Many know Villa Rica only by its exit on I-20 west. Only a short 35-minute drive from Atlanta, Villa Rica makes the perfect Georgia Mountain getaway. This small Georgia town packs a lot of punch with beautiful outdoor spaces, fun and delicious food, and some hidden surprises.
From gold mining to textiles to history, there is something to discover around every corner in Villa Rica. It’s filled with an exciting mix of old meets new and its relaxed vibe creates the perfect Georgia getaway.
Pine Mountain Gold Museum in Villa Rica
Villa Rica is ground zero for the East Coast gold rush. Dahlonega claims to be where the gold rush began in 1828. However, according to Lucian Lamar Knight, Georgia’s first state historian, Georgia’s gold rush began in Villa Rica in 1826. The Pine Mountain Gold Museum is dedicated to Georgia’s gold rush.
The museum is overflowing with everything gold related – mining tools and equipment, maps, and more. Start in the theatre for a short 20-minute documentary film to lay the gold mining foundation in Georgia. Then make your way through a gold mining tunnel.
The tunnel exhibit allows you to feel what miners felt – imagine the small, almost suffocating space to work in and the pitch-black darkness pierced only by the light of your mining helmet.
Making your way through the tunnel, you’ll find yourself in the main museum, offering exhibits to display the tools needed for gold mining. There are also history exhibits of gold mining, gold and gemstones found during mining, and a mining store that shows the tools used to weigh the gold, and how miners were paid.
Pan For Gold
Be sure and make time to discover your own treasure at the Gold Museum by panning for gold. Panning for gold is great for the whole family. Gently scooping up sand and swishing it gently around and around to reveal gold will keep your little ones occupied.
The delightful laughter, huge smiles, and shouts of joy when they find their hard work has paid off are priceless.
Finish out your visit with a ride on the Pine Mountain Scenic Railroad will take you through an abandoned mining station, a working farm with live animals, and more.
Villa Rica’s Delicious Food Finds
Food is no short supply in Villa Rica! No matter if you are young or old, Evans BBQ is a must stop! The tag line for Evans BBQ is “Upscale BBQ with a Twist,” and that is indeed what you’ll experience. Decked out in all its bohemian splendor it’s a color explosion no matter where you look.
Opened five years ago this family-owned restaurant treats everyone like they are part of the family and part of the story of Evans BBQ, which indeed they are. Owned by Michael White and his wife, the outrageously authentic and down to earth Alicia, this culinary duo are crafting some delicious culinary creations. With over 40 years of culinary experience between them, this dynamic duo is passionate about food.
Their culinary creations are out-of-the-box, unique, and downright delicious. I may have been hiding under a rock, but honestly, I have never had a BBQ salad …. until I tried one at Evans BBQ. This salad comes with or without chopped pork and is simply chopped iceberg lettuce, shredded cheese, onion, garlic cajun croutons, and boiled egg. It’s the perfectly balanced smoked chopped pork that elevates this dish from a simple salad to “mmmm I can’t stop eating it, it is so good” status.
And the BBQ eggrolls? Incredible, unique, and indescribably delicious!
A Noteworthy Eatery
Walking up to Evans from the parking lot, you are assaulted by the sudden burst of colorful art that literally spills from every surface – tabletops, the sides of the restaurant, its outhouses, even the trees are artsy.
I suspect that Evans BBQ was colorful before COVID-19, but during the height of the pandemic, Alicia found her artistic talents coming out, and she just let her paintbrush guide her. The result is fun, funky, bohemian with a side of 1970s psychedelic thrown in for fun. As Alicia will tell you, “painting was my therapy.”
Uncorked on Main and The Other Side Steakhouse
Just as the Whites are passionate about BBQ, the Muller family is passionate about wine – not just any wine, but Georgia wine. The family owns Uncorked on Main and The Other Side Steakhouse. The warm, welcoming atmosphere at Uncorked on Main is a great place to unwind and sip a glass or two of wine. When you’re ready, head to The Otherside Steakhouse.
The menu offers a selection of steak, chicken, and fish, all prepared with a southern twist. You’ll find classic foods combined with new flavors for a unique and unforgettable meal.
The pimento fritters were to die for delicious, and the fried green tomatoes were perfection! I appreciate that the staff is attentive, knowledgeable, and ready to make suggestions. Our evening was relaxed and fun as we sipped wine and lingered over our food.
Points of Interest In and Around Villa Rica
- With a cute downtown, there are lots of shopping options in Villa Rica – especially antiques! One shop that I fell in love with was Home Furnishings Market & Boutique. I laughingly turned to my husband and said, “we’ll have to make another trip just to come back here. Way too much to see and too little time.” There are several women’s boutiques as well, so be sure to make time to stroll downtown.
- Many of the local restaurants, including Uncorked on Main and The Otherside Steakhouse, are downtown as well, and many have incorporated parklets – little walled areas with green plants and space for outdoor dining. The parklets add a nice touch of green to Main Street.
- Villa Rica is where Thomas Dorsey was born, and even though his home is gone, Mount Prospect Church is where Dorsey fell in love with music and learned to play. The church stands like a sentinel on a tall bluff overlooking Villa Rica.
- John Wick built Wicks Tavern in 1830 as a local watering hole for the miners looking for gold in Villa Rica. Though the building has fallen into disrepair, there are future plans for the historic building
A Gold Mine In Itself
No matter what season you visit, there is always something happening in Villa Rica. Summer brings music and festivals, Fall brings the Gold Rush Festival, Winter brings Christmas on Main Street, and Spring brings Crape Myrtles in bloom and trails ready to explore as you walk where the gold miners of yesterday would trudge up to the mines looking for gold.
This trip was hosted by Visit Villa Rica. All opinions remain my own.
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