We started our trip in the Bavarian look-alike town of Helen. Known for the longest Oktoberfest in the States, Helen was a struggling mill town that made the decision to style all it's buildings as if it was in Germany. It's a small town with shopping and of course, German food. But the main attractions here in the fall is the Oktoberfest Celebration. All the hotels I tried to book were sold out - lesson learned: book in advance - so we didn't attend Oktoberfest since we would be driving 30 miles to our lodging through the mountains after dark. But I'd like to make it there someday!
We did a bit of shopping, had a little fudge and then headed out to Habersham Winery just outside of town. The tasting bar was packed so we each got a glass of wine and enjoyed the patio. Most of the wines here are sweeter and made with muscadine grapes that grow well in the Southern climate.
|No wine connoisseur here - I'm a slushie kind of girl|
We ate at Paul's Steak House which I had enjoyed on a previous visit so I knew I was in for some good food. It was also very busy - every table was spoken for with a short line to get in and it was early in the evening - so I guess the word is out that Paul's is the place to go in Helen. Good food and good service made for an enjoyable meal.
Most people don't know that the first Gold Rush in the United States didn't take place in California. It took place in the small town of Dahlonega in Northern Georgia some twenty years before California's. Dahlonega - pronounced Dah-LON -a-ga - honors that history with a Gold Rush Museum in the town square along with some cute little shops, a few antique malls and a few tasting rooms. Dahlonega is also home to the University of North Georgia which has been designated as The Military College of Georgia. And did I mention that there are some 40 wineries in Northern Georgia? Many are located in the Dahlonega area.
|That gold isn't gold paint, it's real gold from the Gold Rush here in the Georgia mountains|
We did a bit of shopping and then had lunch at The Picnic Cafe and Desserty. The cafe offers home made quiche, soups and desserts and we were all quite happy with our meal.
We had stopped at the Visitor Center and the volunteer there suggested that we had to visit Monteluce Winery while we were in the area. So that's where we headed next. And I swear you would think you were in Tuscany and not Georgia. Monteluce is an incredibly elegant winery in a stunning setting. I would highly recommend visiting this winery and it's restaurant for some delicious wine and handmade pasta on the patio overlooking the vineyard. Our Visitor Center helper did not lead us astray!
Next up was Amicalola Falls State Park and the view from it's lodge. Amicalola Falls is Georgia's highest waterfall. It's a one mile strenous hike to the falls overlook and then another 7.5 miles to Springer Mountain which is the end point of the Appalachian Trail. We - being my sister and my 90 year old mom and I - didn't attempt any of this. But I knew that we could at least take in the views of the mountains from the State Park Lodge. The lodge is a popular - and beautiful - place to stay or eat at the dining room with floor to ceiling windows or take on the challenge of the zipline and ropes course. It's definitely worth the $5 per car entrance fee.
There are the Blue Ridge Mountains, there's Blue Ridge Lake and there's the actual town of Blue Ridge which is where we went next. Known for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, Blue Ridge is a cute - and popular - town quite close to the Tennessee border. It's main street is one long cute shop extravaganza and we enjoyed wandering it on a beautiful afternoon.
Our first intention was to take the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway out of town - it takes you one hour to the Georgia-Tennessee border where you have two hours to wander in McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee and then return - but since the foliage was still quite green we opted out this time. Hopefully there will be a return visit someday. So for now we shopped and ate - hmm....seems to be a recurring theme - enjoying lunch at the recommended Cantaberry for some delicious soups and sandwiches.
Our afternoon excursion was to the humongous Mercier Orchards. In business since 1943 and now run by the fourth generation of the Mercier family, the orchard is like no other that I've been to. There is a cafe, bakery, apple tasting bar, Christmas room, and hard cider tasting bar, which I enjoyed. It was $10 to taste 5 ciders or wines - your choice - and I chose 2 ciders and 3 wines.Or you could taste one complimentary cider. The best part was when our host explained that identification was required - he was serious - and my mom had to show her ID. She thought he was just teasing her. But he wasn't. She has loved telling everyone she was carded at the bar.
We also had to try Mercier's famous - on the Food Network, no less - apple fried pies. Homemade dough is folded over sweet apples and then dropped in oil and fried. And of course, you can't forget the swipe of sweet glaze over the top. To die for. Really.
And then all too soon our visit to the mountains was over. If this an area that you haven't explored, I highly recommend it. There are so many nooks and crannies to be explored that I'm already planning my trip back.
How about you? Have you been to the North Georgia Mountains?
Linking up with: Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party and Sharon's Souvenirs!