I don’t think of my hometown of Ellijay, Ga., as a tourist destination. After all, I live here. It’s not much different than someone who lives in Orlando, Fla., New York City or San Francisco. But, just like those cities, Ellijay, too, is very popular with out-of-towners. And, given all that it offers to visitors, that really comes as no surprise. Located in Gilmer County – Apple Capital of Georgia, Ellijay becomes quite the hot spot during the fall when apples are in season. And, with 10 apple houses along State Highway 52 – known as “Apple Alley” – Ellijay certainly delivers the goods. But you don’t have to wait until fall to enjoy a visit to this North Georgia mountain town.
In Ellijay’s historic downtown, you’ll find several shops offering everything from antiques and collectibles to artful treasures, the latest fashions and even some local culinary delicacies. The area also plays host to a number of dining spots. My personal favorite for lunch, Cantaberry Restaurant prepares a selection of homemade soups, sandwiches and salads fresh each day. My choice? Go for a lunch combo of the broccoli and cheddar soup paired with the chicken salad sandwich. Both will thrill your taste buds and satisfy your appetite. If you want to finish with a sweet treat, head across the street to Moo Bears for some creamy ice cream. It’s the perfect ending to any meal.
As I mentioned earlier, Gilmer County is home to a number of apple houses, and many do operate on a seasonal schedule. However, one of my favorites, R&A Orchards is open year-round. Not only can I purchase fresh fruit and vegetables (and those delicious baked pies!) throughout the year, but this apple house also hosts special events in the spring. The kids love taking the free Apple Blossom tour through the orchard and seeing all the apple trees in bloom. It’s a great opportunity to educate them on how those blooms become the apples we come back to pick in the fall. Spring also means strawberries, and we can’t wait to pick those, either. There are not too many things that taste better than a fresh strawberry right off the vine.
A new and growing industry, local wineries are on the rise in Ellijay. Wine lovers can sample local wines at Cartecay Vineyards, Engelheim Vineyards and Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard and Winery, all just minutes from historic downtown Ellijay. In addition to sampling wines, visitors also can enjoy special events with live music, farm-to-table dinners, wine tours and more.
Enjoying all the outdoors has to offer is another wonderful benefit to visiting Ellijay. When the weather warms up, you can tube or kayak one of the local rivers, hike the trails at nearby Fort Mountain State Park or cool off in the shade at Amicalola Falls State Park as you watch the waters cascade down. Ellijay and the surrounding area also are home to thousands of geocaches, which take scavenger hunts to a new level.
Of course, these are just a few activities available in Ellijay; there’s also biking, camping, fishing, annual festivals and more. To discover more to do in and around Ellijay, visit the Gilmer Chamber website. Once you have your trip planned, let me know when you’re coming, and I’ll take you out for an ice cream.