Helen is a quaint little German town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northeast Georgia alongside the Chattahoochee River. Known for its touristy nature, Helen is a re-creation of an alpine village filled with cobblestone alleys and old-world towers. Accommodations include many choices: mountain cabins, bed and breakfast inns, and hotels (check out the unique Hampton Inn two blocks from the main drag). It’s an easy drive in the southeastern United States or you can fly in to Atlanta and make the drive from there in less than two hours. Either way, these ideas for things to do in Helen, Ga will help you get your trip started out on the right foot.
Helen is a unique destination with something for all ages. It is the perfect place for families to spend long weekends or couples to have a romantic getaway. The pace is slower in Helen where there is plenty of room for meandering around town. Visit the one-of-a-kind shops (don’t miss the Christmas Shop), tour the wineries and don’t miss the chance to river tube for only $10! (River tubing is seasonal and depending on weather, it may or may not be available during certain seasons of the year.)
First things first, check-in with the Welcome Center when you get into town and you will find a wealth of information about local restaurants, hiking trails, and everything in between.
Don’t Miss Attractions
Alpine Mini Golf Village is open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. from March – November (other months weekends only with weather permitting) and is a great source of fun for the whole family! (Note: They also have ice cream!)
Bavarian Mountain Mini Golf and Arcade has two 18 hole mini-golf courses and a full arcade.
Betty’s Country Store is a fun place to browse! Betty’s is on the corner of Main Street and Yonah Street, and started out as a mom and pop grocery over 30 years ago. Today, it is a fun blend of groceries, produce, baked goods (you have to try Betty’s carrot cake), fresh meats, cheeses (grab some Farmer’s cheese to bring back home), deli, and more! The setting is laid back and folks just stroll in and out with a variety of different purchases. It’s so much more than a store…it’s a landmark!
Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen offers delicious, hand-crafted gourmet chocolates that you’ll love sampling and purchasing for your travel snacks. Also, you can purchase online.
Nacoochee Village Antique Mall is the place to search for collectibles and heirlooms. Located in the historic Martin House across from Nora Mill, you’ll enjoy this experience.
One of Helen’s greatest treasures (in my eyes) is a little off the beaten path. Nora Mill Granary & Country Store, built in 1876 on the banks of the Chattahoochee River about two miles south of Helen on Highway 75. Nora Mill still uses the original, 1500 pound, 48” millstones from the beginning days to turn and grind their grains even today. Taste their fabulous grits and bring back some Georgia Ice Cream (White Speckled Grits). Their gift shop, Nora Mill Next Door, offers thousands of items from old fashioned candies and cast-iron cookware to cookbooks and country store novelties. It is my favorite place to hunt for unique souvenirs.
The Alpine Village Shoppes offer such a variety of stores with merchandise for sale like clothing, food, gifts, home furnishings and decor, household goods, activities and more! The shoppes begin just north of the post office on Main Street and are open daily.
The Great Outdoors
Adventure Lodges of Georgia-Unicoi State Park is more than fun accommodations. It is perfect for fishing, zip lining, hiking, paddleboarding and more on this 1,063-acre property between the Chattahoochee National Forest and the Alpine Village of Helen. While you’re there, check out Unicoi Zip Line and Aerial Adventure Park where you can enjoy canopy tours via zip line.
Anna Ruby Falls, twin waterfalls located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, is quite spectacular. A fairly easy 30-minute trek on a paved path, Anna Ruby Falls marks the place where Curtis and York Creeks come together. Fed by underground springs and various forms of precipitation, the creeks begin on Tray Mountain before journeying southward. This is a fantastic activity for the entire family!
Cool River Adventures is a fun place to hangout and experience some exciting family activities like the zip line course and the rock climbing wall!
Cool River Tubing on the Chattahoochee takes you on a floating tour of Alpine Helen. Shoot the ‘Hooch with this fun adventure in the Georgia outdoors or play on the waterslide with an all-day pass. For pricing and shuttle information, visit the web site. Open daily Memorial Day – Labor Day 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Helen, it seems, is always having a festival or event in celebration of something and the biggest one of all is Oktoberfest! Make your plans early to attend this extravaganza! Enjoy German music, food, and drinks – there are beer gardens all over the main part of town for your pleasure. Dancing is always a big part of Oktoberfest. You, too, can enjoy dancing including Waltzes, Polkas and the Chicken Dance! Join the shenanigans beginning with certain dates in September and running through October. The web site provides details like dates, times, line-up of bands and such.
Alpine Helen hosts Christkindlmarkt each year in December. Christkindlmarkts are another German tradition that offer food, music, entertainment and markets featuring imported and local Christmas goodies in a festive holiday atmosphere. The event is sponsored by The Greater Helen Area Chamber of Commerce and admission is free.
Habersham Winery is one of Georgia’s oldest wineries producing award-winning wines since 1983. Sample wines daily in the tasting room Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 12:30 – 6 p.m.
Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards is the place to enjoy 100% Georgia wines and a view of the valley. They have a tasting room for your pleasure as well. They are open Monday – Saturday from 12 – 6 p.m. and Sunday 12:30 -5 p.m. (NOTE: Be sure and taste the Red Headed Stepchild wine and perhaps take some home.)
The Yonah Mountain Vineyards offers North Georgia wines at their finest. Visit for a taste of their award-winning wines along with other adventures from a Wine Cave Tour and Tasting to weddings and private events. Open Monday – Thursday 12 – 5 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. (sometimes includes live music) and Sunday 12:30 – 6 p.m.
Strolling the streets of Helen, river tubing, hiking, and wine-tasting can definitely fill your days, but be sure and save time (and room) for some of the city’s fabulous culinary delights. Café International is a great lunch treat and overlooks the beautiful Chattahoochee. Hofer’s of Helen is a fabulously authentic Bavarian bakery with a palette-pleasing menu of spectacular breakfast choices. Their alpine-style atmosphere adds to the bakery’s charm.
JumpinGoat Coffee Roasters roast their own beans and sell their offerings in a quaint little gift shop. The care and quality put into each coffee bean is incredible as they believe that coffee is an experience and should be savored. If you’re a fan (like me), you’ll be bringing some back home and purchasing online as well!
For dinner, you’ll want to plan a trip to Mully’s Nacoochee Grill (serving lunch and dinner, steaks, seafood, and local fare) where you’ll experience the charm of a vintage house with a modern flare. Their dinner menu features a delightful selection of appetizers from BBQ Duck Tacos and to locally famous Nacoochee Valley Crabcakes, made with fresh lump crab meat. Dinner selections include Shrimp and Grits, Center Cut Pork Chops, grilled sausage plate, and many more. Also, they serve a nice Sunday brunch. Nacoochee Grill is a local favorite!
Get a Move On
Helen is such a fun little village with a unique history, and a trip there (whether it’s for Oktoberfest or not) is guaranteed to rekindle the soul. The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau web site will have all the information you need to secure accommodations and assist you in making plans for things to do in Helen, Ga.
If you’re looking for a lovely place to stay, The Hampton Inn on Unicoi Street is a rather unique Hampton. It blends in with the alpine-style and is on the river, as well as being clean and comfy. The location puts you in walking distance of many attractions and eateries. Other area lodging and accommodations are plentiful and can be found here on the CVB web site. Also, check out nine tranquil cabins in Helen that you’ll love to stay in!