TOP 20 THINGS TO DO IN BLUE RIDGE FOR 2020



As we ring in not just a New Year, but a new Decade, 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 2020 Escape to Blue Ridge!

1. EAT BLACK-EYED PEAS & COLLARD GREENS

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. WALK THE LINE

Take a walk on the state line between the twin cities of McCaysville, Ga and Copperhill, Tn! This newly revitalized town features great shopping, delicious restaurants, and plenty of photographic opportunities.

3. HIT THE LINKS

Old Toccoa Farm is the seven-course meal of golf courses in North Georgia. It took a few years to fill out the full complement of 18 holes, but the first nine, which has been open since 2015, was enough to garner stupendous compliments and comparisons to the likes of Augusta National. Now with the back nine open, and the layout reconfigured, Old Toccoa is by far the best of the best in this neck of the North Georgia woods!

4. ENJOY LIFE ON THE LAKE

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.

5. SADDLE UP & RIDE

There is nothing more enjoyable than unplugging form the digital world, saddling up on horseback, and heading out into the countryside. In Blue Ridge, forty percent of the county’s land is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest and has countless miles of trails to explore and enjoy.

6. 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. Blue Ridge festivals are family friendly, pet friendly, and extraordinarily fun!

7. 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 Andy Bowen at the Cohutta Fishing Company 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.

8. WALK IN THE WOODS

There are few better places to hike than on the hundreds and hundreds of miles of trails that crisscross the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Georgia. Not only is this an area that speaks to the hiker in familiar terms – Appalachian Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, Amicalola Falls – but it’s the wide variety of experiences, from the casual to the challenging, that make these hikes some of the most popular in America.

9. GET IN THE “SPIRIT”

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.

10. HUNT FOR BIG FOOT

Plan to visit EXPEDITION: BIGFOOT! The Sasquatch Museum. You may be 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 Big Footers from around the globe make the pilgrimage to Blue Ridge just to explore this museum and its many relics.

11. SWING INTO THE NEW YEAR

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!

12. CHASE WATERFALLS

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.

13. CHOO CHOO

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

14. 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.

15. FAIRY CROSS & TRAIL TREES

Legend has it 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 known as Fairy Crosses. Commonly known as staurolite crystals, these minerals are abundant in Fannin County.

16. HIT THE RAPIDS

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!

17. RELAX

If you are looking for a new hair style, a total manicure and pedicure, body scrub, massage, or a special facial treatment/peel, you will find an amazing staff of creative and accomplished cosmeticians, estheticians and stylists, the caliber you would only expect to find in a metropolitan area, at Serenity in the Mountains.

18. TAKE IN A SHOW

Immerse yourself in the culture of the area at Blue Ridge Community Theater. This cozy community theater offers quality productions, live music, and a robust children’s program. The 2020 line-up includes the first ever Blue Ridge Film Festival, surprisingly saucy comedies, musicals, and even a sweet summer farce!

19. SCENIC DRIVES

Mother Nature’s landscape specialist (shall we call her Flora?) takes a particular interest in altering our mountainscape on a quarterly basis, cloaking it in very different hues, depths of foliage, and fragrances. Drive the 41 miles of Georgia’s only national scenic drive, The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway as it circles around the Chattahoochee National Forest.

20. BOOK AN ESCAPE TO BLUE RIDGE

Eagles Landing

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!

Move over Napa, Georgia is for Wine Lovers!



Who needs Napa Valley, when you have North Georgia? In fact, North Georgia, and specifically Dahlonega, has been called the Napa of the East. So, what’s the point of hopping on a plane, enduring crazy traffic, and dealing with stifling crowds? Right here in North Georgia you will be better served, remain relaxed, and meander the charming and scenic back roads of Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Dahlonega, Blairsville, and Helen to enjoy a wine experience that’s even better than what the wild west can offer!

1st Place Winners

Photo Courtesy of Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery

Surprisingly enough, it turns out North Georgia wines also are winning quality competitions in California’s very own backyard which is causing quite the “Bottleshock” to all the more seasoned western vineyards. So quality-wise, the wine is not a concern. Which makes another good reason to stay close to home!

Country Drive

Starting in Blue Ridge, it doesn’t take long to feel like you’re in wine country. Within an hour’s drive you might swear you just caught a glimpse of Tuscany, or around the corner there’s what looks like Oregon, California, or Upstate New York. North Georgia looks like a lot of other states in the beauty department. That’s why Hollywood likes Georgia, and especially North Georgia, so much. It could look like the Midwest, inland Oregon, or maybe even New England.

Photo Courtesy of Kaya Vineyards

For wine production purposes in these parts, the secret lies in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, which provide ideal weather, geography and geology for successful vinifera grape growing due to its long springs, hot, dry summers, and elevations between 1,300 – 1,800 feet.

It’s All About The Grapes

Photo Courtesy of House of Wine

The trail of six farm wineries that lead from Dahlonega north and east into White County and Helen is a great example of how terrain changes dictate grape production and variety of purpose. Designated as the “Dahlonega Plateau”, an AVA (American Viticultural Area), on July 20, 2018, the area encompasses 133 square miles with the same climate, soil, elevation and physical features creating conditions that are ideal for growing grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot.

The Wine Highway

Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery is tucked in the hills just 45 minutes from Blue Ridge and a five-minute drive from downtown Dahlonega. Wolf Mountain is elegant, with spectacular views, the perfect wedding and event venue, but also the ideal place for Sunday brunch, or fun gatherings with friends. A lot of the North Georgia wineries multi-task that way.


Photo Courtesy of Melissa Prosser Photography

Montaluce Winery and Restaurant, with its elegant, ivy-covered walls, and its porches with views to the vineyard, conjures up images of Italy, but is also the site of bike races that have featured the likes of Lance Armstrong and Georgia Hincapie. This breathtaking destination offers a spectacular brunch on Sunday and lunch and dinner Monday through Sunday.

Kaya Vineyard & Winery, in White County, makes the best of the perfect perch, with 360 degree views of Blue Ridge scenery. Wines produced from Kaya’s vines have received over fifty awards and most recently, the vineyard was recognized for producing grapes for one of the “Top 50 Wines of the Year” reviewed by the Wine Report.

Photo Courtesy of The Cottage Vineyard & Winery

The Cottage Vineyard & Winery, one of the earliest Georgia farm wineries on the scene, founded in the late 1990s, actually has church services on Sunday mornings, with inspiring views of the vineyard. Paying homage to all military men and women is a North Georgia Honor Wall that features the 5 service flags of the US Armed Forces: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corp., and Navy as well as the POW and U.S. Flags.

The wineries of all three – Dahlonega, White County and Gilmer make for a pleasant mix of wine trail possibilities – from upscale to downhome; and from farm to fancy. At Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery you can even pet donkeys and alpacas. It’s a local favorite, especially on Friday nights, and live music is always a draw, as it is at most wineries on the weekends.

You’d guess by the name, that Three Sisters Vineyards was a family winery started by siblings – good guess, but wrong. It is indeed a family winery, but the name refers to the three Blue Ridge Mountain ridges that form the perfect backdrop for wedding and special events.

Photo Courtesy of Frogtown Wine

Frogtown Wine, a perennial winner of prestigious national and international wine competitions, offers dramatic 50-mile views, but the ambiance is decidedly California casual, especially the bright white main lodge with  deck seating. There are 23,000 grape vines in Frogtown’s North Georgia vineyards capable of producing up to 180 tons of premium wine grapes each year. This tonnage equates to over ten thousand cases of Estate grown wine per year!

The Foothills

Photo Courtesy of Chateau Meichtry

On the Ellijay side of Blue Ridge, Fainting Goat Vineyards (yes, they actually have fainting goats), and Cartecay Vineyards, with its distinctive fireplace and iconic chimney, both make for fine outdoor enjoyment most times during the year. Chateau Meichtry specializes in combining wine tasting with learning a lot about the wines, and the entire process of wine production. All three feature live music most weekends.

Local Favs

Photo Courtesy of Bear Claw Vineyards

Right here in Blue Ridge we are lucky to have two great wineries: Bear Claw Vineyards and Serenberry Vineyards. 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 while you sip their delicious wines. At Serenberry, you are invited to savor the day by relaxing in a beautiful mountain setting while tasting delicious wines!

So, who needs Napa? With the broad variety of wines, and the expanse of experiences, plus the proximity and easy scenic drives (be sure to stop along the way at Amicalola Falls, the highest cascading waterfall on the East Coast), or at charming farmers markets, orchards and food stands – that is indeed the question.

A Blue Ridge November



These are the times when things start falling from the trees, unless you pick them first! That especially applies to apples, plums, and persimmons (as sometimes the fun is in the pickin’). As for the leaves, just let them fall. They’re pretty, and crunchy, and they add to the overall ambiance of this wonderful season!

It’s that time of year when fall colors lead to a true change toward cooler temps. Indian Summer is over, and now you can haul out those long pants, hiking boots, and sweaters for the cooler times. It’s also time for art shows, visits to vineyards, gathering with friends & family, honoring our Veterans, and fishing for autumn trout, just to name a few.

UPCOMING EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

Grumpy Old Men Brewing
November 1 – 22
LOCATION: Grumpy Old Men Brewing

Photo Courtesy of Grumpy Old Men

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!

November 1 – Travis Bowlin
November 8 – Highbeams
November 22 – Gregg Erwin

Music at The Blue Coyote
November 1 – 30
LOCATION: The Blue Coyote

Photo Courtesy of The Blue Coyote

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!

November 1 Slickfoot
November 2 Disciples of sound
November 8 Topper!
November 9 Bottoms up
November 15 Fiction at The Blue Coyote
November 16 Breaking point
November 22 Taylor Hughes
November 23 BEATS Workin’s Ridge Rock in November
November 29 The Nati Lovejoys Reggae Band
November 30 Mind the Stepchildren

Farm to Trail – 30k and 11k Trail Run
November 2
LOCATION: National Forest – Charlie Creek Farms

Photo Courtesy of Dirty Spokes Productions

The distances sound daunting, 30k is no 10 and 11k is no 5 – but when you consider that this run will be managed for a maximum of 250 participants and the terrain will be all dirt trails through dense forest, you quickly understand that this is not your typical run around the block. The beauty of this part of Georgia, especially in the National Forest, and especially at this time of year, is breathtaking. Register soon – space is limited.

Veterans Day Parade and Memorial Service
November 9
LOCATION: Downtown Blue Ridge and Veterans Memorial Park

Photo Courtesy of Eddie Landry

Veterans Day is a solemn occasion, when we recognize those who sacrificed to keep America safe and secure, but somehow, with brass bands, flags waving, color guards leading a parade, and burgers on the grill, it’s also a cause for celebrating the strength of a nation! Thanks to those who have given so much. Celebrate and commemorate Veterans Day in Downtown Blue Ridge, but save the solemn for Memorial Park.

Namaste and Cabernet
November 9
LOCATION: Bear Claw Vineyards

Photo Courtesy of Yoga Over Blue Ridge

Here is your monthly opportunity to drink wine with no guilt.  A yoga workout, then drink wine. Easy! The guided yoga lasts about an hour. The wine tasting and wine drinking has no set time parameters.  Enjoy!

Tullie Brae Live
November 9
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Community Theater

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Community Theater

There’s the blues … then there’s the Tullie Brae BLUES!  This contemporary blues/rock-infused contemporary blues musician is a magician when it comes to setting tone and tenor for a fabulous night of jazzy swing. Her shows have been described as pure energy, a Louisiana Delta meets Memphis Belle kind of tribute to all the best of the genre.  She has appeared with BB King and Bonnie Raitt among others and she captivates all she comes in contact with. It’s gonna be quite a concert!

Holiday Show and Sale & Who Dun It? Mystery Art Fundraiser
November 16 – January 4 (Craft Fair)
November 16 (Mystery Art)
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association

Unique handmade jewelry, pottery, paintings, and gifts of all description are about to go on sale…let the holidays begin! This is just what artists have been working for and what customers of custom crafts have been waiting for, and it’s not just a weekend fling. This holiday show and sale begins just before Thanksgiving and lasts into January!

The WhoDunIt Mystery Art Fundraiser includes original art pieces, food, live music and lots of fun!

It’s a Wonderful Life
November 21 – December 15
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Community Theater

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Community Theater

But… but … but … It’s not YOUR town, Mr. Potter! Thank you, Jimmy Stewart for your one-of-a-kind interpretation of this Christmas classic, which will be ringing in your ears as you ring in the season with “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The Blue Ridge Community Theater’s performance of this memorable, and inspirational, timeless holiday story will be sure to delight young and young at heart!

19th Annual Mistletoe Market
November 23 – 24
LOCATION: North Georgia Technical College, Blairsville

Photo Courtesy of Artworks

An early entry in the holiday crafts bazaar scene, about a week before all the Black Friday craziness. You can choose to be more civilized picking and choosing of your holiday-themed local crafts and creations in jewelry, pottery, soap-making and wood crafts. Plus the local artisans are fascinating to talk to and learn about.  

Fly Fishing Class
November 23
LOCATION: Cohutta Fishing Company

Photo Courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company

You’ve just gotta trust a fishing company to teach you how to fish. It’s what they do. This class covers all the basics and the advanced stuff you really need to know to catch fish plus descriptions of local waters (aka, fishing where the fish are), knots, rods, reels and casting techniques. 

Happy Thanksgiving!
November 28
LOCATION: All Across America

We are thankful for all of our past and future cabin guests. It’s our absolute pleasure to provide you luxury accommodations in the North Georgia Mountains. Our sincere wish this holiday season is that you and yours can come together, eat some delicious food, and be thankful for all we have been given in this life.

A Community Thanksgiving
November 28
LOCATION: Fannin County High School

Photo Courtesy of the Good Samaritans of Fannin County

It is a day of sharing good things, including a Thanksgiving meal, with neighbors and friends as well as anyone in need. It’s also a fundraiser to support future good deeds. Take out meals are available.

Blue Friday & Light Up Blue Ridge!
November 29 – 30
LOCATION: Downtown Blue Ridge

Photo Courtesy of Light up Blue Ridge

Black Friday, the all-out dash for discounts, just got softened a bit by Blue Ridge’s very appropriate “Blue Friday”, with special emphasis on fun, a parade, community caroling, Santa’s arrival, and the lighting of a 27-foot tall tree! Also be on the lookout for strolling characters, food vendors and entertainment in the park on Saturday, November 30th and every Saturday through December. Make your escape memorable and join us as Blue Ridge ushers in and celebrates the holiday season!

NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM

A unique cabin retreat built to become the backdrop for large families to gather and create lasting memories. If you’ve had your heart set on a North Georgia mountain family vacation but haven’t found a rental large enough for your big family, group of friends, or church retreats Serenity Cove is the perfect cabin for you. With ample room for 16 guests, Serenity Cove is a magnificent private retreat that offers you all the amenities of a high-end resort, and so much more!

If the stress and hustle and bustle of daily life in the city has you yearning for peace, quiet and the beauty of nature, it’s time to escape to the Blue Ridge mountains, and Getaway is the perfect place to do it. On a hillside surrounded by towering trees, this tri-level cabin offers you the ultimate in privacy and relaxation, with a world of fun activities and adventure just a short drive away. You can walk down and hike back the half mile to the Toccoa River, and it’s four miles to tubing and whitewater rafting, five miles to Mercier Orchards, seven miles to downtown Blue Ridge and three miles to Copperhill and McCaysville.

What’s on your checklist when considering a North Georgia cabin rental? Chances are you want privacy, a great view, all the comforts of a home away from home and close proximity to downtown Blue Ridge. At Cloud Top Cabin, you’ll find that and so much more. This uniquely constructed mountain retreat, built of wood from Montana and decorated in rustic-chic style with brand new, custom-made furniture, is ideal for a large family or friends’ getaway—it can accommodate 10 guests in its four master bedroom suites. And the view? Step onto the wraparound decks to take in long-range mountain vistas that are especially spectacular at sunset.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Photo Courtesy of Jerry Mucklow

If it’s a Rainy Day in Georgia

When you escape to the mountains, you look forward to being able to explore the great outdoors, to take scenic rides through the Blue Ridge foothills and highlands, seek out a waterfall and enjoy an evening around the fire pit, sipping wine while the kids gorge on toasted marshmallows. Sometimes Mother Nature plays havoc with your plans, aiming her watering hose right at your coveted vacation spot. When this occurs, don’t let it keep you from enjoying what Blue Ridge has to offer. Lots of our best activities are under roof. Keep Reading.

If it’s a Rainy Day in Georgia



When you escape to the mountains, you look forward to being able to explore the great outdoors, to take scenic rides through the Blue Ridge foothills and highlands, seek out a waterfall and enjoy an evening around the fire pit, sipping wine while the kids gorge on toasted marshmallows. Sometimes Mother Nature plays havoc with your plans, aiming her watering hose right at your coveted vacation spot. When this occurs, don’t let it keep you from enjoying what Blue Ridge has to offer. Lots of our best activities are under roof.

Museums

OK, we do not have internationally renowned art museums like NYC and Paris, but we do have one of the largest selections of local and regional fine artists works located at the Blue Ridge Art Association Center in downtown Blue Ridge. There are two stories of art to peruse, in a beautiful setting, the restored old Fannin County Courthouse.  On exhibit this fall will be two shows not to be missed. From Oct. 5th through November 9th, the 12th Annual SAAG National Juried Art Show will be on exhibit, with artists entries from 25 states. And Oct 5th through January 4th, the Photography of Jerry Mucklow, Artist In Residence will be showcased. Half of the works of Mr. Mucklow’s show will be the many frames he’s captured of the Blue Ridge area, and the other half will feature the Coastal South.

Photo Courtesy of Jerry Mucklow

If art isn’t your thing, but legendary mountain men are more your interest, then take a quick ride just east of the city to visit EXPEDITION: BIGFOOT! The Sasquatch Museum. 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.

Let the “Spirits” Move You

It’s always fun to meet folks around a local tavern and Grumpy Old Men Brewery is a great place to make some new friends and enjoy some amazing craft beer. TV’s are on and there are game tables to play, but nothing can compare to imbibing in a few flights of microbrew, shooting the bull with locals and a great bartending staff at Trip Advisor’s #5 Top Attraction in Blue Ridge. Kids are welcome, too. They have a great root beer on tap for those too young or the designated driver of the group. They open at noon Tuesday thru Sunday and are located at 1315 E. Main St. in Downtown Blue Ridge. 

Photo Courtesy of Jerry Mucklow

If you prefer grape to a hop, then a taste testing at Serenberry Vineyards is perfect on a day of drizzle. Located in sister city Morganton GA, the tasting room is situated in a restored 1920’s barn. You’ll enjoy tasting the fine wines grown on this 3rd generation family farm and hear some interesting stories of this region. A kickback afternoon we highly recommend.

Let’s Play Games

Remember when you were kids and the best Sunday afternoon was when you went bowling with your family?  If you want to go back to those days, before the time where digital light shows flashed blinding lights and wild music drowned out the family laughter over a barrage of gutter balls thrown by Dad, then you want to visit Fannin Lanes. This classic bowling center has twelve wooden lanes,all kept in excellent condition. There are automatic bumper rails for the kids. They are a non-smoking, family entertainment facility, reasonably priced and just the ideal way to wait out the rain. And they are open seven days a week and holidays.

Photo Courtesy of Escape Blue Ridge

If tossing a 12 lb polyester ball down a lane doesn’t excite the family, then maybe they want to take on Escape Room: Blue Ridge. An escape room is an adventure game in which players are “locked” in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit (60 minutes). The games are physical versions of “escape the room” video games. It’s fun for the whole family, or if you and a friend are just a duo, they will find you new friends to take on the challenge. It’s a unique, fun way to kill an hour that you’ll be talking about for many more hours, many more days, and many more years to come.

Now, we’ve pretty much helped you fill in several rainy days, though we hope the sun shines bright on you during your stay with us. All of these activities are enjoyable on sunny days, too. Welcome to Blue Ridge, where we always know how to have fun!

Fall is Prime Time to go to Blue Ridge



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

The Cabin

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

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

The Approach

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

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

The Train

Photo courtesy of @chusion

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

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

McCaysville

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

Piano Bar

Photo Courtesy of The Black Sheep

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

Breweries

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

Photo Courtesy of Bear Claw Vineyards

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

Apple Country

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchards

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

Welcome to the Mountains!

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

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

If You Go

Blue Ridge is 92 miles north of Atlanta.

What to see

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

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

Where to stay

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

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

Where to Eat

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

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

Visitor Info

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

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

A Season of Fun



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.

UPCOMING EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

Everybody Loves Opal
August 29 – September 1
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Community Theater

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Community Theater

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!

3rd Annual Labor Day River Run
August 31
LOCATION: Horseshoe Bend Park

Photo Courtesy of the Boys & Girls Club of North Georgia

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!

Mountain Heritage Festival
August 31 – September 1
LOCATION: Mountain Life Museum, Blairsville

Photo Courtesy of Visit Downtown Blairsville

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!

The Art of Dylan Pierce
August 31 – September 28
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Pierce

Beautiful watercolors capturing the soul of his subjects and the heart and beauty of animals, Dylan Pierce has been painting, presenting and touring since he was 12 and hasn’t lost a step.

Low Country Boil at The Cooks Farm
September 1
LOCATION: Cooks Farm in Morganton

Photo Courtesy of Better Than Bouillon

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

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchards

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!

39th Annual Labor Day BBQ & Gospel Music Show
September 1 – 2
LOCATION: Downtown Blue Ridge City Park

Photo Courtesy of the Good Samaritans of Fannin County

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.

Cartecay Vineyards
September 1 – 29
LOCATION: Cartecay Vineyards

Photo Courtesy of Cartecay Vineyards

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

Plein Air International Paint Out
September 5 – 8
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association

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.

Grumpy Old Men Brewery
September 6 – 27
LOCATION: Grumpy Old Men Brewery

Photo Courtesy of Grumpy Old Men Brewing

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

Namaste and Cabernet
September 7
LOCATION: Bear Claw Vineyards

Photo Courtesy of Yoga Over Blue Ridge

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 Durrett
September 7
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Community Theater

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Community Theater

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!

Ocoee River Championships
September 13 – 15
LOCATION: Ocoee Whitewater Center

Photo Courtesy of Ocoee River Championships

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.

Herbalist Medicine Making
September 14
LOCATION: The Folk Apothic

Photo Courtesy of The Folk Apothic

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.

A Facility For Living
September 19 – October 6
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Community Theater

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Community Theater

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.

Blue Ridge Blues and BBQ Music Festival
September 21
LOCATION: Downtown Blue Ridge City Park

Photo Courtesy of the Blues & BBQ Festival

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!

Boat Dock Bar and Grill
September 27
LOCATION: Lake Blue Ridge Marina

Photo Courtesy of the Boat Dock Bar & Grill

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

Music at The Blue Coyote
September 27
LOCATION: The Blue Coyote

Photo Courtesy of The Blue Coyote

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

Photo Courtesy of Kelly Thompson

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

Dancing Goats FolkFest
September 28 – 29
LOCATION: Downtown Ellijay

Photo Courtesy of the Dancing Goats

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.

Ride the Rails Festival
September 28-29
LOCATION: Mineral Bluff Depot

Photo Courtesy of Kathy Thompson

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

My Mountain Retreat

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.

UPGRADED PROPERTIES

Summit Escape

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!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

8 CABINS WITH INCREDIBLE LAKE & MOUNTAIN VIEWS

Heavens Whisper

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 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!

4th in the North



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.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Freedom 5K and 10K

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!

Photo Courtesy of Fetch Your News

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!

Dare to Be Different

For something really unusual, you could spend some time on the 4th of July weekend hanging out with gentle alpaca at the 7th Annual Alpaca Farm Independence Day Celebration. Featured events include fiber arts demonstrations, snacks and fuzzy alpaca kisses!

Photo Courtesy of Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm

Throughout the weekend, the Ellijay Farmers Market is open and gaining vibrancy every day.

Light Up The Sky

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.

Photo Courtesy of Teresa Foster Bidez

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!

Photo Courtesy of Norm Cooper

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!

Bonus

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.

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.

The Black Sheep



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!

Dine on the Black Sheep’s Pet Friendly Patio!

Happy Hour

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.

Blue Ridge Lavender Smash!

Distinctively Unique

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.

Photo courtesy of Candy Murdock-Hagerman’s Birthday Celebration!

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 & Bayou

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 business, Yoga 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!

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad topped with Ricotta Salata

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!