Guest Blog by Blake Guthrie as written for the AJC (Atlanta Journal & Constitution).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
September is a time of transition, when summer is coming to an end, but the crisp nights promise something even better! Life at the lake goes on, the rivers are flowing with enough intensity to host a kayak championship, apples are ripe and ready for picking, and weekend festivals feature live music, BBQ and brews! Check out the events below and come stay with us this month.
Every small town has an Opal. She’s a middle-age recluse who lives in an old, falling down mansion on the edge of town. She’s quirky, to say the least and she collects things, hauling them through town to her house in a little red wagon. She’s harmless, she’s also a target, but she’s oblivious and those trying to do her harm end up getting theirs in the end. Familiar story and funny. Check it out!
A fun and beautiful run for all ages, sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of North Georgia. Awards presented for the top three runners in 5-year incremental age groups, as well as overall firsts for male and female. Welcome the first fall weekend with an exercise activity and some spirited encouragement!
It’s a tradition each Labor Day Weekend in Blairsville to celebrate local history and heritage at the place where it all began. Focused on the restored 1861 Payne family log cabin, the Mauney family barn, the Duncan family cabin and other structures from the area’s past, music and craft activities will be very much in evidence, providing entertainment as well as education!
Mountains and sea meet with some Lowcountry cooking, local brews from Grumpy Old Men Brewery and a bit of New Orleans thrown in for good measure. This is a a little bit country Cajun and a little bit charming Charleston. Diversity for sure. The culinary team from Cucina Rustica monitors the fusion to make sure there’s no- con-fusion!
Apple U-Pick September 1 – 30 LOCATION: Mercier Orchards and Area Orchards in Blue Ridge & Ellijay
It’s apple-pickin’ time! Which means it’s also time for tractor rides through the orchards, corn mazes, and definitely time to enjoy breathtaking mountain views from the top of an apple pickin’ ladder (why is it, by the way, that the best apples always seem to be at the top of the tree?!). Mercier Orchards is in its 76th year of operation, and Labor Day Weekend has always been the time to kick off the season. It’s also time to drive slowly through the lovely stretch of highway near Ellijay, watching for just the right orchard to catch your attention. Look for apple signs all over!
Yes, barbecue and gospel music do go together! In fact, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of voices harmonizing, with a bit of sauce on the side. In addition to music and “cue”, there’s also an ice cream social and a chance to discover local churches in the area.
A beautiful vineyard and winery set in pastoral farmlands in the heart of the Southern Appalachians. Cartacay’s wine history dates to 2007, but it’s heritage is comprised of Cherokee roots (in fact, Cartecay translates to “bread valley”). The winery features plenty of locally sourced wines, tastings and special events, plus live music on most weekends.
Live Music at Cartecay Vineyards: September 1 – Downtown Roy September 7 – Gopher Broke Band September 8 – Tommy Joe Connor September 14 – Gregg Erwin September 15 – Surrender Hill September 21 – Timothy O’Donovan September 22 – Ricky Byers September 28 – Man Bites Dog September 29 – Cagle & Pitts Duo Review
Be on the lookout for artists painting everything everywhere in Fannin County during this four-day international event. You may see artists in parks, in farm fields, even alongside the road – wherever the spirit has moved them to sit, or stand, and capture the beauty and uniqueness of this region on canvas. This is a judged show with various events surrounding it, including opportunities to meet the artists and purchase their work. Art will be on exhibit at the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association from September 10 through October 13.
Great beer (18 beers on tap), a fun atmosphere and a stellar philosophy (delicious beer, dog-friendly, people tolerated). Plenty of craft beers, including those brewed in the brewery, and lots of live music. It’s one of those places that locals like!
Live Music at Grumpy’s: September 6 – Doctor Paul September 13 – Travis Bowlin September 27 – Gregg Erwin
The perfect combination – yoga, followed by wine tasting at a vineyard with a view. Ashlee Lofton leads the yoga class, beginning at 10:45am and then there’s a moment of reflection before moving on to Bear Claw’s Grizzly Tasting. OMMM & AHHH. Nothing better!
Diane Durret, who has performed with Sting, Gregg Allman, the Indigo Girls, Chuck Leavell and countless others will perform at the Blue Ridge Community Theater with her blend of raw soulful vocals, sultry tones and strong original songs!
World class whitewater and a bunch of folks who know how to navigate it, it’ll be like watching the Olympics in your own backyard, because these are truly Olympic-level competitors! This three-day event on the Upper Ocoee will feature raft, canoe and kayak competitions in formats ranging from slalom racing to freestyle, set against a spectacular backdrop! During down times you can enjoy the live music and regional vendor booths.
They used to say “let food be your medicine”…and how many times are diets based on a simple change of what you eat? In this class you will learn how to make and set up an herbal first aide kit, discover poultices, and try out some compresses. Each participant will be given a packet describing how to create your own herbal preparations along with a lot of lecture time and hands on, a small herbal profile, and all materials will be furnished for you to make your own concoctions.
For these bored seniors living at the “Home”, life is a monotonous cycle of pills, old movies and 7pm bedtimes, all while overseen by the killjoy nurse. But when a new arrival shakes things up, this geriatric group of grandparents hatch a scheme to break all the rules and rediscover their purpose and dignity.
There’s nothing like some cool blues riffs. And, there’s nothing like some tasty, mouth-watering barbecue. Hmmm – put those two together on the same day and you have a sure-fire winner of a fall festival! Which is what the Blues and BBQ Music Festival is, just a beautiful way to spend a day with friends, family, good sounds, and good smells!
The Boat Dock Bar and Grill at the Lake Blue Ridge Marina has one of the best views of Lake Blue Ridge around. The restaurant features a full kitchen, outdoor seating, a beachy atmosphere, and it’s dog-friendly (if your dog is dog friendly).
Live Music at the Boat Dock: September 27 – Gerry Herndon
The Blue Coyote is known for their live music and entertainment. While you’re there you can enjoy their tasty bar food and a whole bunch of beer! They even have a dog-friendly patio! Stop by, check it out, and enjoy the music!
Mudcat September 28 LOCATION: Mystic Mountain Pizza
Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck is an internationally known gospel and bluesman continuing the traditions of the early blues pioneers while adding his own Mudcat edge, resulting in one of Atlanta’s greatest treasures. Don’t miss this show. At Mystic Mountain Pizza you’ll enjoy good food, cold beer, and an inviting atmosphere!
Live Music at the Blue Coyote: September 27 – Bone Daddy
First of all, there are no guarantees that these goats really will dance, but you can probably count on them to eat, and provide pretty good backdrops for a great folk festival. Mostly, it’s a pretty snappy name that catches your attention. Once captivated by the possibility of goat dancing, you can settle into a celebration of regional culture and local traditions, including talented artisans plying their crafts, storytelling, and showcases of true folk art. Well worth the trip.
You’ve seen ‘em, you just don’t know you’ve seen ‘em. They’re sometimes called Railroad Hand Cars, and sometimes you have to pump them to get around, an exercise best accomplished with two. Operating one of these is just a part of a weekend’s worth of tribute to the world of railroads – hosted, of course, in a train depot, where you can also enjoy a large “HO Scale” model railroad based on the L & N Railroad’s Old Line from Atlanta to Etowah, Tennessee.
NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM
What matters most to you in a mountain vacation? Whether it’s a wide range of great activities nearby, a magnificent setting that brings you closer to nature, or the chance to relax, unwind and leave everything in your ‘real life’ behind, you’ll find it all at My Mountain Retreat. Perched on a hillside in a forest clearing overlooking a verdant canopy, with spectacular long-range mountain views, this spacious tri-level showplace is the ideal getaway retreat.
Escape to a mountaintop in Blue Ridge to a home with some of North Georgia’s best views that extend out to two more states. Summit Escape is in the wonderful community of Sun Rock Mountain, and is easily accessible off of paved roads. This property is adjacent to 100 acres of pristine, undisturbed wilderness, yet is convenient to downtown Blue Ridge and McCaysville. There is no better place than this cabin’s expansive wraparound deck or beautiful screened in porch to watch the area’s abounding wildlife from wild turkeys, to deer and hummingbirds.
There are new owners as of 2019, and with the new owners, there are numerous updates! All new kitchen stainless steel appliances, new granite countertops and refinished hardwood floors. The main and downstairs bedrooms have new premium queen pillow top mattresses/boxsprings and there’s new bedding on all levels. Even the basement has a brand new look, with an all new ceiling!
When you plan an escape to Blue Ridge there is nothing better than spending time with friends and family while taking in the sights and sounds of natures’ majestic beauty. When you add in stunning mountain and lake views to your cabin selection, you’ve just taken your vacation to a whole new level! These eight amazing cabins with picture perfect postcard views are all located in the desirable Aska Adventure Area. KEEP READING.
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.
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
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.
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
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)
If you like your outdoor entertainment to be loud and dirty, then you might want to head over to the Blue Ridge MotorsportsParkon Saturday night, Aug 31 for the UCRA 3K to Win. A night at the racetrack is fun for the whole family! (KF)
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
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 the39th 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
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
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!
July will be here before you know it and we couldn’t be more excited! It’s time for lazy days at the lake, burgers and hot dogs on the back porch grill, and fireworks filling up the night sky! Here in North Georgia, we are proud Americans and we go all out to celebrate this great country that we love so much! Here’s a round-up of what to expect in Blue Ridge this Fourth of July.
First Things First
A celebration of America’s independence in these parts starts with pancakes. And why not? There’s nothing better than a heaping stack, with some slathered syrup to remind of us of how lucky we are to live in the good ol’ US of A.
Plus, there are at least two pancake breakfasts on the morning of the 4th. The Habitat for Humanity,sponsored breakfast at the Faith Presbyterian Church is right on the Old Timers 4th of July Parade Route and, coincidence of coincidences, breakfast is finished when the parade begins at 10 am! Or you could visit the Epworth Community Club, where breakfast is followed by family activities throughout the rest of the day.
If you want to start the morning off healthy, you could run in the Blue Ridge Freedom 5k or 10k which features a scenic route through beautiful and historic Blue Ridge. What a great way to start the holiday weekend!
Whatever you do, don’t miss the Old Timers 4th of July Parade! Any place downtown is a good viewing spot to enjoy the colorful floats, antique vehicles and marchers dressed in patriotic attire!
Fireworks for the 4th in Blue Ridge and surrounding areas are actually on the 5th and 6th, with one of the largest displays in Copper Basin/McCaysville on Friday night, July 5th.
A great way to view the fireworks is by train, on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway “Firecracker Special”.
A Fireworks and Family Picnic and fundraiser for Fannin County Family Connection is planned for July 6 at the Riverstone Medical Campus in Blue Ridge. Fireworks begin at dusk. h
Lake Blue Ridge Fireworks – “Fire in the Sky” – also the night of the 6th — is being put on by the Lake Blue Ridge Civic Association. Fireworks are set off on the Lake Blue Ridge Dam and are viewable by boat, at various viewing locations along the shoreline, and from a large area adjacent to the Lake Blue Ridge Marina.
Speaking of boats – the 4th Annual Lake Blue Ridge Boat Parade will be on Friday, July 5th at 9pm. The parade will follow the shoreline from Blue Ridge Recreation Area to Morganton Point Recreation Area ending at Lake Blue Ridge Marina. In Blairsville, the Independence Day Boat Parade on Lake Nottely takes place Saturday, July 6 starting at 12:00pm. Anyone with a boat and the spirit to decorate is welcome to attend and be part of the fun!
In Blairsville, Independence Day Fireworks is on July 4that Meeks Park, beginning at around 9:30 pm. A day-long festival takes place just south of Blairsville at Vogel State Park, with a bicycle parade, pedal boat races, a watermelon eating contest, sack races and a number of other traditional activities for kids and families!
Aside from great celebrations, we also are fortunate to have some great restaurants to check out and fabulous little places to shop. However you spend your 4th of July celebration, we hope that it is spent with friends, family, and lots of good food!
Happy Birthday, America! We are so very grateful to live in the beautiful United States of America. It is an absolute honor to live in the land of the free and the home of the (very) brave! Thank you to all of our men and women that have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to defend our great nation and allow us to enjoy the comfortable life we get to live.
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.
History, architecture, and flavor combine to bring you the
most incredible Blue Ridge dining experience at The Black Sheep Restaurant. From
the moment you walk up the marble steps, taking note of the pet friendly patio,
and the door swings open to welcome you, there is no question that you are
about to have a divine experience. From the attentive staff and thoughtful menu
items, The Black Sheep is clearly not your average, ordinary run-of-the-mill
dining establishment. It is in fact, an elevated, stylish, and classy restaurant
that believes in fresh food that’s locally sourced and artfully prepared.
What to Expect
Expect your taste buds to do jumping jacks! Seriously, Executive
Chef Greg Cornelius is an absolute master with his culinary talents and
abilities. He specializes in taking your
favorite American fares and elevating them about twenty notches. For example,
you may think a hamburger or meatloaf is an odd item to find in at fine dining
restaurant, but once that first taste of meat crosses your lips, you will
become a believer because it will be like no other you have ever tasted! Of
course, you will find traditional upscale dishes like rack of lamb or duck breast
but add a gorgonzola cream or gorgonzola polenta and we’ve just crossed the
line from ordinary to extraordinary!
You know what else you can expect? A Raw Oyster Bar! That’s
right, the only one you will find in Blue Ridge. You can choose classic on the
half shell oysters or if raw is not your thing, they can be prepared
Rockefeller style. On Wednesdays and Sundays, you can select the Three Course
Dinner Special. For either $19.99 or $26.99 you can enjoy an appetizer, main
course, and dessert! Oh, and we’re not done yet. Saturdays and Sundays now
feature a decadent Brunch menu. From 12pm – 4pm you can feast on Crab Cake
Benedict or Corned Beef Hash, but the Chicken and Red Velvet Waffle is so good
it’ll make your tongue jump out and lick the eyebrows right off your head!
The Black Sheep features not one but two bars to enjoy craft
cocktails, beer, and wine. In fact, their wine cellar is so superb that they
have been recognized by Wine Spectator for their impressive selection of vino. Both
the owner, Brandon Lofton, and the General Manager, Patrick, are sommeliers and
can help you pair the perfect bottle with your menu selections.
Have you heard of the Blue Ridge Lavender Smash? Made with fresh
blueberry, lavender, lemon & Sipsmith London Dry Gin, this refreshing cocktail
is the hit of the season! You can order one at the inside bar or step out to
the patio and enjoy an adult beverage on the largest outdoor bar in Blue Ridge.
Here you can take in the sights and sounds of Downtown Blue Ridge while sampling
the Bar Bites like Truffle French Fries or Tuna Nachos, watching the game, and chatting
it up with both old friends and new.
The Black Sheep has been historically known as a place to go
for special occasions and while that is still true, their mission is to cater
to the every day patron while making each dining experience special. Speaking
of catering, you don’t have to be onsite to enjoy the gourmet flavors of The
Black Sheep. Treat your corporate partners or family and friends to decadent
eats for your meetings or festive celebrations. If you prefer the ambiance of
the restaurant, you may choose to make use of one of two private rooms – The
Wine Room or The Library Room for large parties, banquets or special events.
Since we’re talking about events, The Black Sheep likes to
mix things up and keep fresh ideas flowing along with their fresh cuisine. Last
summer they premiered their Outdoor Movie Nights on the front patio under the
big oak tree. This year not only will they host Movie Nights, but they will
also add Yoga on the Patio. Just picture this: Brunch, Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s,
and Yoga. Oh yeah! Keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram
pages for all the latest happenings and upcoming events.
Beauty, Brains &
Deep in the bayou of Louisiana, a young chef took his
passion for Cajun cooking and restaurant management to work for a large restaurant
conglomerate in Southern Florida. By chance, Brandon Lofton found himself in an
airport in Puerto Rico making conversation with a beautiful corporate executive,
Ashlee, also from the Ft. Lauderdale area. Eventually they would marry and purchase
a vacation home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Brandon and Ashlee love the
outdoor life – hiking, biking, and boating, but after one fateful trip, the
whole game changed. The Lofton’s went back to Florida and made the decision to
leave Corporate America, become entrepreneurs, and make the move to be full
time mountain residents. If you ask the owners of The Black Sheep if they made
the right move, you will get an unequivocal..YES! It’s the best decision they
ever made. They love being a part of the Blue Ridge community. They also love
having the great outdoors so accessible and all the great people they get to
meet along the way!
After settling into the mountain lifestyle and getting his
restaurant where it needs to be, Brandon wanted to be able to showcase his
Cajun side. In partnership with his GM, Patrick, Lulu’s Gumbo Shop can now be
seen in their branded tent around town at festivals, during special events with
partners like Grumpy Old Men Brewing, and at private events like weddings.
Lulu’s specializes in chicken & sausage Gumbo and Jambalaya – a shrimp and
crawfish combination, made from old family recipes straight out of LA.
Ashlee has also become a certified yoga instructor. Her
Over Blue Ridge, is a mobile yoga studio. She offers private instruction
and lessons and destination yoga classes. These are perfect for Girlfriend
Getaways, Bachelorette parties, or any private yoga party. Recently she has
partnered with Bear Claw Vineyards for a Namaste & Cabernet class. Yoga
class + wine tasting? Yes, please! She’s also partnering with local breweries
for Bend & Brew events. That’s right, yoga and a flight of beer! Keep an
eye on her social pages to find out about future events.
If all of this wasn’t enough, the power couple recently purchased
Blue Ridge Brewery in
downtown Blue Ridge. Located less than a quarter mile from The Black Sheep,
Blue Ridge Brewery is located at 187 Depot Street. You can look forward to new
beers crafted by an expert brew master, a new menu designed to delight the taste
buds, and a stellar lineup of live music and events!
Up Next For The Sheep
A new menu was just released and includes amazing dishes like an heirloom tomato Panzanella salad and seared diver scallops with lemon risotto and smoked tomato coulis. If you haven’t yet been to The Black Sheep Restaurant, what are you waiting for? Put it on the top of your must do list. If you haven’t been in a while, you need to come back and check it out. The vibe is comfortable and not pretentious, the food is on point, and the atmosphere will make this your favorite downtown spot. If you’ve been there recently, then you know what’s up!
As a special treat just for Escape to Blue Ridge Fans, The Black Sheep Restaurant is offering one free appetizer per table if you tell your waiter that you are the “Black Sheep of Your Family”. How cool is that? Now don’t be sheepish, make your dinner reservations today!
For Americans visiting Europe, an integral part of the adventure is partaking of the local cuisine and libations. When Europeans immigrate to our country they too enjoy our regional cuisine, at least for a little while. Eventually, they begin to miss a fine Irish whiskey or a delicately seasoned Polish sausage. Fortunately for Blue Ridge, some of these traditional European fares have established themselves here in the mountains. On your next stay with us, consider visiting one of these fine establishments.
Over 4,500 miles separate the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Bavarian Alps, but only a few miles come between our cabins and the genuine vibes of a German beer garden. If you are looking to have a non-American food experience, then try a sampling of sausages with choices that include Boar, Venison, Buffalo, Pheasant, and Elk. If you want to experience something on draft besides Miller Lite, then cozy up to the bar and start asking about their outstanding hops selections. And if you don’t want to take your husband shopping with you, the sign on the door at the Black Bear acknowledges that they have free husband daycare! Meet him later for a brew and a large German soft pretzel. You won’t be disappointed.
The curb impression is very deceiving as you drive up to the Boro Inn. From the outside, there is nothing authentic about it. As you open the door, you enter a pub in the County Wexford, with Father Brendan Doyle (retired) officiating behind the bar. With 177 different handcrafted libations including whiskeys and brews whose recipes span 1,300 years, there is nothing that isn’t authentic at the Boro. Part pub, part museum, you will be as captivated by historical artifacts as you will be by the bartender’s brogue. The music, the stories, the potations and the grub will land you smack in the middle of The Emerald Isle while you vacation in the North Georgia Mountains.
Chef Danny Mellman takes Italian fare to a new level at this fine-dining ristorante located in Morganton, GA, just a few miles east of Blue Ridge. This is the perfect place to spend an evening with friends. Start out with a plate of Frito Misto- flash fried calamari and fish with artichokes and lemon and charred tomato-lemon aioli. The salads are shareable in size. The Treviso is a patron favorite – with bacon, balsamic, fresh pear, walnuts, and Gorgonzola. A myriad of pasta, risottos, and polentas, with fresh roasted vegetables, compliment delectable fresh sauces, meat entrees, and the finest of seafood. This is Old World Italian cuisine served mountainside. Reservations are recommended.
Do you often crave your Babciu’s pierogi? Maybe you always
preferred her meat pies even though everyone else fought over the potato and
cheese filled pockets. Has it been years since you dove into a dish of your grandmother’s cabbage rolls? Margo wants to satisfy those memories. She is in her kitchen
preparing all of her menu by hand daily
to assure the best quality taste. When the weather cooperates, you can enjoy amazing
Polish sausages, krauts, goulash, soups, and
baked goods served on the kawiarnia na dworze
(outdoor patio). Whether seated indoors or out, having a chair in
Margo’s kitchen means a visit from Margo, too. You will love the food, the
experience, and the chef.
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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!
Sometimes it’s challenging to motivate for outdoor fun when it is so chilly outside. However, being active outdoors is a great way to enjoy the mountains in a whole new way. Not only is it less crowded, but there are no bugs to contend with! To make the most of your outdoor adventure and not be cold and uncomfortable, layer your clothing so you don’t wimp out and head back for the cabin. Here are a few inspiring North Georgia cabin rentals to keep you active in and around Blue Ridge.
A River Runs Through It
The Aska Adventure Lodge is located in the much sought after Aska Adventure area. Did you know Aska is the Cherokee Native American word for “winter retreat”? However, this cabin is perfect in every season. The Lodge has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and can easily accommodate ten people with king beds in the two master suits, a queen bed in the guest room, and two futons in the loft and game room.
This retreat is conveniently located less than five minutes from the quaint town of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Nearby access to the Toccoa River and Lake Blue Ridge is easily accessible. Our friend, Dell Neighbors, at Fly Fishing North Georgia would be happy to take you on a guided fly-fishing trip to the area’s many cold-water streams and rivers. When you return from a great day of fishing, you can throw your freshly caught trout on the grill of your expansive deck and reflect on the successes of the day. Cap off your evening by lighting the outdoor fireplace and relax on the deck as the sun sets behind the expansive Blue Ridge Mountains.
A Gallop and a Trot
Vista Ridge is a distinctive Georgia mountain cabin rental that offers the peaceful get away from your everyday life that you are craving. Named for the spectacular view that overlooks the Toccoa River and stretches all the way to Tennessee and North Carolina, this four-bedroom, three bath home is your perfect base camp to explore the Blue Ridge area. To get a better feel for the view, saddle up a horse with our friends at Blanche Manor and go on an adventure through the unspoiled beauty of the mountain wilderness.
After a long day on the trails, soothe your sore muscles in the hot tub and watch the sun set behind the mountains. Back inside, turn on the gas fireplace and snuggle into the leather couches. Before your weekend is over, challenge your partner to a game of pool in the game room and make the looser take you out to a fabulous dinner at Harvest on Main.
Fly Like an Eagle
Eagles Landing is as bold, majestic and unique lodge that is the epitome of rustic elegance. This spacious custom home has seven bedrooms to accommodate nineteen guests. Situated directly on Lake Blue Ridge, this spectacular showplace has incomparable views of the surrounding mountains. The hand-carved spiral staircase spans four floors, from the unique loft down to the terrace level where you will find the “grown-ups’ game room”. There are three decks spanning the length of the home, a hot tub, swings, and a picnic table to enjoy views and privacy that cannot be found anywhere else.
Close by you can channel your inner eagle and zip through 165 acres of beautiful North Georgia mountain property with our friends at Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge. Here, you’ll experience the mountains from the treetops, you’ll zip into the valley, soar over pastures, and cross over Fighting Town Creek. From 75’ in the air you can squeal with delight take off on 6,000 feet of cable, crossing thirteen platforms and three walking bridges.
A Walk in the Woods
It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time. Fortunately, the mountains are rich with hiking trails to explore and Take a Hike cabin is the perfect home base. Beautifully situated on Mt. Pisgah, this cabin overlooks absolutely fantastic mountain views. It also has three massive decks to enjoy them and from where you’ll be inspired to plan the many and nearby open-air activities that surround you. This home has great sleeping accommodations for up to 7 people and is a perfect set up for two families vacationing together or a good-sized group.
Explore the Cohutta Wilderness just off of your back porch where you can pick from delicious blueberry and blackberry bushes for snacking along your easy hike to a waterfall, cave or to Colonel Magnum’s memorial. A quick ten-minute drive will get you to major hiking trailheads including Dally Gap, Jacks River, Benton Mackaye and Hemptop. Whichever route you choose, you will find peace and tranquility both in the woods and back at the cabin.
A Winery, Why Not
You have a lot of choices in Blue Ridge cabin rentals, but if you’re looking for comfort, privacy, and great views, Wine Down is the perfect vacation destination. This beautifully appointed mountain retreat is the kind of place that invites you to settle in, wind down and relax with a glass of wine, like its name suggests. The cabin’s four roomy bedrooms beckon you with comfort, but the real appeal is outside. Wine Down’s covered outdoor living room on the main deck has a gas grill, table for eight, plenty of seating, and a 60” TV above the wood burning fireplace.
Wine down is located on Aska Road less than four miles from the shopping and restaurants of downtown Blue Ridge. A short drive will take you to the nearby winery at Serenberry Vineyards. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a mountain wine tasting. Their Skeenah Red is a perfect Merlot-Cab blend, but if you prefer something sweeter, you should definitely try the Apple-lachian. Fruity and sweet, it’s like a little apple pie in a bottle!
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains you will find the most delightful winery to check out – Bear Claw Vineyards. Owned by Kevin & Michelle Swim, these Atlanta natives moved up to the mountains six years ago for a slower paced life. Little did they know that a whole new adventure was about to begin.
Interestingly enough, the temperate climate and the rich soil quality in the North Georgia Mountains are ideal for grape vines to prosper. So what better idea for the Swim’s than to begin planting a vineyard and prepare to open a tasting room. With the help of family and some close friends, Bear Claw Vineyards was born! Open seven days a week, you can sit back, relax, and drink wine Sunday through Thursday from 12-6pm and Friday & Saturday from 12-8pm.
Kevin heads up the winemaking and boy does he have a talent for producing quality blends. In fact, just recently, five Bear Claw wines were entered into a Georgia Wine competition. Each wine received a medal, and two of them were gold – the Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay (stainless). While these options are fabulous, we highly recommend you try the Dreamcatcher. This Cayuga White is a blend of Schuyler and Seyval Blanc. It is light and refreshing with fruity notes. If red wine is more your style try their Cabernet Sauvignon. As we type this, a new red is about to be bottled out of the barrel, so you will have to come try their new yield.
Bear Claw Vineyards is welcoming for every member of the family, both two legged and four. Well behaved pets are welcome and there are plenty of games to keep the kids busy while you catch up with your friends and family. Soon, the kiddos will delight with the addition of gypsy vanner horses. The majestic animals will remind you of Clydesdales with their beauty but are much smaller in size. If you or your littles get hungry while enjoying the winery, light snacks like cheese, crackers, and chocolates are always available to purchase. On Fridays you can check out a food truck that they bring up for your dining pleasure.
Every Saturday and Sunday you can enjoy live music on the patio. Local talents like Chip McCain and Jeannie Caryn will add to your afternoon ambiance. Larger names like the Indigo Girls and the Marty Ray Project have also performed at the vineyard. Coming up on Saturday, October 27th you’ll be in for a real treat with Confederate Railroad. Opening for the CR are Steven Phillips & The Midnight Express and local favorite, the Gregg Erwin Band. Tickets are still available and are only $19!
Weddings & Events
There is not a much more stunning venue than a vineyard wedding. Small or large, Bear Claw can accommodate your weddings, birthdays, and anniversary celebrations. Intimate ceremonies can be held at the winery and elaborate ceremonies can take place at their newest venue – The Club at Bear Claw. Formerly known as the Blue Ridge Swim & Tennis Club, the property consists of a swimming pool, four tennis courts, and a large reception hall. Onsite event planner, Tonya Ross, is available to help you with all of your event coordination.