Kangaroo Conservation Center, Consolidated Gold Mine Tour & More
In and around Dahlonega, Georgia, families can find plenty to keep them entertained for a weekend or a week. Here are top attractions, plus tips on where to stay and eat.
Just an hour’s drive north of Atlanta, the quaint, historic town of Dahlonega and its surrounding mountainous countryside offer lots to do for families with children of all ages. The area pays homage to its status as the site of the country’s first gold rush (yes, it took place here, not in California!) with interesting tours of former working mines. Plus, the local rivers and mountains bring opportunities for hiking, canoeing and more. Here are some tips on what to do, where to stay and where to eat when you’re in the Dahlonega area.
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau
Your first stop in town should be to the visitor’s center on the corner of Dahlonega’s historic town square. The friendly folks here know the area inside and out. Then take some time to stroll around the square, take in some local streetside music (locals jam on Saturday afternoons, April through October), wander in the many boutiques and art galleries, visit the Gold Museum in the 1836 Lumpkin County courthouse, and have a bite to eat at one of the kid-friendly restaurants (see below).
Kangaroo Conservation Center
Did you know that when baby kangaroos exit their mammas’ bellies, they are only the size of a gummy bear? You’ll learn this fact and more at Dawsonville’s Kangaroo Conservation Center, dedicated to the preservation of kangaroos. This wildlife center offers guided tours through its kangaroo enclosures. Also see a number of Australasian bird and reptile species and learn how to throw a boomerang! Take nature walks on marked trails and get up close and personal with the kangaroos, as knowledgeable staff introduces visitors to the various species during an indoor live presentation of the animals. Note: For liability reasons, children must be at least 8 years old or in 2nd grade to be admitted to the center.
Consolidated Gold Mine
Gold was first discovered in Dahlonega in 1828, 20 years before enterprising folk made their way to California for the gold rush of ’49. Later, once most of the “surface gold” was panned out local Georgia rivers, prospectors turned underground, uncovering quartz veins filled with the precious metal. The Consolidated Gold Mine was a successful mining company in the late 1800s and at the turn of the century, but went out business in 1906. Today, you can tour the underground mine with entertaining guides, who are a wealth of information about the area’s history and the business of gold mining. After the 45-minute tour, pan for your very own gold and go “gem grubbing,” as well.
Beat the summer heat by cooling off in the Chestatee or Etowah rivers. The staffers at Appalachian Outfitters lead canoeing and kayaking trips for all ages and fitness levels–including fun family float trips with very gentle rapids. They also make tubing the river easy by shuttling clients to and from put-in points on the Chestatee.
Amicola Falls State Park
The tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi is found in this family-friendly state park in Dawsonville, short drive west of Dahlonega. Stop by the visitor center to get the scoop on the park’s 12 miles of hiking trails. Or simply walk the several hundred steps from the base to the top of the beautiful falls to get your daily dose of exercise.
Where to Stay
The Smith House in downtown Dahlonega has two-bed guest rooms to accommodate families, and you can’t beat the convenient location and access to downtown shops and restaurants; its sister property on the town square, Chestatee Village, offers 2 bedroom, 2 bath accommodations. 800-852-9577
Cavender Creek Cabins not far from downtown Dahlonega is an ideal spot for families to stay. Eight individual cabins are set in the woods with direct access to walking trails and a fishing pond; three of those cabins have lofts, which accommodate four to six guests. 866-373-6307
Where to Eat
So many great restaurants in Dahlonega, so little time! For a quick bite to eat or the yummiest ice cream cone around, stop by Connie’s Ice Cream Parlor & Sandwich Shop (18 North Park Street), just off town square. Crimson Moon Cafe (24 North Park Street) is popular among locals for its live music and organic coffee, not to mention its vast menu of pastas, burgers, sandwiches, salads and much more. Stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Kids will love the pizza here.
It’s all about family dining at The Smith House (84 South Chestatee), where guests are seated at long tables, and lunch and dinner are served family-style. Dine on fried chicken, baked ham, roast beef and all the fixin’s: mashed potatoes, fried okra, steamed green beans, and melt-in-your-mouth rolls. If you’re in the mood for seafood, head over to The Back Porch Oyster Bar (93 Public Square North, A&B) and choose from a number of coastal favorites, including shrimp & grits, crab legs and fried fish. Save room for the most delectable desserts, in particular the humongous slice of chocolate cake and authentic key lime pie!