Downtown Clayton, Georgia. Photo by Jake Tekippe
The charm of this Bavarian-style town in the North Georgia mountains is unmistakable. The town's storybook aesthetic instantly makes visitors smile, and the whimsical shops and attractions offer hours of entertainment any time of year. Visit in summer to enjoy a float through the middle of town in a tube, and be sure to come back during Oktoberfest to soak up the festive atmosphere with live music, authentic German food and plenty of beer.
The most thrilling attraction in Helen is the Georgia Mountain Coaster, the only alpine coaster in the state. Let the wind rush through your hair as you speed through the woods. Afterward, grab a bite and a beer riverside at the Troll Tavern, or head to one of the other popular places to eat in Helen. At the end of your fun day in Helen, relax at one of the many places to stay, such as a cabin from Cabin Rentals of Helen. From here, you'll have a view of every mountain in North Georgia.
Home of the Georgia Apple Festival each fall, Ellijay's setting in the North Georgia mountains make it a sweet place to visit any time of year. Outdoor adventures are plentiful with hiking, mountain biking, zip-lining, horseback riding and fly fishing. Go camping or rent a cabin in the mountains, stop downtown for a great meal and some shopping, and even take in a show at the local playhouse.
Ellijay may be the apple capital of the world, but it also has six different wineries. Take in the mountain views at Engelheim Vineyards, or just sit back by the fireplace and chat with friends. And of course, there are wine tastings, too. For something more substantial than charcuterie visit Country Corner Kitchen for authentic Cuban cuisine, yes in Ellijay. End the day roughing it glamping in an Airstream or geodesic dome at North Georgia Glamping.
The most unique way to experience Tallulah Falls is by hiking to the floor of the gorge. The catch: you have to get a permit to do that, and the park only hands out 100 per day. So, plan to camp at Tallulah Gorge State Park the night before so you can be one of the first ones in line for a permit. There are 47 tent, trailer and RV sites at the park. If you’d rather not cook over a fire, a short distance from the gorge is Blue Creek Farmhouse Market, which is part grocery, part quick-service restaurant.
Autumn is an especially popular time to visit Tallulah Falls, with leaf watchers heading to the mountains for colorful foliage. During summer, Bridal Veil Falls becomes known as Sliding Rock as adventurous visitors slip down the rocks into a pool below. “Whitewater releases” are scheduled each spring and fall when flow over the dam increases more than tenfold. Kayakers come from across the country just to brave the thundering waterfalls during this event.
Only 90 miles north of Atlanta, Blue Ridge is a wonderful getaway any time of year. Hike to waterfalls, cruise around on Lake Blue Ridge, go fly fishing, and pick up farm-fresh treats at area orchards and farms. You can't visit Blue Ridge without a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. No matter the season, this is a fun step back in time. Leave some time when you return to browse through the downtown shops before heading to dinner at Chester Brunnenmeyer's for an early dinner and drinks overlooking town from the rooftop bar Hook & Eye.
Make sure to get to your treehouse accommodations at Bear Claw Vineyards while it is still light. And yes, this is a REAL treehouse with a live tree inside the structure. Or, retreat to your cozy cabin overlooking town with a bottle of wine from Serenberry Vineyards and cupcakes from the Sweet Shoppe of the South, winner of season 6 of the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars."
When you're in Hiawassee, ride through the mountains on horseback with a guided trail ride at Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to book a ride. After you get back from the dusty trail, stop by Happy Hawg BBQ for some of the best barbecue in North Georgia. Then, nestle in at The Ridges Resort and roast marshmallows for s'mores at the lakeside fire pit.
Be sure to check out the view from the top of Georgia's highest point, Brasstown Bald. On clear days, visitors can see four states from the observation deck. There’s also a museum about the area, and access by shuttle bus and hiking trails. And, be sure to check the calendar of events at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, so you won't miss the Georgia Mountain Fair, the Georgia Mountain Fall Festival, and many more concerts and festivals.
After a day of hiking waterfall trails at Warwoman Dell and Dick's Creek Falls head to downtown Clayton for a little shopping. Wander North Georgia has everything you need for a day outdoors, and the kids can run around the play area while you shop. With bags in hand, walk a few doors down to Universal Joint for a beer and a burger. Then, retire around the corner at the Beechwood Inn.
Nearby, explore Black Rock Mountain State Park, the highest state park in Georgia, showcasing 80-mile vistas, four hiking trails, and campsites where visitors can spend the night. Go for horseback rides with Dillard House Stables, which operates scenic trail rides along the river of varying lengths for all ages. They also run fly fishing excursions, which are appropriate for all experience levels.
Cave Spring is a small town, just 15 miles southwest of Rome. The namesake limestone cave is the signature attraction of this Southern village. Explore the underworld at Rolater Park, where you can enter the natural limestone cave. Bring a jug or two to take home fresh spring water. Ready for a close encounter with nature? The Pinhoti Trail, a 300-plus-mile-long premier long-distance hiking trail, will put you smack dab in the middle of towering pines, wild dogwoods and soft meadows glowing with the late afternoon sun.
After a day of hiking and exploring, go downtown for a great meal at the family-owned and operated Linde Marie's Steakhouse on the Square. With a full belly, retire to Hearn Inn, a B&B located inside Rolater Park. What's cool about this establishment is the breakfast isn't on-site, but at one of the restaurants in downtown Cave Spring.
If you like the outdoors, you’ll love Blairsville. Rent boats or standup paddleboards to explore Lake Nottely's 106 miles of shoreline. Vogel State Park – one of Georgia’s oldest, most popular state parks – has a 20-acre lake and swimming beach plus hiking trails and a waterfall. Close by, Helton Creek Falls has two beautiful falls set in Blairsville’s deep hardwood forest with a total drop of 100 feet.
Head into downtown Blairsville to check out the shops and restaurants, like Abide Coffee. Sample wines at Odom Springs Vineyards. At the end of the day, relax at one of the many cabins for rent in the area or at Paradise Hills Winery Resort & Spa, where you could recover from your day on the lake with a massage.