Dahlonega Georgia: Wine Country, Gold Country and More
I gave serious thought to making Dahlonega my second home. I would stay in the Hall House Hotel and I would eat dinner in Crimson Moon then hang out and listen to the great music before going back to my spacious but cozy two-room suite. During the day I'd pan for gold, hike by the lakes and streams, and indulge my taste for wine tastings. On evenings when the Holly Theatre was doing a production, you'd find me in the balcony enjoying the performance. I'm still not ruling it out.
Site of the nation’s first Gold Rush in 1829, Dahlonega Georgia is poised for a renewed rush of eager visitors but instead of miners wielding pick axes, the new influx will be tourists – eager for the pleasures of this friendly and charming historic town. About 1.5 hours from Atlanta and 150 years back in time.
Dahlonega’s GoldDahlonega sits on a gold vein stretching in a wide belt throughout Georgia, and it is the town the gave this glittering layer its name. The native Cherokee knew gold was here, but not have a monetary system based on precious metals, they saw its value primarily as decorative. It was the early s ettlers who saw the situation differently.
Legend has it that a local man was out hunting, or at least walking through the woods, kicked at some pebbles, spotting the tell-tale glint of yellow gold. It was 1829 and gold fever struck hard. Although Auraria was the first gold rush town, Dahlonega ultimately became the permanent county government. The gold continued to be wrested from the land and much of it shipped to the Philadelphia mint for coinage. But in 1838 the Dahlonega Branch Mint opened and Georgia began to make gold coins (the actual mint building burned down in 1878). But you can learn about the nation’s first real gold rush in the Dahlonega Gold Museum.
Dahlonega Gold Museum
Panning for Gold
Although millions of dollars worth of gold had been taken out of the mine, I knew there must be something left for us to find. A sense of community builds as adults and children, tourists and locals alike stand at the trough with a pan filled with the crushed ore and carefully wash the dirt away, checking periodically for the tiny glitters. JoJo was there helping us spot these flecks. One of the experienced panners loaned me his tweezers so I could carefully lift the gold and deposit it into the glass bottle we used to collect our finds.
Although the principle in panning is based on the gold being heavier than the rock, it was still amazing to see how fast a speck of gold could sink into the water. At the end, I left clutching my souvenir – 5 flecks of gold. The gift shop sells gold jewelry make with Dahlonega gold, as well as a lovely collection of rocks and minerals. Wagon rides will also delight the children.
At the Consolidated Mine, just down the road, Johnny Parker, one of their experienced tour guides (and a world-record holding champion gold panner), fascinated us with the history of the mine and mining, and the economics of digging the gold out of the ground as we walked through the massive network of underground tunnels. Despite the sky-high price of gold, it is still short of meeting the cost of wresting more of it from the earth. So, gold mines have become recreational sites, as the new gold miners come for pleasure more than profit.
The Consolidated Mine is also the site of the Annual World Open Championships held on the 3rd Saturday in April. Visitors can also pan for gold and shop in the gift shop.
North Georgia Wine Trail – Wine-ing through GeorgiaThe mountains of Georgia once prized for their gold, are now cultivated for their grapes. They call it the Dahlonega Plateau. A broad high plain shadowed by some of Georgia’s highest mountains, the Dahlonega Plateau offers near perfect growing conditions. It offers good drainage (crucial since grapes don’t enjoy having wet roots) and shelter from extreme weather moving in from the north while it is open to the south and east for good sun. The altitude in the mountains means that the temperatures cool down in the evenings, while the humidity of the southeast portion of the country is good for the grapes.
Three Sisters Winery
With 22,000 grape vines encompassing about 17 different varieties, it is clear this is indeed a serious winery. Frogtown produces dry wines, described by Kritzer as “food wines” that “cleanse the palate.” They also have a secondary label, 13th Colony, as well as the Frogtown Cellars label. The tasting room is currently open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Plus on selected Sundays visitors can enjoy Winetaster Brunches – 3 courses with wine pairings and desserts.
Wolf Mountain Vineyards
And More Wine
Appalachian MountainsThis is the foothills of the Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there is glorious scenery, serene lakes, mountain streams, and hiking. It’s one end of the legendary Appalachian Trail that stretches up to Maine. Dockery Lake, part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, is a lovely campground and picnic spot, with a hiking trail around the lake (which is stocked with trout). Grab a picnic lunch from town, and head out for a delightful day by the water.
NightlifeThe Crimson Moon
After a day exploring the mountains, doing the tastings, panning for gold, it’s not time to rest. It’s 10PM and the Crimson Moon is rocking. It has given up its daytime guise of friendly gourmet restaurant and is transformed into a laid-back easy coffee house. This is, as owner Dana LaChance explains, a listening venue. Food might be the focus during the day, but at night, people come for the music. There’s an ever-changing lineup, but all are excellent.
Today the Holly is a true community theatre, rescued with love, dedication, and money by the people of Dahlonega. Officially reopened in 1993 this delightful theatre in the heart of Dahlonega produces six mainstage shows a year plus children’s shows, and concerts. If you can, see one of their beautifully, and lovingly produced plays. This is professional quality produced by dedicated community theater.
I had spent the day exploring the many pleasures north Georgia and would end the day ensconced in my cozy bed in Top of the Square, snuggling under my
quilt with the music still singing in my head. If I wasn’t in heaven, I was pretty close.
For More Information visit the friendly tourism folks at Dahlonega.org.
April 4, 2015