On a recent trip to the North Georgia wine country for a friend’s nuptials, I had the pleasure to spend one crazy night in our fine state’s “Golden City.” Dahlonega earned this nickname not–as you might have imagined–for its modern day attractions where kids pan gold flecks and semi precious stones on weekend outings with mom and dad, but because it was the site of the first major American gold rush.
These days, the area’s natural beauty, abundant wineries and rich history attract approximately 2 million visitors annually. But for a city that relies heavily on the kindness of strangers (read tourists), you sure would think they’d be a little more welcoming to those of us from the outside world.
I guess that’s what you get from a city whose residents descend from a bunch of miners afflicted with gold fever who invaded this town like a plague of locusts back in the early 1800s. At least me and mine didn’t visit under the guise of a wedding, lay claim to our unannounced staycation and then plot to send Dahlonega’s inhabitants on a lethal cross country trek in the dead of winter. Well, bless our hearts…how very gracious of us.
To be fair, I haven’t panned for gold in “them thar hills” since I was a kid and wasn’t in the general vicinity very long on this trip either, so I definitely haven’t experienced everything the town has to offer. And, for as much as I complain about all the rude Dahlogenites (yes, I just made that up), there were at least as many genuinely friendly, helpful types roaming about this rustic mountain town, which means I still managed to learn a thing or two during my stay:
1. Lodging. With its superb staff, huge front porch complete with rocking chairs and newly renovated guest rooms, The Smith House is the best thing going on the town square…unless you fancy one of the many 2-star chains, which are plentiful here.
2. Dining. When a concierge compares the local steak house and Italian restaurants to Longhorn and Olive Garden in lieu of a fine dining experience, take that as a clue to dine elsewhere rather than a commentary on the cultural graces of said concierge. Suffice it to say, the best thing I ate all weekend were the frosted heart-shaped cookies at the wedding.
3. Shopping. Unless you have a curio at home just begging for some log cabin chic or a real affinity for homemade jam, the highpoint of a shopping trip in the foothills is antiquing. Here, by the way, is where we met the nicest woman in Dahlonega who, ironically, lives in Roswell.
4. Activities. There are five (count ‘em…FIVE) wineries nestled in these parts, and I plan to tour them all. There’s also hiking, kayaking, horseback riding and sightseeing at Amicalola Falls, Chestatee and Etowah rivers, Chattahoochee National Forest and the Appalachian Trail.
5. I will be back. Maybe it’s the siren song of those wineries (I do love a good vino), the allure of the idyllic mountain setting, the inexpensive vintage records we found at the aforementioned antique store, or maybe those friendly, helpful types just won out over the rude, anti-tourist set but, for whatever reason, I know I’ll be back soon for a little R&R.