Find a weekend of wonder in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, just an hour outside of Atlanta.
Fall is the perfect time for a small-town getaway. Discover the charming town square, rumpled hills, and clear streams of this North Georgia village.
There really is gold in these hills, so start your exploration at the Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site in the middle of the square ($3 admission). You'll hear the story behind America's first major gold rush. Afterward, pan for gold and grub for gems at the nearby Consolidated Gold Mine ($11 adults, $7 ages 4-14) or Crisson's Gold Mine ($3-$9.50).
For lodging, our choices are to stay at Mountain Laurel Creek Bed & Breakfast, just 5 miles out of town, or at the historic Smith House Inn, one block off Dahlonega's square.
At Mountain Laurel Creek, innkeeper Dennis Hoover welcomes you to his comfortable hideaway (706)867-8134 or www.mountain laurelcreek.com; rates $130-$140). There, Dennis's late-season gardens bring cheerful color to the rustic wooden home that offers three suites, each with a balcony and sumptuous bath.
If you opt for The Smith House Inn, you'll find a nostalgic atmosphere complete with old-timey tile baths (800)852-9577 or www.smithhouse.com; rates $79-$250).
Enjoy a night on the town with a memorable dinner at Corkscrew Café, followed by a show at the Holly Theatre. If you prefer a light dinner, order the duck salad, which features roasted duck breast over a fresh mound of mixed greens, topped with caramelized onions, mandarin oranges, and sugared pecans ($9.95). The traditionally prepared fresh trout ($17.95), rack of lamb ($24.95), and filet mignon ($22.95) please heartier appetites. Be sure to inform your server that you're heading to a show to get out on time. Then, walk next door to the Holly Theatre, where local thespians entertain. After the final curtain falls, slip back into Corkscrew for a nightcap, ginger-apple bread pudding ($4.95), or chocolate truffle cake ($5.95).
Start your day slowly at Mountain Laurel Creek. Ask Dennis to serve your gourmet breakfast on the deck with its calming mountain views. At The Smith House Inn, you'll find a simple Continental breakfast. (If you need a midmorning snack, walk to The Dahlonega Dessertery for coffee, cakes, cookies, and ice cream.)
Spend the morning around the square. Don't miss the original pottery by Brad Walker or the country-style home furnishings and artwork at Hummingbird Lane. Reserve time to get lost in the stacks at Quigley's Rare Books & Antiques. Be sure to stop in the visitors center to pick up a map of area vineyards and wineries--you'll need it for your afternoon activities.
If possible, schedule a massage or holistic facial at Littlefield Cottage Healing Arts & Day Spa (706)867-9229 or www.littlefieldcottage.com). This wonderful emporium of relaxation resides just off the square.
Head to lunch at Turner's Corner Café, at the intersection of U.S.19 and U.S. 129. They serve huge, flavorful burgers ($3.95-$4.75) on the banks of the Chestatee River.
Afterward, follow the Georgia Wine Highway to Three Sisters Vineyards, Frogtown Cellars, or Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery. All offer wine tastings and wines from Georgia-grown grapes. (Wolf charges $5 per person for tastings, Frogtown asks $5-$8, and Three Sisters is free. For safety, designate a driver in your party.) Expect to pay between $15 and $25 per bottle. We especially like the Cynthiana, a Norton grape, at Three Sisters and the Inclination, a Chardonnay/Viognier blend, at Frogtown.
Tonight, dine at The Oar House Restaurant. Two wooden decks strung with sparkling lights overlook the Chestatee River, creating a quiet, romantic setting. The signature prime rib entrée comes with a horseradish cream sauce with a pleasant little kick to it ($18.95). The crab cakes topped with a lemon-caper sauce cozy up to tasty grilled asparagus ($19.95).
Skip dessert, and end your day with a cup of coffee at The Crimson Moon Café on the square.
Work up your lunch appetite with an outing this morning. Paddle one of Appalachian Outfitters' canoes or kayaks down the Chestatee for two hours (about 6 miles). Be sure to wear your swimsuit for a quick dip in the water ($27 kayak for one, $42 for canoe or kayak for two; (706)864-7117 or www.canoegeorgia.com).
Before heading out of town, belly up to the family style dining at The Smith House. For about $15 you can make some new best friends as you pass the peas and corn. Now that's pure Georgia gold.
For More Information
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce, 13 South Park Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706)864-3711, (800)231-5543, or www.dahlonega.org.
September 17-October 2: The Odd Couple at Holly Theatre, tickets $25. Call (706)864-3759, or visit www.hollytheater.com.
September 18-19: Autumnfest on the square
October 16-17: Gold Rush Days on the square
October 22-31: Noises Off at Holly Theatre, tickets $14. Call (706)864-3759, or visit www.hollytheater.com.
This article is from the September 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.