8 amazing things to do in charming Dahlonega

Dahlonega was born out of an event that changed not only Georgia but American history. In 1828 Benjamin Parks was hunting here on Indian lands and instead of game he found a gold nugget. The fact that the land belonged to the Cherokee did not stand in the way of greed. This gold discovery, which produced about $ 33 million of the purest gold mined in the United States, was the primary cause of the Trail of Tears, resulting in the deaths of over 4,000 Cherokees. Dahlonega grew up around gold mines. Much of its history awaits visitors today.

I lived nearby so I went there a lot on my own, but twice took an organized press trip. All opinions are mine.

Kathleen Walls

1. Public square

Like many small towns in the South, the square is the heart of Dahlonega. The brick sidewalks and shaded shops and stores are a treasure of the past. No matter what you are looking for, you will find gold of all kinds here. There are unique restaurants like the Bourbon Street Grill serving Cajun food, Capers on the Square with Greek and Mediterranean fare, and for dessert try the fudge at The Fudge Factory.

The visitor center is on the square and my pick for the first place to visit to learn more about the history of Dahlonega. He has maps and brochures.

If you only stop at one store in the plaza, make it Dahlonega’s general store. It’s a trip back in time to the old country store. Here you’ll find roasted peanuts, jars of jams and jellies, real sorghum syrup, great souvenir choices and nickel cups of coffee.

One of the exhibitions at the Gold Museum.
Kathleen Walls

2. Dahlonega Gold Museum

The Dahlonega Gold Museum sits in the middle of the plaza of the Old Lumpkin County Courthouse. It was built in 1836, making it the fourth oldest courthouse still in existence. I enjoyed the video telling the story of Dahlonega. The exhibits not only include gold mining, but they also explore the Georgia Land Lottery, where land once owned by the Cherokees was given to settlers after the Indian Removal Act. This part always makes me sad.

Entrance of the mine to the consolidated mine.
Kathleen Walls

3. Consolidated gold mine

Consolidated Gold Mine offers another take on mining. This one is deep underground. The well where my group entered was once buried under a small mountain. From 1845 to 1880, this mountain was dynamited to expose the gold ore. A guide explained that this was not done with explosives but with huge water pipes using a process called hydraulic mining.

Once all the loose material was washed away, the miners proceeded to the traditional extraction of the hard rock. Mining companies dug tunnels in the rock with dynamite, allowing miners to access the quartz that contained the ore. They discovered the largest gold-containing quartz vein in the world here in 1901. Our guide pointed out a line of quartz that he told us to be over 22 feet thick.

The most amazing feature is the Glory Hole. Deep in the mine, we could look down to the Glory Hole where all the main veins converged. As the miners mined the gold, the result was a huge skylight opening from the depths of the mine tunnel to a view of the clear blue sky. We were on the rocky ground on the first level, some 300 feet below the surface. The company sealed off the mine by blasting the entrance when the price of gold fell in 1906, leaving the mine’s tools and equipment to be abandoned. The original machinery is still in the mine and most of it is still working. Tour guides are former miners, so they give a very accurate tour.

Above the ground there is a gold panning area where you can feel the sensation of panning your own gold.

4. Crisson gold mine

The Crisson gold mine is not a tunnel but an open pit gold mining operation. He established the first Crisson mine in 1847 and mining lasted until the early 1980s. The company still does mining, but it is for the gold you might find when it comes to mining. exploration of his mine. The biggest attraction here is the 130 year old stamp mill. It is a machine that crushes rocks to obtain ore and it is the only one in Georgia. It works several times a day.

Holly Theater, Dahlonega, Georgia.
Kathleen Walls

5. The Holly Theater

Randall Holly Brannon originally built the Holly Theater in 1947. It closed in the 1970s as the cinema declined. Today it is a community theater with shows and films. Rumors say he’s haunted.

Exterior of Smith House.
Kathleen Walls

6. Smith House

The Smith House offers many reasons to visit. My first visit was for home style food served family style. While I was there I learned the legend that Smith House sits on a gold mine. They can save it. In the basement there is the tunnel leading to a gold mine hidden long ago.

The story began in 1884, when Captain Frank Hall, an employee and contractor of the Consolidated Mine, built the Smith House. He had opened several businesses, including a general store in town. When he dug the cellar, Hall found a vein where he suspected gold could be mined, but town officials didn’t want a mine in the middle of town, so they didn’t give him granted permission to dig it. He boarded the tunnel and died shortly after.

mine shafts at Smith House.
Kathleen Walls

Henry and Bessie Smith bought the house in 1922 and opened a guesthouse known for great home cooking. Subsequent owners, the Frys, continued the tradition and hired Fred and Thelma Welch, who, along with their son Freddie, went on to purchase Smith House. The Welsh updated and moved the dining room to the basement. In 2006, Freddy Welch renovated the dining room. A worker accidentally drilled a hole in a cement slab covering the ground and discovered a well. The shaft descended 20 feet and ended where two horizontal mine shafts deviated. You can look into the shaft of the old mine. Additionally, the Welsh had accumulated a variety of ancient artifacts, including a bespoke cash register that was state-of-the-art during the days when Captain Hall ran his general store. It even has a key for “Bought Gold” – for buyers who have paid in gold ore.

They provide accommodation and food. I have never stayed in any of their rooms, but I can guarantee the food. I have eaten too much. It’s made from scratch and uses many old family recipes.

Detail of Amicalola Falls, stairs and walkway, in Georgia's State Park.
JayL / Shutterstock.com

7. Amicalola Falls State Park

Amicalola is the Cherokee word for “tumultuous waters,” an apt word for the 729-foot falls which are the highest in Georgia. Before the white man took these lands, the brave Cherokees would ascend the mountain to the falls, which they considered sacred.

Amicalola Falls State Park has all the usual Georgia State Park amenities, a great place to camp or a rustic cabin to enjoy as you explore the area, and plenty of scenery. This park has something else, a luxurious lodge and restaurants. The lodge and cabins are not the usual rustic accommodation. Some of the lodge suites have a kitchenette and patio with fantastic mountain views. The cabins generally have heating and air conditioning, a fireplace, a terrace and satellite TV. If you are traveling with your furry baby, two of the cabins accept pets. It’s a minor issue that Wi-Fi is only available in the lodge lobby.

The lodge’s Maple Restaurant offers daily buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Love the meatloaf and mashed potatoes with a fresh salad and my choices of vegetables and dressing.

The park offers 10 hiking trails, bow and arrow lessons, trout fishing, a wild zip line, and a chance to meet the park’s wildlife ambassadors with a ranger. From the lodge it is only a short walk to the upper or lower observation decks of the falls. At the bottom of the falls, the reflection pool flows into Little Amicalola Creek.

Pro tip: Beware of bears in the park. Never leave food out, or you could have unwanted company.

A zebroid, also known as a zedonk, zorse, zebra mule, zonkey, and zebmule.
Zedonk (Photo credit: Shllabadibum Bubidibam / Shutterstock.com)

8. Chestatee Wildlife Reserve and Zoo

Chestatee Wildlife Preserve & Zoo could be considered just one more small zoo, with one exception: it’s home to zedonks, a cross between a zebra and a donkey. It happened in July 2010 when owner CW Wathen helped one of his donkeys, Sarah, deliver a newborn baby. It turned out that the father was Zeke the zebra. Zeke had a bad hip and was not considered a breeder. It was the first crossing. Pippi, named after the character in the children’s book, Pippi Longstocking, has the bone structure of his mother donkey and some of the stripes of his zebra father. The following year, Pippi had a sister named Pippa. The reserve offers feeding experiences for many animals.

Dahlonega is one of the most beautiful regions to visit. It’s right on the edge of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. If you’ve been through Atlanta, the nearest major city, you’ll doubly appreciate the low-traffic roads and crisp mountain air.

Pro tip: Visit the nearby ghost town of Auraria and check out Woody’s grocery store.

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