Looking for things to do in Helen? We’re here to help!
Helen, Georgia is a quaint, Bavarian-themed mountain village offering a wealth of things to do in nearly any season. Much like Bavaria, Germany, Helen’s pristine countryside, clean air, festivals & traditions attract tourists from all over.
In fact, Helen ranks among the top three most visited destinations in Georgia. Its Bavarian aesthetics, vineyards, mountain forests, waterfalls, historic houses and festivals draw in over 2 million visitors per year. And that’s with a population of under 600!
Once a logging town, now Helen appeals to travelers with its architecture, its food, the beer, and, like Bavaria, Oktoberfest. Come on, let’s take a tour through Helen, GA. Find popular things to do, from memorable places to eat, drink & shop; to sightseeing & hiking; or panning for precious minerals.
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Things to Do in Helen, GA – Get Away to Bavaria in the US
So, what are the most popular activities in Helen, GA? Let’s dive right in, starting first on the Chattahoochee River.
Tube the Chattahoochee
In warmer months, usually from May to September, travelers can spend the day floating down the Chattahoochee River. Outfitters like Helen Tubing & Waterpark, and Cool River Tubing provide drop-off and pick-up.
Tubers can float the scenic river for 1 to 3 hours, with picnic areas along the way. The river cuts through mountain forests, providing plenty of shade, and winds through the center of Helen on its course.
Don’t want to leave the water after the tubing? Cap off the day at one of the river tours’ Waterparks. Both offer an escape from hot days and fun for all ages, whether traveling solo or with friends & family.
Ride the Georgia Mountain Coaster
Another popular attraction, especially for families, the Georgia Mountain Coaster is open year round. It is the first Alpine coaster in Georgia, with twists and turns through the woods and down the mountain.
Traveling up to 35 mph, riders choose their own personal cart which they can actually control. Each cart has a hand lever you can push forward to go faster, or pull back to go slower.
The ride carries passengers up a hill before racing them down a track suspended over forest mountain trails. It twists and turns and eventually returns to its Bavarian-themed station overlooking the town of Helen.
Mine for Gold & Precious Minerals
How about we slow it down and relive a part of Helen’s history: gold & gemstone mining. After all, the “gold rush” of Georgia first happened in the Helen and Dahlonega areas. And while this was the distant past, visitors might still strike it rich in the northern hills.
So why not learn how at Dukes Creek Gold & Ruby Mines? Here, guests can find a group of expert gold and ruby panners ready and available to teach their secrets. Visitors pan for gold in the picturesque Georgia landscape at the gold & ruby mines.
Dukes Creek attracts history enthusiasts, adventure seekers, gold diggers, and curious families alike to hunt for treasure. It promises “the best operating gold & gem mine” in White Country, with an abundance of precious stones.
There are a variety of options for gold & gem panning. Visitors can pan through random buckets of mixed gems & gold ore. Other options include the premier gold bucket, or fossil, bloodstone and quartz crystal buckets. Experts teach how to pan for each different mineral, ensuring everybody finds something special to take home.
Taste Some of the Best North Georgia Wine
Looking to experience North Georgia vineyards? Habersham Vineyards & Winery has a menu as rich as its history. Dating back to 1983, its selection of North Georgia wines has earned over 150 medals since opening.
Its winery is one of Georgia’s oldest and largest, offering premium, vintage-dated, and the finest hand-crafted wines in the state. Meanwhile, a romantic stroll through its sprawling vineyards ranks among the best things for couples to do in Helen.
In addition, the tasting room features a gift shop with gourmet foods and wine specialty items from around the globe. Find imported cheeses and all the fixings for the perfect picnic and to best compliment the wine.
See Local Arts & History
If it’s raining or cold in Helen, consider a trip to Helen Arts & Heritage Center. This non-profit art gallery & history museum houses everything in a Bavarian-style building.
Within, visitors can experience Helen’s history, get art education & art therapy, or purchase artwork from local artists. It’s a great place to meet and learn about the local artists’ community, and to take classes or visit festivals.
There are different events year-round, so be sure to check their calendar when visiting to find out what’s on.
Come mid-September, Helen celebrates its Bavarian roots with its own Oktoberfest. In fact, the festival is the longest-running in the US, with its permanent home in the city’s riverside Festhalle.
The festival kicks off with a vibrant parade downtown, and festivities fill the village until the start of October. There are many things to do, from the costumed Bavarian performances, to traditional song & dance, and, of course, the beer!
Revelers don traditional attire, lederhosen and dirndls, while dancing to the polka. There is German bratwurst and wienerschnitzel, and tall mugs of frosty beers all around. Really, if not traveling to Munich, Germany for the real thing, Helen’s Oktoberfest is an experience not to miss.
Visit Helen from Atlanta, GA for a Wine Country Tour
Another option for a day-trip to Helen is the North Georgia Wine Country Tour. A great way to get out of the city, Helen is in fact just 90 minutes from Atlanta. The tour departs with a personal guide for the trip on an air-conditioned bus to Georgia’s Wine Country.
When there, travelers can have 13 different tastings at 3 local wineries, with a stop in Helen afterward. The trip to Helen includes local shopping along with a guided tour for visitors to experience a taste of Germany.
Enjoy highlights from the rolling hills, to the wineries, and the mountain town of Helen all in under a day.
Adventure, Sights & Hiking in Helen
Looking for a sightseeing hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains, or perhaps some adventure? Helen has plenty of both: from scenic mountain trails and stunning mountain-top views, to adventure parks for adrenaline seekers.
Unicoi Hill Park
If looking for a fun and cheap day out in Helen, consider Unicoi Hill Park. This vibrant park is just four minutes north of downtown Helen, free to enter, and encompasses over 1000 acres. It offers many free things to do like outdoor adventures and thrills, or amenities like cabins and campsites.
Found in Helen’s mountain forest, visitors can enjoy GPS scavenger hunts, paddleboarding, archery, ax throwing, fishing, and ziplines. Meanwhile, Anna Ruby Falls as well as Helen Tubing & Waterpark are nearby for more sightseeing and adventure.
Hardman Farm Heritage Trail
Another place to see history & go hiking in Helen, GA is Hardman Farm Heritage Trail. This one-mile trail walks along the Chattahoochee River from Hardman Farm State Historic Site to Alpine Helen. Information panels detail local plants and animals on the hike, while the farm estate itself provides glimpses into the past.
The site maintains buildings from the time period of the Nichols family homestead of the 1870s. It includes historic stores, a mansion with servants quarters and a greenhouse, barns, an Indian mound and more.
The trail is open from dawn to dusk, and visitors should “leave no trace” – picking up litter and after pets.
Yonah Mountain Hiking near Helen
For a challenge more suitable to intermediate hikers, Yonah Mountain is just a few miles outside of Helen. If looking for nearby day-trips, it’s definitely an option, with a view well worth the hike.
On the trail, the beginning portions are lovely, with incredible boulders and rock formations. In fact, there are so many, this place gives Stone Mountain a run for its money. The half-way point provides the first view looking off the mountain, and gets steeper from there.
At the top, there is a large open area for pitching a tent or having a fire, while all views are off to the side. It provides quite the vantage from 3,166 feet, with numerous viewing points and breathtaking photo opportunities.
What about outdoor adventures in Helen for thrill-seekers and adrenaline lovers? Nacoochee Adventures is an outdoor adventures company with ziplines, ATVs, an aerial adventure park, and overnight treehouse camping.
Visitors can also learn about the history of North Georgia, both in general and about the Nacoochee Valley. The park features the history of its Native American inhabitants, as well as the Gold Rush and early moonshine makers.
Multiple adventure courses wind through the forests, with entertainment on the ground and in the trees.
Where to Eat & Refresh
Now, let’s answer where to quench your appetite, and where to go shopping when visiting Helen.
The Troll Tavern & Restaurant
Starting first with the Troll Tavern, this Bavarian-style tavern sits right along a creek of the Chattahoochee River. Impossible to miss, the tavern is usually the first restaurant visitors notice going into downtown Helen. It serves both American and German food and beer, with outside seating right along the creek.
Diners can watch tubers go by on the waters while enjoying food and a range of German beers. are American burgers, German Wurst & Wienerschnitzel, as well as vegetarian, vegan & gluten-free options.
Just keep in mind this is one of Helen’s more popular restaurants, so consider booking a reservation in advance.
King Ludwig Biergarten
Want to experience a German biergarten (“beer garden”) in downtown Helen? Check out King Ludwig Biergarten. This open-air neighborhood tavern and social space provides a massive beer garden, and serves German specialty dishes.
Get frosty, tall mugs of beer to wash down sausage platters, bratwurst, frankfurters, pretzels and more. All while enjoying the outside air in the day-time, or as the city comes to life at night. It’s one of the most popular spots to wind down, chill, and taste local specialties while experiencing Helen’s unique atmosphere.
Chattahoochee Cheese Market
For a little taste of France in Bavarian Helen, head over to the Chattahoochee Cheese Market. Here, visitors will find a great breakfast option first thing in the morning. Along with a wide selection of cheeses, the market serves gourmet sandwiches, espresso, beer and wine.
Inside, its old-fashioned rustic interior hosts guests with a variety of charcuterie boards, baked goods and fresh coffee. Pop in for a quick breakfast, or drop by for a snack while exploring or shopping downtown Helen.
Shopping in Helen
Nacoochee Village Antique Mall
Do you have a penchant for historical objects, antique treasures, and heirlooms? If so, Nacoochee Village Antique Mall provides shopping in Helen for hours. The mall sits within a historic village inside a house from 1876.
Inside, the mall houses one of the largest collections of antiques and family heirlooms. Shoppers can browse items from 40 to 50 antique dealers. Each promises treasures with deeply rooted stories behind them.
If only to experience the odd feeling of nostalgia, this antique mall is worth a visit. And who knows, perhaps you’ll find a future heirloom or souvenir to take home from your travels.
Betty’s Country Store
If staying in Helen overnight or for a weekend, Betty’s Country Store is a staple place to shop in town. It has that small, hometown shopping feel, a great selection of local foods, and plenty of beer and wine.
Perhaps what makes it really stand out, however, are the homemade peanut butter cookies. And these aren’t just any cookies here. These are massive saucers the size of dinner plates!
Take a cookie outside to the recently added porch, where shoppers can also sit down and enjoy their favorite drinks. You might even get lucky and run into one of the few locals here.
Zuzu’s Petals Rock Shop
Now, for one of the hidden gems of Helen, GA, go shopping at Zuzu’s Petals Rock Shop. This is a must-see shop for any rockhounds or gemstone collectors, and just for browsing in general. The store is also child-friendly, and loves seeing children explore all the different stones in their collection.
The shop sits on White Horse Square on Main Street, hidden in an alley next to Windmill Dutch Imports. Inside, the store offers a wide selection of geodes, gems, crystals, and stones from around the world.
Every piece of jewelry is truly unique and is designed at the store. They use sterling silver, fine silver, copper, or 24K gold for their pieces. It’s even possible to request custom jewelry by design or with different stones.
Jester’s Magic Dragon
Another cool place to shop in Helen is Jester’s Magic Dragon, but be careful when browsing their store. After all, you wouldn’t want to cut yourself on one of the many artisian-smithed swords, axes or knives for sale!
Jester’s Magic Dragon is a hidden-gem, pop culture store with a unique blend of collectibles, replicas, body art & more. It has dice for gaming, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit replicas (armor & weapons), or even backpacks and socks.
The artists really care about what they put their name on as well. Whether it’s Captain America’s shield, or temporary body art, the quality here is always impressive. Consider stopping in, even if it’s only to browse the elven longswords and orcish battle axes.
Where to Stay in Helen
Looking for places to stay overnight or for a weekend in Helen? Let’s get to it for a reasonable price.
Alpine Village Inn
Just an 8-minute walk from downtown Helen, Alpine Village Inn offers affordable accommodation. It is conveniently located near Robertsontown, and 7 miles from Anna Ruby Falls with Helen Festhalle a few steps away.
On the property, there is a garden with a communal fire area, games, free WiFi, and private parking for guests. Great for couples or solo travelers, there are deluxe king-size rooms or deluxe double-rooms.
Chattahoochee Rivers Edge Condominiums
Looking for inexpensive riverside accommodation, perhaps with a balcony overlooking the creek? Chattahoochee Rivers Edge Condominiums is located in the heart of Helen, not far from Helen Festhalle. It is also about 4 miles from Smithgall woods, 6 miles from Andrews Cove, or 8 miles from Anna Ruby Falls.
Rooms come with a full kitchen and a dining area, private bathrooms, and some have a seating area and/or patio. Each is air-conditioned, fitted with cable TV, and available in one-bed or two-bed rooms.
Another place to stay in Helen, this one closer to Anna Ruby Falls, is Hofbrau Riverfront. This hotel is just one mile from the waterfall, or a 10-minute walk from downtown Helen.
It has free private parking on site, continental breakfast, and a restaurant 1 mile from the property. Also, just 3 miles away, guests can travel to Yonah Mountain Vineyards to sample local wine and enjoy the scenery.
Things to Do in Helen, GA – Final Thoughts
Helen, GA lives up to its name as a top tourist destination in the state. There are things to do in nearly any season, and activities for any type of traveler.
So why not grab your pack and start exploring Bavaria in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Experience history & culture, hop onto the river, kick back with a beer or wine, and get you some Bratwurst. Helen promises not to disappoint, especially if looking for a town with rich history & culture.
As always, we wish you happy travels, and we hope to see you on the road soon!