It’s evening. My daughter and I were walking to visit horses in a nearby pasture. We had specifically gone out in hopes to see deer. But on this night, there was more hustle and bustle in the area. On the way back to the cabin, the peacefulness led the way to calm and focus. I couldn’t help but smile as my daughter’s flip-flops made crunching sounds over the rocks and gravel on the road. This is a vacation! Those sounds reminded me of the years I spent walking in the mountains with my family, flip flops, gravel, and all.
It’s cooler under the cover of thousands of surrounding trees. We’re up at a slightly higher elevation. Some of this trip we hiked to see waterfalls.
Many memories came back to me of my younger years vacationing in the mountains with my parents and brother. The sounds of the crunching gravel and being closer to nature was so peaceful. It was this! Getting out of the sweltering heat of Florida and doing things we can’t do there made me realize just how much I missed vacationing in the mountains.
Unfortunately, the kids were in the wrong frames of mind during vacation. My son started a highly-clingy phase the week before vacation began. His need for being held by mama suddenly trumped his natural desire to run wild. And just when he thought he wanted down, a toe would hit the ground and he’d scream to be held again. I ended up doing a lot of baby wearing during our trip, which was thoroughly exhausting. And my daughter … well, she’s almost 6 with an attitude resembling that of a teenager. Yet, she’s still too immature not to have complete meltdowns over the various things she wants. It seemed vacation, in her mind, meant a reprieve from all the lessons on behavior she’s learned to date. Sigh.
Though this vacation was difficult, I’m glad we tried it. Having shown the kids there’s more to vacation than highly commercialized theme park vacations had become important to me suddenly. But, they’re still too young to appreciate much of it. That’s not to say they didn’t enjoy it, though, it just wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d hoped! Isn’t that just part of vacation now that we’re parents though?
Anyway, I thought I’d give you a run-down of our stay and adventures during our North Georgia vacation with young children. My aim is to help you understand what’s available to see and do in the area. If your children are older, you’ll likely have a much more pleasant experience, too. I was not compensated in any way for this post. I was given Gold Fever Package tickets in exchange for this post.
How to have fun in North Georgia Mountains with Kids
Our stay in Clarkesville, GA
For starters, I booked a cabin through Airbnb in Clarkesville, GA. It was about 15 minutes from Helen, GA and 45 minutes from Dahlonega, GA. These were two locations I felt were must-visits on our first family mountain vacation.
Looking to stay in the area? We stayed at Shalimar’s Gold which, after the weekly discount, cost less than $200/night. But there are so many options … and no matter what you choose, I feel as though you’re likely to get a much better deal than any hotel would give you! Certainly much more space and privacy! If you want to book a cabin through Airbnb for your next trip, use my referral link for $40 (I’ll get a $20 travel credit for referring you).
Things to do in and near Clarkesville, GA
Hiking and Nature
Florida is too hot and humid for me to even consider hiking. And, to be honest, it’s not very pretty, in my opinion. So, we don’t spend much time outdoors exploring the area. Plus, dealing with my health issues and being constantly tired, I usually don’t have the drive to get out and explore. When my husband learned I wanted to go do some hiking to see waterfalls, he laughed. “You want to hike? And, with a toddler?”
Yeah, I admit it sounded crazy, but I was determined to get out and explore because I was looking forward to different.
There are tons of hiking and exploration activities around the Clarkesville, GA area! Everything from short walks to things that are much more grueling for the true adventurer. Because of my health and having a 1.5-year-old and 5-year-old in tow, I scouted the shorter, more feasible, hiking options around us.
The Hikes We Took and the Falls We Saw in North Georgia
We started our first full day in North Georgia visiting Toccoa Falls, which also happened to be the kids’ first time visiting any waterfalls! I knew their first time needed to be easy to be a success. It was about 30 minutes from where we were staying and was the easiest “hike” to see falls. Having packed a lunch, we headed out to Toccoa Falls, which is located on the property of Toccoa Falls College.
We arrived on Sunday morning before the visitor center opened, so our visit to the falls happened to be free. Visiting Toccoa Falls was a very short, easy, walk at a slight incline. The path followed the creek and we happened to see a water moccasin basking on a rock.
It was hot and there wasn’t much cover to shade us from the sun. But, once we were closer to the falls, we essentially forgot about the heat, and the kids were in awe.
You could stop there and view, or for the more adventurous, there was a tiny climb over some rocks to find a more private and quiet viewing area behind a large rock.
Once we finished, we headed back to the parking lot to grab our lunch. There’s an old run-down building behind the parking lot. Behind the building is a single concrete picnic table with benches with an up-close view of a really small waterfall. We took our lunch break here before embarking on our journey to the next waterfall and hike.
Tallulah Falls at Tallulah Gorge State Park
Tallulah Falls was a little over 20 minute ride North of Toccoa Falls. Because there was a shorter, easier walk included in the various hiking levels, we decided to continue our first day in Georgia by visiting here.
With the two kids, taking the hike down and up over one thousand steps wasn’t even a consideration. We chose the easy “hikes” high above the gorge and it was an amazing sight. And we only spent about an hour here, so it was the perfect addition to our first day in the mountains of North Georgia.
When the kids are older, I’d be inclined to try to actually do the steps to get into the gorge though.
Anna Ruby Falls
Of the three falls we visited on our trip, this was by far, my favorite! 30 minutes away from our cabin in Clarkesville, GA, and because Anna Ruby Falls was located in Unicoi State Park, we made this a full day trip.
We started the day with Anna Ruby Falls to try and beat the heat. The hiking path was well-shaded, making the slightly more strenuous hike cool and comfortable. Even wearing my son on my back the whole time, I was comfortable, aside from hiking at an incline.
The entire hike up was beside a beautiful creek, lots of rocks, and plenty of places to stop and enjoy the beauty of the area. There were also benches along the way to sit and rest, which we needed a few times.
We finally arrived, and I think we were more awestruck than we had been at the previous falls. This comprised of two larger waterfalls which fell into the same creek we’d hiked beside.
There was no private viewing area and the place was quite busy. But, it was easy to tune out the world as you inspected the area.
Butterflies were flying around everywhere, and a few were landing on the people, content as could be. It felt as though we stepped out of the modern world and into the past … a time untouched by man, except for the wooden viewing platforms.
After our hike to Anna Ruby Falls, we made our way back down to the car and took the kids back to Unicoi State Park and had a quiet lunch under the trees beside the parking lot. Afterwards, we got dressed in our swimsuits and went splashing in the lake. For July, the water was pretty cold (at least in my opinion) and we had a short rain shower.
Because Dahlonega was a 45-55 minute trip from Clarkesville, we made this a full day event. Our main objective was to take the kids on a Gold Tour with our Gold Fever Package tickets. Anything we did beyond that was a bonus, and it ended up being a completely full day.
Our Gold tour had us doing some real learning at the Gold Museum, and panning for gold and gem mining at two different mines. We also had the pleasure of visiting an underground gold mine and learning about the tools the miners used back in the day.
Make sure to read more about our Gold Fever Package tour experience in this post.
Dahlonega was a favorite stop of ours when we were growing up, but it didn’t seem that exciting once we were there. We’d never taken the Gold Tour when I was a kid, so this was a special treat, even for me.
Exploring the little touristy town of Dahlonega wasn’t exactly a fabulous trip, though we did see some cute stores. And stopping at the General Store brought back tons of memories … I mean, how can you forget rock candy and 5 cent coffee paid for on the honor system?
We had a not-so-good experience at The Crimson Moon for lunch. The service was extraordinarily slow and we were one of like 3 tables being served. No one was impressed with their food. And on the Gluten Free front, I received a tiny pulled pork sandwich that was about half the size of my toddler son’s humongous grilled cheese sandwich. My daughter got a pulled pork sandwich and it was also larger. So, I had a smaller sandwich and I didn’t even get overflow meat … so I paid extra for gluten free bread and got significantly less food than my kids. To make matter worse, the barbecue sauce … well, it shouldn’t have been called that. It was red colored sugar water.
Dinner, however, was a completely different experience. We decided to dine at Bourbon Street Grille, which had a plentiful gluten free menu for myself and tons of options for even the pickiest of eaters. This was quite possibly the most enjoyable meal we had out the entire week.
Other Things to Do In and Around Clarkesville, GA with Kids
Helen is a quaint little tourist town just 15 minutes from Clarkesville. Here, you’ll find plenty of gluten free dining opportunities and lots of fun for the whole family.
We dined at a few restaurants here, went tubing, and walked around the town perusing the little tourist shops.
On our last full day of our trip, we left our youngest back at the cabin with his Papaw while we went tubing with the oldest. She claims this was her favorite activity all week and was disappointed we only did the hour tubing adventure with Cool River Tubing. To be honest, after having done it, I’d wished we’d taken the long trip, too. It was a relatively easy trip, though the pushing sticks were necessary at some points since the water was pretty low.
There were times we just laid back and relaxed in our tubes, while others, we used our push sticks to race each other … you know, because we’re a racing family after all 😉 What, you didn’t know that? Okay, when you get a chance, you need to check out why I do Autocross.
If we’d needed to take our toddler tubing with us, Helen Tubing & Water Park was the only location that would have allowed him to go.
Our cabin was operated by the owners of Sunburst Stables on the next street over in Clarkesville, GA. Sunburst Adventures is an adorable little farm which includes horseback riding, zip lining, ATV/UTV mountain adventures and more.
I took the oldest child horseback riding, which was a new experience for her. Those pony rides at fairs were put to shame as we learned how to ride horses up and down the mountain trails. And, as if riding horses wasn’t enough fun, we were able to see some of the random farm animals along the way. Like, what farm has a llama? This one! My daughter enjoyed it so much but said she couldn’t wait to be old enough to get on her own horse. Honestly, I can’t wait either … riding horses brought back so many good memories as a kid and I’d love to share that with her!
On another day, we spent a couple hours with the oldest doing zip lining. Throughout their property, you took several different zip lines … some weren’t as steep and slower, while others were steep, long, and fast. And, there were a few zip lines where you were encouraged to ride upside down. I was really surprised my daughter was braver than myself and LOVED being upside down. Though she’s only about 35 lbs, she was old enough and weighed enough to be on the zip line by herself. I just couldn’t believe how brave she was!
Just outside the checkout, there’s a small pen with the most chilled cat I’d ever seen and bunnies galore. We were able to hop in the pen with the bunnies and try to pet or hold them if you were quick enough or lucky enough to grab one.
Babyland General Hospital
On our final day in the mountains, after tubing and lunch, I took the kids and my dad to Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, GA. It was about 20 minutes from where we were staying. I took a gamble on this activity because
a) my daughter has never been much into baby dolls
b) my son likes babies and seems to enjoy hugging the one doll my daughter has, and
c) it brought back memories thinking about Cabbage Patch kids.
Took the kids to @cabbagepatchkidsdelivery yesterday … cute reminder of my youth, but my kids were atrocious ? . . I learned a lot during this vacation … like don’t take another one unless someone else is watching the kids … mommy & daddy vacations only ? . . #summerbreak #summervacation #summerbreak2017 #summervacation2017 #sahmplus #girlmom #boymom #parenthood #kidssucksometimes #kidsaretheworst #cabbagepatchkids
For me, personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the blast from the past. And from an adult perspective, was amused and kind of annoyed by the highly managed birth Mother Cabbage endured (as a natural birth mom of two, the terminology used in the birth show was pretty disturbing). Still, it was kind of funny.
For the kids though, the trip was a humongous waste of time. My daughter was only interested in stuffed animals that had absolutely nothing to do with cabbage patch dolls. And my son was extremely upset that the babies were moving in the cabbage leaves. I bought my daughter a dog that at least had the Cabbage Patch Kids logo on it. My son got nothing because they didn’t have inexpensive gender-neutral or boy babies. Guys, I was appalled at the prices! To get anything with the Cabbage Patch name was not in the least cheap and as a souvenir at a place neither of the kids enjoyed, I couldn’t see spending more than $25 on anything.
BUT, that’s not to say that Babyland isn’t a suck-fest for everyone. Seriously, I wanted to buy myself a baby doll … you know, because it would have been more content than either of my two children and the memories of them as a kid … But, I didn’t.