• UF Travel Reporting

A Small but Fun Town-Helen, GA

Have you ever wondered what it is like to visit a Bavarian-style town? Then, I guess you are thinking of Helen, GA!


By: Elisabell Velazquez


History


With centuries of history and a unique culture, Helen is a small village in northeast Georgia.


Helen was created in 1913 with a name after the daughter of a railroad surveyor looking to bring more rail lines into the area. With only 543 people, Helen is known for its German roots. However, its history goes further back in time. Helen not only has German roots but it also has Native American roots. Helen was home to the Cherokee nation prior to the arrival of European settlers in the 1800s. The Cherokee influence today is evident in Helen today in places such as in the Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound.

In 1813, the Unicoi Turnpike was created. The turnpike led through the Cherokee's territory from Savannah River into Tennessee. The turnpike used to be in the present highways 17 and 75. Unfortunately, the Cherokee nation was later displaced during that time.

An important aspect of Helen's history is gold. America's first gold rush began in 1828 when gold was discovered in the Nacoochee-Helen Valley which is located 5 miles southeast of Helen, Georgia.


Today, there are many sited in Helen with historic gold mines. Helen became a mining center throughout the Civil War but later fell into anarchy during The Reconstruction, until the end of the 19th century. Later, it became a forestry center and the town flourished again. After the 1960s, Helen started to become a Bavarian town, influenced by German traditions.


Culture


Photo Credits: Explore Georgia

Helen's Oktoberfest is celebrated from mid-September through the end of October each year.


As previously mentioned, Helen, GA has strong Native American and German roots that are evident as you walk through the village. Since 1972, Oktoberfest became an annual tradition in Helen. The German tradition is filled with festivities, from parades to live polka to dancing. During this time, traditional food from Germany is also served such as wurst, pretzels, sauerkraut and beer.


Helen's Bavarian and Alpine style makes for a small town that makes you feel at home. With more than 200 shops and historic places to visit as well as antique shops, Helen makes you travel back in time.

Chattahoochee River

The Chattahoochee River flows for hundreds of miles from Northeast Georgia to the southern border.


Whether it is tubing, river fishing or just watching the water flow, you cannot miss seeing the Chattahoochee River in Helen, Georgia. Before embarking on its 430-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico, the Chattahoochee River starts as a spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains and flows through the mountains, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and on through the town of Helen.


One of the most popular activities in Helen is tubing in the Chattahoochee River. Letting the water take you in the direction of the river gives you a relaxing feeling that puts your mind completely at ease. Two popular tubing companies in Helen are Cool River Tubing and Helen Tubing and Waterpark.


River fishing is also very popular at the Chattahoochee River. With so much trout and not so many restrictions, the Chattahoochee River is a calm location and a getaway for fishing.


Anna Ruby Falls


If visiting during winter, make sure to pack an extra jacket as it can get really cold.


The Anna Ruby Falls are a must-see in Helen. Anna Ruby Falls is in the center of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The calming water cascading from the falls comes from two creeks: Curtis Creek and York Creek. The falls of Curtis Creek drop 153 feet and the York Creek falls are a much shorter but still spectacular 50 feet.


When visiting the Anna Ruby Falls, make sure to stop at the visitor center where you will find guide maps and resources to help you navigate through the beautiful nature of the creeks and falls.


You might even see a few ice crystals on your way to the fall!


A paved 0.4-mile path leads from the parking lot to the main view of the falls. Walking there will take you approximately 30 minutes to complete and benches are stationed just in case you need to take a quick break along the way. One thing I would recommend is to wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. The trail can be slippery.


For those who love hiking and are looking for an adventure, there is a 4.6-mile trail on the Smith Creek Trail that leads from the base of Anna Ruby Falls to Unicoi State Park.


The fee for visiting the falls is $3 per person (ages 16 & up) and it is open every day from 9AM - 6PM.


Kaya Vineyard

From the balconies of the winery, you can see many of the mountains of Georgia.


At about 14 miles away from Helen is Kaya Vineyard & Winery, located in Dahlonega, Georgia. From the moment you arrive, the first thing you walk to is the wide area of grape plants. The vineyard is decorated with rustic chairs and tables, and the entrance door has a bouquet of grapes that gives a special touch to the sight of visitors.

Outside is a blue truck from the 70s which makes for perfect souvenir photos.


The food and hors d'oeuvres in this restaurant are delicious. For those who are 21 years of age or older, you may also do the wine tasting. If you ever visit Helen, Georgia, do not forget to drive 20 minutes and visit the vineyards.


Ziplining


My family and I went on the Level 1 Tour and the experience was great!


Imagine ziplining through Unicoi State Park? Well, it's possible! You really cannot leave Helen without ziplining. You experience the breathtaking view of the mountains while zipping from tree to tree.


One of the great places to go ziplining in Georgia is Unicoi State Park Screaming Eagle Adventures. The site allows you to choose your ziplining tour based on your experience level. I will say, if you are ziplining for the first time, make sure that you are completely on board for this adventure because once you are climbing up the stairs and begin zipping, it is very difficult to get down as everyone is attached with the same cord.


If you are a beginner, there is a Level 1 Canopy Tour that suites people of all ages and is a great way to start your adventure. The tour consists of 6 zip lines ranging from 50 to 300 feet in length and 4 suspension bridges as well as a 40 foot stair case. The level 1 costs $39 per person and lasts for about 1 hour.


The Level 2 Zip Line Canopy Tour consists of 11 zip lines that range from 75 feet to 400 feet in length, 7 cable and wood suspension bridges and two 40 foot stair cases and the heights range from 20 to 75 feet in the air. Whoo! That sounds like an adventure! The level 2 tour costs $59 per person, lasting for approximately 2 hours.


Lastly, the most extreme level is level 3... the ULTIMATE experience! Level 3 consists of 19 zip lines ranging from 50 feet to a 1/2 mile in length, 9 suspension bridges and three stair cases ranging from 40 to 65 feet high. The cost is $99 per person and the estimated time is 4 hours.


Ziplining is an incredible experience that you will truly really enjoy. The sights are beautiful and the fresh air, and adrenaline that comes from the experience is amazing!


Where to Stay

The Chattahoochee Charmer is a beautiful cabin located on the Chattahoochee River.

The Chattahoochee Charmer is in the center of Helen. The cabin is well-maintained and very clean. There are four rooms, one for children all rustic decorated and with a spectacular atmosphere. The terrace overlooks the river and is decorated with bears and plants which make it aesthetically pleasing and give it a nice rustic look. The cabin offers many amenities so you will definitely not get bored, especially when it is cold outside and you are all huddled up in the cabin. The owners of the cabin are extremely kind and generous and having board games in the cabin as well as a dartboard.


Outside, there is a fire pit where you may sit and roast marshmallows or just simply absorb the nature while keeping warm by the fireplace. There is also a jacuzzi outside of the cabin.

With an amazing view of the river flowing, the Chattahoochee Charmer is a super comfortable and cozy place.


Helen is a Place You Must Visit

Helen is the third most-visited town in Georgia.


Helen, Georgia is a village filled with history, culture and adventures. Whether it is summer, fall, winter or spring, Helen is the perfect place to visit during all seasons. With different activities and places to visit, your stay at Helen, Georgia, will be nothing short of amazing!

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