Guide to Helen Oktoberfest
Alpine Helen’s Oktoberfest celebrations have been going on for more than 40 years, involving multiple weeks of traditional dancing, food, and, of course, beer from September to October. Held in the city’s riverside Festhalle, the permanent home of the festivities, the celebration is the longest running of its kind in the United States. Revelers dress in traditional attire, lederhosen and dirndls, while dancing to the polka. Find out for yourself what makes this tradition so unique by planning your own trip to Oktoberfest in Helen.
When to Go
Helen’s Oktoberfest runs from Thursday to Sunday through September and daily from Oct. 1 to 28, 2018. It begins with a parade through town on Sept. 8. Like with its German counterpart, the celebrations are wildly different from weekday to weekend. Weekends are popular with tour and college groups, while weekdays tend to be a bit more family-friendly. The event is open to all ages.
Admission is $8 during the week, $10 on Saturdays, and free on Sundays, with food and drink available for purchase. The doors open at 6 p.m. throughout the week and at 1 p.m. on Saturday, ending no later than midnight.
Where to Stay
Accommodations book up for Oktoberfest quickly, so make plans in advance. Alpine-inspired hotels like Valhalla Resort Hotel and The Heidi Motel are popular options for their amenities and quirky suites, respectively. There are also outposts of national chain hotels in town.
If you’re traveling with a group, a rental cabin can better accommodate you, which you can find in Unicoi State Park and Smithgall Woods State Park or with companies like Cabin Rentals of Helen, Georgia Mountain Rentals and Pinnacle Cabin Rentals. Some have hot tubs and others have full kitchens.
Campgrounds are another option, whether you’re looking for basic tent sites or RV sites with all the bells and whistles. You can also stay in nearby communities like Cleveland, Dahlonega and Blairsville. Helen is an easy drive from Atlanta, less than two hours, and only an hour from the Lake Lanier area.
What to Do
Oktoberfest is all about the nods to German traditions. The event has a rotating group of musical acts, playing both traditional German tunes and modern favorites. Dance the polka and others with festival regulars. Sing along with the songs like “Ein Prosit.”
The Festhalle has the ceremonial tapping of keg like you’d see at the Munich version of the celebration. The tents have a selection of both German and American beers for those who are of age.
You can’t visit Helen for Oktoberfest without trying some German food! The Festhalle has basics like bratwursts and pretzels, but there is no shortage of places to dine. Hofer’s of Helen is where to start your day with delicious pastries or, later in the day, Reuben sandwiches made by Germans who immigrated to the town in the 1950s. Cafe International and The Troll Tavern are also lunch options. Bodensee has authentic favorites like spaetzle, goulash and wursts. The Heidelberg German Restaurant, Old Bavaria Inn Restaurant & Lounge, Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe and Hofbrauhaus are additional options.
The bars and restaurants in town have Oktoberfest specials. It should go without saying, but if you’re going to imbibe, make a plan to get home safely via taxi or designated driver.