The City of Dahlonega is the county seat of Lumpkin County and it was the site of America’s first gold rush during the 1830’s. According to the U.S. Census in 2000, Dahlonega had a population of 3,638 and a total land area of 6.4 square miles. The city’s name came from a Cherokee Indian word, dalonige, which defined gold as yellow money and the city originated as a gold mining community. On the third weekend in October, people come to Dahlonega from all over the world to celebrate Gold Rush Days, the largest festival in northeast Georgia.

It is believed that a deer hunter named Benjamin Parks discovered gold 2-1/2 miles south of Dahlonega in 1828 when he tripped over a yellow rock that turned out to be almost pure gold. Apparently Benjamin Parks talked to a newspaper reporter about his discovery because the story was published and the news spread all over the East Coast. By 1829, more than 15,000 miners were living in camps and mining for gold in Dahlonega.

From 1828 through 1861, $36,000,000 in gold mined in Lumpkin County was used to make American gold coins. A U.S. Mint was established in Dahlonega that produced $6,000,000 in gold coins during that same time period but the Mint was shut down by the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Dahlonega Gold Museum commemorates the history of gold mining Lumpkin County. Located in the historic 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse in downtown Dahlonega, the Dahlonega Gold Museum contains many authentic artifacts from the Dahlonega gold rush including gold nuggets, gold coins and gold panning equipment.

Originally incorporated as Talonega in 1833, Dahlonega’s economy thrived during the 1840’s. But the California Gold Rush of 1849 drew many miners away from the region and after the Civil War, most of Georgia declined into economic depression that lasted through World War II. After highways were constructed through North Georgia during the 1950’s and the region was developed for tourism, Dahlonega’s economy revived and the city became known as a tourist destination. The Dahlonega Historic Commercial District includes Dahlonega’s Public Square that was constructed in 1833 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Hawkins Street Neighborhood is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located 2 blocks northwest of the Public Square, the Hawkins Street Neighborhood contains the original town village that was planned in 1833 within the bounds of land lot 950-12-1.

Real estate in Dahlonega

Because Dahlonega is a tourist destination situated in a beautiful rural area, homes and properties are highly valued. The estimated median home value in Dahlonega was $264,006 in 2007, having appreciated from $164,500 in 2000. The cost of living index in Dahlonega is 98.9 and the average population density is only 771 people per square mile.

Home prices in Dahlonega typically range from $250,000 to $750,000 and available properties usually sell quickly. In the outlying countryside, modern homes with mountain views on 1 or more acres of land range in price from $250,000 to $500,000. The demand for commercial real estate is also strong in Dahlonega because the large number of tourists creates profitable economic potential for businesses that are located in the city.

Lodging, shopping, dining and entertainment

Hotels in Dahlonega include Days Inn, Econo Lodge, Park Place Hotel and Holiday Inn. Because Dahlonega is such a popular tourist destination, there are many romantic bed and breakfast inns to choose from including Top of the Square, the Smith House, Mountaintop Lodge, Lily Creek Lodge, Long Mountain Lodge, Cedar House Inn & Yurts, Mountain Laurel Creek Inn & Spa and Historic Worley B&B Inn. Cabin rentals are available at Cavender Creek Cabins, Bend of the River Cabins & Chalets, Hatfield’s Hideaway Cabins and Riverwalk Cabins.

For people who are looking for a rustic vacation experience in Dahlonega, the 1,027 acre R-Ranch in the Mountains contains campsites, RV sites and rental cabins, an Olympic size swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, a lake for fishing, a horse corral and miles of riding trails. Vacation lodging is also available at the Yahoola Lodge, which has 3 guest rooms and a mountain cabin for rent. The Yahoola Lodge is situated on 23 acres of land with hiking trails and a river for fishing, swimming and gold panning.

Dahlonega’s Historic Commercial District contains many quaint shopping boutiques and restaurants featuring classic Southern cooking and gourmet cuisine. Art stores in downtown Dahlonega display the work of well known painters, potters and sculptors along with a colorful array of Appalachian folk art. With the highest concentration of wineries and vineyards in North Georgia, Dahlonega is known as the Heart of the Georgia Wine Country because the climate creates ideal growing conditions for wine grapes. Vineyards located in Dahlonega include BlackStock Vineyards, the first vineyard in the Dahlonega area, Montaluce Vineyards and Estates, Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery, Frogtown Cellars and Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery.

The City of Dahlonega sponsors many festivals for public enjoyment. The Celtic Music Festival is held in March, and the Bear on the Square Festival in April features bluegrass music performances and demonstrations of local folk traditions. The Wildflower Festival of the Arts in May showcases paintings, photography, pottery, jewelry and other arts and crafts created by North Georgia’s artists, and the Fool’s Gold Mountain Bike Race & Festival in August is Georgia’s first and only 100 mile mountain bike race. During Gold Rush Days in October, more than 200,000 visitors come to Dahlonega to browse through over 300 arts and crafts displays in the Public Square. Gold Rush Days also features performances of authentic bluegrass music, buck dancing, crosscut sawing, hog calling and a liar’s contest.