You can spend your vacation exploring the city of Helen in the gorgeous North Georgia Mountains. No matter who you are, youâ€™ll find fun and recreation in this town that is known for being the mini-Germany of Georgia.
In this article, I’ll talk some more about the best things to do in Helen, Georgia for fun vacations! Throughout the entire year, there are activities and fun for the whole family in this lovely town.
Ask anyone who’s been to Helen and they will tell you to go for Oktoberfest. True to its German heritage, Helen’s Oktoberfest is a must-see annual event that imitates Germanyâ€™s Oktoberfest festival.
Alpine Helenâ€™s Oktoberfest celebrates its German heritage by filling the weeks with traditional folk songs, dancing, costumes, and food. You’ll find all of the beer, bratwurst, and pretzels you can eat.
Itâ€™s such a happy event that it quickly becomes one of everyoneâ€™s favorite things in the Alpine village. The celebration starts on September 10th in downtown Helen with a grand parade. Then, every following Thursday through Sunday in September and every day in October the celebrations run.
Men, women, and children of all ages can have fun, but note that the more family-friendly celebrations happen on weekdays.
During summer, it will be essential to keep cool and the best way to do that in Helen is to go tubing in the local rivers.
There are several waterparks that have tubes and life vests available, each with its own routes such as:
- Cool River Tubing down the Chattahoochee river
- Helen Tubing and Water Park down Chattahoochee river
- Whitewater Express down the Chattahoochee river
- Toccoa River Tubing Company down the Toccoa river
- Rolling Thunder River Company through the Toccoa river
While not an extreme sport, the river tubing routes used by Whitewater Express and Rolling Thunder have plenty of whitewater excitement and the rafts to match too!
Like Germany, Helen is proud of its vineyards. If you like to taste different wines, you have to visit the various wineries in the Alpine village.
A small operation with several award-winning wines bursting with Southern charm. They want to produce fragrant wines with a distinct character that pair well with traditional Southern cooking.
Based in the foothills of the Northeast Georgia mountains, they specialize in traditional country wines. Their tasting room is open for 5, 1oz samples and a souvenir glass. Try their wine slushies!
Producing award-winning wines since 1983, the family-owned winery has an extensive selection of different wines made with vinifera, French-American, and Southern Muscadine grapes.
Located underneath Yonah mountain, this vineyard also boasts a good collection of red, white, dessert, specialty, and young American wines. The sandy soil and rolling green hills also make the perfect setting for weddings and events.
Great Winery Products
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Food, drink, and leisurely rides down the river are all well and good, but there has to be something for the thrillseeker. The Georgia Mountain Coaster should be just the thing.
Unlike most coasters, you are the only rider or only have one passenger. And if you have the need for speed, this coaster will not disappoint you.
Youâ€™ll rush headlong through the trees of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and past old ruins while controlling your speed how you see fit. Sunrises and sunsets are especially captivating as you race down the mountain at 25mph.
The coaster has a few requirements.
- Cart drivers need to be at least 4â€™6â€ tall while riders should be at least 3â€™2â€.
- Drivers have to be at least 16 and whoever is taller will drive.
Visit the Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound
The Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound at the Hardman Farm is a local memorial that has been preserved since the 1915 discovery of 75 Native American remains.
This burial area was uncovered by a joint excavation by the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution and the Heyes Foundation.
This burial site gives great insight into the development of the Nacoochee tribe, which was later used by the Cherokee. The mound is open to everyone 7 days a week and is located 2 miles south of Helen.
See the Magic of Carl Michael
You canâ€™t have a good time until you experience live music! There is the traditional German music during Oktoberfest that I mentioned above, but thereâ€™s also a very popular local group called The Magic of Carl Michael that has been rated #1 in theater and concerts on Tripadvisor.
Their live music is renowned! But that isnâ€™t all they can do. Carl Michael has starred in the 90-minute Magic and Illusion Show. Heâ€™s performed for several decades, specializing in illusions.
His work is just as worth seeing as Penn and Teller in Las Vegas, but itâ€™s a whole lot cooler in the Georgia mountains (and less expensive). This groupâ€™s shows are suited for audiences of all ages and what better way to spend an evening than enjoying illusions, comedy, and music all in one place?
One of the best parts of going to new places is to visit the gift shops to find unique gifts for family, friends, or yourself. And Helen is packed with shops!
Walking through the shops dotted along Main Street is a wonderful way to appreciate the beautiful scenery of the bavarian-style village while exploring antiquities and specialty shops such as
- Nacoochee Antiques
- Bettyâ€™s Country Store
- Nora Mill Granary
- Gretel Candy Kitchen
- Old Sautee Store
- Willows Pottery
There are sure to be amazing gifts even for those you know who apparently have everything! Local artisans create unique Helen arts like face jugs from The Willows Pottery, beautiful handmade decorations from The Glassblowing Shop, and love locks from Bettyâ€™s Country Store (a local favorite!).
Bettyâ€™s is one of those gift shops where you can shop while you drink mimosas and play Jenga with the family!
Hike the Scenic Trails
Itâ€™s impossible to make a list of the top things to do in Helen without talking about their famous conservation parks and beautiful waterfalls.
There are a few ways to experience the beautiful scenery surrounding Helen, but taking a walk on one of the Unicoi/Helen trails is easily the best. Itâ€™s the preferred method of those seeking calm solitude anyway.
Up close like this, you can fully appreciate the details of every tree, wildflower, and especially the waterfalls. You have to try to see at least two waterfalls which are the envy of the other states:
- The Anna Ruby Falls
- Raven Cliff Falls
- Horse trough Falls
- Dukes Creek Falls
Even if you canâ€™t walk every trail, there are several viewing platforms where you can stay and just absorb the most scenic spots, such as the twin falls.
Pro Tip: Going on an adventurous hike is no easy feat. But youâ€™ll get the most fun out of it with proper footwear. Make sure to have the proper hiking boots to keep your feet protected and comfortable at the same time.
When I hike, I also like to use hiking poles like these. They make a difference on steep terrains when youâ€™re trying to keep your balance.
Try a family picnic after an exciting day of adventuring in the rapids in the Chattahoochee river! There are plenty of good restaurants to choose from, but you can also go to one of the state parks to picnic.
You can listen to the chatter of birds and squirrels and watch the sun cut through the canopy of trees while eating!
There are a couple of state parks worth checking out. Thereâ€™s the Unicoi hill park which sits in the middle of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Itâ€™s a huge place, and I highly recommend using this map.
Thereâ€™s also the Smithgall Woods state park off of Tsalaki Trail. Itâ€™s a gorgeous location with several trails suitable for every hikerâ€™s difficulty level. There are fewer picnic tables, but itâ€™s more atmospheric when you just sit on a blanket in the grass anyway.
If you are an adventure seeker, experience the beauty of the north Georgia mountains on a zipline course! Here are some of the many zipline routes you can find in the area:
- Nacoochee adventures,
- Cool River Adventures,
- and, appropriately, the Screaming Eagle Unicoi Zip Line Aerial Adventure Park.
You can take in all of Helen zipping past the trees and flying over Unicoi Lake 100ft in the air!
Thereâ€™s more that these parks offer than just ziplining. Helenâ€™s outdoor adventure parks include Smithgall, Unicoi, and Cool River. They offer offer the following activities that are worth trying!
- Bike riding
- Obstacle courses
- Giant swings
- Climbing walls
- Interpretive programs
- Guided tours
- Bird watching
- And even some fishing and hunting
Cool River Adventures is very popular, and after running through the ziplines and obstacle courses, you can take a dip in the Chattahoochee river while tubing. Whatever your skill level, there are a number of activities you can enjoy.
Are you a part-time geologist? Then Helen has a place for you too! You can feast your eyes on the colorful multitude laid out for you outside the gift shop. You would be surprised by the variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and opacity of those stones!
Itâ€™s kind of like walking through a kaleidoscope. Whatever you had been missing in your rock collection, you may find it here, or find the perfect gift for the rock collector in your social circle.
Play Some Golf
The areas around Helen, including Blue Ridge, have a host of championship golf courses that are worth a visit!
The Innsbruck Resort & Golf Club has a course that wonâ€™t disappoint you. Their course has been nationally recognized as a 4-4.8 star course by Golf Digest and Sports Illustrated. There are 12 lakes and 30 sand bunkers in between their beautifully maintained fairways.
And if you need a set of clubs, check out one of the courses Pro Shops or look at the Callaway Strata set on Amazon.
If youâ€™re a history buff, you have to visit the local museums and the Helen Arts & Heritage Center! You can look forward to experiencing some local history in the Blue Ridge Mountains and maybe support the local businesses while you look around.
The gallery contains interesting presentations that explain Helenâ€™s history over the past 100 years and describe how it came to be the tourist attraction we know today. For example, between 1540-1570, the Spanish sent a small army of 600 men to search for gold from modern-day Florida to Southwest Georgia.
And where did the German influence come from? The Heritage Center talks about this too!
Once youâ€™ve learned about Helen’s rich history, you can pickup a handmade gift crafted by local artisans from their shop!
Visit the Outpost Gold & Gem Mining Company with your younger kids. They’ll be able to experience gold and gem panning and take a treasure home with them!
They can try their luck with the goldrush or gemstone buckets while their staff shows them exactly how hopeful prospectors used to pan for gold in Dukes Creek, which was the first major location that kicked off the Gold Rush.
You can explore concentrated gold, rubies, sapphires, amethyst, topaz, geodes, fossils, and even emeralds!
The Southwest Outpost is the gift shop with gorgeous Navajo treasures to take home instead. Some of their items include:
- animal-skin bags
- wood art
- exquisitely-woven baskets.
There are other gem mining spots worth visiting throughout North Georgia.
If you’re interested in art and handcrafted items, the Glass Mountain Gallery and Studio is worth visiting at least once. Here, you’ll find the featured artisans and local art pieces.
Remember the glass-blown pieces that you can buy from The Glassblowing Shop? Many of their pieces are displayed here!
The works of local and regional artists is always worth checking out! Stop in and show some support for the people who invest the time, tallent, and effort into some beautiful works.
See Charlemagneâ€™s Kingdom: Miniature Display of Germany
Charlemagne’s Kingdom in Germany is another major attraction in Helen. The 50-foot miniature display depicts the area from North Sea to the Alps. It’s complete with traditional architecture, hot air balloons, functional trains, seaports, Autobahn, and German audio ambiance!
This phenomenal exhibit was made more than 30 years ago as the passion project of Mr. Lindhorst ,who moved from Oldenburg, Germany to the United States. It took him 30 years to accomplish, but itâ€™s now one of the pride and joys of Helen!
*We should let you know that this location has been reportedly closed for good, but if you look up the Apline Railroad Museum online they still give their hours of operation. We would suggest calling them to confirm they are open.
You might not have heard, but the trout fishing in Helen is pretty popular! North Georgia has the best fishing in the entire state, especially in the Chattahoochee river!
The Chattahoochee river is available for fishing ayear-round. But depending on which park property you fish in, there may be some restrictions.
For example, in Smithgall Woods, their fishing rules include,
- Open fishing only during October – May
- Reservation required
- Trout fishing is allowed on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday
- Cottage guests may fish any day throughout the year.
So you will have to be careful and look carefully for any fishing restrictions like those. The park staff should be able to answer your questions. The good news is there are no restrictions on the kinds of bait and hooks you can use.
Hereâ€™s one more entry for those who appreciate local history! As weâ€™ve listed, Helen has several historical sites that are worth visiting. There are a few treasures that arenâ€™t as well known as the Indian Mound.
One such stop is the Stovall Mill Covered Bridge. It doesnâ€™t look like much, but you know better than to judge a book by its cover. Behind the wear and tear and graffiti is a good story.
Other locations worth visiting include:
- Scarletâ€™s Secret
- the Nora Mill Granary
- the Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center
Scarlettâ€™s Secret, for example, is a museum dedicated to Gone with the Wind and the Civil War that inspired the movie. Itâ€™s full of memorabilia related to both, but after your tour, guests get to enjoy homemade Georgia tea and desserts! Needless to say, youâ€™ll need to make a reservation.
Visit the Birthplace of the Cabbage Patch Kids
Visit the place where the Cabbage Patch Kids doll craze began! Most haveat least heard of these unique dolls, but did you know they were made with a traditional German fabric sculpting technique called â€œneedle moldingâ€?
Thatâ€™s what makes them so fitting for the little replica Bavarian town.
The home of these dolls wasnâ€™t always in Helen, GA. The founder, Xavier Roberts, did originally transform an old turn-of-the-century clinic in Cleveland, GA into BabyLand General Hospital in the early 1980s.
It wasnâ€™t until 2009 that the â€œhospitalâ€ moved to Helen. Today, you can take a self-guided tour to see how the dolls are still made by hand!
Thereâ€™s no shortage of sit-in and quick bite dining options in Helen!
If itâ€™s your first visit, you can grab and eat something while you make your way to the next exciting stop. Thatâ€™s why there are eateries like Bettyâ€™s Country Store, Hoffers of Helen, and Mullerâ€™s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe.
These place will allow you to stop in for a small bite to eat.
There will come a point during any summer exploration where it gets too hot to keep walking. The weather can be unpredictable in Georgia too, so you might have to take shelter in a nearby restaurant.
If you do, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from regardless of what kind of food you feel like, such as,
- La Cabana Mexican Restaurant
- Cafe International
- Hofbrauhaus Restaurant & Pub
- Bodensee Restaurant (Try the Gypsy Schnitzel!)
- Cowboys & Angels Restaurant and Bar
- Mully’s Nacoochee Grill
- Spice 55 Thai And Sushi Restaurant
- And many more!
Thereâ€™s nothing better than enjoying an old-fashioned carriage ride. Whether you’re looking for a romantic activity or simply a peaceful way to enjoy the scenery, Helen has this covered.
Ride with the Alpine Carriage Company while watching a gorgeous pink sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Itâ€™s the perfect way to experience downtown Helen, as your coachman and horse stroll down the streets. There are both a guided tour and silent ride options.
Visitorâ€™s centers should have more than a few plaques of local history, a lonely desk, and some basic visitorsâ€™ info on a pamphlet. Thatâ€™s not enough to get an idea of the local heart.
This one is the hub of Helen, where you wonâ€™t be more than a few miles from most of the attractions, shops, or restaurants. The staff are very helpful and can answer any questions you have about the area.
Sometimes the bureau will show off an extremely detailed and enormous Christmas village but the bureau is full of life with hot air balloon races, creme puff desserts, and of course dancing!
If you are a visitor that feels you have explored all that Helen has to offer in natural beauty, history, and the usual tourist activities, then you havenâ€™t visited the visitorâ€™s bureau.
As you can see, Helen, GA is packed-full with recreation, history, and adventures for the entire family! There are additional resources listed below as you plan your trip to this lovely mini-Germany in the North Georgia Mountains.
Resources and References:
- Guide to Oktoberfest 2022 in Helen, GA | ExploreGeorgia.org
- Tubing in Georgia: A Must-Have Summer Adventure | Official Georgia Tourism & Travel Website | Explore Georgia.org
- This Alpine Coaster In North Georgia Takes You On A Crazy Ride Through Helen – Narcity
- Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound at The Hardman Farm | Official Georgia Tourism & Travel Website | Explore Georgia.org
- The Magic of Carl Michael (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Carl Michael Magic
- Your Guide To Breathtaking Views Around Helen, Georgia (cedarcreekcabinrentals.com)
- Helen Arts & Heritage Center – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Helen History | HAHC (helenarts.org)
- Gift Shop â€“ Outpost Gold & Gems (outpostgoldandgems.com)
- History & Heritage – Helen, Georgia (helenga.org)
- BabyLand GeneralÂ® Hospital Cabbage Patch Kids
- THE 10 BEST Restaurants in Helen – Updated July 2022 – Tripadvisor
- Alpine Carriage Company (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Alpine Helen/White County Convention and Visitors Bureau – Helen, Georgia (helenga.org)
- Smith Creek | Natural Atlas
- Things to Do in Helen, Georgia | Official Georgia Tourism & Travel Website | Explore Georgia.org
- Helen Tubing and Water Park – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Sweet Acre Farms Winery Tasting Room- Helen – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Fox Winery (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Georgia Mountain Coaster (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- 18 Top Things to Do in Helen, Georgia (usnews.com)
- THE BEST Shopping in Helen – Tripadvisor
- The Willows Pottery (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- The Glassblowing Shop – Hand Blown Glass Gifts
- Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen – Candy Store – Helen, Georgia (hanselandgretelcandykitchen.com)
- Raven Cliff Falls (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Horsetrough Falls (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Unicoi Zip Line and Aerial Adventure Park (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Nacoochee Adventures (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Cool River Adventures (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Bavarian Mountain Miniature Golf (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Helen Arts & Heritage Center – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Glass Mountain Gallery & Studio (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Stovall Mill Covered Bridge (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Chattahoochee Ruby Mines (Helen) – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)
- Alpine Helen / White County Convention & Visitors Bureau – All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (tripadvisor.com)