Dahlonega, Ga. —
Nestled in the mountains of northern Georgia against the Chattahoochee National Forest lies a tiny town that offers an authentic peek at a time long past. The charm of yesteryear combined with the calm of nature, friendly locals and the fun of back country roads dotted with vineyards and tasting rooms results in the perfect getaway for couples in search of a romantic escape or honeymoon destination. Those headed to Dahlonega for an intimate weekend will want to consider the following itinerary items.
Wineries: A popular choice for a scenic drive is the Dahlonega Wine Trail, featuring numerous tasting stops along winding roads steeped in rural atmosphere and surrounded by Mother Nature herself. Wine tasting and cellar stocking always make my short list for activities that fall into the category of affordable luxury. Typically-modest tasting fees and bottles made more financially accessible by buying them on site provide a romantic and stress-free way to enjoy a weekend away together.
One area winery of note is Cavender Creek. Loaded with rustic appeal and charming farm animals, it’s a great stop for newbies and experienced wine tourists alike. Of note are the miniature Sicilian donkeys, sheep and vineyard dogs available for the occasional cuddle and photograph. A slightly more formal experience can be had at Frogtown Cellars, which is located high on a hill with a commanding view, elegant bar, outdoor viewing platform and an imposing fireplace for winter visits. There’s also enough room for your pooch to accompany you, provided you call ahead.
Waterfalls: The area is home to some of the most popular and dramatic waterfalls in this part of the state, making for a picturesque way to work off those calories and enjoy some memory-making photo opportunities as a couple. Popular ones include Amicalola Falls which cascade approximately 600 feet, the easily-accessible Cane Creek Falls and Raven Cliff Falls, located inside the Mark Trail Wilderness Area.
Don’t forget the recreational opportunities available to you in the national forest as well. Those with a little extra free time on their hands can enjoy the mountain-top visitor center on Brasstown Bald, explore ancient petroglyphs and even check out the start of the Appalachian Trail.
Attractions: Much of Dahlonega’s authentic historic vibe is a direct result of its notable gold rush heritage. Visitors exploring this history for the first time will want to start smack dab in the center of downtown at the Dahlonega Gold Museum. Officially a state historic site, the facility is home to a number of displays and artifacts detailing the town’s history of gold mining as well as a former location for a branch of our nation’s mint prior to the Civil War. Tickets run $7 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and $4.50 for youngsters. Prices include an informational film shown upstairs in the building’s former court room. Allow 45 minutes to an hour to experience what the site has to offer.
Another fun stop is the Crisson Gold Mine, which offers an authentic gold panning session, educational tour and the chance to sift for gemstones. Basic experiences start at $9.95 and include entry to the still-in-operation antique stamp mill, one container of crushed rock for gold panning and a two-gallon bucket of sandy material to try your hand at gem identification with the outside reference display. Of course, you get to keep any gems and gold flakes that you find. If you decide you really enjoy finding goodies in the dirt, larger amounts can be purchased. Sample gem finds include jasper, sapphires, garnets and even the occasional emerald.
Appetites: For a riverfront dining experience surrounded by gently-blowing branches, romantic lighting and weekend musical performances, take a short drive out of town to Cool Breeze. Formerly the Oar House, it was recently purchased by two brothers in search of an adventure. The venue offers a pet-friendly spot to enjoy either a meal or a bottle of wine on an outdoor swing.
The menu includes several vegetarian items of note, including an artisanal hummus with feta cheese and toasted pita points, a moist homemade black bean burger with Cajun seasoning and an anniversary-worthy stuffed portobello served with a wild rice and cranberry medley. Prices here run about mid range, so look to pay roughly $25 for entrees and $10 for starters.
In search of a fun in-town lunch spot? Check out the Corkscrew Café. They have a decent wine selection, indoor and outdoor dining, and a number of vegetarian selections as well. The $10 meatless Greek salad comes with a hearty helping of Kalamata tapenade, and is sized to satisfy. Ciabatta-based sandwiches worth the calorie indulgence include the breaded eggplant with mascarpone and mozzarella, as well as the portobello with pesto and goat cheese for $9 and $10 respectively. If there’s any room left in your waistband afterwards, try out their ginger-apple bread pudding made with homemade apple fritters and an orange-tarragon glaze.
Accommodations: Staying just a bit out of town and higher in the mountains will give you an even greater break from the heat, as well as a private space away from the tourists to enjoy that bottle of wine with a romantic view. There are a number of cabins available for rent in the area. Georgia Mountain Hideaways for example, offers pet-friendly cabin access complete with fireplace, full laundry facilities, multiple bedrooms and a kitchen stocked with all the implements needed for a special-occasion meal. They even provide the coffee, popcorn, firewood and laundry soap. The easy access to local wineries and phenomenal view are available at no extra charge. Rates for a private valley-view chalet with three bedrooms start at $175, making it an even more affordable option for couples traveling together.
(Myscha Theriault is a best-selling author and avid traveler She is currently traveling through North America with her husband and Labrador retriever. Readers can follow their adventures on trekhound.com and on Twitter at @MyschaTheriault.)
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