If you’re visiting or thinking of buying a home in the North Georgia Mountains, you’ll obviously be looking for peace and quiet. But you’ll also want to be near shopping, restaurants and activities when you need a break from rustic living. Here are a few suggestions.

Helen, Ga. (Special)

Helen

The Bavarian-styled town is often overcrowded with tourist traps, but Helen also has its charms. Oktoberfest offers kitschy fun, while the annual Balloon Race in June is a must-see. Unicoi State Park is just north of town, offering swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and playgrounds.

Cleveland

The town bills itself as the “gateway to the mountains” and has plenty to offer in the way of shopping and dining. The historic courthouse square area has eclectic shops, restaurants and even a soda fountain. The old courthouse has been turned into an interesting museum, but Cleveland was really put on the map as the home of the Cabbage Patch Kids. Be sure to visit Babyland General Hospital to see how the kids are born and maybe adopt a new bundle of joy.

Dahlonega

The town was made famous as the site of the first major gold rush in the U.S., but is now known for its vineyards and wineries. After you’ve had a tipple, head to the town square to visit the shops, restaurants and art galleries. The annual Gold Rush Festival in October attracts thousands to the city.

Hiawassee

Located along the Appalachian Trail, Hiawassee is home to Lake Chatuge, a TVA reservoir popular for swimming, boating, jet skiing, paddling, sport fishing, and other water sports. The Georgia Mountain Fair is held at the fairgrounds each summer and the Fred Hamilton Rhododendron Garden is in bloom April to late May with more than 3,000 azaleas and rhododendrons.

Rabun Gap

The town is home to The Hambidge Center, a nationally known retreat for writers and artists, and Southern victuals mecca The Dillard House is nearby. Wolf Valley has become a favorite spot for photographers to capture images of the waterfalls. The Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School offers events and theater productions year round.

Clayton

This mountain town has a multitude of antique and craft shops, restaurants and two vineyards to explore. For the adventurous, go white-water rafting on the Chattooga River or wander through the Chattahoochee National Forest, which offers camping and trails for horse enthusiasts, waterfalls and overlooks.

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