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Get Your Stroll on in These Southern Towns

Dahlonega, Georgia

Dahlonega, Georgia, is a small town of contrasts with both an old-fashioned architectural look and a hip, artistic side that some compare to that of Asheville, North Carolina.

“We are about 40 percent Asheville and about 60 percent Mayberry,” said David Zunker, tourism director for the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber and Visitors Bureau. “We’re genuine and authentic. We’re very much a small town with an energy to it.”

Visitors can peruse numerous art galleries, several with tasting rooms, since the area has the highest concentration of wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms in the state. Known as the Heart of Georgia Wine Country, the area’s mountain elevation creates excellent growing conditions for varieties of European and American wine grapes.

Groups can also sample locally grown mead, with flavors such as blackberry, blueberry and honey. Dahlonega’s culinary options attract guests as well, with 15 local restaurants and two homemade-chocolate shops.

Many of these tasty experiences take place on Dahlonega’s historic public square, which features public concerts, shaded brick sidewalks and shops inside 19th-century buildings. The National Main Street Center Inc. honored Dahlonega with the 2016 Great American Main Street Award to commemorate its lively city center.

The town’s history as the site of the first gold rush in America also captivates visitors.

The sentence “There’s gold in them thar hills” “is sometimes attributed to California,” said Zunker. “That was actually spoken in Dahlonega to try and convince the miners to stay in town. There is still gold here.”

Groups can learn about the town’s gold rush at the Gold Museum, then try to pan for gold themselves at Crisson Gold Mine.

Must-see view: Atop Crown Mountain, visitors can behold panoramas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the gold steeple of Price Memorial Hall and Dahlonega’s 19th-century downtown.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs is a true original. This Victorian village on the slopes of the Ozark hills is a locally minded town with more than 100 independent shops and galleries. The downtown, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, welcomes groups to roam, shop and chat with local merchants.

Restaurants also satisfy a range of tastes, from down-home Southern cuisine to Czech-German dishes and spicy East Indian fare. After a long day of touring and eating, Eureka Springs offers several relaxing options, such as pampering spas or a performance of optical illusions at the Intrigue Theater.

To admire the architecture and discover more about this distinctive town, groups can take a tram, a carriage or a step-on guide tour. Groups also delight in exploring the surrounding Ozark Mountains on a steam train, on a two-hour zip-line tour or by hiking through a 500-acre wildlife refuge.

Even the lodging opportunities in Eureka Springs stand out. There are locally owned hotels, cabins, and bed-and-breakfast establishments. The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa remains one of the most popular lodging options. A member of the Historic Hotels of America, this Victorian hotel offers 15 wooded acres, the New Moon Spa and Salon, and the Crystal Dining Room.

Must-see view: The Crescent Hotel sits perched above the city of Eureka Springs, and guests on the hotel’s outdoor deck can savor a drink while gazing at the surrounding Ozark Mountains.