What separates the Northeast Georgia town of Dahlonega, Ga., from other area tourist destinations is a sense of authenticity, according to Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce President Amy Booker.
"Visitors sense that," she said. "It's a very authentic community not built to be a tourist attraction. It has a sense of place people like to get away to."
Dahlonega is situated 107 miles southeast of Chattanooga in the North Georgia mountains and just south of the Chattahoochee National Forest.
For a town with just 5,000 people, it has a wide variety of attractions, outdoor sports and community festivals. And with weather just a bit cooler than Atlanta and with a slightly higher chance for snow than Georgia's capital, according to Booker, Dahlonega offers opportunities for four seasons of activities.
• Population: About 5,000.
• Best things to do/places to visit: Buisson Arts Center, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, Dahlonega Courthouse Gold Museum State Historic Site, Funky Chicken Art Project, Historic Commercial District, Holly Theatre, Old Cannery Arts Center, Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery.
• Biggest employers: North Georgia College and State University, Lumpkin County School District, Koyo USA, Louver Shop, Refrigiwear Inc.
• Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 107.
• Landmarks or geographic features: Located in the North Georgia mountains just south of the Chattahoochee National Forest.
• Date founded: Incorporated on Dec. 21, 1833.
• Historic info: The first major U.S. gold rush took place in the Dahlonega area in 1828. A U.S. Mint branch minted half eagle, quarter eagle, gold dollar and $3 gold coins here between 1838 and 1861. North Georgia College and State University, founded in 1873, was the first state-supported college in Georgia to grant a degree to a woman.
• Most-famous residents: Zac Brown, Zac Brown Band lead singer; John Bell, Widespread Panic lead singer and guitarist; Amy Ray, Indigo Girls singer and songwriter; Sara Christian, first female NASCAR driver; Dallas Kinney, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.
• Unique traditions: Bear on the Square Mountain Festival: Spring weekend event features live music, music workshops, juried artists marketplace, gospel jam, street dance, live auction, children's activities, heritage center and food. Gold Rush Days: Third weekend in October event, voted one of the Top 20 Events by the Southeast Tourism Society, features fall colors and more than 300 art and craft exhibitors.
• Best-kept secrets: Spring Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, is near the town. The mountains north of town have the highest concentration of wineries and vineyards in North Georgia and are known as "The Heart of the Georgia Wine Country." In 2007, U.S. News & World Report chose Dahlonega as the nation's third most economical retirement location.