Musicians playing on the square in Dahlonega, Georgia
3-Day Dahlonega Mountain Music Getaway
A mountain treasure, where prospectors still search for gold, Dahlonega and its music scene are true Georgia jewels. Local jam circles are, by some unwritten code, welcoming and inclusive – leathery old-timers play side-by-side with kids who have studied in the Georgia Pick and Bow Traditional Music School.
Musicians who have called Dahlonega home include Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Widespread Panic lead singer John Bell and country superstar Zac Brown, who said, "It’s an ideal place to listen to some really outstanding music in a fun atmosphere, where you can discover new talent and hear some of the great established artists."
Spend a day or three to experience Dahlonega's deeply rooted music scene.
Pick on the Front Porch
Make your way to the historic Vickery House's front porch every Friday afternoon for the Pick and Porch Old Time Music Jam. This weekly tradition at the Historic Vickery House encourages musicians of all levels to bring fiddles, banjos and other instruments for a friendly exploration of the traditional music of Appalachia. The Historic Vickery House, owned and operated by the University of North Georgia, serves as headquarters for the Georgia Appalachian Studies Center, where students learn the arts, history, culture, music and nature of Southern Appalachia.
Shop Vintage Music
Vintage Music, a true mom-and-pop music instrument store specializing in folk instruments and vintage guitars, is open daily and is located just off the public square. Longtime Dahlonega residents John Grimm, an award-winning fiddler and multi-instrumentalist, and his wife, Beverly Smith, a nationally recognized old time music guitarist, singer, fiddler and dance caller, are a mesmerizing musical duo who perform across the country and abroad. For the past 25 years, John also has operated Vintage Music. Step inside the store and inhale the resiny scent of warm, old wood that always stays in tune.
Take a Culinary Side Trip to Germany
Family trio Steffi Scherhans, Doris Giossi, and Gion Giossi fell in love with North Georgia while vacationing and decided to make the leap, opening their German-Swiss restaurant Bratzeit in 2014. Locals and visitors alike are very, very glad they did. Praised for the authentic German-Swiss cuisine, the restaurant also offers a delightful, delicious array of German beers, and some of the best customer service around. Try the schnitzel or the brats, and don’t forget to save room for an apple strudel.
Breakfast at the Foothills
Fuel up for your day at the charming, unassuming Foothill Grill, where lines to get a seat can be long but portions are hearty and prices are low. You can’t go wrong with biscuits and gravy, or their famously fluffy pancakes. Shrimp and grits is a favorite, too.
Join the Appalachian Jams
Get to the Dahlonega Gold Museum lawn, where you can often find a Saturday afternoon jam session (check official schedules at Downtown Dahlonega). Locals and visitors flock to the weekend jam sessions on the Dahlonega square, where fiddles, dulcimers, a forest of banjos and even the occasional yodeler or buck dancer take center stage. The twangy sounds, handed down through the generations, echo off the mountains in this small, Northeast Georgia town that began as a gold rush settlement. Musicians began convening here with a fiddlers’ convention in the summer of 1905 when first prize was a five-dollar gold piece, and from that event, a high-lonesome soundtrack has emerged.
If you've never experienced authentic mountain music or you're a player yourself looking to jam, always head to the historic Public Square in Dahlonega. Traditional musicians gather to celebrate the sounds that have been performed and passed down in the Appalachian Mountains for generations. Bring an instrument and join in, or bring a chair, listen and stay a spell.
Eat with Local Live Music and More
The Crimson Moon Cafe is an intimate concert dining hall, coffee house and happening cafe, serving brunch daily and live music all of the time. The venue takes pride in providing customers the ultimate listening room experience and providing musicians with a room full of close listeners. There are old time jams, bluegrass jams, blues jams and open jams, as well as concert performances by local, emerging and nationally acclaimed touring artists. Shawn Mullins and Amy Ray are spotted occasionally at the cafe, whether performing or just taking in the talented vibe.
Meals are often “Moon Made” with a full menu, full bar, and indoor and outdoor dining options that include handcrafted cocktails and a variety of organic coffee selections.
Catch a Show at the Historic Holly
Built in 1946, the Holly Theater is located just west of Dahlonega's town square and features an entertainment roster with something for everybody - live music, local theater, comedy, and films. An intimate venue, no seat is more than 20 feet from the stage, and the all-volunteer staff pride themselves on being helpful and welcoming.
Explore Mountain Vineyards and Bluesy Brunches
The Appalachian mountains of Dahlonega are live with vines and wine, so much so that its been declared the Heart of Georgia Wine Country and the Wine Tasting Room Capital of Georgia. Vineyards abound in this ideal climate setting, and you can find a variety of places to experience and taste wine-making in Georgia.
To raise a glass to music while you're at it, try Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery on Sundays for brunch, where live music is paired with a specialty brunch menu. In the summer, Wolf Mountain explores the unique smoking techniques and sauces used on Southeast barbecue and pairs the food with live blues music. October hosts a Harvest Celebration theme with bluegrass.
Celebrate Southern Appalachia, Festival-style
If one of your three days happens to be in April, consider yourself lucky! The Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, held yearly, got its name from a dramatic spring morning in 1996 when a mama bear and her two cubs showed up in Dahlonega’s town square, causing quite a stir. Mama and one cub escaped, but another cub climbed the sycamore tree downtown, leaving only when a Forest Service ranger coaxed him down. Later that same year, locals decided to host a shindig downtown to give a boost to local businesses, and the rest is history. Bear on the Square exists to celebrate the culture of Southern Appalachians via music, arts and crafts, and storytelling. The festival is free of charge and features several bluegrass-heavy stages of music, traditional mountain dancing, free music workshops, arts, crafts, and more.
Another beloved local festival is HemlockFest, an annual three-day music and arts festival put on by the Lumpkin County Coalition. All proceeds go toward efforts to save North Georgia’s Hemlock trees and save American chestnut trees. The fest is held on the private, 50-acre Starbridge Retreat. Attendees are encouraged to camp, and the event is dedicated to being kid-friendly. A stacked roster of eclectic musical talent and bucolic, gorgeous natural surroundings make this a truly one-of-a-kind North Georgia experience.
Explore the rich traditions of Appalachian music with these must-sees, venues and festivals in Dahlonega.
Take a road trip to these points of interest, venues and festivals celebrating bluegrass and old times music in Georgia.
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