What is it about an old-fashioned hometown Christmas that cheers even the most sour Grinch? Is it the sight of twinkling trees, streetlights festooned with wreathes and garland, or the angelic sound of rosy-cheeked carolers bundled together like a bouquet of red roses as their sweet harmony fills the air with cheer and goodwill? Yes, Christmas is a special time in North Georgia, but one town has beckoned guests from all over to sample a mountain Christmas celebration as warm and satisfying as hot cocoa with marshmallows. It’s a little town with a big name: Dahlonega. And their Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration is a must-visit this (and every) holiday season.
And Georgians aren’t the only ones falling head over boots for this charming town for Christmas. Film producers and directors from Hollywood love filming in Dahlonega, especially for Christmas-themed movies. Small businesses, such as the Dahlonega General Store, regularly cater to cast and crew who revel in the joy of this historic landmark town, with locations such as the downtown square, Hancock Park, and The Dahlonega Square Hotel becoming settings for upcoming holiday films. The town has even been the backdrop of Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” and Lifetime’s “A Taste of Christmas.” If you want to get in the holiday spirit before your visit, check out these movies as well as “Christmas in the Smokies” and “Christmas in Homestead,” and then try to spot the film locations on your visit. Oh, what fun it is!
THE NICE LIST OF THINGS TO DO
Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration begins with lighting the Square’s impressive, two-story Christmas tree on Friday, November 25, at 6 p.m. The light festival continues through January 8. The evening will include live Christmas music by Radford Windham and other fun family activities are planned.
The sights and sounds of Christmas come alive on the Square as thousands of lights twinkle throughout the historic Square. And be sure not to miss the Festival of Trees, 12 brightly decorated trees outside of Hancock Park. The festival is also a gift to Mother Earth, as each tree will be replanted at the end of the season.
Family-friendly holiday activities include a festive parade, carriage rides (additional cost), visits with Santa, old-time carolers, a live nativity on Dec. 10th at Dahlonega United Methodist Church, and a Christmas theater production at the historic Holly Theatre. Visitors can even enjoy holiday shopping at Dahlonega’s eclectic selection of boutiques and merchants, which offer extended hours. Hancock Park will feature the Art Market sponsored by the Dahlonega Arts Alliance on November 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Dahlonega Women’s Club’s Annual Christmas Market on Candy Cane Lane on the first and second weekends in December from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Be sure not to miss the event’s famous Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen: homemade baked goods and sweets by members of the Dahlonega’s Women’s Club.
Families with young children, please note that if you want to see the man in red: Santa visits will be on the Square in front of the main Christmas Tree on Fridays (4 to 6 p.m.), Saturdays (noon to 6 p.m.) and Sundays (1 to 5 p.m.) only from November 25 to December 18.
The 2022 Old Fashioned Christmas Parade will be on Saturday, December 10, at 11 a.m. Would you like to actually be in the parade with your group or organization? Fill out an application for a $30 fee by December 2 at dahlonegachristmas.com to join in on the action.
Dahlonega Carriage & Horse Rides will be giving carriage tours around the city’s historic Square all season. All rides ($15 adult; $7 under 12) are first come, first serve, and reservations cannot be made. Check their Facebook page for days/hours of operations and the latest weather updates.
Families may enjoy visiting during weeknights for the most relaxed experience, as the crowds are lower. We visited on a Saturday last year, and while I would’ve loved to have taken the kids on a carriage ride through town, my husband turned green as the Grinch at the sight of the long line and two-hour waiting time. Oh, well, maybe this year!
And yes, Virginia, it does snow in Dahlonega, but consider yourself one lucky elf if it does. Dahlonega gets, on average, only seven days of snow each year, typically between late December to early March. The month with the most snowfall is January, with a whopping 2 inches!
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY
A shorter list would be where not to eat; frankly, I can’t think of one for that list. First off, there is the Historic Smith House serving up a Southern homestyle buffet for both lunch and dinner that is popular with locals and visitors alike. There may be a line to eat, but it’s worth the wait, as food is fast and served family style, creating a wonderful holiday meal among the homey holiday decor. As for what dresses up the table, it has all the fixins’ such as fried chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, fried okra, homemade yeast rolls and cornbread, and a tasty Strawberry Shortcake with whip topping for dessert.
Looking for some Mediterranean dining and craft cocktails? Head to Capers on the Square for authentic Greek food. Cajun food fans should head to Bourbon Street Grille offering New Orleans-style dishes in a historic building downtown. And for an Irish pub vibe, Shenanigans offers cheers, beers, and snug quarters with live music and a deck. Just don’t be on Santa’s naughty list by the night’s end!
SANTA’S SHOPPING LIST
Would you like to know the best-kept secret in town? Santa himself does his Christmas shopping in Dahlonega’s charming Square. And once you arrive, it’s no wonder, as there are so many whimsical local shops to pop in and out of, you will wrap up your shopping list in no time, especially since stores have extended shopping hours during the Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration.
The Dahlonega General Store offers great souvenirs, local jams and sauces, clothing, candy, and, well, just about a little bit of everything. Check out Humble Abode, a mom-and-pop little gift shop or Crown and Bear for Anglophiles and chocked full of British gifts and treats to enjoy. Looking for apparel for the woman in your life (or yourself, we won’t tell), then head to Grateful Days. More in the mood for whimsy? How about Cranberry Corners, named Dahlonega’s “most eclectic mercantile” since 1995.
For sweet treats, visit Paul Thomas Chocolates, a chocolatier since 1975, where you can see chocolates being made and also sample the Dahlonega Chocolate Gold Bar, made from rich milk and dark chocolate, golden raisins and Georgia pecans. Is fudge your passion? Make a beeline to The Fudge Factory for hand-dipped confections, 15 varieties of ice cream and, of course, fudge of every flavor you can imagine.
TUCK IN SNUG FOR THE NIGHT
With all this merriment, you may want to stay in Dahlonega for a night or two, and luckily there are an array of options that will make you feel like you are in a Hallmark movie right in downtown Dahlonega. First, the aforementioned Smith House Inn has 16 rooms on the property, 23 rooms in their new lodge, four villas on the historic town square, and two cottages in downtown Dahlonega.
The Dahlonega Square Hotel & Villas offers modern conveniences in 1880s historic grandeur in its hotel on Chestatee Street and villas on Choice Avenue. Wine lovers will enjoy Kaya’s Vineyard and Winery Tasting Room to sample the region’s scrumptious wines.
The Hall House Hotel dates back to 1881 and is the second oldest building on Dahlonega’s Historic Square and the only lodging directly on the historic Square. Other charming nearby options are the Yellow Daisy Bed and Breakfast, with five rooms and just a five-minute walk to Downtown Dahlonega and the Old Storehouse Inn, which dates to 1884 and is located across from Hancock Park and just a short walk to the Square.
To plan your holiday Day Trip, visit dahlonegachristmas.com.