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Travel Guide: Helen, GA, with Video

Updated on August 30, 2013

Helen, Georgia, located in White County in the mountains of northeast Georgia, was once just a sleepy little town. When the city fathers decided they wanted to attract visitors to the area, they came up with a plan. They decided to model Helen after an Alpine village. Everyone got on board and got to work, and the results paid off…big!

Today Helen is a popular destination for vacationers from across the nation. In fact, it's the third most frequented vacation destination in the state. It’s especially popular with residents from Atlanta who often drive up for weekend getaways and shopping trips. The hamlet has its own unique charm. The streets are lined with half-timbered buildings donning steep roofs and gingerbread trim, and many are embellished with whimsical hand-painted murals. Just off the highway that runs through downtown, you’ll find cobblestone lanes and foot bridges across the noisy stream. The downtown area has squares, fountains, and grassy areas by the river for picnics or for just taking a break.

A stroll down the sidewalk will bombard you with the tantalizing aromas of the candy kitchens and the eateries that cook sausages, funnel cakes, smoky barbecue, and grilled steaks. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting in an open-air café or plopped down on a bench enjoying a bite or two.

Shopping in Helen is an adventure in itself. Many of the quaint shops offer European imports, while others sell gourmet coffees, Christmas items, wines from local wineries, toys, apparel, or locally made arts and crafts. At the north end of town is a rambling flea market with all kinds of stuff, including antiques, collectibles, and tools, along with homemade jams, jellies, syrups, pickles, relishes, and chutneys. You’ll also find locally grown fresh fruits there. There’s always a man out front boiling peanuts or frying pork skins in a big black pot. Be sure to purchase some for a snack.

You’ll find plenty more to do besides shopping, too. There’s hiking, horseback riding, panning for gold, digging for gemstones, touring local wineries, and trout fishing in the river, a nearby lake, or at a trout farm. In the summer, there’s a carnival at the south end of town with rides, go-carts, and a miniature golf course. In warm weather, tubing is popular, or you can drive up the mountain to the lake at Unicoi where you’ll find a sandy beach and clear water for a refreshing swim.

If you’re willing to drive just a few miles, Brass Town Bald, Georgia’s tallest peak, is nearby. If you drive in the other direction, you’ll discover the breathtaking views of Tallulah Gorge. Also near Helen are Indian mounds, the Cabbage Patch Kids Hospital, museums, large lakes, and a great covered bridge that’s perfect for photos and picnics. Also, just north of town is Anna Ruby Falls. There's a nice paved pathway that follows the river and the falls.

When mealtime calls, you’ll have a wide choice of restaurants. Several in Helen serve authentic German cuisine and beers, but there’s also Mexican, pizza, seafood, steaks, family buffets, bakeries, delis, steak houses, and some awesome barbecue. Plenty of the local eateries offer excellent Southern country cookin’, and if you’re in a hurry, there are several fast-food joints.

As for lodging, there’s a wide range of options, along with a wide range of prices. Hotels, motels, and inns downtown are very convenient because you can walk everywhere instead of having to drive and look for a parking place. If, however, you prefer more privacy, you can rent a rustic cabin or a truly luxurious cabin or vacation home. Many of the rental cabins are complete with large hot tubs, pool tables, and foosball tables. Also, there are a couple of top-notch resorts near Helen, including the Brass Town Valley Resort. The lodge at Unicoi State Park, just up the road from Helen, is a beautiful place to stay, and it has a wonderful restaurant, shops, a lake, and meeting and convention facilities.

You’ll love a trip to Helen! It’s surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains and forests, and there’s lots to do and see. It’s only 90 minutes from Atlanta, and about an hour from Lake Lanier. Any time is the perfect time for a trip to Helen, GA. There's more for kids to do in the summer, but for an adult getaway, you might want to come in October for Oktoberfest - a huge celebration of German music, dancing, authentic foods, and lots of German beer! Also in the fall, of course, is the colorful kaleidoscope of autumn leaves. In spring, the mountainsides are just coming alive with wild flowers and budding trees. In January and February, you won't have to worry about any crowds, and you might just get to see the mountains covered with snow. My favorite time to go to Helen, however, is in December. The town is decked out in her holiday finery, looking just like a storybook village. Most of the vacation rentals drop their prices in December, also. I do a lot of my Christmas shopping in Helen every year!

To read more about Georgia and vacation travel, click on the article links below:

Helen at Christmas.
Helen at Christmas.
Helen is surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Helen is surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Be sure to visit Nora Mill for some stone-ground meal and grits.
Be sure to visit Nora Mill for some stone-ground meal and grits.
Enjoy a carriage ride around town.
Enjoy a carriage ride around town. | Source

Helen and Anna Ruby Falls


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