County is filled with back roads and hiking trails
that take you past mountains, forests, waterfalls,
and valleys of the Chattahoochee National Forest.
RIDGE, Ga. — When I’ve had enough of the heat,
humidity and bugs during the dog days of summer, sometimes
I just need an altitude adjustment. That’s when I start
barking and plan a getaway to the North Georgia mountain
town of Blue Ridge.
summer day I drive into Blue Ridge is warm, but not hot.
The nearly 1,800 feet of elevation offers a smidge of
insurance that, unless there is some sort of climatic
anomaly, the temperatures rarely climb out of the
the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a segment of the
Appalachians, rising to more than 4,000 feet and swathing
the town in a pretty, colorful blend of sun and shadows,
it seems the ideal place to get high and escape summer
Ridge is quaint, small-town America where the scenery is
only part of the show. The people are friendly and
accommodating, rising partly from Southern hospitality,
partly from the strong values that you’ll find among
most of the population of the Appalachians, and partly
from plain old-timey charm.
Ridge is a different kind of mountain town," says Jan
Hackett of the Fannin County Welcome Center, where I
stopped to pick up brochures. "You can rent a luxury
mountain vacation home, experience the beauty and
relaxation of the mountains and the great outdoors, then
go to the town of Blue Ridge for a great dinner and
shopping. It’s like combining a little bit of city
sophistication with a small-town setting."
the utter bombshell of Blue Ridge is that despite its
diminutive size — the year-round population hovers about
1,300 — it has many layers that beckon to be peeled back
the happy hunting grounds of the Cherokee before they were
herded away — with part-Cherokee blood running through
my veins, I won’t dwell on that — the settlers came
next, and then the railroad, and then the tourists seeking
to escape the heat or enjoy the dazzling autumn color of
tourists come restaurants, and this is one place your
palate won’t be disappointed. With Blue Ridge surrounded
by clear mountain streams, you might guess that the only
thing to eat would be fresh trout. Well, yes, there’s
that, but more.
the same reasons that tourists come here, so has Blue
Ridge managed to attract world-class chefs. Blue Ridge may
be in the backwoods, but it is assuredly not backwoods,
especially when it comes to dining.
Danny Mellman sizzles at Harvest on Main, where the homey
atmosphere almost overshadows the outstanding food. He
honed his skills in England, France and Italy, so he adds
European flair to Southern dishes like grits and trout and
turns them into culinary works of art.
way was I going to experience Blue Ridge without sampling
trout, so I chose Mellman’s dish called Bramlett Farms
Local Trout, a delicious meal finished with lemon and
thyme that was still has me salivating at the memory.
Cucina Rustica, Chef Isabella Molinari brings Northern
Italy to northern Georgia with cuisine of chicken
parmesan, scampi, and Rollatine di Melanzane, a to-die-for
eggplant and cheese dish. Fancy a sweet treat for dessert?
The Sweet Shoppe of Blue Ridge just won hands-down on
season 6 of "Cupcake Wars."
there’s much buzz about the Black Sheep, where acclaimed
Chef Ron Farber will serve Southern comfort food like
barbecue, chicken pot pie and lasagna with more worldly
dishes from Asia and Europe.
rentals are uber-popular in the mountains, so for the true
cabin experience, Chef Douglas Olsen of Cabin Cuisine will
cook and deliver to your digs a gourmet four-course dinner
designed just to your tastes and served with on a white
table cloth complete with candles. This isn’t fried
chicken and potato salad, either, but elegant dishes of
chicken cordon bleu, filet mignon and lobster tail. And
you won’t have to wash dishes, as it’s all included.
are plenty of opportunities to work off those calories.
Walking through the village proper of Blue Ridge doesn’t
take very long, but stopping in at all the shops and
galleries might. Like moths to a flame, artists are drawn
to Blue Ridge for its creativity-inspiring beauty, and
from that beauty they write poetry and prose, paint, take
photos, hunt out the finest antiques, and handcraft
jewelry, pottery and even bamboo fly rods.
of my favorite stops to plunder outside of town is Mercier
Orchards, Georgia’s largest orchard, for dozens of
varieties of apples, strawberries, cherries, plums,
blackberries and peaches. If you prefer, you can pick your
own fruit, depending on the season and availability.
do drop into the gift shop and restaurant, crammed with
all sorts of gourmet goodies. I enjoyed walking through
the orchards, enjoying those scents and gorgeous views of
the mountains and sampling the sparkling fruit wine.
County is filled with back roads and hiking trails, so it’s
easy to take a scenic drive through the mountains,
forests, waterfalls and valleys of the Chattahoochee
National Forest, Toccoa River and Lake Blue Ridge.
there’s the outdoors for fishing — Blue Ridge is
considered the trout capital of Georgia — rafting,
tubing, boating, horseback riding, or hiking the
family favorite is a relaxing, scenic ride on the Blue
Ridge Scenic Railway, which glides along the Toccoa River
on a half-day journey to McCaysville on the Tennessee
line. Fall is especially a good time for leap peeping on
Blue Ridge, I glanced at the stunningly beautiful
mountains and the roadside flowers in the rearview mirror.
Apple- and pumpkin-picking time is soon, and I promised a
return soon in the cool autumn air.
THERE: The closest major airport to Blue Ridge is Atlanta’s
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL), about a 1
1/2- to 2-hour drive north via Interstates 75 and 575.
Interstate 575 becomes the Georgia Mountain Parkway
(Highway 515), which takes you into Fannin County and Blue
mountain tours of Blue Ridge are among the best in the
North Georgia Mountains. Comprehensive maps are available
at the Fannin County Welcome Center.
to Blue Ridge
comprehensive reservation and vacation service for cabin
rentals in the Blue Ridge area.
Cast and Blast Inn
E. Main St.
comfortable accommodations in the heart of Blue Ridge.
Lodge Bed and Breakfast
outside of Blue Ridge, the beautiful inn is surrounded by
forest and miles of hiking trails.
PLACES TO EAT:
& L Beanery Coffee and Café
local favorite for coffee and other goodies offers two
locations, both on Main Street, and one in an old bank
Vine Wine Bar and Bistro
E. Main St.
Georgia wines and simple, fresh salads, sandwiches and
Lee’s Courtyard Grille
E. Main St.
live entertainment in a casual atmosphere.
E. First St.
local favorite that features country cooking as well as
County Chamber of Commerce, 800-899-6867,