MY FIRST VISIT to Dawsonville came on the heels of my children’s births. You see, I began my time in Georgia inside the perimeter, first in the Vinings, then slipping over the perimeter to Sandy Springs, and then creeping my way up to Georgia 400 to Alpharetta. I worked in the city so many of my trips from home were to the south. But, as it goes with kids, your focus shifts and the things I once did on my weekends became family-focused. Which is how I found myself at Burt’s Farm, watching my children climb all over the pumpkins that were often bigger than they were. It became our annual tradition to visit Burt’s Pumpkin Patch. And that turned into finding local restaurants and then discovering there is so much more to see and do in Dawsonville.
WHERE TO WANDER
Of course, fall is a wonderful time to visit Dawsonville and Burt’s Farm. Its fall season begins September 1 when the fields are awash in color with bright orange pumpkins in rows that seem to go on forever and vibrant yellow pops sunflowers that make the farm a wonderful backdrop for a fall outing (and Insta-worthy photos!). The farm’s country store has everything you need to take home and decorate for the fall, but take time for the two-mile hayride through the fields, where you will be brought to heights with mountain views and a chance to see Amicalola Falls. Dawsonville is home to the falls, the third-highest waterfall in the U.S. east of the Mississippi. At 729 feet, the waterfall is the namesake to a state park where the North Georgia mountains begin—just eight miles from the start of the Appalachian Trail. At Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge, you’ll find 829 acres of wilderness that is a part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. There are ample hiking trails to explore in the park and the Visitor’s Center is open seven days of the week, providing trail maps and options for your outing. Amicalola is not the only waterfall in the area, either. Take your pick: Bearden Falls, Cochrans Falls or Falls Creek Falls. For those wanting to cast a line, the Reflection Pool feeding into Little Amicalola Creek is regularly stocked with trout. Although it is catch-and-release fishing, anglers can find more trout streams and lake fishing in the area year-round.
Another fall favorite we made into an annual excursion once the kids were born was taking on the yearly challenge posed by Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch. The farm’s 15-acre corn maze features a new design every fall and it can take a good deal of time to find all of the scavenger clues inside and make your way out again. For smaller kids, there is a kids’ maze, along with gem mining, pillow trampolines, and even more pumpkins to pick from. During October weekends, the maze is transformed in the evenings to a frightening haunted Halloween trail.
Agritourism is vital to Dawsonville and there are more places to experience the town’s beauty. Fausett Farms, owned by the same family since 1858, is just south of Burts’ and is home to 30 acres filled with sunflowers—900,000 to be exact to be exact, which are in bloom in September and October.
But do you know what else grows in Dawson County? All the right grains that, when fermented, become delicious beverages for imbibing on a crisp fall day. Dawsonville is nicknamed the “Moonshine Capital of the World” and Bill Elliot’s Dawsonville Distillery features small-batch, hand-crafted moonshine, whiskey and brandy.
However, Bill Elliot may be a bit more famous for what he can do behind a steering wheel. The stock car racing legend is known as “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” and showcases another side of Dawson County. As the moonshine capital, running ‘shine around the mountains led to competitions to see who could do it the fastest and eventually gave us NASCAR. Bill—and now his son, Chase—carry on the racing tradition and may be found running Formula One laps for fun at Atlanta Motorsports Park’s kart track. You can learn all about Bill and other NASCAR racers from the Peach State at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.
WHERE TO EAT
After a big hike (or getting lost in a maze), you’re bound to be hungry. A hidden gem in these parts is The Blue Bicycle, a modest yet sophisticated chef-owned and operated bistro that whips up French-inspired dishes with a Southern flare (try the Bleu Cheese Chips) alongside craft cocktails. Looking for more down-home eats? Head over to Big D’s BBQ. With the giant pink pig on the roof, you can’t miss it! The Downtown location was hit hard by the Pandemic but recently reopened to provide a dine-in experience with its BBQ platters.
Dawsonville has a homegrown food scene, so be sure to check out some of
their local charms. For a meat-and-three, head over to Aunt Dyann’s. The small, family-owned downtown spot features a daily special, chicken fingers and burgers. You’ll find all-day breakfast at Billie’s Country Kitchen; Mexican dishes at El Rios Mexican Café and Fajita Grill; and Southern seafood—lots of dipped-in-batter-and-fried options—at Kajun Seafood.
But perhaps the best place to dine in Dawsonville can be found at Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge’s Maple Restaurant. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the state park, you can’t beat the views as you enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.
WHERE TO SHOP
Perhaps the biggest draw to Dawsonville from both the mountains and the city is its North Georgia Premium Outlets. More than 140 designer and name-brand outlet stores make this outdoor mall a day trip of its own, with names like Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade and Burberry, just to name a few.
However, the real gems of Dawsonville are its mom-and-pop shops filled with antiques and arts and crafts made by local and Southern artists. Find unique pieces and gift ideas at Around Back at Rocky’s Place and home décor at The Blue Barn and Soul Sisters Antiques & Home Décor. For antique treasures, pick through the goods at Days Gone By Vintage Market and Dawsonville Antiques. Boutique shops with fashion finds are also available at Sweet Sassafras Boutique, Blush Ivey Boutique and Embroidery and The Purple Corn Boutique.
WHERE TO STAY
When it comes to spending a weekend in Dawsonville, the most beckoning place to lay your head is at Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge. Here, you have a choice of one of 57 rooms in the lodge, renting a one- to a three-bedroom cabin deep in the woods, or bring an RV or tent to sleep within the confines of the state park. Lodge rooms provide fabulous views of the mountains with all the comforts of home in queen and king rooms, suites and lofts.
For those who want to take the great outdoors adventure a step further, walk your way to the Hike Inn. This backcountry lodge is considered the gateway to the AT and requires a literal hike to get to it with 20 guest rooms with bunk beds for hikers coming and going. Sustainably built into its wooded surroundings, the inn hosts hikers coming and going and provides a warm meal and a shower before heading to dreamland in one of 20 available bunk beds.
For a more private and luxurious stay, reserve a few nights at the Antlers Ridge Lodge (antlersridgelodge.com), a deluxe 5-bedroom cabin complete with game room, hot tub and a beautiful mountain porch view, just five minutes from Burt’s Farm.
To plan your day trip to Dawsonville, please visit destinationdawsonville.com.