If you’re looking for a mountain getaway in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, then Helen, Georgia, should be at the top of your list. This “German Town in Georgia” will feel like a European vacation hidden amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains!
Nestled in the Sautee-Nacoochee Valley, this charming Bavarian town has no shortage of stunning scenery and exciting excursions. At just 1.5 hours from Atlanta, Helen is the perfect place for a weekend escape from the city's noise to a quiet cabin rental.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast in search of stunning mountainscapes and cascading waterfalls or a history buff in search of remnants of the past, you’ll find your adventure here.
So start planning your trip today, and check out this list of things to do in Helen, GA!
1 . Rent a mountain view cabin
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The first thing you will want to do when planning your trip to Helen is book a mountain view cabin. You’re going to need more than a night to experience all the fun things this area has to offer. Extend your stay with a cabin with all the comforts of home but within a glorious mountainous locale.
Enjoy stunning mountain views, or find a quiet riverside retreat. Your cabin rental in Helen is sure to provide a peaceful escape where you can relax and unwind, surrounded by natural beauty. Better yet, you’ll find no shortage of activities and attractions, all within a short drive of your mountain cabin.
2 . Experience Oktoberfest
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This quaint mountain town may be nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, but it feels like a trip across the ocean to the Alpine villages of Germany. A walk down the main street reveals beautiful German architecture, including thatched roofs and decorative balconies.
You’ll find plenty of places to enjoy German meals and sample delicious schnitzel, sauerbraten, and spaetzle. There are several pubs and taverns with German beers on tap. If you’re searching for something sweet, there’s also an authentic Bavarian bakery with a wide assortment of European pastries and delicacies.
If you visit in the fall, you’ll be able to catch the town’s Oktoberfest festival. This festival is renowned as the longest Oktoberfest celebration in the United States, running from early September to the end of October. The festival features live music, lots of traditional German food and beverages, and even fun events and contests, including a pretzel-eating contest.
3. Hit the trails
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No matter your age or ability level, you’re sure to find a hiking trail in Helen. You can hike along a mossy creek and through tranquil forests until you reach the cascading waterfalls at the end of Dukes Creek Falls Trail. Or challenge yourself with a strenuous climb through a dense forest hiking along the Anna Ruby Falls Trail. You’ll find the twin waterfalls at the end of the short .4-mile trip.
If you’re looking for more waterfalls, pay a visit to Raven Cliff Falls. Here you’ll hike along a babbling trout stream, passing patches of wildflowers, until you reach the 40 ft cascading waterfalls.
If you’re looking for a quiet beach day, check out Unicoi State Park. You’ll find lots of trails, both hiking and biking, plenty of fishing spots, and even a quiet lakeside beach to relax on after your day of outdoor adventures. There are also many trails that offer a stunning 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the nearby Black Rock Mountain State Park.
You’ll also find 28 miles of trails at the Smithgall Woods State Park. Many trails here lead to covered bridges, waterfalls, and other amazing scenery. You can also stop by the Discovery Room for interesting educational exhibits.
4. Soak up some history
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If you’re a history buff, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to learn about the past in Helen. The small town of Helen itself is actually a historic district known as “Oldtown Helen.” Founded in the late 1800s, you’ll find plenty of reminders of its original days, including a replica saloon, a blacksmith shop, and an old-fashioned general store that also serves as an operational grist mill.
The grist mill, known as Nora Mill Granary, was established in 1876 and is used to produce all sorts of corn and wheat-based products. Stationed along the banks of the Chattahoochee River, the mill uses 1,500 lbs French Burr stones to grind corn. Inside the store, you’ll find all sorts of grain products and even a kitchen where delicious samples are cooked up!
The Unicoi History Museum is another must-visit historic site in Helen. The museum is 6,000 square feet of rich cultural heritage, with displays of artifacts and exhibits that explore the history of the area.
In Hardman Farm State Park, you’ll find the Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound, an archaeological site dating back over 6,000 years. Legend says that the site is the resting place of Indian lovers from opposing tribes. Just down the street, you’ll find the Sautee Nacoochee Center, which is a museum and interpretive center where you can learn more about the history of the mound and its inhabitants.
5. Hit the water
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If you consider yourself an angling enthusiast, you have no shortage of fishing opportunities in Helen, GA. Home to some of the best trout fishing in the state, Helen has plenty of creek and riverside spots to cast a line. In addition, some places like Unicoi Lake are stocked with fish to keep the population thriving.
If you fancy yourself a fly fisherman, you can cast a line in Smith Creek. This outlet of the Chattahoochee River is well known for its sizable trout.
If you’re looking for more relaxing water activity, there’s no better way to cool off on a hot summer day than drifting down the Chattahoochee in a tube. You’ll find several local outfitters like Cool River Tubing offering daily rentals for affordable prices.
You’ll find kayak and paddleboard rentals available near Unicoi State Park, which makes for an incredible afternoon adventure on Smith Lake.
Helen Water Park is another fun aquatic adventure for visitors. You can escape the heat in their lazy river or take a trip down one of their water slides for some fast-paced fun!
6. Get your fill of adventure
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You’ll find no shortage of outdoor adventures in Helen and the surrounding areas. If soaring above treetops and taking in stunning mountaintop views appeals to you, you’ll find some of the best views of the north Georgia mountains on a zip line tour. Helen offers several different options for ziplining and other aerial adventures.
White water rafting is an exhilarating water experience for thrill seekers visiting Helen. You’re sure to get a rush of adrenaline navigating the roaring rapids of the Chattahoochee River. This river offers several sections of rapids suitable for all skill levels.
The Georgia Mountain Coaster is a coaster ride that delivers a thrilling journey down the side of a mountain. You can control your own speed, so if you’re not a fan of high speed, you can experience the ride at a leisurely pace. No matter how fast you go, you’re sure to enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Horseback riding is a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the north Georgia Mountains from a different point of view. You’ll likely encounter wildlife you might not otherwise see along the way. If equine adventures like this are more your speed, you won’t have to look far for a stable to saddle up. Plenty of farms offer trail rides in the areas surrounding Helen.
7. Explore Helen’s unique attractions
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Helen isn’t just home to a plethora of outdoor activities; it’s also got some incredibly unique attractions you won’t want to miss!
One especially unique attraction in Helen just recently opened in May 2023. Uhuburg, Eagle Owl Castle is a Renaissance-era inspired castle. This enchanting fortress is composed of twelve tours, including an eight-story lookout tower. The perimeter of the property is lined with cloistered walls that are two stories tall.
Visitors can tour the grounds and enjoy panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Lookout Tower. Inside tours offer an opportunity to appreciate the stunning murals and artwork adorning the castle walls. This castle is a fairy tale-sized adventure you won’t want to miss.
Just a short drive from Helen to Cleveland, GA, you’ll find Babyland General Hospital. Despite its name, it is not a real hospital but a toy factory that manufactures Cabbage Patch Kids. Visitors are invited to witness the journey of a Cabbage Patch Kid doll from birth to adoption.
You’ll find a delivery room, a nursery, and an adoption center inside the hospital. You can also visit the gift shop, purchase your own doll, and experience the adoption process firsthand. This is an amazing interactive experience for young children.
8. Enjoy the local German cuisine
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In addition to German food, you’ll find a wide range of cuisines available in this charming alpine village.
You’ll want to visit Bigg Daddy’s Restaurant and Tavern if you're searching for some downhome Southern comfort food. Their diverse menu boasts several Southern classics like fried green tomatoes, mac-n-cheese, shrimp, and grits.
Cheese lovers won’t want to miss Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe. As their name suggests, they specialize in fried cheese and offer a number of fried cheese menu items. Visitors also recommend trying one of their German Schnitzel entrees.
For a taste of authentic German cuisine, don’t miss out on Bodensee Restaurant. These authentic German creations are the creations of a Master Chef who trained as a chef in several European countries. On the menu, you’ll find traditional foods like sauerbraten, schnitzel, bratwurst, and some more American classics.
Check out Paul's Steakhouse if you’re searching for an upscale dining experience. This elegant restaurant has an extensive wine list and is known for its fresh seafood and steaks cooked to perfection.
After dinner, you’re going to want to hit up Das Ice Cream for some homemade, freshly churned ice cream. They offer a large variety of delicious flavors, including dairy-free and sugar-free. You will even find some adult alcohol-infused flavors!
9. Tour the local taverns and wineries
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You’ll also find plenty of places to enjoy a drink in Helen. Whether you’re craving a glass of pinot or a growler of German beer, you’ll find your drink in this town.
If you’re looking for an afternoon of wine tasting and relaxation, you’ll want to visit Habersham Winery. This award-winning winery has been producing vino for over 30 years. Visitors can enjoy a wine tasting in the tasting room or go on a guided tour of the vineyard and production line.
Located just in the heart of Helen, Tantrum Brewing Company is a microbrewery that offers a range of craft beers, including both German and Belgian brews. You can often enjoy live music and food trucks while sampling a flight of beer.
Just outside of Helen, at the base of the Yonah Mountain, you’ll find Yonah Mountain Vineyards. In addition to sampling a wide variety of wines, you can also enjoy delicious farm-to-table cuisine while taking in their scenic views.
10. Shop in downtown Helen
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The streets of downtown Helen are brimming with unique shops and boutiques. From handmade works of art to quirky souvenirs, you’ll find whatever you’re looking for here.
You can watch local artists create handmade glassware at the Glassblowing Shop. Their hand-blown glass pieces make unique reminders of this small Bavarian-themed village. You’ll find a wide variety of glass art for sale, from bowls and vases to intricate sculptures.
If vintage and antique mementos are more your speed, you’ll find collectible items from many different eras at the Nacoochee Village Antique Mall. This 30,000 square foot building was also once a gristmill for the town of Helen.
Visitors with a sweet tooth will surely enjoy visiting the Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen. Opening its doors in 1973, this quaint candy shop has been serving families for generations! While visiting, you can watch candy makers create their confectionary masterpieces and even schedule a behind the scenes tour. You won’t want to leave without grabbing some of their delicious fudge!
For Bavarian-themed souvenirs, Bavarian Mountain Miniature Golf and Gifts is the place to go. This shop offers a wide selection of unique souvenirs featuring traditional German designs. You can also find a range of eclectic gifts, including cuckoo clocks and beer steins. They also have a fun golf course that is the perfect activity for families!
Have an Alpine experience in the North Georgia Mountains
Helen is a beautiful destination with stunning views and a plethora of outdoor activities to partake in. From quaint river walks to adrenaline-pumping zip lines, there’s something for everyone in Helen.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful weekend getaway or an adventure-filled family vacation, Helen has it all. So, why wait? Book your cabin rental and start planning your trip to this charming mountain town today!
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