By David Zunker
Oh, my goodness, said I, when I learned that the theme for this month’s Southern Distinctions is Music, Arts and Travel. Where to even begin, since we are talking Dahlonega? I could do an entire piece on any one of the three.
When you’re in a business that calls for “passion for a place” you quickly fall madly in love with all aspects of the destination you represent – not just by scanning a website or looking at pretty pictures, but by getting out there and experiencing anything and everything that has everything and anything to do with that place. That’s the fun part. Compartmentalizing and choosing favorites, on the other hand, is difficult and sometimes impossible – so when you have to pick music, art and travel… Well, it’s tough.
Dahlonega is so amazingly diverse – culturally, artistically, geographically, geologically, ideologically – that it’s better to broaden the scope of its amenities and its appeals, parsing them into three main themes that perhaps more accurately describe it best to the potential traveler:
An Authentic Appalachian Town (which takes in its thriving arts scene, it’s amazing range of musical talent and its remarkable musical roots);
An Adventure Seekers Tour of Dahlonega (including hiking the Appalachian Trail, exploring the many waterfalls, canoeing or kayaking the rivers and casting a line in dozens of lakes and creeks);
A Gastronomic Getaway, including the wine trail and wine tasting room experiences, distillery tours, foodie fun, a cooking school experience, and even strolls around the Square, eating and drinking your way (moderately, of course) to a really good time – including stops at two chocolate shops for dessert.
Dahlonega’s music is quite possibly the heart of Dahlonega. A couple of well-known – even internationally famous – musicians call Dahlonega home and there are frequent Amy Ray (one-half of the Indigo Girls) and Zac Brown sightings either in downtown Dahlonega, or in Lumpkin County, where wineries host the occasional live music concert.
Regional and national acts often choose Dahlonega either as a destination unto itself or as a stop-over on their way to or from gigs in Atlanta, Charlotte or Nashville. You can pretty much count on big name acts to land in the comfy confines of the Crimson Moon Café, surrounded by 90+ appreciative music lovers in one of the most intimate true listening rooms around.
As the weather gets warmer, many downtown Dahlonega restaurants add live music to their menus, which makes outdoor decks the place to be for dinner and delightful entertainment. An interesting twist on Dahlonega’s Square – and just off the Square — is the surprising number of art galleries that join with wine tasting rooms, art studios, live demonstration artists, restaurants, and in some instances even sleeping rooms upstairs. It’s kind of an all-in-one package – but you’re still going to want to walk the Square for the dozens of retail shops and just to smell the smells (bbq, chocolate, coffee, etc.).
As for travel – well, Dahlonega is a reason to… Those who know the value of location, location, location will attest to the ease with which you can escape city life to relax and unwind in the mountains of North Georgia. Once you untwist the strands of spaghetti highway and make your way – straight shot – up the Hospitality Highway (GA-400), blood pressure decreases, breathing becomes easier, and if you check the rearview mirror, you might even detect a hint of a smile, even before you arrive at the wineries.
Dahlonega – it even sounds soothing.