The city of Dalton is the county seat of Whitfield County in the far north of Georgia, on the state’s border with Tennessee.
Like many cities in the southeast of the United States, Dalton developed around a rail depot in the first half of the eighteenth century.
This followed the forced removal of the Cherokee and Creek native Americans who had occupied the land.
Dalton was then forced to endure two battles during the American Civil War. As a result, it is recognised as having more civil war artefacts than anywhere else in the country, to add to its cultural and natural attractions.
Here are the 15 best things to do in and around Dalton, Georgia.
1. Western and Atlantic Railroad depot
Constructed in 1852, this railway station dates back to Dalton’s earliest years. The oldest serving commercial structure in the city, it was built using elements of the Greek Revival style of architecture common in the period.
The depot was one of the sites involved in the Unionist raid known as the Great Locomotive Chase that took place during the American Civil War.
The nearby freight depot built for the Southern Railway company contains the city’s visitor centre, a museum which delves into the world of the region’s railways and civil war history.
Beside the depot rail fans will also find a Pullman car dating from 1949.
2. Creative Arts Guild
Thought to be the oldest arts organisation in the state of Georgia, the Creative Arts Guild hosts regular art exhibitions at its gallery space.
Its garden also contains a series of sculptures from local and regional artists, showing off the best art of the moment.
Jonas Hall, part of the guild’s complex of spaces, hosts regular musical performances and concerts. There is also a gym, with equipment including parallel bars and vaults, that is used for classes and parkour (free running) events.
Should you be spending even the shortest amount of time in Dalton, it’s therefore well worth checking out the activities that might be taking place at the guild.
3. Dug Gap Battle Park
This Battle Park on Dug Gap Mountain is one of Dalton’s civil war relics. Its natural setting is a sobering reminder of the destruction of the war.
The site of a major battle, it has the remains of breastworks built by soldiers during the Union push towards Atlanta further to the south.
Overlooking Dalton from its western edge, the ridge at the top of Dug Gap Battle Park was used as a defensive line, which was able to hold back Unionist forces with just a few hundred men.
Reaching the ridge, visitors not only get to see the walls constructed as part of the defences, but also fantastic views across this part of north Georgia.
4. Raisin Woods Mountain Bike Trail
Only a short distance from downtown Dalton, the Raisin Woods Mountain Bike Trail provides an alternative means of getting into the great outdoors.
It contains seven individual courses for mountain bikers of all ages and abilities. For beginners, there’s the three kilometre ‘bear’ trail, while there are three courses of various lengths for intermediate riders.
There are a further three trails for advanced mountain bikers. All seven wind there way around the woods and hilly landscapes of the area, and are well marked.
What’s more, in addition to mountain bikers, the trail also welcomes hikers and runners keen to make use of the same delightful space.
5. Hamilton House
An attractive looking brick home with a Greek Revivalist portico protruding from its main façade, Hamilton House was built in around 1841.
As such, it is known as Dalton’s oldest home, and is now occupied by a local history museum.
In addition to displays detailing the effects of the civil war on the new settlement, it also has exhibits on the city’s carpet industry, which began with a single Dalton lady making bedspreads by hand.
Visitors will also learn more about the native Americans who used to live in the region, and discover the works of Robert Loveman, a poet educated in Dalton.
His poem April Rain is well-known across the US, while another of his poems set to music was the official Georgia state song until 1979.
6. Dalton Falls Fun Center
For a little light entertainment, you might prefer the attractions of Dalton Falls Fun Center.
Here you’ll find a variety of activities, including a 27-hole miniature golf course complete with a waterfall and ponds.
Its football field is the location for outdoor laser tag, while the centre also has bumper cars that can be enjoyed by both younger children and adults.
And should all this activity create some hunger, you can take advantage of the hand-dipped ice creams sold onsite too.
7. George W Disney Trail
Another relic from Dalton’s involvement in the American Civil War, the George W Disney Trail is first and foremost a walking trail that leads users up the sides of Rocky Face Mountain.
The location of the first battle of the Atlanta Campaign, from 8-10 May 1864, the trail ends at the grave of a volunteer to the southern confederate army called George Disney.
Almost lost, the gravesite was accidentally rediscovered by local boy scouts in 1912, when the marble stone that can be seen today was put in place.
The trail runs for just under four kilometres, although the steepness of the terrain can make it feel much longer, especially during the heat of high summer.
8. Blunt House
The elegant clean white exterior of Blunt House is a fitting celebration of one of Dalton’s oldest homes.
Built in the 1840s, it was the house of Ainsworth Emery Blunt, the city’s first mayor and postmaster.
Used as a field hospital for the Unionist Army during the civil war, it was also occupied by confederate forces, until the Blunt family were allowed to return there.
Living in Blunt House until 1978, today the house has been sensitively converted into a museum.
Its rooms display many of the family’s original furnishings and personal items, from its library of books to antique kitchenware, providing a special insight into life in the south.
9. Dalton Ghost Tours
However, the history of Dalton doesn’t just exist within the walls of its museums and attractive historic structures, as Dalton Ghost Tours testify.
These 90-minute walking tours aim to uncover some of the more unusual stories associated with the city.
Beginning in the heart of downtown Dalton, the expert guide will lead tour members through tales of ghostly appearances right across the city.
Should you prefer spirits that can be drunk as well as those that can walk through walls, the company also hosts regular haunted pub crawls.
10. Conasauga River
Running across the north-western corner of Georgia, the Conasauga River stretches for roughly 150 kilometres, and its waters are home to some 90 different species of fish.
Relatively isolated, and therefore unspoilt, its banks can be reached by both car and on foot, via a number of different hiking trails.
In addition to fish including rainbow trout, the area is the natural habitat of everything from white-tailed deer to black bears.
The region can be explored on the waters itself thanks to two canoe ramps, which provide yet another way of discovering all the area has to offer.
The nearest is the Dalton Utilities Canoe Launch, just a few kilometres from downtown Dalton.
11. Dalton Distillery
This small-time distillery was born out of a family hobby and continues to be a family affair.
Unlike most distilleries, which use grains, many of the spirits produced here are distilled from the seeds of the sunflower.
It means the drinks that come off the production line at Dalton Distillery boast a clean flavour profile with just a hint of nuttiness.
However, it all began with a corn whiskey recipe that goes back five generations. What’s more, Dalton Distillery is the only such establishment which mills its own grains and seeds, and buys them in from Georgia farmers.
Head here, and you can try out a number of their spirits.
12. Prater’s Mill Historic Site
There are two reasons to head for Prater’s Mill Historic Site. The first is to check out the grist mill constructed in 1855 on the banks of Coahulla Creek.
The other is because it stands as the trail head for the Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway, a driving route approximately 80 kilometres long.
The mill site has become a popular getaway for those looking for a picnic spot in attractive scenery, and is also well known to those who enjoy fishing and angling.
Prater’s Mill Historic Site is roughly 20 minutes north of downtown Dalton by road.
13. Hunter Museum of American Art
The Hunter Museum of American Art is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, around 50 kilometres northwest of Dalton.
Its collection is focussed on a variety of American artistic styles, including that of the Hudson River School from the nineteenth century, and the early modernism of the first decades of the twentieth century.
Situated within three buildings demonstrating very different architectural styles, works hung on its walls run from the traditional portraits of Robert Henri to the almost Dali-like paintings of Thomas Hart Benton.
The museum also has an expansive sculpture collection, with Alexander Calder’s ‘Pregnant Whale’ sure to bring a smile to your face.
14. Haig Mill Lake Park
It seems Dalton has no shortage of wonderful outdoor spaces, but we couldn’t complete a list of the 15 best things to do in Dalton without a mention of Haig Mill Lake Park.
Reflecting the panorama of leaves, the park is centred around its lake, whose shoreline has more than eight kilometres of dedicated walking trails.
Fishing in the waters of the lake is welcome, while paddlers are able to rent canoes and kayaks to also take advantage of this smooth stretch of water too.
15. Driving Tours
If you’re on a US road trip, then there are a couple of driving tours in Dalton that you should also be aware of.
The Old Federal Road Driving Tour is named after northwest Georgia’s first route suitable for vehicles.
It became a road intricately linked with many of Georgia’s most important events, including the Trail of Tears forced removal of native Americans, and the civil war battles of the Atlanta Campaign.
Alternatively, the Blue and Gray Trail drifts from Chattanooga towards Atlanta, connects up many of the Atlanta Campaigns major locations, museums, and battlefield sites.