The Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival is truly on of the most spectular sights in North Georgia.
The first weekend in June each year brings 25-30 colorful hot air balloons to Alpine Helen to fly in the beautiful N. Georgia mountains.
Photos and information can be found at
Don't miss Helen's Octoberfest.
I have already posted this tip on the "nightlife" section. However, Octoberfest goes on all day long.
One of the main reasons for our village's success is Octoberfest, which begins the second weekend in Sept and continues for two months with a celebration that includes Bavarian music, oompa bands, bratwurst, beer and plenty of polkas. Seems like the official dance of Helen should be the polka or the chicken dance. Check out the city's official website (www.helenga.org), it plays continuous polka music and sometimes the chicken dance. You can also see this year's Octoberfest schedule on their website.
The main Octoberfest party is at the city's Festhalle located on the back streets of town. There are live bands, beer drinking and partying going on all over town and most of the resturants.
Octoberfest is one of the main reasons that Helen is the third largest tourist attraction in Georgia.
Combine Octoberfest with the beautiful fall leaves in the mountains and you have one great vacation.
located on main street (hwy 17) just walking distance from central helen is betty's store. if you are staying in helen this the place to buy groceries, beer and wine. part of the store is a modern grocery store and part is a old fashioned general store. the beer and wine selection rivals a major city store. a very interesting place to visit when in helen.
This is what ALL the shops, banks, restaurants look like in the city. In the 70's the town was going bankrupt so some of the business leaders decided to turn Helen into a Bavarian adventure. It worked and now tourism is the major form of business in the town. You must go to OKTOBERFEST. Not as good as the one in Munich, but alot cheaper.
the sautee general store is located about a mile east of helen on hwy 17. named after the chickasaw warrior sautee it is an interesting place to visit when in the helen area. the sautee general store has the usual tourist mechandise but one part of the store is just like a turn of the century drug store. the sautee genral store is worth stopping into on the way to helen.
the nora mill store is another interesting place to visit when in the helen area. nora mill is located about a mile east of helen on hwy 17. this late 1800's grist mill now houses a general store. the nora mill is worth visiting when in the helen area.
This is the home and long time-35 year tradition of the Cabbage Patch dolls. Yep, after nearly 20 years of being away, someone I know "adopted" a couple of them for the next generation. The rates to adopt are as mind boggling as before, when they were only $100 range. The fad has apparently not worn off. Xavier Roberts still has the marketing charm and draws 1500 visitors a day in the summer. It is packed and the streets to get into town clogged for many minutes/miles. Be aware of summer traffic jams.
The old 5,000 SF facility is going to move into an 11,000 SF space to allow more room for visitors/shoppers. Rooms are covered with the dolls and the layout is interesting and themes take you through the life of a doll. You can adopt a newborn if you are there at birthing.
The history is fascinating for the entrepreneur ability of a young kid to start as a tenn in 1979. . Xavier Roberts sold out in 1982 to Coleco for over $150 million for the manufacturing and franchise rights. They busted by 1986, and from there, Hasbro and Mattel made cheap replicas with plastic heads and bodies. Now those sell for $20-40. The "original" still carries a price over $200 and pushing $300.
Most putt-putt golf courses are somewhat cute and a bit tricked up but this one is downright beautiful. From the garden entrance to the elevated deck walkway from the clubhouse to the ice cream shop and on to the course itself, the landscaping is striking and quite lovely. If you are traveling with kids putt-putt is a sure winner and this one is lovely as well. Adjacent to the course is an ice cream store where you get a 10% discount when you show them your scorecard. Our 7 year old grandson thought it was a perfect day - mini golf followed by ice cream!
This is a small community in the valley of Sautee, near Cleveland and Helen areas. It has a special shop with the entrance still as it looked 100 years ago. In the rear, though, it is set up for that commercial shopping for goods, clothing, jams, Glogg (Swedish cinnamon flavor liquer), cheese, and amber; none of which are "bargins" Next to this is Wendell's restaurant, a country eatery with daily specials of the South.
This little town has been a stalwart for years, and has now a museum and some other attractions. It was a town started hundreds of years ago, and even in 1540, the Spanish came through looking for gold. After the Civil War, it was a timber country and secluded. Later it became the "moonshine" capital. The train depot and the big red apple weighing 5,20 pounds are the primary attractions.
I have visited here often starting in the 1970's due to the inlaws moved to this town of 3,600 to get away from the big city. They did that and moved back after 5 years.
The town seems to maybe mot hold much attraction for visitors. However, if you hang around long enough, you will find that the big apple, the old train depot and some other sites are really interesting. The locals are all friendly.
A very pleasant way to spend a summer day is floating down the Chattahoochee on a tube. This was the main attraction that drew us to Helen for our 7 year old grandson's birthday trip. There are at least 2 companies doing this in Helen and I doubt that there is much difference in price and they certainly use the same river. We went to Cool River Tubing. In Helen you purchase your tickets and are given a tube which you take to a huge trailer attached to a bus. You board the bus and are taken upriver where you take your tube and get in. There are two options for length of trip and we took the shorter which was about 1.5 hours. The flow is not terribly fast but a pleasant steady pace. There are some small rapids which pose no threat but give kids a thrill.
If the level of the river is low, tubes can get stopped sometimes but you can take or buy a stick to use to push loose so you don't have to get out of the tube (although this is not difficult either). It is a good idea to have something on your feet so you can take an old pair of sneakers or for less than $10 buy some river shoes in the gift shop.
Prices seem to me to be reasonable. Our ride was only $5 each. Sticks were $5 and my grandson thought his 3 foot blue one was neat and took it the next day as a walking stick on our hike up to Anna Ruby Falls.
Anna Ruby Falls is just a few miles north of Helen and adjacent to Unicoi State Park. The hike of just under half mile is not a difficult one and the path is paved. There are also attractive stone benches along the way so you can rest frequently if needed. There are a couple of bridged crossings of Smith Creek as well as two nicely placed observation decks just below the falls which offer great views and photo ops.
When you reach the observation decks you are treated to not one but two lovely little falls. They are Curtis and York Creeks which meet here to form Smith Creek. Curtis drops about 150 feet and York about 50 feet and together form a beautiful and unusual scene. Along the path there are various signs with information about the flora and fauna as well as historical information. It is a great easy hike for almost anyone who is mobile. We enjoyed it very much and our 7 year old grandson thought it quite cool.
For a small fee, you can ride a huge donut-shaped float down the Chattahoochee. Remember to have flip flops or some type of water shoes on, and a stick for pushing yourself away from the river banks. The best time to go is when there has been a lot of rain, then the water level is high, and the rapids are fun!
There are an amazing dozen or so hills in this tail end of the Appalachian Mountains. Many water falls also dot the landscape; none of which we saws this trip. There is also kudzu creeping around and killing trees. It is ugly.It was meant to deter erosion, and the vine came form Japan in early 1900's. It now has "taken over" the south, and cannot be readily eradicated.
Hiking trails are interspersed throughout the hills.
There are a number of roads and side areas crossing through north Georgia. The way to find out about the local life, is to take some of these off the highway roads and get to know the local ambiance.
There are a number of shops on the highways and side roads to shop for antiques and unique gifts. We dropped off in Sautee, which is a little community stop in the valley. It was a nice place. Yes, things are there to be bought-like jams, sorghum,country hams, knick knacks, and even some amber. WE got hooked on that. There are also some factory outlets being promoted, but we favor the local spirit and the unique items in the old timey stores. They are like museums themselves. One was over 120 years old and the potbellied stove was stoked up.
We stopped at about 4-5 shops on the way to Helen GA. Bessie Mae was in business for 40-50 years and the son now runs the operation on a "bigger" place. It is unique and old time feel. The Tug Hill Trader is a fabulous place for special INdian items, and leather, hand made knives, wood furniture, and many more things not usually found.
Also in Sautee there is a shop, more commercialized, and expensive. but friendly.