A little town in North Georgia nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Helen, GA. The town used to be a logging center, but it fell upon hard times. Wanting to revitalize itself, the town decided to redesign all of its structures to look like a Bavarian village. Because its primary source of revenue now is tourism, Helen hosts a slew of fun activities throughout the year, including its most attended event, an Oktoberfest every fall.
Helen itself is quite small and sits on the Chattahoochee River. The river is actually one of the main attractions of Helen, as it is a popular spot to raft, canoe, and kayak. The buildings and town are charming, albeit a bit kitschy. There are a variety of shops and restaurants, including gift shops, candy stores, old country stores, shoe stores, and artisan shops, featuring glass blowing, pottery, and watch-making. Some of these stores have German food and wares-there is a German bakery, and several of the stores have items from Germany, such as the clock shop and several specialty grocers. Our favorite part of Helen, however, is the German restaurants. There are several restaurants in Helen that serve authentic German food that is hard to find in the United States. In fact, Helen is the only place we’ve found real German pretzels. Our favorite restaurant is the Old Bavaria Inn, but there are others that serve good food as well.
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, Helen also features several events throughout the year. In June, Helen features the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival, the oldest balloon event in the south. Helen’s biggest event is its Oktoberfest, which features dancing, beer, and traditional German food. As autumn turns to winter and the holiday season, Helen has a Festival of Trees and a Christkindlmarkt, making the town an especially festive place to be during the Christmas season. We have partaken in both Oktoberfest and the Christkindlmarkt, which includes a parade, and have found them both to be fun, in a gimmicky sort of way.
Helen is also a great place to visit because of the many activities available in the area. Fox Winery has a tasting room in the middle of Helen, and Habersham Winery and Frogtown Cellars have tasting rooms on the outskirts. Fox Winery was fun for a little casual tasting while strolling about the streets of Helen, but for those who want the full wine tasting experience we recommend Frogtown. Several other wineries and vineyards are nearby, including Yonah Mountain Vineyards, CeNita Vineyards, Serenity Cellars, Kaya Vineyards, and Cottage Vineyards.
Since Helen is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are plenty of opportunities to hike. There are several state parks nearby, including Unicoi, Smithgall Woods, Vogel, and Hardman Farm. If hiking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other outdoor activities, including ziplining, miniature golf, horseback riding, and mountain biking. There are even gold mines where you can search for your own gold (the north Georgia mountains had one of the first gold rushes in the country).
Helen is in the heart of our favorite part of Georgia, the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are so many things to do in the area, and the scenery is hard to beat. Helen itself is quaint and, most importantly, lets us get in touch a bit with our German heritage. Helen is a great place to visit for a day trip or a weekend getaway. A visit will be relaxing, fun, and a treat for your eyes and your taste-buds.