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.

Hit the Rapids



Photo courtesy of Ocoee Rafting

The Southeastern United States is known for having some of the best whitewater around. Here in Blue Ridge we are within 1 hour of 3 action packed, exciting rivers and 2 hours away from one of the most challenging rivers in the state! Our cabins make the perfect Home Base for day trips, exploring the beauty of Mother Nature and soaking up the Appalachian Lifestyle.

Cartecay River

Photo Courtesy of Ellijay River Outfitters

Just thirty minutes from downtown Blue Ridge, you can access the put-in to the 91-mile Cartecay River off Highway 52. This class I-II river starts in foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and runs West and if you follow it pass the common commercial takeout, you’ll float right through the center of town! The river begins with a nice, calm current as it meanders through the valley. About halfway through your float, the rapids begin to increase in frequency and in fun! The last quarter of the river offers some fun rapids that aren’t too terribly technical and end in a last hurrah at Blackberry Falls. This intimidating looking rapid is really just a big slide and is tons of fun to run down regardless of the your water vessel. There are two outfitters, Cartecay River Experience or Ellijay River Outfitters, to help you with shuttle assistance or to rent you a tube, kayak, or canoe.

Bonus: Since Ellijay is the Apple Capital of Georgia, there are plenty of Apple Houses around to stock up on cider, breads, and of course a wide variety of apples!  

Nantahala River

Photo courtesy of Nantahala Outdoor Center

About an hour Northeast of Blue Ridge after passing through the mountain towns of Murphy and Andrews in Western North Carolina the road will narrow up and you will begin to drop down into the Nantahala Gorge. There’s just something about this gorge that’s special. You can hang a right on old river road and watch the pro kayakers take on the Cascades and Upper Nantahala or continue straight to the lower Nantahala and stop at one of many outfitters that offer guided and non-guided rafting adventures.

The 8-mile Nantahala River is a Class II-III River that runs right along US HWY 76 deep through the Nantahala National Forest. There is no shortage of fun on this exciting river! The opening rapid Pattons Run is a good class III rapid to get your blood pumping right off the bat! After that enjoy a good hour or two of fun, fast, cold water and about 20 named rapids. The river ends with the Grand Finale of The Falls. This class III rapid has an observation deck for passerby’s to stop and watch as the kayaks, canoes, and rafts navigate the technical section of fast white water as they try to pick the perfect line to conquer The Falls!

Bonus: Eat at River’s End after a fun day on the water. Enjoy delicious food, friendly service, and a spectacular view of the river below.

Ocoee River

Photo Courtesy of Ocoee Rafting

Traveling a little less than an hour Northwest from Blue Ridge the Ocoee River, home of the 1996 Olympics is 10 miles of Whitewater fun! The aforementioned Olympic competition took place on the upper section of the Ocoee River. This super technical section of the river features some of the biggest most challenging rapids and is only able to be experienced for 34 days per year. The Middle Ocoee is 5 miles of class III and IV rapids. Hop on Mother Nature’s natural roller coaster and squeal with delightment as your trusty raft guide navigates you and your party down the river with great care to maximize the fun! From the put in at Grumpy’s to the ending rapid at Hell’s Hole, you will never forget the fun and excitement of a trip down the Ocoee!

Bonus: Love to mountain bike? The Cherokee National Forest features miles of mountain biking trails.

Chattooga River

Photo Courtesy of Wildwater

Made famous after the filming of the movie Deliverence, the Chattooga River is about two hours from Blue Ridge. Flowing across both Georgia and South Carolina, the Chattooga River is divided into 4 sections with section 4 being probably the hardest in the Southeast. The class III section increases in difficulty from a mild beginning to a challenging final rapid at Bull Sluice. Being that section 4 of the Chattooga begins at the hardest rapid on section 3 should lead you to believe that this will be a much more challenging run, and you’d be absolutely right about that. The crux of section 4 is at the Five Falls Section of the river. These Class IV rapids are no joke with a 75 foot drop from the beginning to end.

Bonus: Add to your adrenaline rush by booking a Zipline trip where you fly through the sky, over lakes, and among nature!

Blue Ridge Unplugged



In today’s world, we spend more time staring at screens than with each other. It’s important to take a break every now and then and reconnect with the ones you love most, especially the youngest members of your family. One of the benefits of getting away for vacation on an Escape To Blue Ridge you can take the time to enjoy each other’s company, tell stories, and laugh a lot. 

Whether you are playing board games, going on a hiking adventure, or roasting marshmallows by the fire pit, when you make an effort to unplug and spend quality time together, you will make memories to last a lifetime!

Get Adventurous

Long Creek Falls

Getting kids outdoors and into nature is one of the best things you can do for them. Not only is it good for their health, and yours, but it will also help build their confidence. What better feeling is there than to look back at how far you’ve come and be proud of that journey? Whether your taking the stairs at Amicalola State Park, bouncing along the swinging bridge, or taking a hike down to Long Creek Falls, your kids will feel so proud when they get to your destination. The best part? Since cell service rarely works out in the woods, you get to talk and observe nature along your route!

Learn Something Together

Children’s brains are like little sponges. They absorb absolutely everything they can from everywhere they can. One way to help encourage knowledge through learning is taking in a museum or two. Who knows, you might even learn something! For a light hearted and fun afternoon, you and your mini-me’s can try to determine whether the legendary Big Foot is indeed fiction or non-fiction at EXPEDITION: BIGFOOT! The Sasquatch Museum.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Tourism

For a more classic approach, there is plenty to see and do at the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association. Their gallery features a plethora of art pieces in various mediums. Each month a new Artist in Residence is featured, and their art exhibits are switched out every four to six weeks so there is always something new to see. The Arts Center also offers classes for both adults and children alike to encourage your creativity and hone your artistic skills. Like scavenger hunts? The Art Center has been instrumental in creating the one and only Trout Art Trail! Take a stroll around town and find each of the colorful trout placed throughout town. After  you’ve found them all, head to the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center for a prize!

Rainy Day Fun

2nd Story Entertainment

Oh, we know, sometimes rainy days are the most challenging days to be locked up with your kids with nothing to do. Fortunately, there is a great solution right in Downtown Blue Ridge – 2nd Story Entertainment. This kid friendly and fun business is located upstairs, on the second floor, from Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar & Grill. Inside you find a full eighteen holes of challenging putt putt obstacles and fun games to play in between golf rounds. The course is spread out through nine different rooms with each featuring its own theme like a red-carpet room with movie stars, a western room, and a throw back to classic games room.

Channel Your Inner Child

Photo Courtesy of Weird Oh!

The communities of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN have recently seen a great revitalization which means there are some great new shops to explore and restaurant to try. We highly recommend you channeling your inner child and checking out a fun little shop called “Weird Oh!”. So, what exactly is Weird Oh!? Well, it’s a magical emporium of fun! Better known as an unusual place for unusual people, inside you will find peculiar treasures and trinkets. It’s a place where kids can be kids and adults can be kids too! Everything can be touched, moved, and you can even write on the walls and not get in trouble! The only rule that you will encounter is that laughter is a must! No matter what. Laugh, have fun, pick up a toy, purchase a gag gift that will make someone laugh. Giggle a little, chuckle a lot, let out a guffaw if something strikes your funny bone. You won’t be judged, because Weird Oh is all about fun!

What trip is complete without a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth? At Sweet & Southern Sugar Company you will be delighted with all the fun treats from delicious ice cream to decadent desserts. You will definitely feel like a kid again trying to pick out a treat. We highly recommend the Sin Shakes and their to-die-for cinnamon buns! Just across the street, you absolutely MUST take a selfie while standing in two states. That’s right. You can stand in Georgia and Tennessee at the same exact time!

If you really want to feel like a kid again, you should plan your trip to McCaysville via the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Who doesn’t love a train ride? Come on, admit it, we’ve all played “conductor” with our best sounding “All Aboard” and attempts at a train whistle. This relaxing and enjoyable ride begins in downtown Blue Ridge and the tracks meander through the countryside on a twenty-six-mile round trip journey. There is a two hour layover in McCaysville which gives you plenty of time to check out all the shops and load up on sweets!

Be Nostalgic

Swan Drive-In

If you haven’t been to a drive-in movie since you were a kid, we encourage you to make plans to go to the Swan Drive In Theater and take in a show or a double feature! A throwback to yesteryears, there is just something so fun about watching a movie outdoors. Plan to arrive early and have a little picnic while you wait on the movie to begin. Trust us, it fills up fast, so you’ll want to be there early! There is a grassy knoll to throw a football, play some corn hole, or just enjoy an old-fashioned game of tag. Whether you choose to watch the show in camp chairs behind your car or on blankets in the bed of your truck, there will be no shortage of smiles from every member of the family. Local tip – bring a portable radio/boombox. You don’t want to be the one who’s battery dies from running the radio!

Keep It Simple

Photo Courtesy of Huck’s General Store

Kids don’t need anything to entertain them except for your attention. Well, maybe a little ice cream! Seriously though, keep it simple, unplug, and give them your undivided attention. Take a stroll through downtown Blue Ridge. There are some adorable shops that both you and your children will find interesting like Huck’s General Store. There are plenty of places along the strip to stop and grab a scoop or two like The Chocolate Express. At the end of Main Street there is an awesome playground (and restrooms) for the kids to burn off some energy before you decide on a fabulous restaurant for dinner.

Back at the cabin go on a family stick hunt to get kindling for the fire. Once the sun sets, and the fire is lit, break out the marshmallows and show them how to roast them. Do you like your marshmallows burnt too? Better yet, add graham crackers and chocolate for some campfire s’mores! The firepit is a good time to tell stories about when you were young or when your kids were young. This writer must have told her child the story of her birth no less than a million times! Break out the guitar, sing some songs, make wishes on stars, and enjoy every moment you have together. Regardless how you spend your time in Blue Ridge, be content in knowing that you are creating memories your children will hold on to and cherish forever. After all, that’s what life is all about.

Shining the Spotlight on Mercier Orchards



Farmers in the state of Georgia produce more than 26 million pounds of apples annually with nearly all the orchards concentrated in the North Georgia Mountains. Distinguishing oneself from the other apple orchards might be a large task for some. But Adele Mercier was never easily daunted by the business challenges of competition presented to her and her husband Bill and their 27-acre family orchard they started together in 1943. She had big plans for this little orchard in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Little did she know that it would take her to the dawn of the next century to execute her plan.

In 1999, Adele presented her vision for the Mercier Orchards to the regional tourism association. She shared with them her dream that Mercier’s was going to become an international tourist attraction, right along with her friends from the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway who had just started running scenic excursions to McCaysville and back. That afternoon, the tourism professionals chuckled at the naiveté of this eighty-year-old with such outlandish pipe dreams. Over the past two decades since, many of those in attendance that day have eaten their fair share of humble pie (or maybe apple fried pies?).

Mercier Orchards has grown ten times its original size, with 300 acres of apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. The farm market that once boasted just bins of apples from July till December is now open seven days a week from 7 am till 6 pm, 361 days a year.  The Market Store has enlarged to several thousand square feet with outstanding food products, fresh, frozen and canned, with the majority locally sourced. If you are planning on preparing meals during your cabin stay with us, you must visit Merciers. Don’t bother with a shopping list. Every item will take you on a new culinary journey.

The Market has also grown to include a bakery boasting several varieties of fried pies, as well as apple cider donuts, and a large variety of bread, cookies and many other delectable baked goods.  The bakery also supplies the recently enlarged Market Café (open 7am-6pm daily) with award-winning biscuits, bread and rolls served at breakfast each day till 11 am. Breakfast buffet on Saturdays and Sundays is a great place to gather with family and friends, with buffet hours extended to noon.  After a morning in the orchards, picking your own fruit, lunch at the Market is the best place to hydrate, chill and nourish.

Yes, part of Adele’s dream was to bring multi-generational families in to enjoy the seasonal harvests of the orchards. Adults of all ages will enjoy the memories of their childhood days while picking apples, and the children will enjoy every moment, from the wagon ride out to the u-pick them area to delighting as they fill their buckets with berries, peaches or over 30 varieties of apples. U-Pick is subject to availability and the weather. For current picking dates, click here.

Maybe choosing your fruit at the Market is more to your liking than picking your own in the field. That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the Orchard experience. From 10 am till 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, indulge yourself with a $5 tractor ride and tour of the 300-acre orchard. The Mercier family loves to share all there is to see and know about their orchard with their guests.

The fruits of the orchard are best enjoyed fresh, but for some, pressed and fermented fruit has as much allure. Mercier’s knows this first hand and would like to invite you to their Tasting Room at the Market. A variety of delicious hard ciders and wines, made with all “Georgia Grown” fruits can be sampled and purchased. “We are currently the only apple orchard in Georgia that can say they grow, press, ferment, and bottle their own product.” avowals their website.

As for Adele’s vision? Late last November, this writer visited the orchard with a friend to purchase a couple of bags of apples. It was late on a Sunday afternoon, three weeks past the high volume tourist season and we expected to be able to run in and out with our fruit purchase. We found the enormous parking lot to be nearly full. Walking into the Market, we discovered every cash register manned and customers were five plus deep waiting in those lines. My friend and I counted six different languages being spoken around us while we patiently waited our turn to pay for our purchases.

Adele Mercier passed away in 2013, leaving her internationally known Market in the very capable hands of second, third and fourth generations of the Mercier Family. They strive to bring to every visitor an experience that they will soon not forget. To learn more about Mercier Orchards and to see their event calendar, visit them at www.mercier-orchards.com.

Finding Bigfoot on a Rainy Day



A vacation usually means a bit of sightseeing and possibly seeking that one celebrity spotting you always associated with your destination. If visiting the Palm Beaches you might be hoping to catch a glimpse of the Presidential motorcade, where on LA’s famous Rodeo Drive, a glimpse of Brad sipping an iced Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks might be your quest. And what (or whom) are some tourists visiting the Northeast Georgia Mountains yearning to see?  Well, Bigfoot, of course!

Photo Courtesy of Patterson-Gimlin Footage

A legend or not?

To many in this neck of the woods, Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch, Yowie and Yedi) isn’t just a 20th-century folk legend. The first recorded sighting of him here in Fannin County was June 26, 1873. Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest has long been known as a hotbed for Bigfoot activity amongst the Bigfoot research community. And if you think that those who have an interest in this mysterious creature are just a little bit left of center, take into consideration that the famed anthropologist and highly regarded scientist Jane Goodall has said of Sasquatch beings, “I’m fascinated by them and would actually love them to exist”.

This reddish-brown hairy creature is reportedly about 8 feet in height and his alleged footprints that have been found all across the globe suggesting he has a 24-inch long foot that measures 8 inches across. To put that into some perspective, NBA giant  Shaquille O’Neal is 7’1” and the length of his foot measures 15 inches.

Photo Courtesy of Expedition: Bigfoot

Blue Ridge Museum

If taking a hike out into the forest after the sun sets, night vision glasses in place, to snap your photo op with Bigfoot is too much effort, don’t let that deter you from finding out all you can about him. While here in Blue Ridge, plan to visit EXPEDITION: BIGFOOT! The Sasquatch Museum, located just east of the city. This museum may have you giggling on the way in the door, but you will leave with a new appreciation for your next walk in the woods. You’ll discover why Bigfooters from around the globe make the pilgrimage to Blue Ridge just to explore this museum and its many relics.

Photo Courtesy of Expedition: Bigfoot

See For Yourself

The quality of the displays and the huge amount of content are most impressive. In addition to the extensive collection of artifacts, the museum has interactive exhibits, lots of scientific analysis making the credible case that there are Sasquatches roaming the earth, and audio-video presentations that captivate even the least likely believers, young and old. Yes, kids are fascinated with this self-guided tour that usually lasts 90 mins to two hours. We highly recommend this as a Plan B family destination when a rainy mountain day messes up your original outdoor intentions.

Photo Courtesy of Expedition: Bigfoot

The museum, located at 1934 GA-515, Cherry Log, GA, is open Wednesday through Monday from 10 am till 5 pm. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children age 5 to 12. Kids under 5 and Active Military (with ID) are free! It’s more than a fair price for an educational and entertaining museum of this quality, with such fun opportunities for photo ops that will sure to bring gasps to your friends back home. And though you will be welcomed by a super cool staff that is known for sharing free coffee and cookies to their guests, you might want to be prepared to drop a few bucks on souvenirs at the museum’s bountiful gift shop, where Bigfoot really comes to life.

Calgon, Take Me to the Mountains…What Moms Really Want



What Mom really wants for Mother’s Day might surprise you. It rarely has to do with those lovely wrapped little boxes from the jewelry store. And it has less to do with gift certificates to get body maintenance done, like massages and manicures.

It was 50 years ago that this iconic ad first ran. “Calgon, take me away”.  It still epitomizes what every Mom wants and needs – time away from the daily grind, if even for just time for a private, quiet bath. So, this Mother’s Day we think we can help you with giving Mom that Calgon moment she’ll remember for many years to come.

Mom with Little Ones

Daddy Daycare!

Mom is rising close to noon and not hearing a peep. As she clears the cobwebs from her sleep, she realizes that she woke in the cabin they came to last night. Oh, the bed felt so luxurious, and somehow, she was the only one in it. Next to the bed is a note from hubby. “The kids and I are gone for the day. White wine in the fridge with brie, apple, and crackers. The hot tub is waiting for you. Don’t forget your book at the bottom of the suitcase.  We’ll see you at 6. Bringing dinner with us. Relax and enjoy the solitude.  You deserve this. You’re the best Mom in the world. We love you.”  She looks out over the magnificent view of the mountains from her bedroom window. This is the best gift I could ever imagine, she thought. Six hours later the gang rolls in, running into her arms to tell her all about their visit to Lilly Pad Village, where they gem mined and went trout fishing.  After a great boxed dinner from Blue Ridge Mountain BBQ was consumed, they all packed up to head to the Swan Drive-in Theater for a nostalgic experience watching the 21st-century Avengers on the outdoor screen. (Did you know that you can choose from 177 of our properties that have at least two bedrooms and a hot tub?)

Mom with Teen-agers

Growing up too fast!

Mom marvels at how they are growing and maturing. She realizes that in just a few short years they will be leaving the nest. She wants to make these times away to the mountains something special for them all to remember.  They all agree that ziplining had been on their bucket list. But first, while the day was still cool, they’d challenge themselves to trek on the swinging bridge across the Toccoa River.  After an afternoon of adventure, they pull up to the Rum Cake Lady’s outdoor dining. Mom loves Cuban food, and they sit at the picnic tables all sharing their menu picks, joyful and tired. When they get back to the cabin, the fire pit is lit, the oldest son brings out his guitar, the youngest starts to make S’mores. Mom gazes at her family in the glow of the fire and wonders how she got to be the luckiest Mom in the whole world. (Thirty-eight of our rentals have either fire pits or outdoor fireplaces. Which one would your family choose?)

Mom with Grown Daughter

No matter how old you are, you’ll always be my baby.

Every Mom feels the same way once their chicks have grown and flown the coop. They yearn for one on one time with them again. When her daughter texts her to ask if she’d like to spend the weekend with her in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mom searches to find an emoji that can express her excitement. She ends up sending 10 happy faces, and the words, “yes, yes, YES!”.  Saturday it’s a quick, trouble free keyless entry into their little lakefront cabin and off to the Himalayan Salt Caves for a 45-minute session of pure bliss, relaxing in zero gravity chairs, listening to soft music in a stress-free environment.  After, they head into downtown Blue Ridge and make a stop at Blue Ridge Booksellers. As different as they can be in many respects, Mom and daughter share a love for vintage bookstores. With just enough time, they make their reservation at Harvest on Main for a relaxing evening of fine dining. Back to the cottage, another glass of wine to top off the evening and a wonderful heart to heart chat on the porch overlooking the moonlit lake. They sleep in late, pack up their things, close the door behind them and take a lovely drive out to Mercier’s Orchards for brunch and then to pick strawberries together, a memory they share from a Mother’s Day trip 20 years before. Now, they head home and banter back in forth as to whether it’s biscuits or pound cake that will host these sweet, juicy berries.

We think everyday should be Mother’s Day! Thank you to all the wonderful Moms who celebrate their families with us throughout the year. We hope your Mother’s Day is a Calgon day for you!

Blue Ridge Bucket List



Top 10 Things To Do In Blue Ridge For 2019

As we ring in the New Year, 365 opportunities await you to get out and explore the beautiful North Georgia Mountains. Here are a few of our favorite ideas to enjoy your 2019 Escape to Blue Ridge!

1. Eat Collard Greens & Black-Eyed Peas

After all, it’s a southern tradition. Eat these as your first meal for the New Year and you will increase your luck and prosperity for the year ahead. The Village Restaurant will be open and ready to serve you the very best in Southern Cuisine

2. Experience the Lake Life

Beautiful Lake Blue Ridge offers 3,290-acres of crystal-clear water to explore. Bring your own water craft, rent a pontoon boat, or take a guided tour with Capt’n Joe. Whether you are kayaking, tubing, fishing, or just floating along, there is no prettier place in the world than where the mountains meet the water.

3. Take in a Festival or 5

There is always something happening in these here mountains. Festival season begins in February and ends in October, plus holiday activities are abundant in November and December. You will be blown away with the ice sculpting that takes place at the annual Fire and Ice Chili Cookoff. If music is more your style, you can shake your groove thing at both the Blue Ridge Wine & Jazz Festival and Blue Ridge Blues & Barbeque Festival. Blue Ridge festivals are family friendly, pet friendly, and extraordinarily fun!

4. Fly fish in the Trout Capital of Georgia

Brown trout, rainbow trout, and native trout are abundant in our freshwater mountain streams. Stop by and see Will Taylor at the Fly Shop Co. for some flies and a pole. Then head out to the headwaters of the Toccoa River, Noontootla Creek, or Rock Creek for premier trout fishing.

5. Wine, Beer and Hard Cider, Oh My!

You can’t visit the mountains without trying the refreshing flavors of Hard Cider at Mercier Orchards. While you are there, pick up a peck of apples and some of their fruit infused wines as well. If you are more of a purist, both Bear Claw Vineyards and Serenberry Vineyards have classic Chardonnays, Sauvignons, and more. If Craft beer is more your style, don’t fret, there are many options to choose from like Grumpy Old Men Brewing and Fannin Brewing Company.

6. Jump on the Swinging Bridge

Pack up a picnic and hit either the Benton MacKaye Trail or the Duncan Ridge National Recreation Trail to the Swinging Bridge. This 270-foot-long suspension bridge is the longest swinging bride east of the Mississippi River! If you do decide to jump in the middle, make sure you are faster than your travel buddies or you might get thrown off!

7. Get wet at Fall Branch Falls

A short, family friendly hike makes Fall Branch Falls a must do activity for the young and young at heart. Explore both the upper and lower area of the falls and take time to relax on the rocks and enjoy the views. Don’t forget to bring your best friend. Dogs will enjoy the trail as much as their humans.

8. Come on Ride That Train

The iconic Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a must do when in town. Enjoy the scenery every season of the year as the train departs from Downtown Blue Ridge and travels the countryside to the revitalized towns of Copperhill, TN and McCaysville, GA

9. Find a Fairy Cross

Legend has is that as the Native Americans embarked on the Trail of Tears, they shed tears of sorrow that fell to the ground and formed tiny crosses of stone. Commonly known as staurolite crystals, these minerals are abundant in Fannin County.

10. Book an Escape to Blue Ridge

There is just something about these mountains that is so good for the soul. Whether you want to come for a romantic getaway, to reconnect with friends and family, or to enjoy the abundant outdoor adventures, we have the perfect cabin for you!

We wish each of you and yours a prosperous year ahead filled with lots of love, exciting adventures, and many opportunities to make heartfelt memories. Happy New Year!

The Colin Family Takes on Blue Ridge



We have some of the coolest guests that adventure up into the Blue Ridge Mountains for some good quality R&R. Earlier this fall, a beautiful family from the Southwest region of Florida knew they wanted to come up the mountains and experience the spectacular fall season. Fortunately for them, the 2018 season proved to be one of the most colorful seasons we’ve enjoyed in a while! Fortunately for us, they made this awesome vlog about their journey.

The Players

The Patriarch, Andres Colin, is a talented singer-songwriter in and around the Sarasota area. His lovely wife, Kristen, is an equally talented photographer. Together they have one beautiful little girl, Aria, and another bundle of joy on the way. So, needless to say, life is pretty busy for the Colin family, but that wasn’t going to stop them from getting away. A local Sarasota artist, Jay Tyler of Steel View Art, recommend the family Escape to Blue Ridge and stay in a cabin called Woolly Bugger.

The Adventure

Have you driven eight hours with a toddler before? Well, lets just say the eight hour drive from Sarasota took more like twelve hours, but their reward was coming! Alas, they arrived in the mountains along a quiet dirt road and stepped out of the car to experience the crisp mountain air and check out their home away from home.

You will delight when you watch the family explore the lakes and mountains of the Appalachian region, your heart will melt when you hear Andres sing Happy Birthday to Kristen, and you will thoroughly enjoy Andres singing Una Guitarra by Gerardo Pena.

With any good road trip, food is a critical factor. Luckily for the Colin Family, there are no shortage of good restaurants in the Blue Ridge area. You may think a little mountain town only survives on bbq, cornbread, biscuits, and sweet tea. While that is absolutely 100% true, but we also have a taste for the finer things in life including healthy options offering gluten free and vegan selections.

With memory cards filled with pictures and hearts full of family memories, the Colin Family has to begin their journey back to their regular lives.  One last stop in Georgia finds the family in Valdosta at the most delightful downtown market and café, Birdie’s. That’s when the Colin’s knew. They’ve been bitten by the Travel Bug and they will make a point to get out and travel more. There is just too much in life to experience.

Take about six minutes and enjoy this very well done and beautiful vlog by Andres Colin and his family’s Escape to Blue Ridge!