Ellijay, located in the North Georgia mountains about 90 minutes north of Atlanta was recently voted one of the Nicest Places in America by Reader’s Digest. Ellijay deserves that listing. You can’t stand in one place downtown for more than five minutes before someone strikes up a conversation. Heck, one of the antique store owners once hugged a customer when he noticed she was looking cranky.

Walking into the incredibly cozy Martyn House in Towne for some delicious coffee, you almost expect the barista to know your name already because you’re greeted with such warmth and open smiles. Be sure to eat here, too — their homemade granola is fire! You can hang out and read from one of the hundreds of books in the seating area, which looks like a library, and you could practically stay a couple of weeks without noticing the time passing.

Suitable for a day trip or a relaxing 3-day weekend, Ellijay is also known as the Apple Capital of Georgia and The Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia. For a small town of about 1,600 residents, you might not think there’s much going on but there are some seriously interesting things to do without breaking your budget.

Apple picking can be a whole day of fun for adults and kids. Go easy on the hard apple cider, though! It tastes like fresh apple juice so it’s easy to overdo that delicious goodness. Kids love seeing where food comes from, especially when they can go out in the orchards and get it directly from the tree! Buying and eating local is great for the entire state, too.

Downtown Ellijay has several charming boutiques, antique stores, and so much incredible and unique food to eat you might want to wear your loose pants. Be sure to stop into the Cantaberry Cafe for huge sandwiches and a variety of soups and salads. The ingredients are fresh and as a bonus they have gluten-free bread available. If you want hefty portions of pub grub and a beer, check out River Street Tavern where you’re for sure to get into conversation with people sitting near you!

Most of the downtown stores are owned by individual residents and families, so again shopping local keeps small towns like Ellijay alive and thriving. If antiques are your thing the prices here are incredibly reasonable — bring a truck!

Ellijay’s name is derived from Indian word(s) meaning “many waters” and you can experience three gorgeous rivers in the same area. It’s really fun to tube or kayak the Ellijay River, Cartecay River, or the Coosawattee River. All three rivers have a beauty all their own! Cartecay River Experience, Kayak & Tube Rentals, Coosawattee Tubing Company, and Ellijay River Outfitters can get you set up with rental equipment and guides if you want them.

The area is home to several vineyards complete with tours and tastings plus live music events, weather permitting. Georgia may not be the first place you think of for wine but try it for yourself at one of these three local sources Engelheim Vineyards, Ellijay River Vineyards, or Cartecay Vineyards.

Last but not least (and technically just outside of Ellijay in Cherry Log, GA) is EXPEDITION: BIGFOOT! It’s the Sasquatch Museum you can’t not go to if you’re up that way. It takes about an hour and a half to go through its 4000 square feet of displays complete with gift shop and knowledgeable staff. It’s jam packed with Bigfoot photos, videos, and an audio listening center. There is a diorama set up depicting an attack and a map dotted with pins for each sighting around the country. Believe it or not there are a lot more than you’d expect right here in Georgia. It is the largest permanent collection of artifacts and hosts “the World’s only Bigfoot Research and Tech Vehicle on display.”

Ellijay is a fun place to escape the stress of the city and experience the slower feel of a small town. Be prepared to wave back at people and brush up on your chit chat skills before you get here.

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