There is more than gold to be discovered in Dahlonega, 65 miles north of downtown Atlanta. The little mountain town that supplied the gold leaf for the Georgia Capitol has shops, restaurants, art galleries, golf and outdoor activities that draws a steady stream of visitors from the surrounding region. Here is a list of five things to do that should make every family member from kids to grandma happy.
- Chestatee Wildlife Preserve & Zoo (469 Highway 115 South). Just outside of Dahlonega, the spot has something in common with Oz — lions and tigers and bears — as well as zebras, alligators, birds and monkeys. It may not be as well known as Zoo Atlanta, but it’s less crowded and more informal.
Open everyday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Children 11 and under $5, Adults $10. More intimate encounters such as petting tiger cubs can be had for higher prices.
- Take in the jazz from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sundays at the Crimson Moon Cafe, or catch folk and pop singers many other evenings. This downtown staple is a good place to step out of a cool evening wind and warm up with food and coffee or an adult beverage while enjoying the music.
- Get rich, or go broke tryin’. Try your luck gold panning at the Consolidated or Crisson gold mines. Buy a bucket of dirt and the staff at both mines can show you how to work it down to flakes and nuggets. With gold prices hovering around $1,700 an ounce, you might come out a winner.
Consolidated Gold Mine is at 185 Consolidated Gold Mine Road and is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See www.ConsolidatedGoldMine.com.
Crisson Gold Mine is at 2736 Morrison Moore Parkway East and is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See http://www.crissongoldmine.com.
- From the “Who’d have thought it 20 years ago” category: Georgia wineries are producing gold medal-winning bottles from the area that gave the country its first gold rush. Four of north Georgia’s wineries are within a short drive of downtown Dahlonega: Frogtown Cellars, Wolf Mountain, Blackstock and Cavender Creek vineyards are open for tastings. More information at http://www.georgiawine.com/georgia-wineries.
- The Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site is located in the 1836 Greek Revival brick building in the center of the town square. It has displays of the area’s gold-mining past, including raw gold dug and panned locally as well as gold coins that were stamped at the federal mint that operated here until the Civil War. Here’s a tidbit of information: The locally-made bricks in the building contain traces of gold. It is at 1 Public Square. Read more about it at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org.
To get more information on area activities, stop at the Dahlonega-Lumpkin Visitors Center at 13 South Park Street in the old Choice Hotel (circa 1837), where you can find maps, brochures and information on things to see and do (706-864-3711 or on the Web at www.Dahlonega.org.)