As Good as Gold: A Day Trip to Dahlonega

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In the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains just an hour outside Atlanta, Dahlonega is more than a small town with a funny name. It’s actually the site of the first Gold Rush in the United States. Read on for your guide to a golden adventure!

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The Basics
Thousands of prospectors headed to the hills beginning in 1828 with the hopes of striking it rich. From there, a mining town sprung up and continued to thrive long after the gold was gone. Today, tourists flock to Dahlonega for its golden history and incredible scenic beauty. Mountain views, a quaint town square filled with shops and restaurants, and tons of outdoor recreational opportunities are part of the charm. Your wee miners will love exploring abandoned mine shafts and panning for gold, but there are also plenty of opportunities for rest, relaxation for mom and dad (Dahlonega is also now known for its wine!). Don’t miss the town’s fam-friendly Gold Rush Days this fall the weekend of October 18th and 19th.

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Family Time
Dahlonega Gold Museum
Housed in Dahlonega’s 1836 historic courthouse in the center of town square (the oldest surviving courthouse in Georgia), this state-run museum pays tribute to the impact of gold on Dahlonega’s founding and history. While the displays are a bit dated, they contain excellent information and artifacts related to Dahlonega’s Gold Rush. Just touring the building itself it’s a treat. If you look closely, you can see traces of gold in the courthouse’s bricks which were made from local red clay. Upstairs in the old court room you can catch the award-winning film, “Gold Fever.” It’s a great first stop and introduction to the area.
Details: 1 Public Square North, Dahlonega, 706-864-2257, gastateparks.org/DahlonegaGoldMuseum

Consolidated Gold Mine
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to go down into a gold mine, here’s your chance. With a knowledgeable guide, you’ll descend 200 feet down into the earth in what was once one of the largest gold-mining operations in the Southeastern United States. Along the way, you’ll learn all about how gold was mined, see old mining tools (that amazingly still work) and learn more about the difficult life of a miner. Note that it’s almost always 60 degrees in the mine shaft, so bring a jacket and wear comfortable, non-slippery shoes. After the tour, you’ll have a chance to pan for gold prospector style. Gem stone mining is also available for an additional fee.
Details: 185 Consolidated Gold Mine Rd., Dahlonega, 706-864-8473, consolidatedgoldmine.com

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Crisson Gold Mine
The oldest gold mining establishment in Georgia, Crisson is an open gold mining pit that operated from 1847 until the 1980s. It’s also home to the only working Stamp Mill in Georgia. Going strong at 130-years-old, it’s still used to crush quartz rock today. You can tour outdoor museum of the mill, observe machinery in action and even take a wagon ride.  Of course, the main event is gold panning which is included with admission, along with two buckets of gemstones for grubbing.
Details: 2736 Morrison Moore Pkwy. East Dahlonega, 706-864-6363, crissongoldmine.com

Yahoola Creek Park
After a busy day of gold mining, your crew may need some time to run around and stretch their legs. Located just outside of town, Yahoola Creek Park is a great place to let the littles burn off some energy. There’s a playground, 1.5 mile nature trail and a picnic area by the scenic creek.
Details: 1166 Captain McDonald Rd., Dahlonega

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Grown-Up Time
Let’s say you can entertain the kids with an ice cream cone for 20 minutes or so. Tool around the square and stop in for wine samples at Habersham Vineyard’s Dahlonega Tasting Room and Naturally Georgia, which features Tiger Mountain Vineyards and Crane Creek Vineyards wines along with locally crafted gifts. There are plenty of gift shops, antique shops and art galleries on the square to browse.

Tasting Room

When Hunger Strikes
There are many dining options on and around the historic Dahlonega Square. Here are a few family-friendly favorites:

The Smith House
The legendary family-style restaurant and lodge has been a Dahlonega fixture for over 90 years. For a flat rate depending on the time and/or day of the week (ranging from $14.99-17.95 for adults and $7.75-9.99 for children), you can enjoy a generous spread of fried chicken, baked ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, fried okra and more served at communal tables. Come hungry, very hungry, because it’s “all you care to eat.” Yes, it may not be the cheapest place in town but it’s an experience. Plus, you get the chance to take a peek down a mine shaft discovered during renovations a few years ago.
Details: 84 South Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, 706-867-7000, smithhouse.com

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Picnic Café
At this mom and pop café on the square, you’ll find homemade soups, salads and sandwiches served on fresh-baked bread. You can even find kiddie classics like PB&J, macaroni and cheese and spaghetti rings for your tots in tow. Both kids and adults will have a hard time resisting the decadent housemade desserts! Picnic Café is open for breakfast and lunch and a great place for a quick pit stop.
Details: 30 Public Square North Dahlonega, 706-864-1095, thepicniccafe.blogspot.com

Picnic Cafe & Dessertery- Historic Downtown Dahlonega

The Fudge Factory
Another Dahlonega legend, the fudge factory has been churning out homemade, old-fashioned fudge, caramel apples and other decadent sweets since 1982. You can watch the candy-makers in action and try samples of local favorites. It’s seriously good stuff!
Details: 8 North Park Street Dahlonega, 706-864-2256, dahlonegafudgefactory.com

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Has your family been to Dalhongea? Tell us about your trip in the comments section below!

—Rachel Quartarone

Photos courtesy of Dahlonega Gold MuseumGeorgia Department of Economic Development and Crisson Gold Mine, Susie S. via Yelp, The Fudge Factory, Dahlongea Tasting Room and Consolidated Gold Mine via Facebook