A Midwinter Night’s Dream

By Rebecca Pikula

 

T

he holidays seem to approach faster each year. After all the hustle and bustle, a midwinter’s retreat can be just the thing to settle your soul before the upcoming New Year. With that in mind, we’ve done our research on a destination that’s practically in your own backyard. There’s no need to plan months in advance and spend thousands on flights and travel when you can take a trip to Georgia’s very own Blue Ridge this holiday season.

A short drive from Northwest Georgia, this small town is nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest. There, you can fish for their famous trout, take a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, or take a hike to reconnect with yourself. Even if the weather keeps you indoors, you can snuggle up with a cup of hot apple cider by the fire in the historic Blue Ridge Inn Bed and Breakfast.

Situated in the heart of downtown, the historic Blue Ridge Inn Bed & Breakfast charms visitors from the moment they
lay eyes on it.  (Photo by Robin Sullivan Creative)

Step into a relaxing winter retreat at Blue Ridge Inn Bed & Breakfast.  (Photo by Robin Sullivan Creative)

Built in 1890, and beautifully restored, the inn is in the heart of downtown Blue Ridge, within walking distance to local shops and dining. The cozy, antique rooms are comfortable and elegantly situated, giving the inn a homey, nostalgic feeling. The wonderful staff is happy to provide all the guidance you could ask for in order to have an enchanting holiday getaway.

The current owners can give you a detailed history of the house as well as informed advice on where to shop, dine, and play during your stay with them. Jon, a co-owner of the inn, gave us a great tour of the establishment and mixed in the story of the house with bits of local history along the way. He also gave us great recommendations for downtown restaurants and boutiques to check out during our stay.

 

Built in 1890, and beautifully restored, the inn is in the heart of downtown Blue Ridge, within walking distance to local shops and dining. The cozy, antique rooms are comfortable and elegantly situated, giving the inn a homey, nostalgic feeling. The wonderful staff is happy to provide all the guidance you could ask for in order to have an enchanting holiday getaway.

The current owners can give you a detailed history of the house as well as informed advice on where to shop, dine, and play during your stay with them. Jon, a co-owner of the inn, gave us a great tour of the establishment and mixed in the story of the house with bits of local history along the way. He also gave us great recommendations for downtown restaurants and boutiques to check out during our stay.

 

Downtown Blue Ridge has tons of charming photo opportunities during the holiday season. (Photo by Robin Sullivan Creative)

During our visit, we stayed in the Kinkaid Suite, named for the family who originally owned the house and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful suites in the building. Everything about the suite oozed warmth, softness, and comfort. From the lovely furniture, linens, and décor, to the spa-like bathroom, I felt myself relaxing from the moment I stepped through the door. Many of the antiques, books, and decorations in the house were left there by previous owners; this fact adds an element of charm and a feeling of authenticity to each room.

Be sure not to miss the excellent and hearty Southern breakfasts that Connie infuses with love and cooks fresh daily in the inn’s adorable farmhouse style kitchen. Served in the beautifully decorated dining room, Connie’s breakfasts begin with a freshly prepared fruit cup, made from scratch muffins still warm from the oven, coffee, and a nice, cold glass of orange juice. The second course changes from day to day, but during our visit, she served us heaping plates of scrambled eggs, biscuits with sausage gravy, and slices of fresh, local tomatoes. The spread she prepared for us was familiar, delicious, and made us feel right at home. It is the perfect way to start a chilly morning mountain morning.

Once a burgeoning railway town, Blue Ridge played host to travelers seeking the healthy mineral springs, fresh air, and majestic beauty of the North Georgia Mountains. You can still take a ride on that very same railway to take in the sights. The 26-mile round trip takes you along the Toccoa River, with a stop in nearby McCaysville, GA, which borders directly with Copperhill, TN. Here, you can shop, dine, take in the sights, and get a picture while standing in two states at once.

Upon your return, choose from the many wonderful dining spots in Blue Ridge for dinner. The adventurous foodies among you might enjoy taking a self-guided walking and tasting tour with Blue Ridge Mountain Food Tours. You’ll stop by five to six unique eateries, including everything from desserts to local craft beer and wine, over the course of the three-hour tour. A knowledgeable local tour guide will provide you with fun facts and history of the surrounding mountains along the way.

We chose to try The Fightingtown Tavern because of the fun energy and laid-back atmosphere. Don’t let this casual sports bar fool you. The food here is a gourmet experience you have to taste to believe. Fightingtown has refined such pub-style dishes as hot dogs, burgers, fish and chips, and more, by using carefully selected, locally grown produce and meat before combining those incredible ingredients with passion and creativity to give you an unforgettable culinary experience. We tried two burgers while there and were not disappointed.

The first was a Georgia Pride Burger, because who can resist a name like that? It was topped with a bourbon poached apple and goat cheese and, while this combination might raise some eyebrows, it was too delicious to pass up. The second burger we tried was the Psycho Burger, which changes daily according to what the chefs feel like making. On the day we visited this burger came piled high with sliced cheddar, bacon mac n’ cheese, and topped off with their signature beer cheese. It was a cheese lover’s dream. Every bite was gooey and delicious. Not to be outdone, the sides were fantastic as well. The fries were fresh, crispy, perfectly salted, and came with house-made ketchup for dipping; the spicy chipotle slaw was a shining star in this outstanding meal.

The Vault serves delicious gourmet brunch and dinner in a cool setting. (Photo by Robin Sullivan Creative)

The Vault, just up the street from the Blue Ridge Inn, serves such beloved southern staples as fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, and more. They also have an amazing brunch daily if you want to save them for a late breakfast or early lunch. This recently renovated local eatery is a wonderful blend of historic, industrial, and shabby-chic styles that give it a fresh, young vibe while still managing to feel comfortable and timeless. It also features an actual vault, with a large dining table inside, right in the middle of the main dining area, adding a unique aspect to an already amazing eatery.

Of all of the outstanding meals we had during our visit, this was one of our favorites. The Crab Cakes Benedict were rich, succulent, and simply to die for. The Challah Bread French Toast (be still, my heart) was a thing of beauty. Don’t miss out on their other comforting favorites, such as their freshly made donuts and pastries. Be sure to say hello to Emily, one of the managers, while you are there. She is just one of the amazing team members who make The Vault an unforgettable dining experience. She really made our meal there something to remember by serving us with cheerfulness, enthusiasm, and sharing her perpetually sunny disposition.

Visit the local bookseller at Blue Ridge Booksellers to pick up a novel for nighttime reading or relaxing on the Inn’s rocking chair porches while you are in town. This cozy little bookshop hosts everything from rare classics to the latest thrillers. Mike, the owner, is very knowledgeable and friendly and is willing to recommend everything from great books to the best places to see and eat. He’s also a bit of a local historian and periodically leads tours of the town, so be sure to check and see if he has anything scheduled while you are there.

For an extra dose of relaxation, drop into a yoga class at Yoga and Wellness of Blue Ridge, the town’s only operating yoga studio. Be sure to ask about their signature Thai Bodywork, an intense massage session where your therapist uses their whole body and includes stretching as part of the experience. The Herbiary, also located within Yoga and Wellness of Blue Ridge, is a modern apothecary shop where you can buy things like loose herbs, teas, and body care products, or even take a class on herbalism from the proprietor. If you’d rather have a simpler, more familiar way to relax check out the locally made soaps, lotions, and bath bombs available in the various bath and body shops around town. There’s even a local tea and honey shop, Tupelo Tea, where you can settle down with the perfect cuppa.

Nearby hiking spots for the outdoorsy types include Amicalola Falls, Jack’s River Falls Trail, and Long Creek Falls. For the true adventurers among you, several local outfitters provide whitewater rafting and kayak tours year round on the Toccoa and Ocoee rivers. Campgrounds are also open year round, where you can hike all day and enjoy s’mores around the fire pit at night. Light snow is common in December and January but usually not enough to hinder your travels; just enough to make a cozy day by the fire appealing, whether indoors or out.

Blue Ridge offers incomparable hiking and breathtaking scenery year-round. (Photo by Robin Sullivan Creative)

Rebecca Pikula lives near Atlanta with her husband of five years. She attended Georgia College and State University. She has visited 14 countries and 36 states, and enjoys travelling and motorcycles, sometimes simultaneously.

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