Pine, Peaches and Pecan: A Weekend Travel Guide to North Georgia
Kennesaw Mountain Drive. Photo by Caroline Cross.
Pine, peaches and pecan are three words synonymous with the great state of Georgia. From the majestic pine trees to the delectable peaches and delicious pecan pies, Georgia will forever remain on your mind. If you have the opportunity and the pleasure of visiting the Peach State for a weekend getaway, be sure to check out these 5 stunning (and worthwhile) destinations in North Georgia.
1. Amicalola Falls
The awe-inspiring Amicalola Falls is nestled within the Chattahoochee National Forest in Dawsonville, GA. According to the Dawsonville’s Visitors Guide, it is the third tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River (measuring at 729 ft.), and derived its name Amicalola (meaning “tumbling waters”), from the Cherokee language. It certainly lives up to its name because while climbing up nearly a couple hundred steps (from the lower parking lot to the viewing bridge), you can hear the powerful gushing sound of the pristine waters cascading down the rocks below. For the best, picturesque view of the waterfall, stand on the bridge, bask in its glorious display and rejuvenate your senses. The beautiful and peaceful sights and sounds of nature are all encompassing as you admire the grandeur of the Falls. Once you arrive at the top of the Falls, be sure to visit the Amicalola Falls Lodge, where you can step outside their outdoor viewing deck to take in the stunning scenic views of the Appalachian Mountains. At the base of the Falls is the parking lot and Visitor Center of the Amicalola Falls State Park. Behind the Visitor Center stands the iconic stone archway and sign for the A.T. Approach Trail to Springer Mountain. The popular Appalachian Trail, which runs through 14 states and is nearly 2,200 miles long, begins its southern point journey in Georgia and concludes in Maine. However, there are many shorter and less strenuous trails (for all levels) that are offered with guided hikes as well. The Amicalola Falls Park also offers a variety of adventurous, recreational activities to choose from (e.g. 3-D Archery, zip lines, GPS scavenger hunts, horseback riding, golf, birdwatching and kayaking), appealing to everyone’s varied tastes and interests.
Amicalola Falls. Photo by Caroline Cross.
A.T. Approach Trail Archway. Photo by Caroline Cross.
View of the Appalachian Mountains from Amicalola Falls Lodge. Photo by Caroline Cross.
Dahlonega is situated in the breathtakingly beautiful North Georgia Mountains, and is a quintessential charming, historic town. It is not surprising that it has become well known for being a Christmas town, having been the picturesque setting for several Hallmark films. The city also fully immerses itself in its holiday festivities with its decor, parades, carriage rides, tree lighting ceremonies and plenty of year round events to keep locals and visitors entertained. Walking by the quaint town square, its charming park, museums, boutique shops and restaurants is like stepping inside a Norman Rockwell painting. There's even an old-fashioned General Store to welcome you, situated in the heart of the town's center. The Dahlonega Gold Museum is one of the must-see attractions, where you will discover Dahlonega’s history in being the first site of America’s Gold Rush (20 years before the California Gold Rush!). According to the Dahlonega Visitors Center, the building that houses the Gold Museum is a preserved historic landmark, having served as a courthouse in the past (and was even constructed with traces of gold in its bricks!). Check out the official Dahlonega’s tourism board for updated news and events to coincide with your date of travel. Dahlonega is certainly a beautiful mountain getaway that you will want to revisit and delight in, time and time again.
Gold Museum in Downtown Dahlonega. Photo by Caroline Cross.
3. Georgia's Wineries
Wine Country may initially conjure up images of Napa Valley, CA, but North Georgia is emerging as a prominent wine region as well, producing award-winning wines against the backdrop of some of the most attractive landscapes around. According to the American Winery Guide, Georgia was a prominent winemaking state in 1900, but it had to cease production during the Prohibition Era; and, it wasn’t until the 1980s before wine was legally produced again in the Peach State. Currently, there are over 40 wineries in GA, but the nearest one to Downtown Dahlonega is the Montaluce Winery. On your scenic drive to the vineyard, you will pass by beautiful cottages and villas that are for rent/sale. Upon arrival to the winery, you will immediately feel like you have just been transported to Italy. From its architectural design elements of terra-cotta roof tiles, stone exteriors and outdoor patio, the Tuscan-style influence is undeniable. Currently, they have paused their complementary wine tours of the property, but you're welcome to venture on your own by foot and sample their free wine tastings. You can also enjoy a fine meal at their restaurant (with both indoor and outdoor seating options), and partake in their wine hikes, where you will learn more about the winemaking process on their beautiful nature trails. Just be mindful to input their GPS address (and not their mailing address) before making the trek to the vineyard, in order to ensure access to their main entrance.
Montaluce Winery. Photo by Caroline Cross.
View of Montaluce Vineyard. Photo by Caroline Cross.
4. Kennesaw Battlefield Park
Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park, located in Cobb County, is one of the most beautiful and historic National Parks in the country. There are many hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts alike where you will encounter lush greenery and stunning views of Atlanta’s skyline. Bask in the panoramic views of the city, explore the wooded pathways, and learn more about the history of the Civil War battle that took place, on-site. While hiking through the park, you will pass by historic Civil War cannons and informative sign posts about the 1864 Battle of Kennesaw and the Atlanta Campaign by General Sherman’s army. There are also viewing platforms and benches, offering you moments to pause, reflect and admire the serene landscape. Once reaching the top of Kennesaw Mountain, you can return through the alternative route of Kennesaw Mountain Drive for a more scenic, tranquil walk. It is such a beautiful stroll that John Denver’s “Country Road Take Me Home” will be echoing in your ears.
5. Lake Lanier Islands
Lake Lanier Islands is a popular resort destination, located in the city of Buford. The Islands have seen some new development with the addition of Margaritaville, which is inspired by the music and lifestyle brand of Jimmy Buffett. Margaritaville at Lanier Islands offers a plethora of fun, family-friendly, outdoor activities (e.g. water park, beaches and RV Resort), as well as plenty of dining and entertainment options for you to delight in. There are many restaurants, tiki bars, food and drink concession stands to choose from that will satiate your appetite (including the new Landshark Bar & Grill). Alternatively, visit one of the many beautiful marinas, such as Holiday or Hideaway Marina, where you can enjoy lakeside dining along with live entertainment. Take a stroll down the tranquil docks and watch the gorgeous sunset over the horizon. Lake Lanier also offers many hiking and walking trails, campgrounds and other recreational activities for nature lovers (e.g. picnicking, rowing, tubing, water skiing, wake-boarding, paddle boarding, swimming, golfing, etc.). Rent a kayak, canoe, houseboat or a pontoon boat for the day, and take a lovely cruise on the lake. Explore the Buford Dam, which was built by the Army Corps of Engineers, channeling the water from the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers into Lake Lanier. For the best view of the Dam, take a walking/hiking trail along the Laurel Ridge (which is nearly a 4 mile scenic loop). There are parks adjacent to the Buford Dam as well if you would like to have a relaxing picnic and/or BBQ. Whether you want to unwind on an island paradise, dip your feet in the water, visit the spa at Legacy Lodge or engage in more high-impact sports, there is plenty of fun to be had in Lake Lanier (for all ages). For further information regarding accommodations and recreational events, refer to the comprehensive Lake Lanier's Visitors Guide.
Lake Lanier. Photo by Caroline Cross.
Kayak resting on the waters of Lake Lanier. Photo by John Fox.