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It's within a day's drive of five Southeastern states, and its blend of mountain traditions and modern ambitions make Blue Ridge well worth the trek.
Time flows gently in Blue Ridge, Georgia, a town touching the southernmost edge of the Appalachian Mountains, whose timeless tranquility add a backdrop for a lively downtown and flourishing secondhome area. With a pleasing “town and country” personality, Blue Ridge is well-suited for weekenders.
Located in north Georgia’s Fannin County, Blue Ridge is blessed with natural beauty. The Chattahoochee National Forest spans 106,000 acres; Cohutta Wilderness Area encompasses another 40,000. Rivers and streams teem with trophy trout. And sparkling in the midst of the mountains, Lake Blue Ridge is a 3,290-acre playground for boaters and fishermen.
Cherokee Indians inhabited these hills generations before settlers began arriving in the 1800s. Timber and railroad companies followed, as did “healing waters” tourism, fueled by city dwellers seeking mountain air and mineral springs.
After the boom, Blue Ridge declined. Up until the early 2000s, “You could shoot a cannon down East Main and you might hit a chicken,” says Bo Chance, an entrepreneur who moved here in the late 1990s. Drawn by scenery and a small-town atmosphere 90 minutes north of Atlanta, Chance and other urban expats helped revitalize downtown.
TGIF in Blue Ridge
Arrive on Friday and get a feel for Blue Ridge in the historic downtown. It’s classic Americana, with mom-and-pop shops, a park and gazebo. Families board a vintage train at the 1905 depot. Couples stroll past 19th-century brick buildings advertising Red Man Tobacco. Kids pluck candy from barrels in Huck’s General Store.
For all its Norman Rockwell appeal, the contrast between Mayberry and modern makes Blue Ridge interesting. Nowadays, fine wine is as common as sweet tea and shops selling $9,000 fly fishing rods prosper alongside places selling country crafts.
Thanks to its rustic roots, Blue Ridge isn’t too big for its britches. And though SUVs now outnumber rusty pickups on Main Street, friendliness is always in fashion.
Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association exemplifies the town’s old-meets-new ambience. Housed in a 1937 courthouse, its galleries juxtapose traditional crafts with contemporary art. Executive Director Nichole Potzauf, who moved here from Los Angeles, describes the art scene: “Blue Ridge is a small town with the amenities and culture of an urban area. There’s a depth within the folk art scene and a concentration of artists working in nontraditional styles.” In spring and fall, the association’s Arts in the Park festivals draw 20,000 visitors.
As evening approaches, dinner decisions await. At one time, that meant fast food or “meat and three” diners. Today’s tastier options include Black Sheep Restaurant. Housed in a 101-year-old home once frequented by “Gone with the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell, Black Sheep balances white linen elegance with friendliness. An extensive wine list complements comfort classics and upscale cuisine.
A weekend getaway requires a relaxing retreat. Escape to Blue Ridge stands out among vacation rental companies for quality, cleanliness and comfort. Their properties include rambling riverside retreats and intimate two-bedroom cabins to family-friendly lake lodges and a mountaintop estate with 40-mile views. Except for occasional owl serenades, the cabins are cocoons of quiet, contributing to the restful sleep needed for a full Saturday.