Known as the "Birthplace of NASCAR," Dawsonville presents this festival every October to celebrate "trippers," who loaded up their vehicles and raced down Highway 9--nicknamed the Old Whiskey Trail--to sell moonshine in Atlanta during Prohibition. The festival is also a fundraiser for a local non-profit, KARE for kids, providing support to underprivileged children in Dawsonville and the North Georgia area.
Visitors can take in the classic auto parade and shows, listen to stories from actual trippers, meet with NASCAR drivers or take a "Moonshine Run," a day trip along the Old Whiskey Trail that culminates in a visit to a farm with a working still. The festival car show, located at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, is one of the largest on the east coast. It features classic cars of all kinds such as hot rods, race cars, vintage trucks, muscle cars, Model T's, authentic moonshine-hauling cars and more.
In addition to the large variety of auto-related activities, the festival also offers 300 vendors selling crafts and food, three stages with live musical entertainment around the square in downtown Dawsonville, a swap meet, children's activities and a local bike tour as well as screenings of movies like Robert Mitchum's "Thunder Road." At the opening ceremonies of the festival each year, people of importance are inducted into the National Moonshiners Hall of Fame, a tradition since 2012.
Participants can take part in the Moonshine Run. This isn't a foot race but a parade of 70 cars that leaves from Bearden's Funeral Home in Dawsonville and drives through the streets of the city, putting some of the finest vintage cars on display.
Amicalola Falls State Park
For those that want to pair a trip to the Mountain Moonshine Festival with some time outdoors, Amicalola Falls State Park is just 14 miles northwest of Dawsonville. The state park is in the Chattahoochee National Forest, which boasts the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. At the park, an 8-mile trail takes hikers to Springer Mountain, the official start of the Appalachian Trail that leads backpackers on a 2,000-mile journey to Maine. In total, the park encompasses 829 mountainous acres and the campground is a great place to stay for the weekend as it provides quick and easy access into Dawsonville for all of the Mountain Moonshine festivities. (Pictured below: Appalachian Trail Approach at Amicalola Falls State Park, Dawsonville, Georgia)
Lake Sidney Lanier (pictured at top)
Another great outdoorsy option near Dawsonville is Lake Sidney Lanier. This massive lake has 692 miles of shoreline and has an astounding 76 recreational areas developed around it. The lake resort area, 18 miles southeast of Dawsonville, offers opportunities for hiking, fishing and water sports, golfing, horseback riding, lakeside dining and wildlife observation. Campsites and vacation rentals are available.