7 Reasons to Drive to Ellijay, Georgia This Fall

It's only an hour and a half away.

One hour and 30 minutes—that’s all the time you need to hop in your car and drive from Atlanta to Ellijay, Georgia. The mountain town is the historic county seat of Gilmore County, which prides itself in being the “Apple Capital of Georgia.” There’s far more to Ellijay than apples, however. A wealth of wineries and vineyards, gorgeous open-air areas, and unforgettable attractions all combine to make Ellijay more than worthy of a scenic road trip. Whether you are looking for a relaxing alternative to Atlanta’s almost weekly large-scale events or hoping to get one last weekend of peace before the holiday season picks up in the coming months, the North Georgia city is the perfect in-state travel destination for you, and just in case you need more convincing, here are seven reasons why you should make that drive to Ellijay, Georgia, this fall.

River Street Tavern
River Street Tavern

Downtown Ellijay is packed with cool places to eat

Figuring out whether there will be any good places to eat is one of the most important things you can do before heading out on a road trip, and luckily, Ellijay’s downtown area is packed with a wide array of cool food options. Like Georgia’s beloved coastal city Savannah, Ellijay boasts its own River Street, and it’s home to eateries such as Emily's Bar & Restaurant, River Street Tavern, Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza, MooBears Ice Cream & Hotdog's, Kasei Sushi and Sake, and The Roof Ellijay. Apart from River Street, there are still several other must-visit cafes and restaurants in the area—including Ellijay Coffeehouse, The Shack of Ellijay, Cajun Depot Grill, and more—so you can relax knowing that you’ll be able to fill up with good food in Downtown Ellijay.

Lodging options range from gorgeous cabins to luxurious glamping sites

Since Ellijay is a mountain town, you can always count on there being some cabin lodging available during your trip, and as the weather continues to get chillier day by day, you can’t deny how great a cozy cabin retreat sounds right about now. You can book a great cabin through multiple companies—such as Blue Sky Cabin Rentals, Sliding Rock Cabins, Bear Ridge Lodge, Mulberry Gap, and Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals—and if you’d rather go the hotel route, you can also book a room at the Ellijay River House Bed and Breakfast. For the really adventurous, there are additional glamping options in the area as well, like Elatseyi Mountain Retreat, a charming hidden gem that gives guests the opportunity to stay in Geodesic Domes, renovated, and tree lofts. And of course, if somehow none of these creative stays have you ready to book ASAP, you can always scroll through Airbnb for cost-efficient lodging options.

R and A Orchards
R and A Orchards

Fun fall activities await you at local orchards

As previously mentioned, Ellijay is at the epicenter of Gilmore County (aka The “Apple Capital of Georgia”), and as a result, there are plenty of apple orchards for you to pull up to while visiting Ellijay, from R & A Orchards to B.J. Reece Orchards. At most of the orchards, you can take tours and pick your own apples to take back home to the city with you. Some, like Red Apple Barn, have taken things even further with fall-themed activities, such as tractor rides and U-Pick pumpkin and flower patches. Hillcrest Orchards also brings some flair to Ellijay’s apple scene with its annual Apple Pickin' Jubilee—a Saturday and Sunday-only event that gives attendees the opportunity to milk a cow, watch swimming pig races, check out live entertainment, and, most importantly, pick their own apples.

Ellijay’s parks, trails, and nature areas are perfect for outdoor recreation

If a trip isn’t complete for you until you’ve gone on a hike or marveled at the area’s natural beauty, then you’ll have a bunch of fun in Ellijay. There are state wildlife reserves like Rich Mountain Wildlife Management Area, which are great for animal watching, biking, river fishing, hiking, and several other outdoor activities. Carter’s Lake also offers a natural, 62-mile shoreline, and the gorgeous nature area is bound to yield a fun time, whether you decide to go fishing for Largemouth Bass and Spotted Bass or walking and exploring the Tumbling Waters Nature Trail. And for those who like golfing, you can head over to Whitepath Golf Club, which boasts a challenging 18-hole course inspired by Ellijay historical figure Chief Whitepath.

Expedition: Bigfoot
Expedition: Bigfoot

You can dive into Bigfoot lore and other cultural attractions

Each city or town has its fair share of cultural attractions, and it’s definitely safe to say that Ellijay takes its museums to a completely different level. In addition to traditional arts and historical highlights like Gilmer Arts and Tabor House & Civil War Museum, one of the most popular attractions in the area is Expedition:BIGFOOT!, a real-life sasquatch museum. If you’ve always been interested in the lore surrounding the mysterious woodland creature, Expedition’s life-size interactive exhibits, massive footprint casts, and Sasquatch theater will make for a truly entertaining and left-field experience. Plus, if you’re fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you see it) to have a Bigfoot encounter while visiting Ellijay, you can report it directly to the museum’s research and reporting center.

Buckley Vineyards
Buckley Vineyards

There are plenty of wineries and vineyards to explore

If you’ve ever heard of Ellijay, the first thing that you likely associate the city with is wine. The Ellijay area has a strong reputation for housing some of the most impressive wineries and vineyards in North Georgia, including Buckley Vineyards, Grapes and Ladders Vineyards and Winery, Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard and Winery, Engelheim Vineyards, Cartecay Vineyards, Ott Farms and Vineyard, and Fainting Goat. Long story short—you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a place to sample some amazing wine that’s been grown and produced entirely in North Georgia.

You’ll have the perfect opportunity to take a nostalgic trip through North Georgia

What’s really cool about visiting Ellijay is that you’ll be in the northern, mountain region of Georgia, so while you’re there, you might as well take a tour of the area. One of the best ways to do just that is by taking a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway—a four-hour, 26-mile roundtrip through the North Georgia countryside that includes a two-hour layover in Georgia-Tennessee border towns McCaysville and Copperhill. The train ride departs from the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge, which is only a 20 minute (or so) drive from Ellijay. The nostalgic side excursion is sure to be an unforgettable experience for you and your family, so do yourself a favor by driving to the North Georgia mountain town this fall. You’ll be able to enjoy great food, beautiful outdoor areas, a multitude of vineyards, and Instagram-worthy attractions in nearby towns.

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Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based entertainment critic and lifestyle writer for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram at @roshrisky.