What Calhoun, Ga., lacks in size it more than makes up for in amenities.
Located 45 minutes from Chattanooga and an hour from Atlanta, it's the perfect place to experience big-city things to do in a small setting. Calhoun is home to one of the state's most popular outlet malls, has an ever-growing restaurant scene and is rich with historical sites such as New Echota.
The social calendar is full of events, including the usual holiday gatherings and one of the state's largest county fairs, and the city is home to a very popular nationally sanctioned barbecue contest and music fair.
Sources: Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Calhoun Premium Outlets; bbqboogieblues.com; Northwest Georgia Regional Fair; City of Calhoun; Gordon County Chamber; Dub's High on the Hog BBQ; Thatcher's Barbeque and Grill
The New Echota Historic Site is one of the most significant Cherokee Nation sites in the country. It was home to the first Indian-language newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, as well as the capital of the Cherokee Nation and a beginning point of the infamous Trail of Tears. Today you can take a self-guided tour through 12 original and reconstructed buildings, including a council house, print shop, the home of missionary Samuel Worcester and more.
Also among the activities available are hikes along the Pond Overlook Tons of Fun Trail, the New Town Creek Nature Trail and special guided tours on the third Saturday of each month through Oct. 21. Then relax or throw a line at the Coosawattee River Fishing and Boat Ramp.
Tickets cost $5.50 to $7, and the park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. (1211 Chatsworth Highway; 706-624-1321; facebook.com/newechota)
* Population: 15,860
* Biggest employers: Shaw Industries, Mohawk Industries, Mannington Mills and Gordon Hospital
* Founded: 1852
* History: Calhoun was part of the Cherokee Nation until 1835, when Georgia claimed the land. The city was founded as Dawsonville and later renamed Calhoun.
* Most famous residents: Musician Roland Hayes; Jimmy Carter adviser Bert Lance; Cherokee Nation leaders Elias Boudinot, John Ridge and Stand Watie; and former Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lt. Gen. Ray B. Sitton.
The Cherokee Capital Fairgrounds will once again host Georgia’s second-largest fair Sept. 8-16, the Northwest Georgia Regional Fair. Organizers call it an “old-fashioned” fair, complete with agricultural exhibits and contests. Of course, there are also plenty of carnival rides and games, food, drink and nightly entertainment.
The fun begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, while gates open at 5 Monday-Friday. Cost to enter is $5 and there is free parking on-site. (Hwy. 53/Rome Road; northwestgeorgiaregionalfair.com)
The 2018 BBQ Boogie & Blues event April 27-28 will be the seventh time some of the country’s top ‘Q masters get together to decide who’s best in a nationally sanctioned barbecue competition sponsored by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, but the real winners are the patrons.
In addition to the food (beer and wine available as well), the event includes live entertainment, an antique car cruise-in, a fashion show, arts and crafts, various competitions, a kids’ zone and a benefit bike race. There is no cost to attend, though tasting the competitors’ hard work costs $10. (706-625-3200; bbqboogieblues.com)
In addition to hosting an annual barbecue competition, Calhoun is home to a pair of elite BBQ restaurants.
* A Calhoun “must” is a visit to Dub’s High on the Hog. Known for its fall-off-the-bone ribs, this local favorite dining spot also features most traditional BBQ dishes — pulled pork, beef, chicken, all in a variety of sauces and spices — as well as non-BBQ items such as burgers, salads and shrimp, and an extensive kids’ menu. The full-service restaurant also serves wine and beer. (349 S. Wall St.; 706-602-5150; bit.ly/2tlul27)
* Thatcher’s Barbeque and Grill is rated No. 1 on TripAdvisor’s list of Calhoun restaurants, something owners John and Melanie Thatcher are quite proud of. In business since 2010, Thatcher’s is known for its large portions (you get three sides with an entree), fast service, succulent ribs and sweet potato tots. Open Tuesday-Saturday. (1214 Highway 41 N; 706-625-6465; thatchersbbq.com/Site/Calhoun_Home.html)
One of the most popular stops in Calhoun is Calhoun Premium Outlets, located just off Interstate 75 with over 50 stores on nearly 28 acres. Featuring discounts from 25-65 percent off, the outlet includes stores such as Ann Taylor, Coach, Gap, Nike Factory, Old Navy and Tommy Hilfiger as well as salon services and food.
Various coupons can be found at premiumoutlets.com. The outlet also offers a VIP Shopper’s Club membership granting members access to special sales, coupons and news about events. There is no cost to join.
Hours for the outlet are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. (455 Belwood Road; 706-602-1305)