Hordes of fortune seekers stormed the town of Dahlonega (pronounced dah-LON-eh-gah) in the 1820s after the discovery of gold in the nearby hills. The town's name comes from the Cherokee word for "precious yellow metal." But the boom didn't last long; by 1849 miners were starting to seek riches elsewhere. In fact, the famous call "There's gold in them thar hills!" originated as an enticement to miners in the Georgia mountains to keep their minds away from the lure of the Western gold rush. It worked for a while, but government price-fixing eventually made gold mining unprofitable, and by the early 1920s Dahlonega's mining operations had halted completely.
Many former mining settlements became ghost towns, but not Dahlonega. Today it thrives with an irresistible town square filled with country stores, art galleries, gem shops, old small-town businesses, and several sophisticated restaurants. Gold Rush Days, a festival held the third weekend in October and celebrating the first gold rush in 1828, attracts about 200,000 weekend visitors. The town also shines during December with holiday lights and events.