Christmas Lights Around the Mountains



Every family has many Christmas traditions that they enjoy preserving. For this writer, one of my family’s favorite things to do is to go drive around and see all the Christmas lights! However, when you’re not from around here, you wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for lights to enjoy. Well, we tried to make it easy for you and stalked as many of our friends pages to locate all the Christmas light displays that you HAVE to go check out!

Each community offers a brief directions, but click on the town name to access a Google map to help you find your way! If you’re a local reading this and know of other places we’re missing please drop a comment or send us a Facebook or Instagram message. Merry Christmas!

Click to go to the Escape To Blue Ridge Christmas Light Map

Blue Ridge:

William’s Home Photo Courtesy of Becky Dyer

Downtown Blue Ridge – East Main St.

INOLA – Holiday lights, carriage rides, pony rides, painted ponies, ice skating, an illuminated maze and more! Prices vary from $5-$15 for each activity.

Spur 60 – Between Mineral Bluff and NC State line. Drive through Winter Wonderland! Santa on certain nights.

The Penlands – Hwy 75, just past the North Carolina/Georgia state line.

Williams’ – Forge Mill Road off Hwy 515 across from Cucina Rustica. Santa on certain nights.

Blairsville:

Gwynn’s Christmas Light Show

Chamber of Commerce – Tour of Trees. 9am – 5pm. 129 Union County Recreation Road, Blairsville

Collins – 257 Windy Hill Rd. (Santa Here)

289 Cook St

Downtown – On the Square

195 Forest Dr

Gwynn’s Christmas Light Show – Shows at 7pm & 7:30pm. Tune your radio to 91.9 and enjoy! Address is 121 Birch Cane Drive, Blairsville, GA 30512

262 Jewell Mason Rd

Stonehenge Assisted Living – Hwy 129 North towards Murphy, about 7 miles north of Hwy 76/129 intersection. Note: Nativity Scene

The Browns – Take Old Blue Ridge Highway out past Mulkey Gap. Right on Ed King Road. Just before the solar panel field. Note: Santa’s Mailbox – leave a letter to Santa and receive a reply!

The Jones – Take Blue Ridge Hwy, then a left on Mulkey Gap, right on Jones Rd.

Hiawassee

Mountain Country Christmas in Lights

Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds – Mountain Country Christmas in Lights every Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 6pm-9pm through December 28th. Here you will enjoy beautiful light displays and food ops along with food, music, arts & crafts, hot chocolate, marshmallow, a petting zoo and Santa. Admission is $5 per person and children 12 and under are FREE! On the main drag – Hwy 76 in Hiawassee.

Bugscuffle Road – Through the town of Hiawassee, but before the School. See Uhaul & Parker Oil, next road on left is Bugscuffle. On Hwy 76, just west of Towns County School.

Scataway Road – About 5 minutes past the Towns County School, see sign for Mount Zion Church on left and follow the red glow. Off of Hwy 76, 5 minutes east of town. See Santa on certain nights.

Panter House – Gumlog Rd off of Hwy 66 in Young Harris. On the Towns County side of Gumlog.

North Carolina:

Harshaw Road Lights Courtesy of Susie Bryant

Penlands – Hwy 75, just across the NC/Ga line.

Harshaw Road – Near Cherokee Hills Golf Course

Blue Friday Deals For YOU!

Ladies Shopping in Downtown Blue Ridge

If you are lucky enough to be spending the Thanksgiving holiday in the mountains, we have an extra special treat for you this year! Not only do you get to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the comfort of your luxury cabin rental, but you also get to adventure out into the most quintessential little town. From our abundance of natural resources like hiking trails, waterfalls, and soaring mountains, we are also proud to share with you the heartbeat of our community – Downtown Blue Ridge.

Of course, anytime is a fantastic time to Escape to Blue Ridge, but when you plan a visit during the holiday season, you will feel like you are stepping into a Hallmark Movie. The town is beautifully decorated and festive from every streetlight to each of the shopkeeper’s windows. The crispness of the mountain air and the excitement for the possibility of snow heightens your exhilaration and desire to explore every corner.

We could list one thousand plus reasons why you should visit Downtown Blue Ridge and of course shopping would be included on that very long list just as dining in our restaurants, meeting our residents, and experiencing the specialness of our beloved mountain community. This year you have ten more reasons to shop here because we have arranged for special Blue Friday savings to all of our Escape to Blue Ridge fans!

What? You don’t know what Blue Friday is? Well, allow me to explain. Blue Friday is Blue Ridge’s version of Black Friday, but it goes far beyond shopping and it is really the local kick-off to the entire holiday season! Let’s look at all the fun things there are to do and before we wrap this up, we’ll share your 10 special savings! Promise.

Blue Ridge Turkey Trot

Thursday, November 28th

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Turkey Trot

The Blue Ridge Turkey Trot is a family event for all ages and abilities from walkers to competitive runners. Kick off the Thanksgiving Day at 8am with a 5K race/walk. Registration starts at 7am and you are encouraged to bring a canned food item for the Good Samaritans food pantry. You’ll be able to enjoy all the holiday food guilt free after completing this run/walk and be back to the cabin in time to put on the turkey. Registration is $30 in advance or $40 on race day. Money raised will be donated to Blue Ridge charities.

Light up Copper Basin

Friday, November 29th

Photo Courtesy of Copper Basin Business Association & Riverwalk Shops

Help light up the twin cities of McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee. Enjoy live holiday music, hot cocoa, and cookies. Donation are welcome to support Christmas for Kids. The music begins at 4pm and the tree lighting is a 7pm.

Christmas Market

Saturday, November 30th

Photo Courtesy of Downtown Market Blue Ridge

Local produce, handmade arts and crafts, baked goods and more! The Christmas Market opens at 7am and will stay open until dark.

Light Up Blue Ridge

Saturday, November 30th

Photo Courtesy of Light Up Blue Ridge

Light up Blue Ridge is a festive event for children and adults alike. A full day of fun begins when Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway where they will then be available in the town gazebo for pictures. There will be performances all day. Santa and Mrs. Claus will then be in the holiday parade at 5:30pm. Food vendors will surround the park, winners of the window decorating contest will be announced, and then the lighting of the 27 foot “Great Tree” takes place at 7:00pm.

Even More Holiday Events!

We covered all the BIG events, but there is so much more fun to be had in this great little town. Our November Events Newsletter features the play It’s A Wonderful Life at the Blue Ridge Community Theater, live music, and a community Thanksgiving event! Our December Events Newsletter features Santa Trains, a Tour of Homes, and Ice Skating!

Blue Friday Specials

Now for your special treat! Some of our favorite shops and downtown Blue Ridge have decided to offer YOU special savings beginning on Blue Friday and lasting all weekend long! (November 29-December 1) All you have to do is let the proprietor know that you are a fan of Escape to Blue Ridge!

Appalachian Trail Rides at S & T Stables

Photo Courtesy of Appalachian Trail Rides at S & T Stables

Appalachian Trail Rides offers guided horseback trail riding from beginner to advanced through the Blue Ridge Mountains on 250 acres located minutes from downtown Blue Ridge GA. On your ride take in beautiful views, wildlife, and creek crossings on customized rides with experienced guides. From family outings to corporate events and private rides to proposal rides, Appalachian Trail Rides will make your time in the Appalachian Mountains as memorable as possible.

Deal: 10% Off Trail Rides

Canoe

Photo Courtesy of Canoe

Canoe is a lifestyle brand of bags and jewelry made right here in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Their unique collection of bags and jewelry effortlessly marry rustic charm with contemporary sophistication. Utilizing natural materials with enduring appeal, every piece you purchase from Canoe will be your new favorite for years to come!

Deal: Free gift with purchase (Friday Only)

Blue Ridge Cotton Company

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Cotton Company

Blue Ridge Cotton Company is a thoughtful store with a big heart. Here you will find quality apparel at affordable prices for the entire family. They are also your source for inspirational gifts, books and journals, home accessories, unique gifts, and so much more.

Deal: 10% off your Entire Purchase!

Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association

The Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association (the Art Center) has been fostering the creative process in these mountains in excess of 32 years. The Art Center endeavors to promote art, artists & art experiences across the Southern Appalachian Region.

Deal:

  1. 15% off ALL Art Supply Station supplies and items
  2. Receive $5 off Holiday Gift Memberships!
  3. All active BRMAA Members will receive 10% off all purchases

Blue Ridge Mountain Outfitters

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Mountain Outfitters

This full-service outfitter represents the premier outdoor brands including The North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, YETI, Chaco and much more. They are also authorized Trek and Cannondale bike dealers and offer service of all makes.

Deal: Receive 10% off all North Face purchases

Fly Shop Co

Photo Courtesy of Fly Shop Co

Fly Shop Co specializes in locally tied flies, apparel, gear, and a large selection of made in the USA items. Here you can also book guided fly fishing trips and specialized instruction.

Deal: 10% discount on Guided Fly Fishing trips with Will

Pedego Bikes Blue Ridge

Photo Courtesy of Pedego Bikes Blue Ridge

If you are looking for a fun experience you need to tour Blue Ridge by bike! Pedego Electric Bikes sells & rents the most fun electric bikes in the world. They even offer guided tours that include waterfall and swinging bridge adventures!

Deal: 20% off all Tours & Rentals

Misty Mountain Hops

Photo Courtesy of Misty Mountain Hops

If you love eating and music then you will love the laid back vibes of Misty Mountain Hops. Good food and sweet tunes make this Vinyl Pub a must!

Deal: 10% off all Food Orders

Mystic Mountain Pizza

Mystic Mountain Pizza is a family owned and operated pizza restaurant with fantastic food and an inviting atmosphere! They have a passion for crafting fresh salads, all-beef gourmet hot dogs, wings, desserts, and specialty pizzas in their oak-fired brick ovens.

Deal: 10% Off Meal

Escape to Blue Ridge

Cloud Nine Cabin

If you’ve never experienced a Thanksgiving weekend in the mountains, you should discuss it with your friends and family this year and make your plans early because we book up fast!

Deal: For every $100 Escape to Blue Ridge gift certificate purchase, get an extra $10 credit! Please use promo code “Gift10” when booking.

Escape to the Blue Ridge Mountains



Guest Blog by Forever Freckled.

If you haven’t already experienced the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, you should! Our families have been visiting this area for the last 6 years. Each time we return, it becomes even more special. There is something so incredibly quaint and peaceful about the small town of Blue Ridge.

Growing up in South Florida, we do not get to experience the amazing change in seasons. If you know us sisters, we are always talking about “sweater weather” and how badly we want to see the leaves change colors.

Well, we’ve teamed up again with Escape To Blue Ridge who always help us experience incredible family trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains! As we gear up for our next trip, we are excited to share information about Escape to Blue Ridge, the company we rent the cabins from, as well as some of the best activities and spots to hit up on your journey. If you love a vacation with a small town feel and views to die for, this trip is one for you.

We also want to lend you some pointers for traveling with a ton of kids! You may deal with plenty of tantrums, tears, accidents, and fights along with the fun. But if you’re well prepared, you’ll make it out in one piece.

Escape to Blue Ridge

For the past 6 years, we have reserved our mountain family cabin with Escape to Blue Ridge. The most amazing part about this company is that they have hundreds of homes you can reserve, making it easy to choose the cabin that best suits the needs and preferences of your family.

The trip we took a couple of years ago was AMAZING! We want to share those adventures with you again, so let’s get started!

The Cabin

We love a cabin with mountain views and a great outdoor space that’s big enough for our three families. We could not believe our eyes when we arrived on this trip. The kids were in heaven, and the views were spectacular!

There are no words to describe this place.

The name of our cabin was Falling Waters Lodge, named after the two small waterfalls running down the front yard. Let me tell you, the house was spotless, at least in the moment we all arrived. The details and decor that went into creating this home were unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The cabin had a large open kitchen with top-of-line appliances and large windows to look out over the Blue Ridge Mountains while you cook.

There was also a hot tub on the downstairs patio to enjoy the few cold mountain nights. The bottom floor had a media room for movie nights with the kids and a play room with ping pong, billiards, and air hockey. There was a large open fire pit in the front next to the waterfalls where we made s’mores every night.

And even with all that, the most incredible part of this home was being able to wake up at 7am (before the kids) to enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise and seeing the most amazing fog spread across the mountain tops.

That view was worth the entire trip for us!

Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

On this particular trip, we spent 6 event filled days in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Here are some of our favorite activities from the trip and our top must do activities when visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Atlanta Aquarium

This aquarium is amazing, and the kids will love it. Take some extra time after flying into Atlanta before heading to Blue Ridge, or before you head home, check out this great aquarium.

Mercier Orchards

For us, this stop is one of the most memorable stops in Blue Ridge. There is something so special about visiting an orchard. We took a hay ride with the kiddos up to the orchard fields where they let you roam around picking and eating apples. The kids had a blast, and Mason even lost a tooth biting into an apple!

After picking apples, we walked around their enormous shop trying homemade foods and buying tons of their famous maple syrup and homemade fried apple pies. The fried apple pies disappeared before we even made it back to the car!

Burt’s Farm

What is fall without a pumpkin patch? This day was so much fun! Besides a few major temper tantrums, we managed to have a really great time. The ride around this property on the tractor was so much fun, and the kids had a blast. We got to see how the pumpkins grow and some of the biggest pumpkins we have ever seen! And of course, they had fun Halloween decorations to give us some good decorating ideas for home!

Hiking

The parents decided that one afternoon the guys would get some alone time, and the ladies would get to do the same the next day. Our husbands went fly fishing in the Toccoa River (please see the hilarious, yet handsome, photo below), and we went hiking.

We made videos on toddler bathroom accidents and literally almost peed our pants laughing so hard!

Everyone was in full hiking gear, but we were probably the least prepared on our trail! We hiked at Springer Mountain, which is the very beginning of the Appalachian trail that leads north all the way up to Maine. There are so many great hikes and waterfalls around the Blue Ridge Mountains, even ones that are less challenging and more kid friendly.

Lily Pad Village

This spot has the cutest little fishing pond and gem mining spot that you ever did see! The kids loved spending the morning here. They sorted through their rock buckets full of soil, mining for gems and keeping some of the cool rocks and gems they found. We spent some time fishing by the pond using live bait. They also have a mini-golf course built into the side of the mountain!

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

This trip was very cool for the kids and great for the parents, especially if you go during the fall when the leaves are changing. The scenery on the ride is beautiful. The hour-long train ride on Blue Ridge’s old train cars takes you to a quaint town in Tennessee where you can shop the general stores and enjoy some southern food.

Our kids enjoyed riding the train and sitting in the open cart! Also, close to the train station in Blue Ridge is an amazing public park for the kids. We spent a lot of time there, until one of the kids had an accident in his pants, and we had to leave!

Three Sisters Fudge & Das Kauffee Haus

All day, every day! We ate so much fudge and drank so much coffee, and I am not upset about it! These are just two of the many perfect little shops you can stop at for fudge and coffee in downtown Blue Ridge.

We are obsessed with walking around main street going in and out of all their great shops.

BBQ and S’mores

Do not miss out on BBQ and s’mores – you don’t even have to leave your cabin! Yes, going out to dinner is fun but not always with 6 kids in tow. So we cooked at the cabin most of the time, and it made things a lot easier. We ate dinner outside and built a fire for the kids to make s’mores.

Some of our best memories from this trip were made staying home at the cabin!

Once the kids were in bed by 8:30pm, the parents enjoyed alone time and even some of our own s’mores, too!

Black Sheep Restaurant

Hands down, Black Sheep is the restaurant you want to visit in Blue Ridge. We were lucky enough to have one parent’s night out during the trip and decided to head to the main street of Blue Ridge and try this raved about dinner spot. This place is an historical home converted into one of the coolest restaurants we have ever seen. In the past when we visited Blue Ridge, we heard about this place but we didn’t feel like it would be family friendly.

But on this trip, new owners had completely revamped the restaurant in the best way possible. The ambiance and atmosphere are comfortable and casual, but it still has that fine dining feel we were craving.

We were lucky to be seated outside on the patio where the guys could watch their football during the meal. They even have an old-school movie night on the front lawn, which is such a great touch for bringing families and children to the restaurant!

Our meal was amazing, and the food was top notch. Seriously, everything was delicious, but we must say the crab cakes and the lamb bolognese were our favorites. For dessert, we had the most amazing pumpkin cheesecake ever…a slice of heaven.

Tips on Traveling with Kids

Oh man…before you do anything else, read this article Katie wrote on traveling with kids.

Now, for the tips. Our first tip is simple – just don’t take the kids with you!

Just kidding!

We were all nervous before we left, but I have to say, the kids were great. We had a few tantrums and one nasty cold that spread around fast, but we did well. The one thing that helped us immensely was preparation!

For the airport, make sure you stock snacks, iPads, movies, games, and whatever you can stuff in your bag. Entertainment and distraction are key! We had some really fun travel games that the kids LOVED playing.

The looks we got boarding a plane with 6 kids were laughable. But never say you’re sorry as a mom. We realized we were apologizing for having kids on the plane…that’s ridiculous, right? This is life. Kids fly, and we will do our very best to keep them happy, but sometimes, kids will be kids. Luckily, ours all behaved pretty well, and we didn’t get too many dirty looks.

A great tip to keep your kid busy and interested is to let them oversee their own suitcase. Each kid had their own personalized suitcase that they were responsible for. It was so cute how much they loved having matching luggage with their cousins, and they were proud to show off their bags!

We also brought nap mats which the kids used for movie nights in the media room. Sleeping bags would be fun, too!

Final Thoughts on Traveling to the Blue Ridge Mountains

All we can say is that Blue Ridge is a magical escape that takes you to a different world. It’s a great place for families or for couples.

Blue Ridge has it all!

We are so happy we discovered this amazing vacation spot, so we can create more memories over the years. All the cabins from Escape to Blue Ridge are incredible. We have stayed in a few cabins now, but if you need a 4+ bedroom home, and it is available, we highly recommend you book the cabin Falling Waters Lodge. It has that special, warm feeling of home you long for on family vacations. We most certainly will go back!

Thanks Escape to Blue Ridge for having us and letting us experience this amazing trip with our families!

Love,

Carrie, Katie, and Alison

*This trip was sponsored but all opinions are our own! We mean it!

Blue Ridge Fall Bucket List



Fall in the mountains is a special time of year. The temperatures begin to drop to more moderate levels, the leaves turn to beautiful colors, and we can finally don our favorite sweaters and boots! There is always so much to do, both inside and outside, when you Escape to Blue Ridge and experience some fall fun! Here are a few ideas to make this time of year extra special while you create memories with your favorite people!

Scenic Drives

Brasstown Bald Courtesy of Sunrise Grocery

This is the most beautiful time of the year to pack up the family or gather your friends and hit the road for some beautiful leaf peeping! Here are our three favorites:

  1. The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is a nationally designated Scenic Byway that is 40.64 miles in length and makes a loop through the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest. 
  2. Brasstown Bald rises 4,784 feet above sea level and is Georgia’s tallest mountain. Visitors to this place on high find an observation deck which allows a spectacular 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, exhibits, a film, hiking trails, and gift shop.
  3. The Southern Highroads Trail can be traveled in its entirety or in sections.  This very scenic route travels through four national forests (Chattahoochee, Nantahala, Cherokee, and Sumter) and four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia)

Come on Ride That Train

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains is best seen via railway through the Chattahoochee National Forest. Board the eleven-car Blue Ridge Scenic Railway train and enjoy a relaxing 26-mile roundtrip journey beginning and ending in downtown Blue Ridge with a stop in the newly revitalized twin cities of McCaysville, Ga & Copperhill, TN.  

Local Tip: Choose one of the three open air cars to have unobstructed views and to breathe in the fresh mountain air!

Take A Hike

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Frank

There is not another season that encourages you to pause and look around quite like Fall. We think nature is best experienced slowly because sometimes when you’re hiking it can be easy to focus more on the destination or watching where you step. However, in the Fall, bright colors implore you to look away from the ground and towards the colorful trees that make this season so special. Take your time and look up!

Local Tip: Explore the Aska Adventure area with 17 miles of trails to take in the beauty of the season. You can even incorporate the Long Creek Falls loop!

Pick a Peck

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchards

We can’t really think of a much more iconic fall activity than picking a pick of apples and finding the perfect pumpkin. Right here in Blue Ridge, Mercier Orchards offers you the opportunity to do both. Take a hayride around the property, enjoy a cup of hot apple cider, or warm up from the inside out with some delicious hard cider!

Local Tip: The best part of apple picking isn’t just about going home with yummy apples, it’s about spending quality time with your loved ones and enjoying the fresh air. Make sure to take lots of pictures, that way the memories will last a lifetime.

Star Gazing

Photo Courtesy of Scott Michael Anna

Watching the stars, moon, and planets shine in real time can be a powerful reminder of how big our world really is and when you look up into the Blue Ridge sky you’ll see why autumn is the best time for star gazing! So, grab a blanket, a thermos of hot chocolate, and a special someone and cuddle up under the stars for a fascinating and romantic evening. Download a Stargazing app to help decipher exactly what you’re looking at and learn about the stories of the constellations.

Fireside Fun

Toccoa Lookout Cottage

What better way to enjoy the fall season than with a warm and toasty fire on the deck or down at the fire pit! This is really a fall MUST. It’s not optional. The air is just so fresh and clean, the crickets and frogs are chirping, and your heart is warmer than the flames with all the chitter chatter while you roast up marshmallows for the perfect s’mores.

Fall Food

Your cabin comes fully stocked with everything you might need to make delicious meals for your friends and family. Since you came back with more pecs of apples than you planned on, let’s put the fruits of your labor to work and make some yummy fall recipes like:

  1. Apple Pie
  2. Pumpkin Stew
  3. Apple Stuffed Porkchops
  4. Cinnamon Stewed Apples
  5. Chicken Pot Pie

Fall Drinks

The best part about fall evenings is sitting on the porch (or in the hot tub) and watching the sun set over the beautiful mountain tops. Instead of the same ol wine and/or beer that you normally would have, impress your friends with some autumn inspired beverages. Apple Cider – Adult Style

  1. Apple Cider – Adult Style
  2. Pumpkin Spice White Russian
  3. Applejack
  4. Fall ‘Tini
  5. Harvest Punch

Leaf Art

Mother Nature produces colors that make Crayola Crayons jealous! So, why do we think they have to stay put outside? Pick up for favorite leaves, of all different colors and shapes, and bring them into the cabin to make your stay even more homey feeling.  Create a simple centerpiece for the table or place some around the fireplace mantle in a decorative fashion. Regardless of whether or not you have children vacationing with you, you can try your hand at some of these fun fall leaf crafts.  You don’t have to be super crafty to make something beautiful. Besides, the fun is in the laughter and memories you make with your loved ones.

Be Thankful

Make a “thankfulness” list. With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, take the time to make a list of all the things you are thankful for in your life. If you have children, make it a family project and teach them the value of remembering all the good things that they have been experiencing during the year.

Fall is Prime Time to go to Blue Ridge



Guest Blog by Blake Guthrie as written for the AJC (Atlanta Journal & Constitution).

The Cabin

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

Cloud Nine. It’s the type of name one would expect for a mountain vacation rental home. It’s one of those places that if you try and follow GPS directions you’ll get lost. The rental agency sent a confirmation that stressed the importance of following the turn-by-turn directions provided in the email, including detail you wouldn’t get from a GPS such as “go right when you see a bunch of mailboxes.”

The Approach

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

What it didn’t mention was the very steep and winding one-lane road. After putting my Honda into its lowest gear for the first time ever and having to navigate past an approaching vehicle, I came to the crest of Sunrock Mountain four miles west of Blue Ridge. I saw that Cloud Nine was the type of place I might want to hole-up for a while, but, having never been to Blue Ridge or nearby Ellijay before, I came to do some exploring, to find the most beautiful scenery and the best outdoor spots to experience the autumnal ambiance.

The Train

Photo courtesy of @chusion

It turned out the back porch of the cabin was one of those places. In the morning I could see how the cabin got its name. It was literally in the clouds, the surrounding mountain peaks sticking up through a thick white blanket covering the valleys below. Still, I had to venture out. First on my itinerary was the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The major attraction in town, the railway has been in operation as a sightseeing excursion train since 1998 along tracks that have a history going back as far as 1886. The tracks follow the route of the winding Toccoa River through the Chattahoochee National Forest to the twin towns of McCaysville and Copperhill, Tennessee. They’re essentially the same town with the state line running through the middle. Like a running joke, the line is demarcated by a blue stripe painted on sidewalks, roadways and running through the middle of businesses.

The train rolls at a leisurely pace and the open-air windows are large, making it a prime fall sightseeing adventure with a good dose of history thrown in. Along the way, you’ll see a Native American fish trap in the middle of the river that experts believe is 500 years old, and the old telegraph poles that used to be the fastest form of communication in a bygone era. The trip takes four hours, with two spent in McCaysville/Copperhill for exploring the towns.

McCaysville

If hunger strikes, Burra Burra on the River in McCaysville is near the train station and serves pub fare and local brews. Be sure to ask for outside seating, weather permitting. The real selling point here is the covered deck that overlooks the clear waters of the Toccoa River flowing past the state line where it becomes the Ocoee River after crossing into Tennessee.

Piano Bar

Photo Courtesy of The Black Sheep

Back in Blue Ridge, the largest patio bar in town can be found at Black Sheep Restaurant, where the seasonal menu leans heavily on seafood. Housed in a historic home shaded by a 200-year-old oak tree, the patio overlooks the center of town. It’s a popular place, so make reservations for dinner. Or just have a drink at the bar.

Breweries

The craft beer scene is surprisingly good in Blue Ridge for such a small town that was dry not too long ago. Two breweries — Fannin Brewing Company and Grumpy Old Men Brewing — both have large, inviting outdoor beer gardens where you can play cornhole, meet the locals and catch some live music. Wine drinkers have no shortage of options either, as wineries have been opening at a fast clip in this area over the last few years.

Photo Courtesy of Bear Claw Vineyards

Near Ellijay, Chateau Meichtry (pronounced “my-tree”) stands out not only for its wine but also its patio outside the barn tasting room where the rolling vineyards reveal a long-range view of the mountains to the north.At Bear Claw Vineyards visitors can spend the night in the Blue Ridge Treehouse, featured on the DIY Network show “The Treehouse Guys.” The treehouse overlooks the vineyards and contains all the amenities one would expect when staying in a hotel.

Apple Country

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchards

No trip to the North Georgia mountains during the fall harvest season would be complete without taking advantage of apple country. The pull of a roadside farm store backed by endless acres of fruit orchards is undeniable. Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge and R&A Orchards outside Ellijay both have roadside markets selling freshly picked apples and other fruits, fresh-baked goods, local foodstuffs and offer pick-your-own days as well as plenty of free samples.

Welcome to the Mountains!

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

Lake Blue Ridge is the centerpiece of a scenic drive worth exploring. Stop at the Blue Ridge Welcome Center to pick up a detailed map. Ringed by mountains, the lake has clear, emerald-hued water and a pristine, forested shoreline. The route also runs alongside the tumbling rapids of the Toccoa River, rolling farmland, historic houses, and has many side hikes to cascading waterfalls and other pastoral pleasures. Bring comfortable hiking shoes and make an afternoon of it if you plan to visit all the stops listed on the map. On my last morning at Cloud Nine, I got up early enough to see the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains and stayed on the porch until checkout. Sometimes where you are is the best place to be.

If You Go

Blue Ridge is 92 miles north of Atlanta.

What to see

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. $35 and up. 241 Depot St., Blue Ridge. 877-413-8724, brscenic.com

R&A Orchards. 5505 Hwy. 52 East, Ellijay. 706-273-3821, www.randaorchards.com

Where to stay

Escape to Blue Ridge. Cabins $140-$1,800 per night. 866-618-2521, www.escapetoblueridge.com.

Blue Ridge Treehouse. $234 and up. 2555 Tennis Court Road, Blue Ridge. 706-223-3750, blueridgetreehouse.com.

Where to Eat

Burra Burra on the River. $11 and up. 100 Blue Ridge Drive, McCaysville. 706-400-6660, www.burraburraontheriver.com.

Black Sheep Restaurant. $20 and up. 480 W. Main St., Blue Ridge 706-946-3663, www.blacksheepblueridge.com.

Visitor Info

Blue Ridge Welcome Center. 152 Orvin Lance Drive. 800-899-6867, www.blueridgemountains.com.

Ellijay Welcome Center. 10 Broad St. 706-635-7400, www.gilmerchamber.com.

A Four Season Scenic Ride



In the North Georgia Mountains, we celebrate four gentle yet very distinct seasonal transitions, each measured very close to the designated tri-month celestial calendar. Mother Nature’s landscape specialist (shall we call her Flora?) takes a particular interest in altering our mountainscape on a quarterly basis, cloaking it in very different hues, depths of foliage, and fragrances.

To get a full appreciation of Flora’s artistry in any one of the seasonal changeovers, we encourage you to drive the 41 miles of Georgia’s only national scenic drive, The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. The Byway, one of only 120  highways across our fifty states so designated, circles around the Chattahoochee National Forest and can be launched just seventeen miles southeast of Fannin County, at the intersection of Hwys 129 and 180, located in neighboring Union County.

Highest Peak In GA

Following Hwy 180 northeast, you’ll travel twelve miles to the entrance to Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain elevation (4,784’) in Georgia. When you get to the top of the Bald’s observation tower, you will have a spectacular 360-degree view of three states!

Photo Courtesy of Steve Grundy Photography

Anna Ruby Falls

Back on Hwy 180 and after heading southeast for ten miles, you will turn south onto Hwy 75/17. Over the next 10 miles, you will motor through some of the heaviest of forestry, including designated recreation areas Unicoi Gap and Andrews Cove. These are ideal places to hike, fish, picnic or just relax before heading out on the next part of your adventure. Driving for just a few minutes you will arrive at one of the region’s finest natural gems, Anna Ruby Falls. This double waterfall is formed from the merging of two creeks, both sourced from underground springs.

Anna Ruby Falls Photo Courtesy of Bill Mantooth

Just three more miles south you will find yourself at Unicoi State Park, where you can jet off on a bicycle, paddleboard on Unicoi Lake or eat at the Unicoi Restaurant located in the beautifully appointed Unicoi Lodge.

Alpine Helen

If you haven’t visited Bavaria’s USA sister city, quaint Helen GA, here’s the best opportunity, located just 3 more miles south of Unicoi State Park. But if Helen isn’t part of your plans for this scenic trip, then backtrack up 75/17 for only two miles where you’ll arrive at the entrance of one of the State’s most beautiful wooded parks, Smithgall Woods/Dukes Creek Falls State Park.  Covering over 5,600 acres, this Park focuses on conservation. It’s also an angler’s paradise with some of the very best trout fishing in the State on the waters of Dukes Creek. Visit their event calendar to see what is scheduled during your visit.

Photo Courtesy of Alpine Helen – White County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Hogpen Gap

There’s one more leg to this journey, and it is perhaps the most spectacular. Just a hair north of Smithgall Woods you will come upon the gateway (Hwy 348) to Richard Russell Scenic Hwy.  These next 23 miles are not only a favorite for motorists, bicyclists and motorcyclists, but wildlife also love to roam all over the cliffs and valleys along this route. Do drive with patience and caution.

Hogpen Gap Photo Courtesy of Scott Michael Anna

Helton Creek Falls

After nearly a 10 mile ascent, you’ll reach Hogpen Gap, (elevation 3,525′). This is a very popular, year-round hiking trail. But for just leaf lookers, the vistas at the appointed observation areas at this elevation are breathtaking! And in the spring there is no better place to view the “greening of the mountains”. As you begin the steep descent traveling north on Richard Russell, the valley brings more surprises as the fields open up and the farmlands, an integral facet of life in historical Choestoe Valley, are dotted across the highway. Look for a turn heading west at Hatchett Creek Rd. Follow this road till it merges with Helton Creek Road and visit one of the area’s favorite family waterfalls, Helton Creek Falls. The short hike (.24 miles) from the parking area leads to two falls. The lower falls has a wading pool area. The upper falls has an observation deck with bench seating.

Helton Creek Falls Photo Courtesy of Molly Carreras

Seasons of Fun!

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is a 4 season wonderland. In the spring the hiking trails boast 1500 varieties of wildflowers with over 200 plants indigenous to just this Southern Appalachian region. 

Stop, look and listen and you’ll see fawn and bear cubs emerging from the woods, beavers building dams to reroute the heavy spring rainwater, and you’ll hear the songbirds who’ve migrated back to these mountains from their winter retreats.

Open the windows on your summer drive and capture the fragrances of the season as you pass cavernous areas of native azalea, rhododendron and mountain laurel. The farmers cut hay around Memorial Day and again at Labor Day. The smell of fresh-cut hay, watching the baling process or just coming upon a field of hay bales peppering the countryside all leave an indelible imprint on one’s senses.

Photo Courtesy of Mountain Mem’ries Photography

Summer visits to the waterfalls along this road will often find the thunderous waters framed by a rainbow. And as the days become shorter and autumn ushers in, the forest canopy bursts with vibrant colors as the sweetgum, red maples, and oak trees display their final fashion before shedding their foliage. In winter the starkness of the bare forest, covered in frost is an incredible photo opportunity. The cliffs near Hogpen Gap are covered with ice and a favorite spot for ice climbers to hone their skills.

Plan on this driving adventure the next time you visit us. It promises to impress you, whatever the season. Share your adventures with us by tagging #escapetobr on your social posts. Enjoy!

9 Cabins with Incredible Game Rooms



Ha! I knew I was going to win!

What? Best two out of three determines the winner?

Alright then! Bring it!

This is my game right here. May the best man (or woman) win!

Oh yes, there is nothing more fun than a little trash talking before you take on your spouse, kid, or best friend in a friendly game of pool, foosball, air hockey, darts, video games or even old-fashioned board games. Bored teenagers are usually super thrilled to have new ways to beat their siblings and on rainy days you will be so thankful you considered the cabin’s gaming options when you booked your Escape to Blue Ridge. We in fact have 175 cabins with game rooms, but let’s take a look at the 9 most Incredible Game Rooms:

A Heaven on Earth

A Heaven on Earth is indeed in a heavenly spot atop a scenic ridge with two private, wooded acres to roam. This real log home offers a unique floor plan with two master suites featuring custom crafted log beds on the main level and adjoining bathrooms. Each also features direct access to the large deck overlooking the North Georgia Mountains. Game rooms have become ever so important in selecting the perfect cabin for your vacation. This one is no exception with dynamic offerings such as a beautiful pecan wood billiards table, foosball, and steps away from a warm and cozy lounging area in front of the stone fireplace. This is an ideal cabin offering the fulfillment of anyone’s aspirations for a great mountain getaway. Bring your better half, several friends or your whole family and everyone is sure to find “A Heaven on Earth!”

Aska Adventure Lodge

Aska is the Cherokee Native American word for “winter retreat,” however, this cabin is perfect in every season. The home’s professionally decorated and richly appointed great room features expansive glass windows that are strategically positioned to overlook the breathtaking and panoramic Aska Adventure area mountains. The Game Room features regulation size billiards, an air hockey table, a dart board and an Xbox gaming system. Aska Adventure Lodge is the perfect place and setting to clear the mind and steal away on vacation with your friends or family. Here, overlooking the mountains and upward to the sky-blue heavens, take in the crisp, clean air that rejuvenates the spirit!

Bearfoot Bungalow

Bearfoot Bungalow complete with magnificent vistas and cozy rustic charm is a mountain oasis where you can relax and recharge. Inside the cabin settle into a comfy couch or recliner and kick off your shoes in front of a fire while you watch TV in the family room, or play ping-pong, pool, air hockey, and board games in the game room, which is equipped with DVD and Wii. There are four flat screen TVs in the cabin, each with Dish service and Netflix ability and wireless Internet throughout. When it’s time to turn in for the night, you’ll choose from three comfortable, inviting bedrooms. Whether you’re planning a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a weekend with the guys or the girls, there’s something for everyone at Bearfoot Bungalow!

Celtic Weaver Lodge

Celtic Weaver Lodge is one of the most delightful North Georgia Mountain cabin rentals imaginable. Elegantly rustic with tongue and groove wood throughout, Celtic Weaver Lodge was professionally decorated and it shows. Bursting with character, this charming cabin will intrigue you at every turn with eye-catching furnishings and accents abundant in this split log home. The kids will naturally gravitate to the game room downstairs, drawn there to play billiards, ping pong, Xbox, board games, even NASCAR mini air hockey. The DVD player and iCraig will also keep them entertained for hours — they can play movies or music to their hearts’ content while lounging by the stone gas fireplace. This warm and cheerful cabin is positively peace on Earth for all in its midst. Location, relaxation and a sense of magic — Celtic Weaver Lodge weaves all the best things vacations are made of into one perfect place!

Hilltop Hideaway

Located on a mountain with wraparound decks to showcase the view from every angle, Hilltop Hideaway is the epitome of rustic elegance, with plenty of country charm and a relaxed, welcoming ambience. The downstairs game room is a gamer’s paradise, with air hockey, billiards, foosball, a classic arcade machine with 60+ games including Donkey Kong, a wood-slab bar, plenty of comfy seating, and a 65” flat screen TV. There’s also a fireplace, hot tub, and a ping-pong table on the adjacent patio. The two screened-in porches each have a wood-burning fireplace. There’s a hot tub on the lower level porch, outfitted with Bluetooth speakers, and the upper patio has a large swing, six rockers, and a gas grill with a picnic table on the upper level near the kitchen. If you have dogs, you don’t have to leave them behind. You’re welcome to bring up to two with you (as long as you pick up after them) while you and your loved ones create vacation memories at this very special mountain paradise.

Lake Vista Lodge

Lake Vista Lodge is a relaxing getaway where you can escape from the everyday world, enjoy the company of your family and friends, and marvel at the peaceful, 50-mile views of Lake Blue Ridge and mountains as far as the eye can see. If you’re seeking a bit of rest and relaxation, there is nothing better than simply swinging or rocking on the porch and soaking up the beautiful vista of Lake Blue Ridge, the mountains surrounding it, and on clear days, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina beyond. On rainy days, kids will have fun playing Xbox 360 Kinect with games foosball, shuffle board, or choosing amongst plenty of books and board games. Grownups can play billiards or indulge in a dip in the hot tub from the comfort of the covered porch. Lake Vista Lodge was built as a welcoming place for families and friends to come together to enjoy simple pleasures and each other’s company. Create your own traditions and special memories here that you’ll share for many years to come.

Legend

Staying at Legend is like having an entire five-star resort all to yourself. This luxury log cabin is truly in a class of its own. It’s built from handcrafted Douglas-fir logs and each spacious room presents incredible attention to detail with cathedral ceilings, arched doorways, sumptuous furnishings, stylish fixtures, and every amenity you desire to relax in complete luxury. Any time of year, Legend’s spacious, covered decks with their sweeping views make entertaining easy as a mountain breeze. Nature will entertain you and your guests for hours, with views of the rushing creek, horses playing in the nearby pastures, and the verdant tree farm nearby. Inclement weather can’t dampen your spirits here. Spend an afternoon in the game room downstairs playing pinball, billiards, foosball, ping pong or board games— there’s a little something for everyone. Legend even has its own cinema screening room downstairs, complete with stadium seating — it doesn’t get any closer to an authentic movie theater experience than this! Make some popcorn, grab drinks at the nearby kitchen and bar, then everyone can sink into sumptuous loungers and enjoy a great movie up on the big screen. A stay at this peaceful and elegant retreat is just the start of what your special time here will mean for family and friends. Stories will be recounted for years to come, and the memories will be legendary!

Moonlight Lodge

Moonlight Lodge is a spacious four-bedroom cabin with gorgeous mountain views. The house features two master bedrooms, ideal for a multi-family getaway. The two bedrooms on the lower level open to a game room and media center perfect for family fun. Sharpen your pool skills or play foosball or Xbox 360. Watch a movie or cheer on your favorite team on the big screen TV. There’s plenty indoors to keep kids of all ages entertained. This secluded refuge is perfect for families looking for a comfortable, relaxing home away from home!

Our Blue Heaven

Named for the old song of the same name, Our Blue Heaven is ideally located on a magnificent wooded property just five miles from downtown Blue Ridge. Inside, it’s built for comfort, with inviting, spacious rooms, all of them cozy and handsomely appointed with high-end furnishings in rustic mountain style. It’s also built for outdoor living, with over 1100 square feet of covered, screened-in deck space on three levels. Inside, you can gather in the living room, with its soaring vaulted ceiling, impressive stone gas fireplace, and 55” TV, or head to the game room to play pool or watch the game on the 65” screen. The cabin’s three inviting bedrooms, one per level, each have their own full bath and deck or balcony access. And if your dog is well trained, feel free to bring him along. Whether you’re taking a family vacation or planning a getaway with your best friends, you’ll have unforgettable memories of your stay at Our Blue Heaven!

Labor Day in the Mountains



Labor Day weekend is typically summer’s last hurrah. Visitors flock to the mountains to escape the southern city heat, hoping to “chill” before the final quarter of the year kicks into full gear. (Yikes, only 12 weeks till Christmas? Say it isn’t so!)

Whether you came to be entertained, experience the great outdoors or just eat and drink your way through these three days, we wanted to give you a heads up on what’s happening over this holiday weekend. If the event is kid-friendly we’ve noted it with a KF seal.

Grape Stomp Festival

One of the most iconic episodes of the I Love Lucy Show was the show where Lucy and Ethel take a job in a vineyard stomping grapes. It is impossible not to belly laugh your way through this episode, and Paradise Hills Winery Resort in Blairsville, offers you an opportunity to experience this adventure at their 6th Annual Grape Fest, Saturday, August 31st.

Photo Courtesy of Paradise Hills

Join the fun staff at this mountain top winery for live music all day, grape stomping at 2pm & 4pm, a kid’s craft corner, local craft vendors and delicious wine & craft beer, too. Local BBQ food will be available for purchase. They’ll be having an “I LOVE LUCY – Look-alike Contest” at 2pm and 4pm. Wine Prizes for best costume! You don’t want to miss this fun time (KF). Admission is just $25 per person includes a souvenir glass and a basic tasting. Click here for tickets.

Everybody Loves Opal

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Community Theater

It’s not just Lucy that everyone loves. Opal is a middle-aged recluse living in a tumbledown mansion in the edge of a municipal dump. Enter three vagabonds who try to swindle this kind-hearted optimist. The laughs are plenty and the joyfulness of this cast will make for one of your fondest theatrical experiences. Presented all weekend long at the Blue Ridge Community Theater, Blue Ridge GA. Click here for tickets.

U-Pick Apples

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchards

Enjoying the fresh air and summer breezes in the mountains is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Labor Day Weekend is the start of one of our annual visitors favorite family traditions and outdoor activities, Mercier’s Orchards U Pick  Apple season. For more details, visit their website here. (KF)

5K & Fun Run

Photo Courtesy of the Boys & Girls Club of North Georgia

If you are looking for a more challenging outdoor time before the summer ends, than you might want to rise very early on Labor Day and participate in the 3rd Annual River Run 5K and Fun Run at Horseshoe Bend Park in Mineral Bluff, GA. Sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club of North Georgia, Race Day Registration and Packet Pickup begins at 7am with the 5K race starting at 8am and the fun race at 8:30am. Bring the kids to participate, too! Awards will be presented to Overall Male/Female and top three male/female runners in 5 year age groups beginning at 10 years old and under through 75 and over. Click here for registration information. (KF)

Race Time

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Motorsports Park

If you like your outdoor entertainment to be loud and dirty, then you might want to head over to the Blue Ridge Motorsports Park on Saturday night, Aug 31 for the UCRA 3K to Win. A night at the racetrack is fun for the whole family! (KF)

Live Music

Photo Courtesy of Southern Vantage

If you love live music then you have some exceptional options this long weekend. Saturday night the Copperhead Lodge in Blairsville is throwing a party and they’ve invited Southern Vantage to headline. Join this amazing southern rock cover band on the huge veranda/porch at the lodge for drinks, grub, and dance.  They cover a variety of genres and hit songs from artists like Haggard, Cash, Waylon, Willie, Skynyrd, CCR, Seger, Blackberry Smoke, Hank Jr., Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, Toby Kieth, Alan Jackson, Chris Stapleton, Luke Combs, Stone Temple Pilots, Sublime, Uncle Cracker and much more. Music begins at 7 pm. Come early, grab a seat and some great grub from the Lodge’s award-winning restaurant, The Flying Trout

BBQ & Gospel Music

Photo Courtesy of the Good Samaritans of Fannin County

Though Southern BBQ is good twelve months a year, there’s something special about smellin’ that smoker cooking some tender butts for hours on end. If it’s BBQ and good southern gospel that you are yearnin’ for, then head into the heart of Blue Ridge for the 39th Annual Labor Day BBQ & Gospel Music Show.  If it has thrived for nearly four decades, you know it has to offer the best in music and in BBQ.  It’s a 3-day event and the public is invited to enjoy all or part of it. On Monday, Sept. 2  from 11:30-6, enjoy the annual Labor Day Bar-B-Q with all the fixings served with Gospel and Blue Grass by tri-state area groups.  Presale tickets are available from participating churches, Fannin Chamber of Commerce, and American Wholesale Print Shop. (KF)

Mountain Heritage Festival

Photo Courtesy of Visit Downtown Blairsville

Every Saturday and Sunday of  Labor Day weekend downtown Blairsville hosts, the Mountain Heritage Festival. Presented by the Union County Historical Society, the festival celebrates the history and mountain culture of these hills and valleys.  Mountain arts/crafts, music, living history activities, demonstrations on quilting, spinning, basket making, chair caning, farm animals, and gold panning, along with activities for children. The activities will be centered around the restored 1861 Payne family log cabin, the Mauney family barn, the Duncan family cabin, and other structures from Union County’s past. Festival hours are 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free and there’s plenty of free parking around the Square. (KF)

Summer’s Last Hurrah

Photo Courtesy of Heather Drones

William Shakespeare penned “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” We couldn’t agree more. We look forward to seeing you here in the mountains this Labor Day weekend for summer’s last hurrah!

From Field to Fork



Over the last decade, the number of Farmers Markets in this country has grown four-fold. Today’s consumers want our food to be as fresh, tasty, GMO and pesticide free as possible. We use the expression “sustainable food” to give a modern term to our intentions. What we really mean is we are more interested in calculating our food miles, or how far it’s traveled before we put it on our table.  

But sustainable food isn’t only about proximity of the food. How the food is produced, how it’s distributed and how it’s consumed are all factors. Many of our local chefs take these factors into consideration when creating their menus. They’ve made a commitment to provide culinary fare from food grown, raised and delivered locally, and under the best possible sustainable conditions. With their Farm to Table menus, they celebrate the small local farmer, and honor the connection between the land and the patrons they serve. We would like to introduce you to a couple of the regions most committed chefs.

Harvest On Main

Don’t let the downtown location fool you. When you cross the threshold at Harvest on Main you enter a superbly appointed mountain lodge. Chef-owner Danny Mellman and his partner Michelle Moran bring over three decades of culinary mastery and magic to the Blue Ridge food scene. Chef Danny creates the menus and Michelle is responsible for sourcing the best products from local producers. Grass fed Brasstown beef, Springer Mountain chicken, and Bramlett  Farm Trout are the local suppliers for such house favorites like Painted Hills Beef & Veal Meatloaf topped with Cabernet-Veal Demi-glace.

Local produce is delivered daily and those who prefer a more vegetarian fare will not be disappointed with the menu options, such as Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, layered with brown rice, beets, Portabella mushrooms, baba ganoush, red skinned garlic mashed potatoes and topped with Gouda cheese.

Mellman and Moran have other restaurants on the Blue Ridge scene, all focusing on locally grown and raised products. They even have their own farm where they’ve developed and produce their heritage rabbit, honey, and quail. If that wasn’t enough, these amazing humans also host a summer camp for children age 6-16 sharing their vision of sustainable living within the community.

Reviewers rave about the service and have more accolades for the ample number of locally brewed beers as well as Harvest on Main’s extensive wine list. The Chef describes his menu as internationally inspired with a southern twang. His patrons describe it as 5-star.

Harvest on Main (576 E. Main St., Blue Ridge) features both a lunch and dinner menu. Click here for hours and days of operation. For reservations (highly suggested) call 706-946-6164.

The Sawmill Place

The restaurants tagline says it all. “Farm Fresh, Harvest Driven, Locally Sourced”.  Local suppliers include a pretty impressive list including produce from 7M Farms and Freddie Collins Farm; grits and flours for their scrumptious breakfast fare from Logan Turnpike Mill; toppings for their (patron favorite) pancakes  from Tim Dyer’s Blueberry Patch, Michael Surles’ Honey and Hughes Sorghum Mill; and that coffee mug is filled endlessly with beans from roaster, JumpinGoat Coffee. 

Co-owners Shawn and Amy Kight serve breakfast and lunch six days a week in this delightful cabin located just a slight jog off the downtown Square in neighboring Blairsville GA.  Their giant homemade biscuits start popping out of the ovens by 6:30am. And if you don’t like to wait for a seat, you might want to get there that early. But bring a big appetite.

The breakfast menu is quite extensive and features large portions of high quality food, exceptional service and truly inspired southern recipes at very reasonable prices. Take the “Nottely Scramble” as an example. Chef Shawn scrambles 3 large Lathem farm eggs into spicy collard greens, onions, bacon and cheddar cheese. He serves this with your choice of 2 strips of Applewood smoked bacon or 1 local sausage patty, along with grits or gravy, a buttermilk biscuit, coffee or tea all for around $10.

The lunch menu boasts burgers from Certified Angus Beef raised by Georgia Cattle Farmers. There are several salad choices and all include a delectable freshly baked morning glory muffins. The hydroponic -grown lettuce and other produce are delivered daily, 12 months a year from local 7M Farms.

As we already mentioned, this place is hopping from the time it opens till the time it turns the biscuit oven off, but don’t let the possibility of a wait for a seat at the table deter you. The Sawmill Place has a lovely front porch with lots of rockers to pass the time, as well as a new Market building adjacent to the restaurant where you can shop for all things local including produce harvested locally in Union County, flower bouquets grown on Blairsville’s Whimsy Flower Farm and other artisan goods from the Tri-State area.  Leave some room in your trunk to bring home honey, syrups, jams, soaps and beeswax products. They all make great souvenirs. 

The Sawmill Place (1159 Pat Haralson Dr., Blairsville) features both a breakfast and lunch menu. Click here for hours and days of operation or call 706- 745-1250 .

Trail Trees and Fairy Crosses



For most American kids, our first introduction to the concept of trail markers is Hansel and Gretel’s attempt at leaving crumbs on their venture into the woods. The birds thwarted their efforts and that’s where their fictional journey begins. First published in 1812, their story was read to children in Germany at the same time the Cherokee Indians were creating their own trail markers here in the North Georgia Mountains. Or are Trail trees just folklore?

Trail Marker Trees

Trail trees, trail marker trees, crooked trees, prayer trees, thong trees, or culturally modified trees are hardwood trees throughout North America. One unique characteristic of the trail marker tree is a horizontal bend several feet off the ground, which makes it visible at greater distances, even in snow. These distinctive characteristics convey that the tree was shaped by human activity rather than deformed by nature or disease. The legend is that Native Americans intentionally shaped these trees for navigational purposes or to mark important places, such as sacred burial grounds.

Photo Courtesy of Donna O’Neal

Throughout the North Georgia Mountains, a day of hiking can find you encountering one or more of these gentle bent giants in our forests. As you hike through one of the twenty four top forests in our area you’ll stumble upon some of the most incredible shaped trees and wonder if they are the work of Mother Nature or did an American Indians walk these same trails 200 years ago. It is both highly possible and very likely that the tree was there marking a specific direction or possibly an area where a plant grew at its base that was used for healing.

Fairy Crosses

For many, a hike in the woods is an adventure you remember from your childhood days. It is a child’s foray into uncharted territory, a field or a wooded area close to home where they might discover an old unidentifiable bone, a creek filled with crayfish, or a cluster of butterflies on a floral bush they’ve never seen the likes of before. They come back from these walking expeditions with pockets filled with pretty leaves, unusual shaped stones and always a bird feather or two. As adults we reawaken that lust for exploration and here on these mountain trails, there seems to be one treasure that many are hunting: Fairy Crosses

The Legend of the Fairy Cross derives from the Cherokee Indians and thought to be over 2000 years old! It is said that long, long, ago fairies inhabited a certain quiet and remote region in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The fairies roamed freely, enjoying the beauty and serenity of that enchanted place. One day, the fairies were playing in a sunny dell when an elfin courier arrived from a far-away city bearing the sad news of Christ’s death. When they heard the terrible details of the crucifixion, the fairies wept. As their tears fell to the earth, they crystallized into little stone crosses. Though the fairies have long since disappeared, the little stone crosses, known as “fairy stones,” still remain as vestiges in that enchanted spot. There was a belief among the Cherokee that the crosses had the power to reduce the owner invisible at will. In some instances, the tiny crosses were supposed to give the owner the power of diving into the ground and coming up again among the enemy to scalp and kill with unexpected terror.

The Scientific Side

Fairy crosses (aka fairy stones) are small bricks originally formed seven miles underground of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Staurolite crystals form into little tiny “bricks” that, under pressure, twist in 60 degree or 90 degree angles, forming crosses. As they push their way up to the earth’s surface, the action of wind and rain dissolve the softer surrounding stone called schist to reveal the precious cross-shaped minerals within. 

The good fortune of finding fairy stones is best after a heavy rain. Dig with your hands along the soft dirt at the base of the trees. The cross stones are the same color as the dirt, so use your hands to sift the stones from the soil until you find a cross shaped stone about the size of a small marble, usually less than an inch in length. They are wonderful keepsakes when found, and can be polished and used as a lucky pocket token, or designed into a necklace, bracelet, or earrings.

Pezrok

If you haven’t had the good fortune to find a fairy stone on your hiking trip, you can still find a wonderful collection of fairy crosses at Pezrok in downtown Blue Ridge, a gallery full of artistic creations of exquisite minerals, fossils, gems and carved driftwood.

Photo Courtesy of Jim Korzep

There are countless numbers of adventures to be had on your visit to these mountains. You’ll want to capture many of your explorations in pictures to take home and share with us, your family, and your friends. Oh, and while you are taking a cell phone selfie at one of the bent trees you are likely to encounter, remember your phone is also equipped with GPS, which will assure your chances of getting back to your car in the parking lot. As we already know from 19th century literature, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs will not suffice.