Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Ever wondered what it would be like to live in a real life Hallmark or Lifetime movie? Dahlonega gives you that very chance. The chance to walk through a town completely adorned from top to bottom in Holly berries, evergreens, red bows, and more. Stroll euphorically down historical sidewalks while observing all of the decked out shop windows. Sipping hot cocoa, peeking inside the windows to see what goodies lie beyond the frosted glass. It's everything you could want or need in a Christmas vacation. Read along for my top picks for food, shopping, wineries, and where to stay.
I always do plenty of research about where to eat before a trip. I was somewhat surprised to only find a couple of places mentioned about where to eat in the Dahlonega square. But after some digging, and lots of reading on Yelp, I found that there were plenty of choices worthy of any visitor to this darling town. So many great options to choose from for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, that you can not possibly choose only one. For that reason, I have put together a "food crawl" to do for your evening on the square.
Cocktail hour: Bourbon Street Grille has an incredible list of holiday themed cocktails as well as a few local beers. Their food is wonderful too! The atmosphere is cool and the wait staff are fantastic. This is also a great place for brunch. Ask for a seat with a view of the square.
Appetizers: Start with some delicious calamari, fried to perfection, at Capers on the Square.
Main Course: Shenanigans offers some delicious steaks, amazing burgers, traditional bangers and mash, and even shepherd's pie. This eatery has a very long history of being a local favorite.
Dessert: Walk over to Paul Thomas Chocolates for amazing cheesecake truffles, caramel apples, and more. If fudge is more your thing, skip down to The Fudge Factory for a variety of sweet fudge that will delight your buds.
A warm drink: Kilwins offers the best hot cocoa that crowds line up and wait for because, yes, it is that good.
Food to go is hard to find in the square due to the busyness and restrictions from Covid but Picnic Cafe and Dessertery still offers take out and is the perfect option for a quiet night-in back at your hotel. I mention them a little later in this post for another pairing that is great.
Know before you go: This small town closes up a little early, in my opinion. Most eateries will not seat you after 8pm so keep that in mind when making your dinner plans.
There are so many small shops in this town that it took us several hours total to hit them all. With so many unique gifts offered by the Dahlonega square stores, you are assured to find something for everyone on your Christmas list.
No. 3 vintage was a favorite among the ladies in our group. Farmhouse decor, Christmas trinkets and more, as well as clothing, were all so fun to shop during our visit. The shop takes you down an adorable staircase and leads you through a maze of all things beautiful and remarkable.
Crown and Bear is a unique store that offers food and treats specific to Great Britain. There are also many UK traditional goods that you can buy here as well. I left with a tea cup adorned with cartoon versions of Jane Austen's most famous characters.
Giggle Monkey Toys was the favorite among our kids for obvious reasons. Unique toys and stocking stuffers can be purchased here for the littles on your list.
Dahlonega General Store had souvenirs for everyone. The playing piano with no pianist was fun to see. We left here with ornaments, magnets, and more.
Things to do
This is a bit tricky due to Covid. Events can change and/or be cancelled at any moment due to the current pandemic. The best website to follow for calendar events is https://dahlonegachristmas.com/calendar-of-events/ Check this site often for up to date information. One event that was constant during our stay was the horse and carriage rides around the square. They are approximately $10 per an adult and $5 per a child and the carriages are adorned in Christmas lights that make the ride seem enchanted but be warned that on the weekends, the line for the carriage rides are VERY long.
If you are staying at Forest Hills mountain resort, remember that there is so much to do at that resort at some additional cost including a spa, horseback riding tours, gem mining, and more.
You must visit Amicalola Falls State Park. If you are an avid hiker, this strenuous climb is for you. But if you still want to admire Georgia's largest waterfall without getting winded then you must still visit the park. Once you enter the park and pay for parking (cash only) you can continue driving past the first parking lot and park at the next one. Once parked, you can walk a very flat trail, that is paved, and stand on a bridge that is halfway up the falls. Take photos, breath in the cool mountain air and then return to your car to drive up to the third parking lot, where you are at the very top of the falls, and are able to observe the breathtaking views. This was so much for for our kids and we even had a four month old in tow who enjoyed it as well.
"Walmart's sitting on a goldmine". It's true! Near and under the local Walmart is the attraction called Consolidated Gold Mine in Dahlonega Georgia. Take a tour through a real life gold mine underground and finish your tour with mining for real gold. This is also a fun thing to do on a rainy or snowy day in Dahlonega.
I was pleasantly surprised to find so many great wineries in or very close to Dahlonega. Our family had kids in tow so finding somewhere to visit that was family friendly was imperative. Enter Accent Cellars winery. This quaint establishment has a perfect tasting area in the center of a small white building but there is an outdoor space with heaters as well. This is where the kids can play corn hole and such while the adults sit on outdoor furniture and watch (or play as well) and are offered a variety of delicious wines to sample and choose from. Erika and Tyler were fantastic in educating us all about the different wines that they create and the complexity of each. They do not offer meals but they do have several "build your own charcuterie" section that you can purchase from and offer a board for you to build your own. (See ours below) They also allow you to bring in your own food and for this reason I recommend picking up a packed lunch from the Picnic Cafe from Dahlonega square. Accent Cellar wine with a Picnic Cafe menu item is just... perfection! Side note: Picnic Cafe & Dessertery is my favorite "store front" in the square. Visit them in the evening and take a family photo.
A winery that offers indoor or covered seating is so great to do on a rainy day in Dahlonega.
Kaya is also a very kid friendly winery but it is a bit of a drive from Dahlonega. Wolf Mountain is not known for being a super kid friendly vineyard but it is an incredible winery that the adults must visit if possible.
Where to stay
Forrest Hills Mountain Resort is a short 15 minute drive from the town square and have so many different types of rooms, that you are sure to find the perfect accommodations for every different type of stay. Our family that traveled to Dahlonega was quite large so we chose to stay at the Tree Topper Lodge. This is a genuine "lodge". Think upscale summer camp. The building is a bit old and outdated but it was so perfect for our group with separate rooms including a large common area that offered a cozy fireplace, a kitchen, and a gorgeous, huge, outdoor hot tub. I highly recommend the Mountain Laurel Inn for a more updated "lodge" experience that includes an outdoor hot tub as well. There are also several cabins to choose from for smaller groups. Some are even pet friendly and include a miniature sleigh bed for your furbabies. Forest hills mountain resort also offer so many different activities for everyone in the family. My children were just a tad too young to go on any of the horseback riding tours but the staff were very kind and allowed our kids to take one short walk around the corral. My sister and sister in law celebrated their birthdays by booking an appointment at the spa and raved about how relaxing the experience was. Call Forrest Hills resort direct to book your room and tours and/or spa services for great rates and someone who can personally select the room and activity that best suits you and your companions' needs and expectations.
If you are looking for a more romantic getaway that is inside the Dahlonega square, your option is the Dahlonega Square hotel and villas. Before Covid, they even offered Kaya wines to taste in their Wine Tasting Room but unfortunately, they have suspended wine tasting for the time being but still sell wine by the glass. Head downstairs before dinner, buy a glass of Kaya wine and sit on the front lawn by a fire pit while hearing the holiday square bustle nearby. Call them direct to book your stay.
With the Christmas Lighting of the Square starting in late November, Dahlonega exudes everything that makes the holiday special. It is the Hallmark movie you can be the star of. It is magical and whimsical, romantic and fun. The Christmas lights continue into the beginning of January, so if you just can not say goodbye to Christmas on December 25th, you can still experience the holidays in Dahlonega. Our family plans to venture back to kick off the holidays in 2021 because nothing can throw you into the thick of Christmas spirit like Dahlonega Georgia.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from The Adventurous Alfords