Should you take the kids to Ellijay Ga? YES! By all means. But…should you also plan a date night escape there without them? Double YES!
Dan and I visited this north Georgia mountain town (which happens to be the county seat for Gilmer County) for a summer date night escape, and I was blown away by all there is to do! We’ve created an itinerary for you below, with all the best things to do in the small town of Ellijay, Ga and take in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountain views.
From exploring Downtown Ellijay to hitting the water, and from the perfect accommodations to the ideal eats & treats…here is how to enjoy Ellijay, Georgia over a weekend.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN ELLIJAY
- Best Tried and True Hotel: Our favorite tried and true hotel in Ellijay is The Comfort Inn & Suites East Ellijay. Guests can enjoy the indoor heated pool and fitness center here.
- Best for History Buffs: Bordering Georgia’s Rich Mountain Wilderness, this Budget Inn Top of Ellijay features a basketball court and free property-wide Wi-Fi. Guests can also explore American history 1 mile away at the Civil War Museum and Library.
- Best In Downtown: The Ellijay Inn is in downtown Ellijay, a 30-minute drive from Amicalola Falls State Park. This motel offers guests free Wi-Fi and cable TV in each room.
FRIDAY IN ELLIJAY GA – ARRIVE AND EXPLORE
LUNCH AT BACK PORCH BISTRO
Ideally, you’ll be able to escape work a little early and head to the town of Ellijay by lunchtime. We recommend you grab a quick and easy (but delicious) lunch at Back Porch Bistro. It’s right off the square, with plenty of free parking.
Dan and I both had the half-and half…with half a sandwich and a bowl of soup. It was really delicious. We also heard that the owner makes a mean apple cake…people buy the whole cake to take home because it is so tasty. You don’t have to do that, though…you can just share a slice when you visit. Don’t miss it!
EXPLORE THE SQUARE
Since you’re there, take some time to explore the shops on the Main Street in Downtown Ellijay. Here is the scoop on a few of my favorites:
We started by leaving Back Porch Bistro and exploring The North Star Emporium that sits in the “front” of the restaurant (they are connected.) It is a cute place with vendor spaces and tons of trinkets.
From there we headed to Mountain Treasures…because…wine! The front of the store has super cute clothing for sale (I bought the cutest top!), but the back is where the action is. You can sample a selection of wines from Cartecay Vineyards (an Ellijay winery) as well as some Moonshine!
After your tasting, be sure to try the wine slushy. The blueberry was my favorite, but they also had peach. Here’s a tip…if you think you can handle the wine without spilling, then do your tasting first and then get a slushy…all before you check out the clothes in front and the furniture and decor in back because you can’t leave the store with your drink.
Green Willow Soap is another store you have to visit. The owner makes all of her soaps right in the back, and her story is an interesting one – mention that we told you to ask her about it….she’d love to share. We picked up bath bombs for the kids (they love these!) and some soaps for Grammy (who was babysitting).
They also had a very masculine soap for Dan, which he is enjoying. And let me tell you about the special treat I got! It’s a soap bar for shaving. It lathers up really well…and when you shave, your legs are as smooth as a baby’s. Plus, you don’t need lotion afterward. I think everyone I know is getting a bar for Christmas now…don’t tell them!
A little further down you’ll find New Ground Market. (Fun fact: Ellijay means New Ground in Cherokee! Cool, right?) It was recently taken over by a new owner, and she is extra sweet. Ask her for a honey tasting…she can fill you in on all the local honeys and other products. We bought some turmeric-infused honey, which made a great salad dressing (and we got the recipe from the owner)!
They also have jellies, pickles, meats, drinks, and art…all from local artisans. What an inspiring mission.
UNPACK AND UNWIND
Feeling relaxed yet? Now it’s time to head to your accommodations for the evening. In addition to the hotels we listed at the top of this article, we have a few more recommendations for you. Check them out.
COZY CABIN OPTION
Crescent Moon Cabin is new with a modern rustic feel. It sits on 2 acres of land, with plenty of privacy as you enjoy a cocktail on porch or you bring the family (and the s’mores plate) to the fire pit with twinkling lights. Fido is welcome to tag along for an additional fee.
Details: 4 guests · 1 bedroom · 2 beds · 1 bath · Book Now
BRING ALL THE GIRLFRIENDS
This larger cabin doesn’t skimp on fun! Bring your extended family, or pack your bags for a weekend away with the girls with 4 bedrooms that all overlook the water. The large living room with Insta-perfect velvet green sofa is ideal for sipping a cocktail before heading out. Plus, there’s a hot tub for relaxing.
Details: 16 guests · 4 bedrooms · 9 beds · 3 bath · Book Now
CAMPGROUNDS NEAR ELLIJAY
About 40 miles away from Ellijay, you’ll find Bald Mountain Camping Resort in Hiawassee. This camping resort has been referred to as a “Little Slice of Heaven in the Mountains of Georgia!” Enjoy full hook-up RV sites and cabin rentals with a wide range of activities for the entire family.
Friday evening, we met Joann and Rick from The Martyn House over at the Gilmer Arts Center. The 3rd Friday of each month features a gathering called Acoustic Blends, where local artists show off their musical talents. It was AWESOME, the live music was wonderful, (and no one looked at us funny for being outsiders)!
It starts at 6 p.m. sharp and it’s free, though I’m sure they’d appreciate a ‘thank you’ in the tip bowl to help keep things going. We had a great time there!
Afterward, head back to your room for the night. You can enjoy a bath under the stars like we did, listen to music by the pond, break open a bottle of wine…and watch the stars like you’ve never seen them before!
A SATURDAY ELLIJAY GA ADVENTURE
Wake up early and get your breakfast on. You can enjoy a breakfast spread at Cornerstone Cafe on the square. I recommend the omelet with homefries! Don’t skimp here though; you’ve got a big day ahead.
You’re going to want to adventure on Ellijay’s Carter’s Lake this morning. Carter’s Lake is perfect for outdoor activities because of its 62 miles of natural shoreline. There are no private docks or development along the edge, so it’s great views in every direction.
There are a number of ways to enjoy the lake. Which of these best fits your style?
- Rent a pontoon boat from the Carter’s Lake Marina and float your cares away.
- Visit Harris Branch Beach and enjoy the sandy beach area.
- Bring your bike and ride the 3.5 mile Amahady Trail. It ranks easy/moderate and should take about an hour.
- Take a hike- there are many hiking trails for all levels!
- The Big Acorn Trail is the shortest and easiest if you feel like taking it easy.
- You can extend that walk by including the moderate Talking Rock Nature Trail. It begins near Northbank Park and is the most strenuous.
- Oak Ridge Nature Trail is another moderate option, and runs a little over 1.5 miles. There are places to swim here, too.
- Tumbling Waters is a fun walk at the Ridgeway Park entrance. There is a towering bridge and interesting forestry.
- Hidden Pond Songbird Trail is an exceptionally peaceful and easy trail with opportunities to see great wildlife. It begins at the Carters Lake South Reregulation Park.
- Finally, if you have your own kayak, set off from the Ridgeway Recreation Area via the Coosawattee River. I’ve read several reports of small waterfalls along the edge that are great to see, hear and feel – the gentle breeze from the falling water must be exhilarating. be prepared for a few class I rapids, too.
CUBANS FOR LUNCH
After you work up an appetite, it’s time for lunch. You’ll want to make your way to Country Corner Kitchen. If you ask me, this is Ellijay’s best kept dining secret.
It sits inconspicuously next to a gas station. You won’t find white table cloths or fancy wait staff…but you will have the best darn Cuban cuisine imaginable! Seriously…I would drive to Ellijay JUST for a sandwich here.
Sure, you could get hamburger or some other lunch staple…but the Cuban sandwich or the Cuban plate are DIVINE. I’m not kidding…they are AMAZING! And the black beans…and fried plantains…and his special green sauce. Gah! I’m salivating as I write! (It’s open for breakfast and brunch these days.)
You’ll want to order seconds at Country Corner Kitchen, but don’t…save room for a wine tasting at Engelheim Vineyards. The wine tasting includes 5 wines for $12 (excludes dessert port wines).
The tasting room is open 7 days a week from 12:30-6 pm., and they feature live music on Sat & Sun from 1:30-5:30. During their peak months, they host a concert series called “Live on the Vine” on Friday evenings.
Don’t miss the opportunity to take a tour of the vineyard and winery from the owner, Gary Engel. It usually starts about 3pm on Saturday but call ahead to double check. Tours are Approximately 45 mins-1 hour, $15.00 person, and are by appointment only.
If you enjoy wineries, then be sure to visit a few other special places in Ellijay:
- Cartecay Vineyards (which you sampled on the Ellijay square)
- Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard & Winery
- Ellijay River Vineyards (not far from White Path Golf Course)
- Fainting Goat Vineyards & Winery
- Grapes and Ladders Vineyards
- Here’s a full list
SIP ON CIDER
Reece’s Cider Co is the first cidery in Ellijay. They offer craft hard cider using estate fruits. They only use the best ingredients in their cider consisting of juicy apples & pure cane sugar. Their goal is to create delicious ciders while preserving the true meaning of hard apple cider. No fake stuff!
CASUAL DINNER DINING
To be honest, we didn’t have an opportunity to stay for another dinner (babysitter called!) but we would recommend a more casual experience at River Street Tavern (burgers, wings, great beer selection).
Also, make sure to check out Cantaberry Restaurant for fried lobster tails, Emily’s Restaurant and Bar for delicious shareable plates, The Shack of Ellijay for bubble tea and poke bowls, or Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza for authentic, Italian pizzas.
SUNDAY-FUNDAY ON YOUR LAST DAY IN ELLIJAY GA
As you may know, Ellijay is really known for their amazing apple orchards – it’s the apple capital of Georgia! Want to get your day started right? Head to B.J. Reece Orchards (9131 Highway 52 East, Ellijay) and visit their bakery to grab a bite to eat for breakfast – even if it’s not apple season.
MORE APPLES? Here’s your Essential Apple Picking in Georgia Guide!
TUBING OR KAYAKING
You can enjoy GREAT tubing and kayaking via Cartecay River Experience. They open at 10am. (On Saturdays, they put in at 9 a.m.) You can catch a shuttle to the put-in spot and enjoy a trip down river. The entire experience is about 3 hours, depending on the river height.
It’s important to note that a low river will mean you’re dragging your equipment a bit, and a high river after heavy rains can cause some white water (not too much, but enough worth noting). There are far fewer people here than Helen, which can make it a little more relaxing if you ask me!
Before you head home, make a stop at Expedition: Bigfoot, where you can tour the country’s largest permanent display of genuine Bigfoot artifacts. You’ll see sketches and exhibits, listen to recordings of sightings, see a movie in the Sasquatch Theatre, and more.
Want the perfect present to take home to the kids? Pick up the plaster-of-paris “bigfoot” maker in the gift shop…the kids can make their own Bigfoot footprints in sand, and you can capture a cast of it.
TABOR HOUSE MUSEUM
The Tabor House Museum honors the history and heritage of our county and region.
Gilmer County was the location of the historic Lower Towns of the Cherokee Nation of Georgia up until the Indian removal in 1838. The museum contains artifacts and donated items related to Cherokee history, military history, and much more.
MORE ABOUT ELLIJAY
I wish I knew more about mountain biking…I think I would love it. If you love it, then be sure to check out Mulberry Gap Adventure Base Camp. My goal is to get there one day, rent a bike, take a guided tour…and stay the night in one of their cabins…unplugged! I’ll need to remember the Advil, though!
Of course, most people know Ellijay primarily because of their Georgia Apple Festival and plethora of U-pick apple farms. The apple festival is always a great excuse to go – but bring the kids. They’ll love the adventure!
There are so many orchards in Ellijay and in nearby Blue Ridge. If you’re here in the fall, try visiting the Red Apple Barn or Hillcrest Orchards in Ellijay.
MORE PLACES TO STAY IN ELLIJAY
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