Downtown Helen, Georgia
Guide to Helen
Visit this Bavarian-style town in Northeast Georgia for outdoor adventures, fantastic festivals and tons of family fun. Here are some quick tips for things to do and places to see in Alpine Helen.
The Alpine town of Helen takes its inspiration from the villages of Germany, complete with the building style of downtown shops and restaurants. But it's also in the heart of Northeast Georgia, offering travelers outdoor sports like tubing and hiking, along with wine tasting at the many vineyards nearby. The area has both Native American history and an arts community in nearby Sautee Nacoochee.
Things to Do
During the warmer months, typically May to September, spend the day floating down the river with outfitters like Helen Tubing & Waterpark and Cool River Tubing, which drop you off and pick you up. They also offer changing rooms, showers, picnic areas and parking.
Anna Ruby Falls
Although there are many waterfalls nearby, Anna Ruby Falls is perhaps the most visitor-friendly, accessed by a paved trail. It’s named for Anna Ruby Nichols and is actually made up of two waterfalls.
Mind Escapes is a themed escape room with masterful games for all ages. One room features Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, while another is about a mysterious cabin in the woods.
Zipline is another popular activity, which you can experience with Nacoochee Adventures and American Adventure Park at Unicoi State Park. Multiple courses wind through the surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest.
Alpine Fun Factory
Rainy days no longer mean ruined days at Alpine Fun Factory, an all-in-one attraction with go karts, laser tag, arcade games, and a seasonal Halloween haunted house.
Outpost Gold & Gem Mining Co.
Pan for gold like early prospectors did in the former logging town at Outpost Gold & Gem Mining Co., where you might just strike it rich. The family attraction has buckets filled with concentrated gold and precious gems like rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.
Babyland General Hospital
In nearby Cleveland, native Xavier Roberts founded the Cabbage Patch Dolls brand. Today, visitors can see where they are “born” at the Babyland General Hospital, equal parts museum and store. Admission is free and celebrity photos cover the walls.
Places to Stay
Valhalla Resort Hotel
The Valhalla Resort Hotel is Helen’s most luxurious stay with a roof top bar, in-house spa, golf facilities and world-class dining. There's also 24-hour room service.
The pet-friendly Biscuit Inn is only four miles north of town and has dog-themed rooms with bone-shaped dog beds, dog bowls and gourmet dog biscuits. Human guests have fridges, microwaves and televisions in their rooms.
The Heidi Motel & Windmill Suites
The Heidi Motel & Windmill Suites takes its Alpine theme seriously, with a unique windmill suite, fireplaces and private patios.
Unicoi State Park & Lodge
Choose from multiple accommodation types at Unicoi State Park & Lodge, including lodge hotel rooms, pet-friendly cabins, backcountry campsites, and cabins made from former wine barrels.
Helendorf River Inn
Located along the Chattahoochee River, the Helendorf River Inn has riverfront rooms with private balconies, fireplaces, kitchens and Jacuzzis. There's also a heated pool and parking for RVs and motorcoaches.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites
Opened in 2016, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites has amenities for both business and leisure travelers, including an unrivaled location. Rooms have Jacuzzis, Keurig coffee makers, and fiber optic WiFi.
Where to Eat
Hofer's of Helen
The baked goods and deli sandwiches at award-winning Hofer’s of Helen Bakery and Cafe make it a favorite in town for taking to-go before a hike or staying to savor.
The mother-daughter team at Bernie's Restaurant at Nacoochee Valley Guest House makes you feel like family at the cozy inn with chef-inspired dishes and wine pairings from nearby vineyards.
For authentic German fare, there's nowhere better than Bodensee Restaurant, which carries German beers and wines as well as spaetzle, goulash and wursts.
Bigg Daddy's appeals to just about everyone, with kids menus and an extensive craft beer menu with a focus on local breweries. They play all the major sporting events on the big screen TVs and have weekly live music.
Valhalla Resort Hotel
The Caledonia Room and Sky Bar at the Valhalla Resort Hotel offers “farm to fork” dishes using local ingredients, paired with local wines. Special menus can be prepared for dietary restrictions as well as multi-course dinners for special occasions.
The Troll Tavern
Set under the bridge just like the storybook troll, The Troll Tavern specializes in German-style fare as well as salads, sandwiches, seafood, and soups.
Sit outside at Cafe International for a meal overlooking the river. The restaurant is known for their sandwiches, especially “The Best Reuben Ever,” along with German-inspired dishes and daily specials.
Cowboys & Angels
Cowboys & Angels is Helen's riverside steakhouse with a touch of Southern hospitality. Menu favorites include lobster tails, fried chicken, and New York strips.
Another carnivore favorite, Paul's Steakhouse has specials every night, from country fried steak to prime rib to catfish.
Fall and winter are the best times to explore the Alpine village. Helen is best known for its annual Oktoberfest festivities. In 2020, however, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Bavarian town of Alpine Helen-White County has postponed the 50th anniversary of Oktoberfest and the longest running Oktoberfest in the United States.
While the Helen Chamber of Commerce has deemed it best to postpone their official 50th Oktoberfest festivities at the Festhalle until 2021, the city’s restaurants, shops, hotels and amusements still will be open and offering their own Oktoberfest fun for all. And, there will be a parade to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Oktoberfest beginning at noon on Sept. 12, 2020, in downtown Helen.
Winterfest Art Tour
The Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center is one of the organizers of the Winterfest Art Tour, an event made up of 145 artists spread over three locations with crafts, demonstrations and prizes.
Held at Unicoi State Park & Lodge, the Festival of Trees showcases beautifully decorated trees and wreaths. Another favorite Christmas event is the Lighting of the Village, which includes appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, a parade, musical performances and the lighting of the town. The annual Christkindlmarkt is held at the Marketplatz, featuring Christmas gifts and decorations as well as sweet treats and drinks. Then, ring in the new year with the Dropping of the Edelweiss New Years Eve Celebration, featuring hors d'oeuvres, party favors and midnight champagne toast.
Held by one of the area’s original wineries, Habersham Winery’s Annual Wine Fest showcases over 20 wineries from the region. Attendees can sample them all with their tasting tickets while enjoying live music.
Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival
The oldest balloon event in the region, Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival, is part race and part showcase of the colorful balloons every summer.