“If you’re looking for nightlife, you won’t find it in Blairsville. We’re all about daylife and outdoors,” explained Shawn Kight, owner of The Sawmill Place, when I stopped in for breakfast on a recent visit to this North Georgia town. Shawn and his wife, Amy, bought the quaint country-style restaurant 15 years ago, having relocated to Blairsville to be closer to family and raise their kids.
Indeed it seems like everyone you talk to in this picturesque place moved there — or stayed there — because of its slower pace and inspiring surroundings. “Blairsville is very authentic and unassuming,” says Sarah Olver, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce and a born-and-raised Blairsville resident. “Everyone is friendly — it’s such a special place.”
Blairsville, GA, with a population of 620, is part of Union County, which has a significantly higher population of around 24,000. Once known for its poultry industry, Blairsville’s economy is now more heavily rooted in industrial-type work — metal fabrication, machine work, and the like. Blairsville is also a hub for hospitality, though, as it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and quite a few people from around the South have second homes in the area as well.
Shawn at The Sawmill Place was one of a handful of area business owners I chatted with on my visit to Blairsville, and the common thread in each of these conversations was that everyone is fulfilling a dream and living their best life — be it opening a boutique on the town square, purchasing 10 acres and a gaggle of goats, or running a farm-to-table restaurant at the actual farm on which the food is grown.
Yes, inspiration is found in all forms in Blairsville, which absolutely makes it, as Sarah said, a special place. When you’re ready to dig in to all this area has to offer, then pack your bags and head to North Georgia — here’s how to spend a weekend in Blairsville.
48 Hours in Blairsville, GA
When you arrive in Blairsville, check in to your cabin at Vogel State Park. (SB TIP: Make reservations well in advance as it’s a popular place to stay.) Located on 233 lush, wooded acres, the park is located at the base of Blood Mountain and offers everything from primitive campsites to pristine cabins to RV sites. We stayed in a comfortable two-bed, one-bath cabin complete with a full kitchen, living area, wood-burning stove, an outdoor fire pit/grill and a back deck, perfect for rocking away the last hours of daylight.
The property’s crown jewel is Lake Trahlyta, which offers 22 acres of water to explore by paddleboat, kayak or stand-up paddleboard or via the amply sized beachfront during the warmer weather months. When the temperatures drop, take in the waterfront views on foot via an easy one-mile hike around the lake — and be sure to check out Trahlyta Falls, which is a quick jaunt off the hiking path. There are also a handful of additional hikes on the property, which vary in challenge and length — from .8 miles to 12.9 miles.
Additional on-site amenities at Vogel State Park include playgrounds, mini-golf, cornhole, picnic shelters, pavilions and magnificent views any time of day.
Once you’ve unpacked and gotten the lay of the land, head back into Blairsville for a casual dinner at Sicily’s Pizza, Pasta and Subs. This family-owned operation serves up fresh Italian fare, and based on the volume of both dine-in and take-out that we witnessed, it’s definitely a local favorite. Ask for a table on the newly covered, dog-friendly patio, where you can enjoy some fresh air as you munch on warm garlic rolls and peruse the menu. Options run the gamut, from hand-tossed and specialty pizzas and pastas to calzones, strombolis and subs. I enjoyed the white pizza, which was both delicious and big enough to take half home. Gluten-free options are available., and both the red sauce and the pizza dough are made fresh from scratch. While Sicily’s doesn’t serve alcohol, you can bring your own beer and wine to enjoy with your meal. With bellies full, head back to the cabin for a good night’s rest — adventure awaits tomorrow!
Spend the first half of your day exploring downtown Blairsville, which has a picture-perfect town square and a nice selection of locally owned businesses surrounding it. Start by grabbing breakfast at Cabin Coffee Company. While this location is technically a franchise, the owners have furnished and decorated it with locally made items to give it a Blairsville vibe. The friendly staff knows what to whip up for their regulars, and for those who are first-timers, they’re happy to help you navigate the menu. Choose from breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, bagels and cream cheese, fresh juices and a bevy of coffee drinks. While you wait on your order, check out the in-house roasting room, which when operating, infuses the town air with the rich smell of gourmet coffee. Grab a table on the patio and enjoy your breakfast before embarking on your retail adventures.
RELATED: 3 Easy Day Trips From Nashville
After breakfast, spend time exploring Blairsville’s vibrant retail scene. From gift boutiques to home goods stores to mountain outfitters, each shop brings something unique to the table. While you can see a more complete list of area retailers here, some of the must-visits we visited that offer a real flavor of the area include:
- Logan Turnpike Mill for local or regional food items like grits, flours, mixes, jams and jellies
- From Me 2 U for gifts, jewelry, home goods and clothing
- Sunflowers on the Square for all-things-cozy, like linens, jammies, robes and slippers
- Keen Creations, which is a trove of both vintage finds and locally made items (SB TIP: Check out the wall of vintage Life magazine pages that a previous building owner used to wallpaper his law office. It’s a fascinating trip back in time!)
- Mountain Life Mercantile, which offers everything from Life is Good clothing to locally made cutting boards and food items
When you’ve worked up an appetite from shopping, grab lunch at PEAK at 7M Family Farms, which is just a short drive from town. Dick Mills, who owns 7M Family Farms, is a fourth-generation farmer who has mastered the art of blending age-old farming customs and modern-day farming techniques. The result is his farm, which operates year-round and produces non-GMO, pesticide-free fruits and veggies. You can purchase the produce in the on-site farm store, which is open year-round, or you can sample the fare in a freshly crafted meal at PEAK restaurant, where Chef Adam Daniel whips up a fresh menu every single day, which he shares on the restaurant’s Facebook page. (A menu that changes daily? Yes. The food is that fresh!) He takes what’s freshly harvested from the farm and creates exquisite dishes that are both filling and wholesome. One staple is the beet sliders with blue cheese dressing, which I tried and would absolutely recommend. In keeping with the family-run business vibe, Chef Adam’s mom, Sharon, runs the register and calls your name when your order’s up. She also checks to ensure everything is tasty and you have everything you need — so accommodating and mom-like!
For the afternoon, put on your play clothes and get ready for some goat yoga at Rhatigan Farms. Hollie Rhatigan and her husband moved to North Georgia from South Florida five years ago to raise their family. Having spent 15 years as a vet tech, Hollie now spends her days tending to the animals on her 10-acre farm as well as running her newly opened farm store. Goat yoga is offered in a small fenced space on the front of the property, where you can enjoy a 60-minute yoga class followed by lots of snuggles and photos with the goats. Swing by the store after class, where you’ll find a healthy selection of soaps, lotions, bath bombs and scrubs, all made by Hollie and her mother, who also moved up from Florida. Hollie also sells jewelry, ceramics and clothing made by other local artisans, again underscoring this feeling of friendly cohesion among Blairsville business owners. (SB TIP: Goat yoga is currently only offered on Sundays. Reservations are required and can be made HERE.)
After yoga, return to the cabin to shower and relax before heading back into town for dinner at Michaelee’s Italian Life Caffe. Lisa Collins owns and operates the cafe along with her children — her daughter as hostess, and her son as chef. The menu offers an array of Italian dishes with a few creative twists — like chocolate shrimp (which is AMAZING!). Start with something on the antipasti menu or a salad before moving on to the main event of your choosing. For me, shrimp scampi was the show-stopper, though there were plenty of other tempting selections like the spinach and portobello ravioli, chicken piccata, and lobster ravioli, to name a few. (SB TIP: You MUST leave room for dessert — you won’t be sorry!)
Heads up that Michaelee’s doesn’t serve wine, but you’re welcome to bring your own, and there’s no corkage fee. The Wine Shoppe next door offers a nice selection of bottles, so make time to swing by there before dinner.
Start your final day in Blairsville with a beautiful early-morning hike and marvel at the many ways in which the light changes with the sunrise. Afterward, pack up, check out of your cabin, and then head into town one last time to meet Shawn Kight for yourself at The Sawmill Place. Half restaurant, half market, The Sawmill Place has an approachable down-home feel with an elevated sensibility. While the menu reads country-style, the ingredients are all sourced locally for a farm-fresh meal. Open for breakfast and lunch, both menus feature a wide selection of tasty options. Breakfast is fast and filling — choose from standards like eggs, potatoes, sausage or bacon, or something sweeter like the pancakes, oatmeal or French toast. And don’t skip the biscuit, which is warm and pillowy soft. (SB TIP: If you happen to be visiting on a birthday, the crew of servers deliver quite a birthday greeting!)
Swing through the market on the other side of the building before you leave, where you’ll find yet another selection of local and regional items — from olive oil to jewelry to goat’s milk products and even pimento cheese. It’s a trove of small-batch goodness!
For one last animal encounter, head to Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm, where you can enjoy a guided tour and an immersive experience in all-things-alpaca along with a meet and greet with a group of these funny creatures. Holly Williams, who has owned and operated Lasso the Moon for 20 years, not only leads the tours, but she’s made a career of showing alpacas and creating unbelievable art using their fur. The property is the perfect synergy between human, animal and nature — from the fresh flower garden, to chickens meandering in and out of the surrounded woods, to Holly’s studio and store, located in the second story of the barn, where cats laze about in the sun that pours in through the windows.
The more time you spend with Holly, the more you’ll pick up some fun alpaca facts like: Alpaca don’t get fleas and ticks because their fur is too thick for the pests to permeate. And don’t pet an alpaca’s head or its bottom lest you be punished with a headbutt or hind kick. Alpacas only have a bottom row of teeth, and when one spits, which happened when we were there, its bottom lip goes limp, which results in the appearance of the alpaca chewing tobacco. (As a witness to this odd phenomenon, I can attest that it’s pretty darn funny!)
Yes, Holly will fill your brain with intriguing alpaca facts before inviting you into her studio and gift shop, where she shares more facts about alpaca fur and the ways in which she uses it to create her art. While you’re in the space, peruse the selection of clothing, jewelry and other alpaca-inspired and -infused creations she has made. And as her guests shop, Holly may very well sit down and start spinning alpaca fur into yarn. Fascinating, really!
Before you leave Blairsville to head back home, a stop at Sunrise Grocery is a must. Pick up a souvenir, some handmade soap, fresh produce or a t-shirt, and pop into the photo gallery featuring the work of Sunrise owner, Jason Clemmons. And be sure to grab a bag of the world-famous boiled peanuts for which the store is known. You can munch on the delicacy on your drive home, all the while reflecting on your wonderful time Blairsville and planning your next visit.
When you’re ready to start planning your trip to Blairsville, GA, check out visitblairsvillega.com.
All photography by Ashley Haugen unless otherwise noted.
Find more amazing Southern escapes in our Travel section. From big cities to small towns and every other amazing location in between, we can help you plan your next getaway.