Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Surprising Cities: McCaysville

Standing on the edge requires no quivery balance in McCaysville, Georgia’s surprising city 10 miles north of charming Blue Ridge on the Georgia-Tennessee border. Simply decide if you’re in Georgia or Tennessee, and proceed to discover astonishing and interesting art, calm waters to paddle, trout to catch.

Come on your own, or ride the Blue Ridge scenic railway to downtown McCaysville. A blue dotted line in a small grocery store parking lot identifies the state border. “Step behind the white tree, and you’re still in Georgia,” Tammi Mann assures visitors to the international artists’ showcase and shop she and husband Rip Mann created on a busy downtown corner. Rip looks like Santa Claus, and they call the shop Christmas is Here! Don’t expect Dec. 25 kitschy focus; do expect skilled artisans.

Visit the Christmas is Here! shop in McCaysville for handmade crafts. - Rip Mann

Visit the Christmas is Here! shop in McCaysville for handmade crafts. - Rip Mann

Handhewn bowls are Rip’s specialty. He learned the centuries-old craft from one of America’s last masters, sitting on a stump after retiring from a career in the restaurant business. Thanks to all he learned, now you and I can sit next to his stump in McCaysville, watching a master. Visit in December and also find Rip Mann portraying Santa, which he did professionally along the East Coast.

The ancient Chinese art form called Ne’Qwa provides quite a counterbalance to handhewn wood in this McCaysville shop. Delicate glass, reverse painted — from the inside, showing on the outside. On Oct. 4, an annual workshop will be held in McCaysville, featuring Georgia artist D. Morgan from nearby Young Harris, one of only 35 in the nation whose paintings are accepted as Ne’Qwa designs.

A husband/wife duo — two more talented artists — exhibit their bark baskets, wearable fiber arts, wood turning, brooms and photography in the Organic Artist Tree, sharing a spacious lobby with Christmas is Here! JoAnna Belmont, a nurse for 30 years, and Mark Hendry, professional dancer, chose McCaysville for their shop, while their home and studios are in Blue Ridge. Find them both places to watch creativity happening and to take some classes.

Smack dab in the middle of McCaysville, a small steel bridge built in 1911 crosses the river: Toccoa on Georgia’s side and Ocoee on the other. Watch kayakers crossing under the bridge, or get in one yourself and navigate the calm waters around McCaysville with Toccoa River Tubing Company or Rolling Thunder River Company.

Prefer life on the land? McCaysville’s Horseshoe Bend Park on the Toccoa River is a grassy spot ready for picnics and sightseers, and often features live music in the summer.

Published: September 2013
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