(UPDATED AUGUST 2022) In 1828, the town of Dahlonega became more than a dot on the map when gold was discovered here. Dahlonega, translating to “Yellow or Gold” in the Cherokee language, brings in scads of money, making many people wealthy and creating the need for a US Mint. The US Mint was opened in 1861 and produced over six million dollars in coins. Sadly, the Gold Rush was short-lived, and the Mint closed up shop, but the treasures of Dahlonega are far from gone. You’ll see just what I mean when you roll into this adorable town for a road or day trip. Here is what to see in Downtown Dahlonega, Georgia.
Fun Fact: The town was renamed Dahlonega in 1837.
Dahlonega’s Food Scene
Dahlonega is slightly limited in restaurants that can hold the crowds for a bustling and thriving town. A restauranteur echoed this, but rest assured that what they have is pretty sensational. For Italian and pizza cravings, Gustavo’s serves the best. Don’t forget the garlic rolls! For a good sampling of German fare, look no further than Bratzeit, known for Jaegerschnitzel and, of all things, cheesecake.
My husband, Eddie, and I settled on Spirits Tavern for gourmet at lunchtime and were 100% satisfied with it. The decor is kitschy and fun to look at, while the servers are attentive and friendly, and the appetizer menu is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
I feasted on the Augusta burger with a dollop of white cheddar pimento cheese and green tomato chow-chow, a fantastic combination. My husband opted for a healthier choice of cucumbers, tzatziki, and feta cheese on a grilled chicken sandwich. Spirits Tavern also has live music and trivia on certain week nights.
Try Shenanigan’s Restaurant and Irish Pub, a locals’ favorite for elevated bar classics. A truly charming little place with street-side dining is Capers on the Square, featuring Greek and Mediterranean foods. And lastly, the Crimson Moon has live music and a wide variety of dishes, including the Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega burger. Clever!
For dessert, head over to Connie’s Ice Cream Parlor, a slice of homemade fudge from the Fudge Factory (pralines and divinity, too), or grab a couple of decadent cookies from Picnic Cafe & Dessertery.
For more on where to eat in North Georgia, this post should be helpful.
Downtown Dahlonega is so charming that you may want to stroll around and admire the architecture, street musicians, decorative flags, and blooming flowers. There are plenty of benches to sit on and people-watch to add to the allure. Of course, shopping is a big part of the downtown culture, and I spent much of my time exploring these locally-owned shops filled with treasures.
A few of my favorites for home decor, seasonal goods, and clothing plus accessories were Giggle Monkey Toys, Branding Iron, So Tempted, J.R. Crider’s, and the Dahlonega General Store. Alpine Olive Tree was perfect for picking up flavored oils and vinegar, plus the Spice & Tea Exchange for loose and packaged teas.
The mother of all shops in downtown Dahlonega is easily Cranberry Corners, a mercantile of sorts that will keep your interest up. I also favored the Bear Book Market.
It would be a crime to leave Dahlonega without a bite of some deliciousness from Paul Thomas Chocolates. The chocolate-dipped apples are sinfully good, as are the Dahlonega gold bars, turtles, and chocolate barks.
Spirits and Wine Sampling
In the 1990s, vineyards were planted in Dahlonega, and the North Georgia Mountains wine scene began to surface. Today, you can sip award-winning wines in each of the small towns, and Dahlonega is no exception. Try a wine flight with four samples for only $8 at Dahlonega Tasting Room. You’ll also find a quality selection of Habersham wines here.
You can also enjoy a gorgeous 1880s grand setting with the new satellite tasting room for Kaya Estate Wines inside the Dahlonega Square Hotel and McGuire House hotel lobby.
Gold City Growlers is the place to be for fine wine and craft beer, plus a record and gift shop. The taps feature 20 rotating beers from around the country, plus regional choices. I would also list Spirits Tavern as an excellent place to have a craft cocktail or “potion” and dozens of whiskey options.
For more about what to do in this region, check out my Travel Awaits article about Dawsonville and the surrounding area.
The Gold Rush Museum
Dahlonega’s Gold Rush Museum is a must. Here, you will learn about the gold craze that brought people from all over the country to the North Georgia Mountains seeking wealth. Many found it.
Inside the two-story museum, the circa 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse, you’ll be indoctrinated into the gold rush frame of mine with an informative film before taking a self-guided tour of the exhibits. I found the tools and progression the most interesting and the artifacts from Dahlonega’s U.S. Branch Mint. Don’t miss the five-plus ounce gold nugget on display. Admission is $7 for adults.
Gold Panning and Gem Mining
My husband and I tried something new in Dahlonega, Georgia, which was like love at first sight. Gold panning and gemstone mining at the Crisson Gold Mine were a blast! Here, you sift through packed dirt and rock sediments for treasures, such as emeralds, rubies, sapphires, garnets, blue topaz, jasper, fluorite, apatite, tigers eye, and sodalite. You can buy different quantities of ore ranging from a bucket to a tractor scoop.
Though I was a skeptic before doing it, this is the real deal. Our buckets contained two baggies full of treasures, though the rocks must be polished and cut to get the full benefit. Luckily, Crisson Gold Mine has an on-site lapidary to do that and turn the pieces into jewelry. We had a ruby necklace made for our daughters, and I got a garnet slide for my chain.
Gold panning is fun, but not as fun. It is very tedious, and I just didn’t have the patience for it, but the staff gave us great direction and tools to do it with. By the way, this is one of the original Dahlonega gold mines. The mining was done by hand and hydraulics, and now open-pit mining. You can see the process and artifacts at an onsite museum.
Suppose you need more North Georgia Mountain fun. How about chasing waterfalls at Amicalola Falls, horseback riding in Young Harris, and getting a taste of Bavaria in the quaint town of Helen?