Head north on GA-400 about 70 miles from Atlanta to find Dahlonega, Ga in the North Georgia Mountains. It sits just past the strip malls and new housing developments, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Dahlonega, Ga is the site of the country’s first gold rush and there is still gold in them thar hills, although it’s more of the tourist variety now, than the shiny yellow metal.
Dahlonega, Ga Wineries – Two Ways
Dahlonega is home to five wineries. Lumpkin County vineyards annually produce almost 100 acres of grapes yielding 23,000 bottled cases and attracting over 100,000 wine enthusiasts. While there are myriad ways to explore the Georgia wine country, here are two options we enjoyed – both with and without kiddos.
4 reasons Cavender Creek Vineyards is a great stop with kids
Cavender Creek Vineyards is Dahlonega’s newest winery, where we were welcomed while visiting with our young boys. Here is why it worked for us.
Donkeys! Donkey Hotie and two other cohorts live on the farmland at Cavender Creek. Donkey Hotie is a unique guy – his parents were among the donkeys that once roamed Ossabaw Island. My guys loved petting and feeding these gentle animals whose caricature is captured on the Cavender Creek bottles.
Music! Enjoy live music every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The music is always family-friendly, and this event is a wonderful way to unwind with friends while enjoying a superior bottle of vino.
Cabin! The vineyard is planned around an old family farm theme, complete with a 1820s log cabin, which the owners disassembled, moved from TN, and then reassembled, on the property. The inside is charming, with wonderful views of the vineyards. The cabin can be rented for a sweet vacation, but it was not occupied when we visited so the boys loved taking a tour.
Patio! When the weather is nice, the patio is where the musicians play. It overlooks the vineyards and donkeys, with a roof to keep off the bright sun. There are ample seating areas, with access to the tasting room. We enjoyed a wine tasting (four wines for $5) while the boys relaxed on the patio, coming in a few times to steal an oyster cracker from the tasting room.
Why the Dahlonega Wine Walk Passport is a must-experience downtown date night
Full disclosure: we thought we would try the Wine Walk Passport with the kiddos, but it just didn’t work. The wine tasting rooms didn’t baulk when we brought our kids in, but they are obviously not set up for children. We ended up having to offer the boys our iPhones (it was Minecraft madness) and then cut our tour short. However, the Wine Walk Passport is AWESOME and I highly recommend it for a date night! Here’s why!
Savings! Head to the Dahlonega Visitors Center for your wine passport. The cost is $25 per passport. This gives you four tastings at four different tasting rooms on the square, for a savings of $15 if done separately. (Just a note – there are actually six tasting rooms on the square, but only four participate in the program.)
Variety! The tasting rooms on the Dahlonega square do not represent the five wineries in Dahlonega. This means you can visit the wineries and then come to the square for an even greater selection of Georgia wines.
Many thanks to the Dahlonega Tasting Room (featuring Habersham Wines) for spending extra time with us to talk about their wines. Dahlonega Tasting Room is the oldest tasting room on the Dahlonega Square, selling Habersham Wines for over 20 years. Habersham is the oldest and largest winery in North Georgia. If you’re in Helen, be sure to stop at the vineyard for complimentary wine tastings.
Other Wineries in Dahlonega
Three Sister’s Vineyard – Order the ‘Vinter’s Tasting’ and select six wines from their available reds and whites. There are several sweet whites from which to select, and a hearty number of spicy reds. Don’t miss the dessert wine tasting; select from an ice wine or a port
Frogtown Cellars – The Frogtown tasting room is a spacious two-story building and is shared with a dining room featuring paninis and cheese plates. Tasting flights sell in white or red. Most selections are grape blends and tend to be more fruity than spicy. If there is no room at the main bar, ask a staff member to assist you at one of the side tables. This leaves you some elbow room and ample space to order a fruit and cheese platter.
Monteluce – Visitors can also indulge in a meal at the onsite restaurant, Le Vigne, and enjoy their tasting at the table overlooking the vineyards. Flights here pour in white or red, with an option for dessert wine sold separately. Be sure to try the Mead, a sparkling wine made with North Georgia wildflower honey.
Nervous about driving yourself around the mountains while sipping Georgia’s liquid gold? Try Georgia Wine Tours for an affordable escort. Pickup is arranged it the suburbs, and you can spend an entire day enjoying yourself without worry about having too much fun while driving.
Great Dahlonega Gold Adventures
Did you know the area in and around Dahlonega served as the home of the nation’s firsts gold rush, a good 20 years before California. Here are three ways to teach the kiddos more about Georgia’s gold history.
Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site
I am so thankful that we visited the Gold Museum first; it gave us a greater appreciation for our future stops.
The 1836 Federal/Greek Revival building in the center of town square is the oldest surviving courthouse in Georgia. The State Historic Site, operated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, offers guides, displays, a gift shop, and the award-winning “Gold Fever” film of the late 1820’s story that brought the town to life. I wasn’t sure how well my kids would fare during the 15-minutes film, but they loved it.
The locally-made bricks contain traces of gold; be sure to have a ranger show you a sample. We also enjoyed looking at the gemstone collections. Above you can see a Ranger showing Cooper the secret to determining real gold from fool’s gold. In this same room, don’t miss the story and photos of the diving bell (second on our list, below.) Another favorite find is in the room across the hall – stories of those that privately minted money when it was allowed. The rangers are anxious to give you the scoop – for free – so take advantage of it! You won’t regret it!
Chestatee River Diving Bell
Just around the corner you’ll find the Chestatee River Diving Bell. Honestly, it doesn’t look like much if you don’t know what it is. Once you know, you’ll be amazed!! This is the technological breakthrough for underwater gold mining, used in the 1800s. Miners would climb inside the bell, which sat on the river floor. From inside, they could breath air coming through the periscope-like tube, while they dug for gold on the river floor. Talk about cramped quarters!
Crisson Gold Mine
After you’ve seen the bell, take a very short drive over to the Crisson Gold Mine (named for early Gold Mining pioneers W. R. Crisson and son E. E. Crisson). See the only working Stamp Mill in Georgia – 130 years old. Tour the outdoor museum of the mill, machinery, and even an old moonshine still display. The Crisson Mine experience also offers Gold Panning, Gemstone Grubbing, a Wagon Ride, Picnic Area, and Gift Shop.
The boys first panned for gold. This process was pretty time consuming, but the rewards made them dance in a circle like happy little monkeys. After we made our way through a bucket of sand and pocketed our gold in small vials, we headed over to the gem grubbing trough. This process went fast and yielded gigantic gemstones in pretty colors – even purple! If you have little ones five and under, I recommend focusing on the gemstones and skipping the gold mining.
Plan to spend about an hour and a half exploring the outdoor museum, mining for gems and perusing the gift shop.
Gold Fever Tour Package
Sue’s family visited Dahlonega last fall and had a great time learning about the Dahlonega Gold Rush with the Gold Fever Tour package. The package includes admission to the Dahlonega Gold Museum; a tour of the Consolidated Gold Mine, an underground mine just outside of town; and a tour of the Crisson Gold Mine. In addition, the package includes gold and gem panning.
Dahlonega Hiking and Outdoor Fun
Tubing on the Chestatee River
Thanks to Jenni Hilton from Forsyth for Families, for giving us the scoop on tubing here!
Thanks to Field Trips with Sue and Appalachian Outfitters, I won a family tubing in North Georgia trip for four on the Chestatee River in Dahlonega, GA. We went on a Saturday morning and stopped at Publix on Exit 17 at GA400 on the way to pick up a picnic lunch. To prepare for the tubing trip, we packed towels, sunscreen, hats and sunglasses. We kept our load light and left our picnic lunch in a cooler in the car for after the tubing adventure. Appalachian Outfitters recommends that you wear a bathing suit or old t-shirt and shorts and swim shoes, sandals or old sneakers for the tubing.
The drive was only about a thirty-five minute trip from our home off of Exit 16 at GA 400. Directions were easy – drive up 400 North for 18.5 miles and turn left at SR 60. Appalachian Outfitters was about 3.5 miles on the left. The signs were well marked and the main Tubing entrance was just over a bridge and on the left.
When we arrived, we were greeted by two friendly employees. I presented our certificate and we filled out one liability form for our family (it is also available online). Once that was filled out, we picked out the kids’ life jackets as children 12 and under must wear them. The minimum age for tubing is four years old.
We gave them our car keys to hold so we wouldn’t lose them. We packed our tubes and ropes in a van and off we went. Appalachian Outfitters will drop you off about ½ mile up the road where you can easily enter the river with the tubes.
We ventured down to the river and started our adventure. We had ropes so we could tie each of our daughter’s tubes to the handles of our tubes so they wouldn’t drift off. The girls’ tubes were for kids and they could sit in it the tube easily and not slide out. Our tubes were a little larger and had the typical hole in the bottom.
It was calm and relaxing floating down the river. It was nice to unplug from the world for awhile and catch up with our girls. We reached one shallow area where my husband and I got up and walked the girls in their tubes for about 100 feet. Then it was deeper water once again and we floated down the current. There were a few fun spots where there were dips and
little tiny rapid areas and the girls shouted WEEEE!
We ended up floating in water up to 4-5′ feet at times and watching birds and turtles while singing “Zip A Dee Doo Dah”. My husband, who usually is very active, finally relaxed!
There is a sign on the left side of the river that says Tubing Trail where you can get out and walk back on a trail about a short ten minute walk to tube again which is nice for families that want more tubing fun.
Further on down on the right side there is an orange sign for the tubing exit point. We simply stood up, picked up our tubes, (dumped the water out of my four year old’s – she created a floating baby pool which was cool) and walked up the steps back at the Appalachian Outfitters headquarters.
We hung up the life vests, returned the rafts and changed into dry clothes. They have dressing rooms and a porta potty for customers. Once we were changed, we went to the car and got our picnic lunch. They have a few picnic tables and it is a great, shady area under the trees. We enjoyed our lunch and talked about our new adventure. Kids at a nearby table ran by as someone was having a birthday party. We will definitely return. They also offer kayaking which we are interested in once the girls are a little bit older.
The tubing is also only about a mile from the Dahlonega square so you could make a day of it touring and even mining for gold with Dahlonega’s Gold Tour.
Thanks again Sue and Appalachian Outfitters! What a great memory for the end of our family summer.
More Outdoor Fun
Once a year in spring the 5th Ranger Battalion of Camp Merrill host the a Ranger Open House, a community outreach event open to the public where the soldiers of Camp Merrill expertly demonstrate the skills and capabilities required to accomplish their mission. Our family attended and had fun, action packed day. See here for 5 tips to get the most out of your visit.
Cane Creek Falls is in Dahlonega, which is a nice little waterfall for having a picnic, but you aren’t allowed to play in the water. Other waterfalls in the area (but outside Dahlonega) include Falls on Waters Creek, Amicalola Falls, and plenty of Helen waterfalls.
Horseback Riding is always fun in Dahlonega, and riding the forest trails is unforgettable.
On Saturday afternoons from 2 -5pm in late April – early Oct., locals bring their banjos and fiddles and gather at the Gold Museum for the Appalachian Jam. The General Store is a great place to find everything from panning equipment to toys to homemade jam.
Many people don’t realize that Lake Lanier can easily be accessed in Lumpkin County. This often unknown entrance allows Atlantans to avoid the traffic of the more popular ramps in other counties and get into the water for some refreshing fun.
Head to the planetarium at the University of North Georgia to watch the stars. It’s open to the public on Fridays during school time.
We have a complete list of things to do in the North Georgia Mountains, so be sure to check it out!
Where To Eat in Dahlonega, Ga
Your next stop in Dahlonega will not be complete without a visit to our new favorite restaurant. Bratzeit is an unassuming German/Swiss restaurant a couple of blocks from the square that will completely blow you away. Don’t pass this one up!
Gustavo’s served New York style pizza, burgers, chicken fingers, salads and more in a casual and easy-going environment. You will not want to miss the pizza pie – it looked and smelled amazing! We also tried the chicken Alfredo (oh my, it was good!!) chicken Caesar salad and chicken nuggets with waffle fries.
Let’s not skip the drinks, my friends. The boys had lemonades, but hubby and I splurged on a Strawberry Lemondrop, Blueberry Lemonade and a Twisted Margarita with jalapeno. Also, for music lovers, stop by weekends for live music 8-10pm.
Visit The Bourbon Street Grille to enjoy Cajun inspired treat like Jambalaya, gumbo, gator, seafood, pasta and burgers. Families dine upstairs while the over-21 crowd can enjoy a pub atmosphere downstairs, with music and a pet-friendly deck.
We really enjoyed the view from the upstairs patio; it was our favorite vantage point of the square. The boys loved spaghetti and a grilled cheese from the kiddo menu, while hubby and I feasted on a surf-and-turf dinner special.
Where to Stay in Dahlonega, Ga
Carson’s Run – Sue stayed here during her visit. This was a great location, easily accessible to everything, yet it felt very private. It’s also big enough if you wanted to share with another family.
Forest Hills Mountain Resort looks like a good option too with daily breakfast, Chuck Wagon Dinner, the onsite petting zoo, pony rides (children 11 and under) or horseback rides for 8 and older, Bonfire with s’mores on Wed., outdoor pool (well maybe not in winter), walking trails, sand volleyball. The rooms also work for romantic escapes (Lesli and Dad had a date night here once and loved it. There are hot tubs in some rooms!) (Thanks to Forrest Hills for the above photo) Our partner Hotel.com sometimes has discounts for the Forest Hills Mountain Resort too, so check them out before you book.
For more discounts on lodging in Dahlonega, visit our partner Hotels.com.
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After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.