Helen, Georgia
Photo by Davenport346 via Flickr

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 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

Tubing in Helen, Georgia
Tubing in Helen, Georgia

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.

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 with Nacoochee Adventures in Helen
Zipline with Nacoochee Adventures in Helen

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 forest.

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.

Pan for gold like early prospectors 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.

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 in Helen
Valhalla Resort Hotel in Helen

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 guest have fridges, microwaves and televisions in their rooms.

The Heidi Motel takes its Alpine theme seriously, with a unique windmill suite, fireplaces and private patios.

Unicoi State Park in Helen
Unicoi State Park in Helen

Choose from multiple accommodation types at Adventure Lodges of Georgia - Unicoi State Park, including lodge hotel rooms, pet-friendly cabins, backcountry campsites, and cabins made from former wine barrels.

Groups and couples can stay at Helen’s rental cabins with companies like Cabin Rentals of Helen, Georgia Mountain Rentals and Pinnacle Cabin Rentals. Some have hot tubs and others have full kitchens.

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.

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

The bakery case at Hofer's of Helen
The bakery case at 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.

Sky Bar at Valhalla Resort Hotel
Sky Bar at 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.

Set under the bridge just like the storybook troll, The Troll Tavern specializes in German fare as well as salads, sandwiches, seafood, and soups.

it 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 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.

Events

Helen at Christmas
Helen at Christmas

Fall and winter are the best times to explore the Alpine village. Helen is best known for its annual Oktoberfest festivities that run from September to the end of October at the city’s Festhalle, home to beers, food and dancing.

The Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center is one of the organizers of the Winterfest Art Tour, an event made up of 150 artists spread over three locations with crafts, demonstrations and prizes.

Held at Unicoi State Park, 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.

Helen to Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race
Helen to Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race

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. 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.

Georgia's Spirit of Appalachia Food Wine and Art Festival takes place on the grounds of Hardman Farm in Sautee Nacoochee. The event includes live music, dishes from Georgia chefs, local wine and beer, and booths from local artists.

Published: August 2018