With a perfect mix of beauty, Southern charm and a desirable standard of living, Georgia is considered a gem of the South. Most people think of places like Atlanta, with its diversity and culture, but there are plenty of small, lesser-known areas with lots to offer. Dahlonega is one of those places.
The seat of Lumpkin County, the uniquely named little city has been on the map since 1829, when it became the site of America’s first gold rush, two whole decades before the better-known California rush of 1849. Many of the early miners of the day eschewed the California rush to stay in Georgia and enjoy the spoils of the local gold. The city’s name is even a variation on the Cherokee word Dalonige, meaning “yellow” or “gold.”
Dahlonega’s other claim to fame is as the “heart of Georgia wine country.” Multiple vineyards and wine tasting rooms attract wine connoisseurs from all over the South and the rest of the country. The downtown area has grown in recent years as a result of the wine tourism industry.
The advantage of being such a small city is that it can sustain a very affordable cost of living — and vacationing, too. Low-cost attractions abound in Lumpkin County; locals and vacationers will find no shortage of things to do.
Here are 22 of the best budget-friendly things to do in Dahlonega, Georgia:
Table of Contents:
- 1. Consolidated Gold Mine
- 2. Crisson Gold Mine
- 3. North Georgia Wildlife Park and Zoo
- 4. Chestatee Wildlife Preserve and Zoo
- 5. Dahlonega Gold Museum
- 6. Dahlonega Butterfly Farm
- 7. Gibbs Gardens
- 8. Red Oak Lavender Farm and Shop
- 9. Local Annual Festivals
- 10. Dahlonega Walking Tours
- 11. Monster Van Tours
- 12. Yahoola Outdoors
- 13. Dahlonega Magic Theater
- 14. The Historic Holly Theater
- 15. Canopy and the Roots
- 16. 1884 Lumpkin County Jail Museum
- 17. Long Mountain Living History Center
- 18. Jungle Paradise Daylilies
- 19. Dahlonega Harvest Hub
- 20. B.J. Reece Orchards
- 21. Downtown Restaurants
- 22. Wine (and other drinks)
1. Consolidated Gold Mine
The local gold mines are a great place to start learning about Dahlonega. Consolidated Gold Mine is a unique, completely immersive attraction that shows visitors what it was like to travel deep underground into a real gold mine. Once in the mine, visitors meet a costumed storyteller who teaches them all about the history of Dahlonega’s gold-mining era.
Back above ground, visitors can try their hands at panning for gold. Each participant in the underground tour gets a free sample pan and can bring home whatever they find!
The mine is open seven days a week, most days of the year.
Children under 13: $14.95
Children under 3: FREE
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2. Crisson Gold Mine
Crisson Gold Mine isn’t as theatrical as Consolidated Gold Mine, but the staff pride themselves on offering a fun, educational experience for all ages.
The knowledgeable guides lead a hands-on lesson in panning for gold, and patrons are allowed to keep any of the gold and gems they find during the activity.
The gift shop is a huge draw for Crisson. For a small fee, they will turn any piece of gold or gem into a custom piece of jewelry, so visitors will always have a special souvenir.
Crisson is open seven days a week.
$14.95 for all ages 4 and up
3. North Georgia Wildlife Park and Zoo
Located about 20 minutes outside of Dahlonega is the North Georgia Wildlife Park and Zoo. The zoo is home to a diverse variety of both domestic and exotic animals. It’s been a favorite of local Georgians for years.
Animal lovers come for exciting guided wildlife walking tours and to visit the adorable petting farm. Be careful around the grounds, though! Guests are not permitted to walk around much of the park without a guide. This is owing to the efforts to keep the animal habitats as close to natural as possible.
The zoo offers add-ons like the reptile meet-and-greet and other educational events. Families even get a deal on Tuesdays!
Children ages 2-11: $22.99
Children under 2: FREE
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4. Chestatee Wildlife Preserve and Zoo
Unlike North Georgia Zoo, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve and Zoo is located within Dahlonega. This facility offers a more traditional zoo experience. A flat admission rate allows visitors to walk around and see all the animals, with no tour guide necessary.
Some favorite draws are the big cats, elk and zebras. Chestatee also has some rare species that are found in no other place in Georgia.
Free-to-use picnic areas are available to patrons.
Age 12 and older: $15
Age 11 and under: $10
5. Dahlonega Gold Museum
This museum marks the true beginning of America’s gold rush, two decades before the historically famous 1849 California version. The museum and gift shop are located in one of Georgia’s oldest courthouses, so the building itself provides a glimpse into the history of the county.
Visitors can walk the halls to look at some interesting artifacts as well as some of the old judges’ chambers. The walls of the cells have even retained prisoners’ markings.
Children ages 7-17: $4
Children ages 6 and under: $3
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6. Dahlonega Butterfly Farm
The owners of the Dahlonega Butterfly Farm understand how important butterflies are to maintaining the local ecosystem. Their mission is to preserve the natural biodiversity of the area by creating an extensive habitat for butterflies and plant life.
The farm, which is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, is located six miles southwest of downtown Dahlonega.
Children ages 12 and under: $6
Seniors ages 62 and over: $7
7. Gibbs Gardens
Gibbs Gardens is a world-class set of beautiful, peaceful gardens for walking, taking in some beautiful scenery and enjoying the fresh Georgia air.
The property is a sprawling 376 acres of flower gardens, stone gardens, ponds, bridges and waterfalls. It’s a stunning showcase of natural beauty.
Seniors (65+): $18
Children ages 3-17: $10
Child under 2: Free
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8. Red Oak Lavender Farm and Shop
Believe it or not, lavender does not grow easily in Georgia. The owners of Red Oak Lavender Farm take great pride in being the ones to make it work.
During the very short lavender season in early June, people can come and pick their own lavender or buy one of the farm’s wonderful lavender products.
Although the harvest season is short, the shop is open all year long. The farm is also a popular spot for families and couples to take professional photos.
FREE to visit
9. Local Annual Festivals
Like so many other places in Georgia, Dahlonega has a sense of great local pride. The community here has a set of annual traditions for celebrating different seasons. There’s the Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, which commemorates the day a black bear wandered downtown; the Arts and Wine Festival and the Gold Rush Days Festival . Most of these events are free to attend and are sure to make anyone feel like part of the community.
FREE to attend
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10. Dahlonega Walking Tours
Specializing in wine tours, pub crawls and the unsettlingly spooky ghost tour, Dahlonega Walking Tours aims to spread local knowledge and pride. Adults love the wine and pub crawls that simultaneously teach about the haunted downtown locations. There’s even a paranormal investigation tour and a widely popular haunted escape room. The only problem will be falling asleep that night!
Children under 13: $8
11. Monster Van Tours
Offering one-of-a-kind offroad tours through the Chattahoochee National Forest, Monster Van Tours is designed to put people in touch with the splendor of the local mountains. The expert tour guides take guests through the hills and their history by talking about America’s first gold rush and pointing out breathtaking views along the way.
$25 per person
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12. Yahoola Outdoors
Yahoola Outdoors is a community-minded group dedicated to keeping natural areas beautiful and accessible to the public. Its big project is recruiting locals to fix up damaged trails around the local lakes. The group also hosts events like silent auctions, 5K and 10K trail races and an annual educational festival every September.
Many residents of Dahlonega volunteer with the group for the good of the community.
FREE to volunteer
13. Dahlonega Magic Theater
The Dahlonega Magic Theater is open most Friday and Saturday nights and feels like a blast from the past. Talented performers put on classic magic acts, ventriloquism shows, illusions, escapes and comedy.
The theater is perfect for date nights, family outings, or groups, and has become a huge part of the Dahlonega nightlife. Limited seating is available, so be sure to plan!
Tickets start at $14.95
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14. The Historic Holly Theater
The Holly Theater is the place to go for local theatrical productions in Dahlonega. The building opened in 1915 as a place to produce Hollywood silent films and eventually became a movie theater.
Over the years it has had its ups and downs, but the local art community is always there to save the day. Today it is beloved by local college students and anyone who loves local theater.
Tickets are typically around $30.
15. Canopy and the Roots
Canopy and the Roots is a unique space that is described as a social house, yoga studio and listening room. It has a coffee shop inside a beautiful hangout space with floor-to-ceiling plant life for gathering casually with friends. The listening room is a rentable space for the city’s artists.
The space also hosts open-mic nights for comedy, music, spoken word performances, improv, art shows and movie screenings.
Memberships start at $1 per day.
Yoga is $12 per session.
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16. 1884 Lumpkin County Jail Museum
Constructed in — you guessed it — 1884, the Lumpkin County Jail Museum is an old jailhouse that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open to visitors who want to catch a glimpse of the local penal history of Lumpkin County.
The Historical Society, which is responsible for the upkeep, has a terrific community presence, offering tours and educational experiences to local school children.
FREE to visit
17. Long Mountain Living History Center
Long Mountain Living History Center is a quaint attraction that sits on four acres of land about seven miles outside of downtown. History buffs can learn about the events that occurred before, during and after the French and Indian War.
The experience is completely immersive, too. Costumed actors whisk guests away to the time of colonial America and attempt to answer the lost questions of history.
Cost varies depending on events.
18. Jungle Paradise Daylilies
At Jungle Paradise Daylilies, you’ll find a large, peaceful garden with picnic areas and a picturesque stream. The owner specializes in crossing various types of lilies for public enjoyment and purchase. She has created hundreds of unique flowers over the years.
The site’s biggest claim to fame is when Clint Eastwood showed up to purchase a thousand lilies for his movie The Mule in 2018. Buying lilies here can make someone’s day. Call for an appointment to visit.
Cost varies by purchase.
19. Dahlonega Harvest Hub
The Dahlonega Harvest Hub has a simple concept: It’s a community-minded farmer’s market working to provide fresh produce to locals at an affordable price.
Skip the supermarket and come down here to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables directly from the source. Georgia may be the Peach State, but here you’ll find corn, potatoes and much more.
Cost varies by purchase.
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20. B.J. Reece Orchards
Stunning views and open spaces make B.J. Reece Orchards a great place to pick your own apples. The orchard, which boasts a long U-Pick season, grows virtually every type of apple that will grow in the Georgia climate.
There are also family-friendly farm activities each weekend. Cow milking, pig races, a giant farm slide and an apple cannon are the highlights.
General Admission: $2
Children under 2: FREE
The cost of apples varies by the size of the bag.
21. Downtown Restaurants
Locals will tell you that many tourists take the trip to Dahlonega for dining alone. There are so many options to fit all kinds of tastes and budgets.
Some of the downtown favorites include Shenanigans, Bourbon Street Grille, Yahoola Creek Grill, Foothill Grill, Spirits Tavern and Gustavo’s. Families can bring the kids and adults can have a nice date night featuring whatever Georgia cuisine they desire.
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22. Wine (and other drinks)
Adults who try the local wine scene might never want to leave Dahlonega! The area is home to some of the South’s best world-class wines.
Some of the wineries open to the public include Canvas and Cork, Kaya Vineyard and Winery, Naturally Georgia tasting room, Montaluce Winery and Restaurant, Cavender Creek Vineyards, Georgia Winery Grapes and Ghosts Tasting Room, and DSH Tasting Room. Take it slow!
Dahlonega is steeped in the history of Georgia and of the United States itself. It’s a hidden gem of a city that has retained a deep Southern charm. Its many affordable activities and cost of living make it one of the most desirable places to be in the state.