Meet a Southern fairytale outdoors town where you’ll sometimes wonder if you’ve ben transported to Europe. The charming Bavarian-style village of Helen acts as a gateway to the scenic wonders of the Appalachians and the Chattahoochee National Forest. Wade in waterfalls, drive mountain passes with the windows down, and find overlooks where a symphony of fall colors can wash over you. Or step back in time to discover America’s first gold rush and a lumber trade that buzzed off to turn Helen into the third-most visited city in Georgia.
Most drive into Helen, Georgia from one of several surrounding airports. Atlanta is the most obvious choice about 85 miles to the south, but others prefer the scenic route coming from Tennessee airports like Knoxville or Chattanooga. Since you’ll probably have your own car — whether you drove your own or snagged a rental wherever you flew in — that’s usually the best way to get around in this quaint town. However, many activities providers offer shuttle services, and you can always hail a taxi, Uber, or Lyft if you need to get somewhere else.
Things to Do
Helen Bavarian Village: Visit a quaint Bavarian town complete with cobblestone streets, decadent German delicacies, and 200 specialty and import shops. You’ll feel like you’ve hopped a flight to Europe where most of the friendly people speak with a charming Southern accent.
Unicoi State Park: Escape to the gorgeous north Georgia mountains for a retreat destination that puts you at the epicenter of fall leaf peeping. It ain’t half bad in any of the other seasons, either. Hiking and biking trails take you to beautiful destinations like Anna Ruby Falls or to trout fishing hotspots. Other outdoor adventures range from zip lining to paddle boarding from a lakeside beach.
Chattahoochee River Tubing: You haven’t experienced the South until you’ve tried tubing the Chattahoochee River. You can DIY a relaxing river trip that defines Southern comfort. Or capitalize on the many outfitters that will help you “shoot the hooch” with its fun riffles punctuated by smooth straightaways where you can enjoy the fresh, cool water in the Appalachian foothills.
Babyland General Hospital: Visit a Travel Channel Top Ten Toyland at Babyland General Hospital, a Southern home that acts as an incredibly unique, magical, free museum (and adoption center) for Cabbage Patch Kids. See the precursor dolls to Cabbage Patch Kids worth as much as $37,000 at a mansion gorgeously situated on 650 acres of prime Georgia soil.
North Georgia Zoo & Farm: Get up close and personal with wildlife where unique encounters are the name of the game. Try the petting zoo that lets visitors hang with ponies, rabbits, exotic chickens, and the like. Or book a more unique encounter with otters, hedgehogs, fennec foxes, kangaroos, camels, and more.
Consolidated Gold Mine: Tour an underground gold mine built in 1875 to extract the gold from them thar hills. You’ll travel 200 feet into the belly of the Appalachian foothills while being regaled by historic tales of struggling miners hoping to strike it rich. Then try your hand at panning for gold at a mine started soon after a deer hunter literally tripped over a rock riddled with gold.
Amicalola Falls State Park: Take a lovely hike through lush hardwood forests to the third highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. The 729-foot falls acts as a refreshing destination for hikers who climb the 600 steps on a stunning boardwalk to get there.
Russell Scenic Highway: It’s not fire, it’s just fall. The Russell Scenic Highway erupts in extravagant colors come fall. However, the spectacular roadway winding through the Appalachians is worth traveling at any time of year. Explore a scenic gateway to the Appalachian Trail complete with waterfalls and scenic overlooks.
Yonah Mountain: See what Georgia is all about at a 3,166-foot peak that acts as a classic overlook of the Appalachians and the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Hike through fragrant wildflowers and rocky outcrops to a view you won’t be sorry you took the time to conquer.
Blue Hole Falls: Cool off in a scenic swimming hole reaching surprising depths of 10 feet or more at the base of a gorgeous waterfall. All it takes is a mile-long hike through beautiful Southern forests to get to the waters that stay refreshing all summer.