By David Zunker
For Dahlonega, the simplicity of “It’s Pure Gold” — the name of this column — speaks to the wonderful amenities of this incredible destination, not just its history as the site of the first major U.S. gold rush, but also the fact that this is a genuine and authentic place, with the perfect mix of culturally eclectic and historically accurate amenities.
Dahlonega is truly golden; we’re the envy of many of our neighboring communities because we seem to have it all, a place that people love to visit, and a place where people love to live. The true measure of a successful community, especially a tourism community, is in how we earn our reputation. We don’t speak ill of each other and we are our own ambassadors, welcoming visitors as our guests and being prideful, either as “Nuggets,” those who were born and grew up here, or as “come-here’s” who chose Dahlonega and Lumpkin County for their exceptional lifestyle and ideal location.
It all begins with gold, of course. The Dahlonega Gold Museum is the centerpiece of our lovely and historic Public Square and it’s one of our easiest conversation starters. There really and truly was “gold in them thar hills” — still is, in fact — and that’s quite simply magic. There’s a fascinating domestic and international thrill to gold, and being able to see it every day, shining down from the steeple at the University of North Georgia’s Price Memorial Hall never gets old. Tracing the history of gold by walking the same catacombs as miners who risked their lives and well-being for the chance at riches or simply to support their families is both exhilarating and sobering. And panning for gold is just fun.
The new gold for Dahlonega is the relatively recent discovery that those hills are also perfect for growing grapes and producing exceptional wines. A combination of climate and elevation turns out to be just right for producing fine wine, and the setting for our six wineries in the lush foothills of the North Georgia Mountains is diverse and dramatically beautiful. Wineries are like family; each have their distinctive personalities, and Dahlonega wineries are as varied as you can imagine – from country rustic, to California casual, to family farm, to faux Tuscany – and it’s about the wine, but it’s also about the captivating experience. That experience can be had during Dahlonega’s Wine Trail Weekend, August 20-21, when you can taste wines at six local wineries – go to Dahlonega.org to register or for more information.
Speaking of experiences, in addition to a delightful downtown, a burgeoning wine industry and the history and heritage of gold, Dahlonega and Lumpkin County are known as one of the most scenic communities in Georgia – and the Southeast — thanks to great natural beauty, including a bounty of rivers, streams, and waterfalls. It’s the perfect backdrop for one of the nation’s most unique and challenging bicycle rides – the Six Gap Century (& Three Gap Fifty) — which takes place this September, as it has for the past 27 years. Thousands of riders test their determination and fitness in the ride (it’s a ride, not a race) and many just come for the camaraderie and the spaghetti dinner.
Dahlonega has come to be known as a place for fabulous events and festivals: Trail Fest and the Six Gap Century bike ride in September; Gold Rush in October; Old-Fashioned Christmas in December; Bear on the Square in April; Arts, Wine & Jazz in May; Dahlonega’s Family-Friendly 4th of July; and Wine Trail Weekend in August. It’s all part of what makes Dahlonega and Lumpkin County exceptional, illustrating the continuing evolution of this truly special place.
Visit Dahlonega and Lumpkin County at www.Dahlonega.org.
David Zunker loves that Dahlonega-Lumpkin County has been described as 40 percent Asheville, and 60 percent Mayberry — it’s the perfect mix of fascinating culture and peaceful livability. David is the Tourism Director for the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau.