GEORGIA, October 23, 2017 – Fall is calling in the North Georgia mountains as the trees are just days away from peak fall foliage color. Leaf peeping is a serious spectator sport in the state of Georgia. There is an official Leaf Watch set up each year to track the russet, gold and deep crimson shades as they settle in among the Appalachian foothills.
Whatever the season, a trip to the mountains lets you get away from it all.
Start by taking things slow.
You’re in the mountains now, and time works differently here. Head to Clayton, Georgia, to begin your journey. The downtown boasts a pedestrian-friendly Main Street along with plenty to do for such a modestly sized city.
There’s a spa, wine cellar with tastings, art galleries, park featuring a Korean War Memorial, a Saturday morning farmer’s market, and a distillery that offers free tours.
If you like browsing antiques, this is heaven. Window shopping is fun with displays of upcycled birdhouses to sassy signs. Step inside and visit with the proprietors who are often happy to chat if you have time to sit a spell.
Treat yourself to fresh cuisine.
Rabun County was named the Farm-to-Table Capital of Georgia in 2014, a reflection of their long heritage of serving locally sourced food in locally owned restaurants. You can get an excellent meal at almost any city in the county, not to mention a few roadside diners, but there’s no need to leave Clayton yet.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in indulgence, dine at the popular Fortify Kitchen & Bar. Right off Main Street, the contemporary rustic eatery has a scaled back, inventive menu that puts their farm-to-table skills center stage.
The strawberry-pepper jelly mustard sauce they serve with Gouda fritters comes from Hillside Orchard Farm.
Their chicken hails from Springer Mountain Farm while the rye-caraway bread for their Reuben sandwich is sourced from scenic Sylvan Falls Mill. If you can, take a jaunt to this historic grist mill turned bed & breakfast 10 minutes up the road for a peek at their backyard waterfall.
At Fortify, it’s the kind of culinary experience where details matter: mushroom bread pudding alongside your entree, local Blalock beef in the cabbage and cheese soup, hints of lemon in the crab cake.
You can’t go wrong with any of the savory desserts, but the Chocolate Caramel Ganache Tart was recently named by Georgia Eats as one of five plates locals love. They weren’t exaggerating. The confection is pure romance: a velvety truffle consistency over a cookie crust topped with fresh cream to make you swoon.
Hit the trails for fall foliage.
For spectacular scenery, two of Georgia’s most popular state parks are just minutes away. At the northeastern corner of the state, Black Rock lays claim to the highest elevation of a Georgia state park. While there are miles of trails to explore, visitors won’t have to hunt for panoramic views as the main overlook is easily accessible for all.
On the way to the park, shutterbugs and nature lovers may want to pull over in Mountain City for the pretty bucolic scenes that dot the countryside.
Get a real workout in Tallulah Gorge State Park, trekking its 1,000 foot deep, river-etched canyon. As you might imagine, several hundred steps are involved, but the feeling of accomplishment when you reach the base of Hurricane Falls is well worth it.
Even if you stay along the rim trail at the top, the glimpses into the gorge are impressive.
North Georgia Community Players entertain
After a day of outdoor hiking and shopping, enjoy some quality live entertainment by the North Georgia Community Players. Based in Dillard, Georgia, a stone’s throw from the North Carolina border, this community theater troupe puts on a handful of shows each year.
Their most recent dinner theater production, A Frightful Night of Fun, was a Halloween-themed potpourri of improv, skits, and flash mob-style dances. The show’s opening salvo set the tone with snappy one-liners as the evening progressed into hilarious, if sometimes zany, comedy. Including swimming through a spaghetti-filled bed.
The costuming was on point, and the actors performed their parts with zeal. The intimate space of the Kingwood Resort lets audience members feel close to the talent. A few contributed quips of their own, adding to the sense of community.
It’s like an evening spent among your dearest, and most eccentric, friends.
The Players’ next production is A Musical Christmas at the North Pole, a variety show set for Dec. 2-3. At just $12 for adults in advance, tickets are affordable. As something you can only experience in Georgia’s northeast mountains, it’s a great way to wind down your visit.
Places to stay
Want to turn your perfect day into a weekend or longer?
Look for local accommodations with charm like the upscale Lake Rabun Hotel or award-winning Beechwood Inn. For a more affordable option, the York House Inn is noteworthy as the oldest continuously run bed & breakfast in the state.