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How to spend a day in Blairsville
People walk through downtown Blairsville on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

The car ride to Blairsville isn’t a very long one. Just over an hour away from the heart of downtown Gainesville, it’s the perfect daytrip for you and your family. Just hop on U.S. 129 and head north until you hit the mountains of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

The winding roads and stops along the way are beautiful, so take it slow and enjoy the view and color of the leaves as they change. Also, take it slow because there are cyclists around every turn.

The first stop you’ll want to make is at Vogel State Park. It’s about 10 miles before you get to downtown Blairsville and has everything you and the kids could ask for. Now, you could spend all day here and be perfectly happy with the camping, swimming, paddle boards and boats, hiking and putt-putt.

Visitors enjoy Vogel State Park outside of Blairsville on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

But there’s so much more to see, so don’t wrap up after a few holes of mini-golf.

With 17 miles of hiking trails, some of which lead to beautiful waterfalls, Vogel State Park is the place to be if you love the outdoors. It’s open daily 7 a.m to 10 p.m and costs $5 for parking.

If you can pull the family away after a few hours at the park, you’ll have to refuel.

That’s where The Griddle Cafe & Deli comes in. A 15-minute drive from Vogel, this joint is tucked in the corner of an unassuming strip of stores up on a hill at 19C Cobalt St. You’ll have to pass through downtown to get to it, but don’t worry, you’ll be going back there later.

Patrons enjoy lunch at The Griddle Cafe in Blairsville on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

It’s reminiscent of the ’50s diner with red-and-white striped tables, retro bar stools and a busy atmosphere.

Breakfast is served all day, and The Griddle Cafe is known for pancakes as big as your plate. 

“Everybody likes the big portions,” said Karen Brendle, owner of the restaurant.

You can get a single pancake for $3 or a stack of three for $5.25. Add two eggs, cooked any way you want, for $1.25 more.

“They’re just great pancakes,” said William Mercer, a Blairsville resident who was at the restaurant with his wife, Cindy. “A lot better than the other places in town, that’s for sure.”

“His mom is the best cook I’ve ever known,” Cindy chimed in. “So if he thinks a place has good food, it has good food, because he’s got high standards.” 

If you already had your breakfast before hitting the road, the bacon cheeseburger plate is the way to go. It’s an 8-ounce, ground chuck patty topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, served with a pickle spear and tater tots, or substitute that for soup, salad or chili.

A bacon cheeseburger is served with tater tots at The Griddle Cafe in Blairsville on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

The bacon on this burger is crisp, the cheese melted. The thickness of the burger is just right and fits the dense bun. The juicy patty is seasoned with salt and pepper, and for $8.25, the package beats most of the other boutique burgers in the price range.

You’ll probably need to walk that off, so heading to the Blairsville town square should be your next stop. You’ll find plenty of local shops to pass the time.

One of the more unusual shops is The Shabby Peacock. You could spend all day with the clothing alone, but there are plenty of knick-knacks to check out, too. Need a wind chime? How about a tiara? The Peacock has you covered.

Over at Blue Ridge Mountain Outfitters is everything you need to stock up for your next hike: jackets, shirts, packs and other gear. The staff knows what they’re talking about and can help you with any questions, even if you’re just browsing.

Cars are parked downtown in Blairsville on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

That may not be your thing, and that’s OK because lucky for you, Blairsville has the Blue Ridge Cotton Co., too. A lot of what they offer are T-shirts and sweatshirts along with other gifts. Britt & Capri Women’s Boutique is another place to stop. Think Dress Up, but in Blairsville.

Now it’s decision time: Take a 10-minute drive west to one of Blairsville’s wineries, Odom Springs Vineyards, or stay where you are on the town square and relax with coffee and dessert before heading home.

If you’re the wine-drinking type, Odom Springs is where you’ll want to head. Keep an eye out for the sign or you’ll miss the long, gravel driveway that leads to the winery and its iron arch.

The peaceful vineyard centers around a pond with a gazebo and pavilion on the bank. The porch on the back of the winery has tables and chairs for you to enjoy a taste of any of their wines for $1.

Odom Springs grows its grapes on-site and makes the wine on-site, too. Their most popular wine is Homemade Sin. It’s a blended red wine of chambourcin and vidal. It’s sweetened and has hints of cherry and strawberries. You can take home a bottle for $19.95.

“We started off in 2007 and planted 125 vines just to see if we could grow grapes,” said Steve Odom, co-owner of Odom Springs. “A couple years later we decided we could, and we expanded from there. Now we have about 8.5 acres, which is about 6,000 to 7,000 vines.”

That may be a great spot to take your significant other or a group of friends, but if you’re with your family and you have small children, there are plenty of other options, too. And if you just finished shopping at the town square, you won’t even have to pack them up in the car.

If the fall air is crisp and cool, Cabin Coffee Co. is there to warm you up. It’s one of the first things you see when you pull onto the town square, and when you walk in, it’s thrumming with locals.

“I love it just because it’s a cool atmosphere,” said Madison Rich, a Brenau University student who grew up in Blairsville. “You can do homework or you can chill. It’s a good place to meet up with people, and it has a hometown feel. I really like their cold-brew coffee with hazelnut flavoring.”

Their beans are roasted on site with a small, 2-pound roaster, ensuring the freshest bean-to-cup product you’ll find anywhere nearby. They have all of your typical caffeine conveyors like lattes and cappuccinos, but they also have the Bellringer for those who need a wake-up call. It’s a cup of regular coffee with two shots of espresso.

And if hot chocolate is more your thing, try out the Texas Turtle, made with dark Ghirardelli chocolate, caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream.

If you can handle it, and want to treat the family before making that hour drive back home, The Cellar at Michaelee’s Italian Life Caffe is the place to go.

It’s dimly lit, creating the perfect atmosphere to wrap up your day. On top of the main dishes served at the restaurant, Michaelee’s has become known for its rich desserts. 

In the dessert case, you’ll see the limoncello mascarpone cake, salted caramel cheesecake, chocolate kahlua toffee mousse cake and others.

“We’ve always been known for our desserts,” said Mike Collins, co-owner of Michaelee’s. 

On the other side of the room, they have fresh fudge and truffles, too. And you can’t miss the gelato they have delivered from Milan, Italy, coming in flavors like dark chocolate, peanut butter cup, pistachio and Italian cherry, to name a few.

Grab a piece of cake or cup of gelato to go and enjoy it on the winding roads as the sun sets on the mountains and you head back to Gainesville and real life.

The view from Neels Gap outside of Blairsville on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele
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