Georgia which is the Amicacola Falls at the Amicacola State Park which is in Dawson County, 17 miles from Dahlonega. This location is known as the beginning of the access trail to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. You can hike up to the waterfall or cheat like me and drive there.
There is a natural beauty to Dahlonega. Some people who come here feel like a de je vu and never leave again. I am one of those people when I bought my vacation home here. You see, this is not a Disney theme park, however its magical charms will leave you with the R & R many people really want for a vacation but never seem to get.