Visiting northern Georgia mountains this summer and looking for Helen ga attractions? Here is your epic guide to Helen ga things to do including Chattahoochee river tubing, Main Street, Bavarian food, beer, and the ever-popular Oktoberfest! See the Blue Ridge foliage in fall or discover holiday themed top things to do in Helen ga in winter.
When we first visited Helen during our Memorial Day Road Trip in Georgia a few years ago, we were delightfully surprised.
We had zero idea of what’s in Helen ga and so the Bavarian architecture in this Alpine village and unique shops on Main Street took us quite by surprise.
Since then we have been there quite a few times – during the Holidays and in fall for Oktoberfest celebration – and have had so much fun in Helen ga on each visit.
Alpine Helen is a unique destination and promotes itself as ‘the charm of Bavaria in the heart of Blue Ridge Mountains’.
We found that description spot on – the town resembles a picturesque Bavarian village – with gabled roofs, pastel shutters, cobbled streets, and a festive atmosphere.
There are many events and things to do Helen for all ages and interests.
Its Bavarian cuisine – lots of brats – and German beer are also popular with tourists.
Due to its location amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are plenty of outdoor things to do at Helen ga – all making it a great tourist attraction.
However, there’s one caveat. Helen’s economy is largely dependent on tourists and the town is touristy by nature – think in terms of ‘picturesque’, ‘idyllic’, ‘quaint’ – if you think these words are overused, then you may not like Helen as much as we do.
We would still recommend you visit Helen ga at least once – and explore all the fun stuff to do in Helen ga – you can easily check out and head into the mountains if it’s not to your taste!
We have included a huge list of outdoor things to do near Helen Georgia just for this purpose.
Helen is the ultimate mountain retreat in the north Georgia mountains.
In summer, you will find water fun and beautiful hikes while in winter, it has one of the best holiday traditions in the country.
If you do not know about Helen, then you are in for a surprise – visiting Helen is like traveling to the villages of Bavaria in South Germany.
However, Helen’s history is quite unlike most other European towns in the US. Here’s why:
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History of Helen
You might wonder, what is a Bavarian town doing in the Appalachian mountains?
And are the people settled there really Bavarian? And what is there to do in Helen Georgia, if you do make the trip?
Here’s your answer! Helen started as a Cherokee Indian settlement sometime in the early 15th century.
Then around the 19th century, gold was discovered in the Appalachian mountains and Helen became a prospering mining town.
As with elsewhere in the US, the gold rush settled but the north Georgia mountains instead attracted the lumber industry and the railroad.
Helen adapted and continued growing with the industry.
When the lumber industry also slowed, Helen was on the verge of being abandoned – and on the decline.
And that could have been the end of the story – Helen could have turned into another mining ghost town like those all over the country – but for a group of local businessmen.
In 1968, they came together and decided to transform Helen’s Main Street to attract tourists that visit the Blue Ridge mountain ranges.
The group had significant restoration funds and they hired John Kollock – a local artist – who came up with sketches and ideas to transform Helen into a Bavarian Alpine town.
Thus, Alpine Helen was born.
The book Helen (Images of America) has beautiful pictures detailing Helen’s transformation through the ages.
Today, the beautiful south German style of architecture can be seen in all places to see in Helen GA.
Chain outlets, as well as new construction, have to conform to the Bavarian architecture rules.
As a result, walking down Main Street and appreciating the Bavarian architecture is one of the top Helen ga tourist attractions.
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Helen Travel FAQs
Helen has less than 450 residents and an area of 2.5 square miles but attracts over thousands of visitors and is Georgia’s third most visited city – that alone should answer your question about what to do in Helen GA!
Here is some practical travel information about traveling to Helen including where to stay, how to reach, and what is the best time to visit.
When is the best time to visit Helen ga?
Helen is great to visit in all seasons. You will find a variety of seasonal Helen activities and changing scenery in different seasons, making each visit unique.
Summer In Helen
Summer is definitely the best time to go to Helen ga. Helen river tubing is extremely popular on summer weekends.
There is no better way to beat the heat than to float on the cool river water and drink a giant beer afterward.
Helen also has a water park if you want more splash fun and to keep the kids happy. You can also enjoy the lazy river ride.
Outdoor Helen Georgia activities including hiking and camping are perfect to round-off a summer vacation in Helen.
Helen has many summer events including the popular Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Don’t forget to pack swimsuits, sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen if visiting during the summer.
If you plan to hike or spend any time in Unicoi State Park then don’t forget your insect repellent.
Alpine Helen In Fall
Helen in fall is stunning.
Helen’s location amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains makes it a perfect place to watch the leaves change color in the Appalachians.
Gorgeous pine cabins and other vacation rental places in Helen ga are perfect to sip apple cider or wines on a charming patio and enjoy the cool evenings with your partner.
Helen also hosts Oktoberfest, the Helen Arts and Crafts Festival, and many other popular events in fall.
The end of autumn is marked by Halloween festivities including corn mazes, pumpkin patches, hayrides, and more.
The key to packing for Helen in fall is layers.
The days are still warm but the air rapidly cools in the mountains as twilight approaches.
A thick sweater or jacket and cool weather accessories are essential for a fall trip to Helen.
Winter – That Means Christmas In Helen!
Winter is one of my favorite times to visit the alpine village of Helen.
You may wonder what to do Helen ga at this time of the year – after all won’t the tubing and hiking season be over – but turns out there are lots of things to do in Helen Georgia in the winter.
The town is all decked up to celebrate a traditional German Christmas with events including the Christmas Market or Christkindlmarkt, Festival of Trees, Breakfast with Santa, and Downtown Helen Parade – perfect for family fun.
Many events are also held on New Year’s Eve. Valentine Day draws couples to the hot tub resorts.
Helen quiets down a bit towards the end of winter and this shoulder season is the best time for couples looking to experience the city without its usual crowds.
Travel Tip: To know more about romantic places in Georgia, check here!
Spring Break In Helen, Georgia
The entire town prepares itself for the start of the busy tourist season in spring.
Tubing in Helen begins to gain popularity around Spring Break as the waters warm up.
Many wineries around Helen have wine tasting events; hot air balloon rides are also popular during spring break.
Helen also hosts the Spring Bierfest in April and Bavarian Fest in May – both events are basically Oktoberfest on a smaller scale – think giant beer mugs, German bands, live music and dancing, and Bavarian food – Wurts, sauerkrauts, and pretzels!
How long should your Helen trip be?
Helen can be done as a half-day to a weekend or week-long trip.
A short day trip to Helen ga will provide a welcome change from your routine while a week-long trip combining attractions near Helen ga with other places of interest in the Appalachians will make a great summer vacation.
For a small visit – just stroll along Main Street, visit the shops, eat Bavarian food, and then head back.
If you have 2 or 3 days, you can take advantage of the many things to do in and around Helen Ga.
Spend a day in Helen and the rest of your time hiking to beautiful waterfalls and ziplining over the trees.
How to reach Helen, Georgia?
As we mentioned, Helen is located in Northern Georgia. The closest airport is in Atlanta.
The distance from Atlanta to Helen is 85 miles north-east of Atlanta City center and you can easily get a car at the airport.
As a result, Helen is a perfect weekend destination for Atlanta locals. As for us – flights from Houston to Atlanta are quite cheap with Spirit and we scored a super low budget deal for Memorial Day weekend.
We rented a car from the airport and drove for about 1.5 hrs to reach Helen.
We drove partly through the Blue Ridge mountains and it was a great drive – and is especially spectacular in Fall.
We would recommend anyone visiting Atlanta to consider a day trip out to Helen.
Where to stay in Helen?
Helen has all sorts of accommodations including hotels, motels, inns, bread & breakfasts, luxury cabins, and RV parks/campsites.
They both have rooms with pretty balconies over the river and stunning views and are perfect for a romantic weekend.
I have also heard great things about the Heidi Motel from our friends who have been to Helen.
They have low off-season rates and jacuzzi tubs! Hofbrau Riverfront Hotel is also another good riverside option.
If you are headed to Helen for a romantic weekend, check out Black Forest B&B.
They serve delicious breakfast, have in-room spa baths, and the property is located on Main Street, so close to all attractions.
Black Forest Vacation Rentals also have good villas, jacuzzi tubs, and an on the river location.
Valhalla Resort is another great option for a romantic stay if you prefer modern facilities and decor.
The Unicoi State Park & Lodge is also perfect for those looking to commune with nature.
They have an on-site restaurant that serves Southern food.
There are also many cabin rental options near Helen with amazing mountain views.
Most of these are close to fishing, hiking, and boating activities and have a secluded location.
You can check them all here on Booking.com
On our first visit, we stayed in a beautiful pine cabin near Blue Ridge – it had a large patio and double hammock – and absolutely loved it.
We found our cabin on Airbnb – you can get $40 off your first Airbnb reservation using my referral link.
Best Things to do in Helen, Ga for everyone
As we discovered to our delight, there are so many things to do near Helen, Ga.
Time literally flies when you are here – there are so many things to see and do including the specialty shops, hidden alleyways, delightful snacks, and fun activities in Helen Georgia.
This is especially true if you are visiting Helen for a specific event like Christmas or Oktoberfest or New Year celebrations.
Popular attractions in Helen Georgia include exploring the Bavarian architecture and river tubing in Helen in the Chattahoochee River.
As we mentioned, visitors can rent a tube with popular companies in town or bring their own tube float.
Most of these attractions in Helen ga are located in and around Downtown and are great indoor things to do in Helen ga for both couples and families. Here are some of our favorites:
Travel tip: We recommend either Pinning this post or bookmarking it or searching for ‘things to do near me’ when in Helen to keep in handy.
Visit Helen Visitor Center and learn about local attractions
There is no better place to learn about Helen Georgia tourism than at the Helen White County Convention and Visitor Bureau.
Helen ga welcome center is housed in a charming building and offers brochures, maps, and information about Helen ga to do which makes it a perfect first stop among places to go in Helen Ga.
We found the staff helpful and knowledgeable and they had great dining and shopping suggestions for our stay.
We also saw quite a few leaflets to browse through and a few had discounts and coupons for nearby attractions.
Explore the Bavarian architecture on Main Street
The best way to explore this Little Bavaria is to take a stroll down Main Street.
You will see many gems including the working windmill in front of Heidi motel and other buildings built in the chalet style of architecture.
We recommend exploring the alleyways between buildings and walking inside building courtyards.
Towards the end of your stroll, turn along the Chattahoochee riverfront and spend some time admiring the beautiful scenery.
Walking down Helen’s Main Street is one of the best free things to do in Helen ga!
Take a horse-drawn carriage tour with the Alpine Carriage Company
Who doesn’t love a horse-drawn carriage ride?
This one is super affordable; we paid about $20 per couple ($5 per child, only cash accepted) to go on a ride that lasted about 20 minutes.
The horse carriages line up at the end of River Street.
The carriage was big and comfortable and we went down the Main Street of Helen.
This is a slow ride and not a tour – so you won’t get to know much about the history of Helen ga beyond the basics – but it is incredibly romantic with blankets provided for cold weather and the perfect atmosphere for holding hands with your loved one.
We were also able to feed the horse with carrots after the ride and thought it was a great way to see the city.
Eat Bavarian cuisine and drink German beer
Helen has an extensive list of restaurants that serve Bavarian cuisine.
The menus feature schnitzels, pretzels, wursts, smoked pork chops, German potato salad, and apple strudel.
This was the first time we were trying Bavarian food – and some of the menu items left us confused – but everything tasted just delicious!
The servers in most restaurants are friendly and willing to answer all your questions – including the difference between all those wursts and exactly what is a schnitzel – so go ahead and order a schnitzel along with chilled beer.
King Ludwig’s Biergarten is a family-friendly bar and nightclub, serves great German beer, and is one of the best places to eat in Helen Ga.
Their pretzels served with beer cheese dip are delicious.
We also had lunch at the Old Heidelberg Restaurant and ordered wurst samplers, schnitzels, and Hungarian goulash along with beers.
The food was good but the best part was balcony seating and live German band playing in the square below.
Our beers were also quite good.
Other popular places to eat in Helen ga include Bodensee, Chattahoochee Dog Haus, Big Daddy’s Restaurant and Tavern, Hofer’s Bakery, and Troll Tavern.
Tube the Chattahoochee River In Helen Ga
Many visitors want to come for Helen ga tubing.
During the summer season, you will see shuttles carrying guests and tubes down Main Street.
The river tubing is lots of fun and one of the best Helen Georgia things to do.
The river is a foot or so deep and about 15 feet wide – you can float along the shallow calm water for as short as an hour or even spend an entire day floating on the river.
River tubing is usually open from spring break to late fall but if you are planning a summer trip then you might encounter crowds since this is one of the most fun things to do in Helen ga on weekends.
Here are the two main companies that rent tubes:
Cool River Tubing
Cool River Tubing is the company with green tubes and they have everything you need to river tube the shallow Chattahoochee River. This is a great company for families and children love getting wet and floating downstream.
The gentle current pushes the tubes down. We recommend renting the push stick along with the float. It helps when the tube gets stuck or refuses to move with the current.
The cost is quite cheap for all-day fun. You should wear swimsuits and water shoes since you are going to get soaked!
Helen Tubing and Water Park
Helen Tubing and Water Park (one with the pink tubes) is the other river tubing company in Helen.
Also featuring inexpensive costs, good tubes, and shuttles to the tubing beginning spot this is a great option for people of all ages.
Helen Tubing is slightly cheaper; they also have the push stick option available which we highly recommend because the tube does get stuck on the rocks.
We also felt that their ride is slightly longer.
Ride the alpine coaster
Georgia Mountain Coaster located in downtown Helen is a hit with kids and fun for the whole family. It is located on Main Street but almost hidden because of its location on the mountain side.
Shop for one of a kind gifts, apparel, and souvenirs at downtown Helen ga shops
My favorite! Shopping in the small town of Helen has a distinct bohemian artists’ colony vibe to it. You will find arts and crafts stores, handmade goods stores, antique stores, and boutique stores located next to each other.
They sell a variety of items from everyday objects and unique gifts to specialty pieces.
During our trips to Helen, I made it a point to visit as many shops as I could – much to the hubby’s chagrin!
Here are some of my favorite stores that beg multiple visits during your stay – the list is quite long – but it has been a labor of love for me.
Glass Mountain Gallery and Studio
Glass Mountain Gallery and Studio is a seasonally open hand-blown glass gallery located a short distance away from downtown Helen.
We enjoyed watching the artists work at the large furnace and create beautiful glass figurines and unique fine art pieces. They have beautiful glasswork and friendly staff and artists.
The Glassblowing Shop
This second glass blowing shop is right in Downtown and has thousands of blown glass items displayed on every wall.
They also create personalized blown glass names which are kind of cool. When we walked in we could see the staff at work, it was really fascinating to watch.
Notre Gift Handmade Art Studio
The Notre Gift Handmade Art Studio sells beautiful, unique products including fused glass artwork, stained glass collages, handmade candles that change color when lit, wire wrapped jewelry, and ornaments.
Almost all the items here would make wonderful gifts. The store is easy to miss unless you are specifically looking for it, so here’s how to find it – its located next to Cowboy and Angels restaurant.
The Village Peddler
Village Peddler in Helen ga is a women’s boutique store selling clothing, jewelry, accessories and is a must stop. Most of the items are unique and the selection is vast and beautiful.
I purchased a beautiful dragonfly trinket from here and it’s one of my favorites. They have a good variety of quilts, hats, and bags. They also have the cabin/mountain style home décor. Trust me, you will love looking at their items.
I loved this boutique for the amazing variety of women’s clothing, accessories, and jewelry in their stock. Most of their items were unique and they also have toys for children, accessories for men, plus home décor.
Also, the store’s atmosphere is inviting and rustic – be sure to drop in into this store once.
Windmill Dutch Imports
This shop has all pretty souvenirs that you would otherwise get from the Netherlands including cuckoo clocks, pottery, windmill souvenirs, blue and white tiles, ornaments, tulips as well as typical European artisan goods like ginger cake, cookies, and chocolate – no wonder it seems to be one of the popular Helen ga places to visit for families and couples. All items are imported directly from the Netherlands and this is where you must go when you miss the Dutch!
I fell in love with the window display in this shop – it totally screamed clocks! We obviously had to step in and found cuckoo clocks and grandfather clocks and all kinds of timepieces from around the world.
It reminded me of a car I had seen in New Orleans French Quarter – it was decorated with clocks and said ‘We all are doing time’!
They also have other, random mish-mash of gifts and souvenirs including beer steins, Russian Matryoshka dolls, magnets, and more.
The Christmas Shoppe
Do you love Christmas so much that you wish everything was Christmassy year-round? Christmas Shoppe is the place for you! This store has unique ornaments including artistic, Dutch and German-themed, themed Christmas trees – even a beach tree, and a host of other Christmas novelties. Walking into this shop is one of the most fun things to do in Helen Ga.
The Willows Pottery
Since we had flown to Atlanta from Houston and could not take any pottery back home, this one was more for window shopping than actually making purchases.
But they do have a gorgeous collection of handmade stoneware sinks, dinnerware, mugs, soap dishes, and more. This store is located a short drive away from downtown but totally worth the visit.
The Pickled Peach
The Pickled Peach is a delightfully southern version of ‘As seen on TV’. It has a mishmash of kitchen items, home décor, bath salts, essential oils, and more.
This is a true one-stop gift shop and has something cute or funny or both for everyone. If you have a dog – there’s an entire section for the furry friends.
Eat hot cornbread, freshly made fudge, popcorn, jerky, peanuts, and candy
Helen’s Main Street is a foodie wonderland – it kind of feels like Disneyland Main Street with all kinds of gourmet food shops. You will find many specialty artisan stores as well as country food stores.
Throughout our visit, we kept munching on freshly milled cornmeal bread, biscuits, cakes, so many kinds of nuts, fudge, chocolates, candies, blueberry and blackberry jams, and so much more.
If you are looking for cheap things to do in Helen ga then you will love the best part – lots of free samples!! Here is where you need to go:
Nora Mill Granary
Built-in 1876, the Nora Mill Granary is still in operation and grinds cornmeal, biscuit and bread flours, pancake and waffle mixes, porridge, grits, oats, and more.
The on-site store sells a variety of products including mixes, jams, jellies, sauces, etc. making the granary one of the top places to visit in Helen Ga.
The owner is passionate, loves to tell the history of the mill and how it works – which makes for a very interesting history lesson. Also, free cornbread alert!
Jerky Snack Shack
Sampling the many jerkies at the Jerky Snack Shack was great; we tried the kangaroo jerky, alligator jerky, brisket jerky, and beef jerky. They also have other exotic jerky including python jerky, rattlesnake jerky, ostrich jerky, and elk jerky.
They also have a great selection of nuts including almonds, cashews, pecans, and peanuts plus jellies and hot sauces. Did I mention they hand out lots of free samples? This was one of the most fun things to do in Helen ga on our trip.
Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen
This store has lots of FREE SAMPLES of fudges! Trust me, we must have tried about 12 different fudges before we finalized on 4 to take home. We also bought some truffles and fudge pops. Delicious!
When walking on Main Street, the smell of candy and chocolates will hit you – that’s how we discovered this wonderful shop. At the back of the store, we could see them making candy which was a bonus treat.
Fred’s Famous Peanuts
Their roasted peanuts are crunchy, fresh and tasty. We tried the Regular boiled peanuts, Cajun boiled peanuts, and sea salt roasted peanuts.
I miss boiled peanuts – in India, we used to eat them in large quantities – we enjoyed munching on them in Helen.
They also have pork rinds, natural honey, homemade jellies and jams, barbeque sauces, pralines, plus lots of free samples.
Delicious fudge and lot of samples, one of the more popular Helen things to do. The fudge is tasty and the lady behind the counter is very sweet and helpful. They also have other sweet items like brittle, truffles, pralines, and chocolate-covered goodies.
Betty’s Country Store
Betty’s Country Store is located away from Downtown and a perfect stop on the way to see Anna Ruby Falls.
This is not a typical country store; they have delicious cookies, jam, and jellies, salsas, baked goods, a large deli section with sandwiches, and a huge wine section.
They also sell marshmallows to roast by the fire – perfect if you are camping nearby.
Kid-friendly things to do in Helen
Wondering what to do in Helen Georgia with kids? Helen is perfect for families because of the many kid-friendly Helen ga to do from panning for gold to and from mountain biking to driving a tank near Helen, Georgia.
These attractions and games, including model trains (Does your child love trains? Check out our guide to best train gifts for kids), will ensure you have a whale of a time with the family. Many of these attractions are geared towards kids, are lots of fun and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Helen ga with kids:
See the miniature Bavarian countryside train display At Charlemagne’s Kingdom
Charlemagne’s Kingdom is a large model train display in Helen. Entry to the exhibit is $5 for adults and $2.5 for children under 16. There is also a toy shop next door which has educational toys, and jigsaw puzzles.
The train display has trains, trams, train lights, miniature castles, hot air balloons, cranes and looks like a scaled display of the Bavarian German countryside.
The authentic miniature German architecture, mountains, and hand-painted figures are a treat for the kids.
We recommend walking up the stairs and taking in the exhibit from above. The exhibit is currently falling into disrepair and many of the trains were not working when we went.
The exhibit also has an interesting story behind it. The original owner was a retired Bavarian. He built the display piece by piece for almost 30 years but then became too old to run it.
The new owners are slowly restoring the display – you can read more about it here. In its heyday, Charlemagne’s Kingdom was one of the top attractions in Helen ga for kids.
Even with the disrepair, it was a fun thing to do in Helen and we enjoyed the 10-15 mins that we spent there.
Play mini-golf on a Bavarian landscaped golf course
There are quite a few mini-golf courses nearby which are just perfect Helen ga outdoor activities for kids. Here are the most popular ones in the area:
Bavarian Mountain Golf Course
If your kids love mini golf then they will enjoy playing at the Bavarian Mountain Miniature Golf course. They have two 18 holes golf courses with scenic views. One is called Helen while the other is Chattahoochee.
They also have arcade games including pool, ski ball, air hockey, and prizes for ticket winners. Our son loved their dogs named Romeo and Juliet – they were cute! We thought this a fun place to celebrate birthdays or other special occasions.
We enjoyed our time here and it was one of the most fun things to do in Helen Georgia.
Alpine Mini Golf Village
Alpine Mini-Golf Course is another place to play mini-golf. Their miniature golf course is challenging, beautifully landscaped, and quite fun.
They also have an ice-cream parlor with lots of flavors and discounts if you have played golf – a perfect treat in the summer. They also have picnic areas and a pretty flower garden.
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
Another mini 18 hole golf course in the town! Putt-putt seems to be quite popular among tourists here.
Their golf course is pirate themed and has pirate statues throughout the course as well as water and a cave with a hole.
They also offer free popsicles at the end, which is a definite highlight in the hot summer months.
Enjoy a game of laser tag or play arcade games
The Alpine Fun Factory is legit most fun thing to do in Helen Ga. They have laser tag, obstacle course, arcade games, go-karts, and literally everything that will make kids happy.
This is a great place to spend time when it is chilly outside or raining or to beat the summer heat.
We tried go-karting and the track was surprisingly challenging and about 10 mins long. They also have a Haunted house – a unique attraction in Helen Ga.
Buy unique handmade toys for the kids
With so many handmade goods and art shops and artists residing nearby, exploring unique toy shops where you can spend hours looking for the perfect toy is one of the unique Helen attractions.
Tims Wooden Toys
Tims Wooden Toys is a local shop where they make unique wooden toys on site. Many toys have customization options like adding names, etc.
I saw many wooden whistles, duck toys, wooden guns, figurines, magnets, and many other retro toys. They also have cabin décor for sale.
We thought the prices were a bit high but hey it’s made right there and the customization is mostly free!
Jolly’s Toys is one of the most fun things to do in Helen. The small store and engaging staff are a treat for families with kids. The staff loves showing their collection and lets children interact with the toys before purchasing them.
They have wooden toys, puzzles, brainteasers, card games, magic toys, and more available at reasonable prices.
Get timeless fun photos taken wearing period costumes
Who doesn’t love getting old-time photos taken? Along with the toy shops and the train display, this is one of the indoor things to do in Helen ga when it rains.
Wild West Old Time Photos
Wild West Old Time Photos has many vintage props and can take great pictures of the entire family in western times.
They have a great collection of backgrounds, period costumes and can take photos in the prohibition era, Wild West times, and other time periods.
They have great frames that complement the old photos.
Steve’s Old Time Photos
Steve’s Old Time Photos has a great eye for recreating a period photograph. You can get your photos dressed as bounty hunters under the ‘Wanted’ sign or get a family portrait in old Wild West clothes.
The staff is completely professional and manages to get bigger groups dressed in costumes and ready in no time. Their prices are great and the photographs make excellent souvenirs.
Enjoy the play area at Unicoi Hill Park and have a leisurely picnic
Wondering if there are less touristy Helen ga what to dos for kids? Visit the Unicoi Hill Park! We loved this park at the top of the hill for its big area and good amenities.
Our son enjoyed playing and running around and we sat on a bench and munched on a couple of fudge pops as he played.
It’s a regular park with slides, swings, and other play areas plus has shaded gazebos and makes for a nice break from touristy things in Helen.
If your kids get tired of all the activities, this is a quiet little place where they can run and just enjoy themselves. There is also a little waterfall at the bottom called the Alana Falls.
Visiting Unicoi Hill Park is one of the least touristy things to do with kids in Helen Ga.
Pan for gold and precious stones at the many mines in the area
Are your kids interested in ‘treasures’? They will love mining for gems and fossils.
Helen was originally established as a mining town and the many sluicing mines around Helen are proud reminders of Helen’s history.
Mining is one of the unique activities in Helen ga and is great fun, educational activity to learn about nature and rocks.
Dukes Creek Gold & Ruby Mines
If you prefer the glittery shiny gold, you can go panning for the precious metal at Dukes Creek Gold & Ruby Mine.
You can sift through buckets for gold nuggets and precious stones including garnets, sapphires, amethyst, and quartz. You can also buy the fossil bucket and find fossils to add to your treasure.
Chattahoochee Ruby Mines
Chattahoochee Ruby Mines, located outside the town on GA 17, is a great place to learn about sluicing mines.
They have rows upon rows of glittering rocks spread out for visitors to see.
Visitors can also perform their own sluicing by purchasing buckets of stones for $10, $20 or $100. This is a great opportunity to learn and identify the stones.
Outpost Gold and Gem
Similar to other mines in the area, Outpost Gold and Gem offers mining buckets that you can pan for gold, precious stones, and fossils.
The staff assists visitors in panning and helps in identifying the treasures.
There is also a Native American gift shop, Southwestern Outpost, on the site that sells handicrafts, jewelry, paintings, sand art, dream catchers, and more.
Zuzu’s Petals Rock Shop
If you would still like to see some precious stones and rocks but don’t have time to go mining, check Zuzu’s on the main street.
This is downtown’s hidden gem and has lots of variety of rocks, gems, jewelry, and more at reasonable prices – popular among downtown Helen ga kid activities.
Romantic things to do in Helen
Helen is one of the most romantic places in Georgia. If you are searching for an inexpensive honeymoon or anniversary weekend, then look no more.
Secluded pine cabins with fireplaces and jacuzzis near Helen are perfect for couples. These, however, tend to get booked for occasions like Valentine’s Day or during the holiday season – so book well in advance.
Here is our list of most romantic things to do in Helen ga:
Go for hot air balloon rides near helen ga
Couples can go for a romantic hot air balloon ride and view the Blue Ridge mountains from above in north Georgia.
The hot air balloon ride is especially spectacular in fall when the countryside turns a beautiful shade of orange-red. You will even see views of the Atlanta skyline from the hot air balloon.
For rates and ride times, visit Balloons over Georgia.
Buy local art and understand the history of the area
There are quite a few locations for art and history lovers in Helen including free local art museums and galleries. These also make one of the great things to do in Helen ga for couples. Here are the must-visit museums:
Helen Arts and Heritage Center
This small art museum is a must-visit among places near Helen ga for art lovers. It displays a variety of artwork from artists in the north Georgia mountains.
Their collection includes jewelry, hand-blown glasswork, sculptures, pottery, paintings, photography, Christmas ornaments, and much more. We also found many art pieces on sale.
They also have historic exhibits that narrate the story of Helen as well as some Native American art in their collection.
The staff is really great and told us about the local Holiday Inn restaurant selling beautiful pine needle baskets and Native American art pieces in their lobby.
We suggest talking with these folks in case you are interested in buying artwork – they can guide you to the best places.
Museum of the Hills
Museum of the Hills is a small art museum dedicated to Helen and the surrounding areas. It has exhibits on the area’s humble beginnings, transformation, and related history. They also feature local art pieces.
The museum collection has paintings, pottery, and wooden carvings, some of which is for sale. We found the small history section quite informative.
Try olive oil pairings at Alpine Olive Tree
As the name suggests, Alpine Olive Tree superstore has a large variety and flavors of olive oil blends and balsamic vinegar dressings. They have information and pairing guides and help customers with purchases.
They have tasting rooms and give out free samples as well. What I really loved is that there are small multipack sampler bottles available for confused people like me.
Taste wine at Helenbach Winehaus and buy candles at their candle boutique
Northern Georgia has many wineries for wine tasting but if you want to go to a wine tasting in Helen, then this is the place.
They have local and international wines available for tasting with crackers and cheese.
Their candles smell amazing and while we did not taste wine on our trip I bought a couple of scented candles to take home.
Shop For Antiques At The Nacoochee Village Antique Mall
The Nacoochee Village Antique Mall is located in a historic house called the Martin house. This three-story mall is filled with treasures, antiques, and collectibles of every kind and is a shopper’s paradise.
The mall has a variety of objects at different price ranges and is one of the top attractions in Helen ga for antique lovers. I could have spent hours looking but the rest dragged me out since we also planned to hike that day.
Spend the day cruising on Lake Chatuge
Couples will enjoy taking out a boat on Lake Chatuge. The lake is located in Hiawassee, Georgia and is just 45 mins away from Helen.
You can rent boats at the Boundary Waters Resort & Marina. They have various types of boats available including pontoons, ski boats, jet skis, and even kayaks.
Tour north Georgia wineries
North Georgia’s mountain climate is perfect for vineyards growth and many wineries are located in this region. You can have on-site tours of these wineries, taste local wine, and have a romantic getaway.
Some of the popular wineries near Helen include the Habersham winery and Montaluce winery in nearby Dahlonega. The bets time to visit winery near Helen is during fall.
Play Golf Among The Mountains At Innsbruck Resort And Golf Club
The Innsbruck Resort and Golf Club has a really top-notch golf course – hilly and challenging – and is located close to the town. The golf course also has excellent views of the hills and is spectacular during the Fall.
The Innsbruck Resort is also a great place to stay when in Helen. The on-site restaurant has good German food; their bratwurst is highly recommended.
Outdoor things to do near Helen, Georgia
Looking for inspiration for what to do around Helen ga? Alpine Helen offers a number of outdoor adventures – including some of the best hikes near Atlanta – and is officially declared Georgia’s Outdoor Adventure Destination.
It makes the perfect weekend getaway for outdoor couples.
There are a number of adventurous things to do in Helen Georgia and the town is your 1 stop base for hiking, biking, exploring waterfalls, river-tubing, fishing, hunting, and zip-lining.
Alpine Helen is also great for nature lovers because of its proximity to the famous Blue Ridge Mountain ranges.
Motorcyclists love the winding mountain roads while both RV and tent campers enjoy the state parks in the area and other outdoor Helen Georgia attractions.
Many covered bridges are located in the area and taking photos of these bridges is a popular thing to do near Helen Ga. Here are our favorite outdoor attractions in Helen – most of these can be easily done as a day trip from Helen:
Hike the beautiful waterfalls near Helen Ga
Helen ga has many waterfalls in the surrounding areas and hiking to the waterfalls is fun. Hiking, swimming and having a picnic in these waterfalls is one of the popular things to do near Helen GA.
Anna Ruby Falls
Anna Ruby Falls are the most popular falls in the area. The hike to this beautiful waterfall is paved and accessible, making it one of the popular outdoor things to do in Helen Georgia with kids.
The path goes uphill the entire time and we recommend carrying strollers for younger children. There are many benches and rest areas along the trail.
The falls themselves are breathtaking and very tall. The area has great wildlife and interpretative signs are posted throughout the hike. The falls are breathtaking during fall when leaves are changing color.
Dukes Creek Falls
Dukes Creek Falls is a spectacular waterfall located a short distance away and is quite popular amongst things to do around Helen Georgia.
The short hike is rugged, passed through the forest (meaning lots of shade in the summer) and has a gentle slope. It is wide, well-marked and 1.1 miles one way.
It has a viewing platform at the end for taking in the falls and photo opportunities.
Raven Cliff Falls
Raven Cliff Falls is a 5 miles moderate-strenuous round trip trail that leads to the falls. The trail goes over small creeks, over tree logs, and is for hikers in fairly decent physical condition.
The trail is very pleasant, closely follows a river, and has many smaller waterfalls along the way.
The trail is tiring for small children and we recommend a sturdy child carrier if you want to take your little one along. We also recommend good hiking shoes and plenty of water. The hike has a lot of shade even in the summer.
Horse Trough Falls
Horse Trough Falls are an off the beaten path adventure and are about 45 min away from Helen.
The falls can be reached by driving 5 miles along a one-lane Forest Service Road deep inside the Chattahoochee Wilderness area that takes you to the Upper Chattahoochee River campground.
The single-lane road is bumpy and busy with bikers, campers, and other cars and we recommend driving very slowly and carefully on it. There is a parking spot near the campground and the waterfall is located at the back of the campground.
The falls can be reached by crossing the wooden footbridge at the end of the campground and taking the trail on the right after the bridge to the falls.
From the parking lot, it is a short 5 min walk to the foot of the falls. The exact GPS location of the falls is N34* 47.53 W83*47.24. The little pool at the bottom of the falls is great for taking dips.
The book ‘Waterfalls and Back Roads of Northern Georgia’ has detailed instructions about the Horse Trough Falls hike and on getting there. The falls are over 100 ft and can be seen from the small viewing platform at the end of the trail.
The hike to the top of the falls is strenuous and best suited for fit hikers; the last section of the trail is especially steep and narrow. The Horse Trough Falls look great after a rainstorm.
See the amazing views from Yonah Mountain Hiking Trail
Yonah Mountain hiking trail is an excellent trail that goes to the top of the mountain and offers sweeping views across the area. The 4 miles round trip trail is steep and challenging on the way up while climbing down is easy.
There is an elevation change of 2000 feet over two miles.
The trail ends at the mountain summit and many overlooks can be accessed from the trail endpoint. It’s a 4 hrs hike at a leisurely pace. You will encounter fellow hikers and wilderness campers on the trail.
Visit the historic Stovall Mill Covered Bridge
Stovall Mill Covered Bridge is a historical gem in the North Georgia area. The bridge was built in the 1890s by a Fred Dover, a Georgia local and is still structurally sound.
At one time Georgia had 200 covered bridges out which only 20 remain.
Stovall Mill covered bridge is probably the shortest of them all at 33 feet long. Look for the historic marker by the bridge that describes its history. The bridge has been also immortalized in the movie ‘I’d Climb the Highest Mountain’.
The unique wooden structure is very photogenic however the bridge has been unfortunately vandalized in recent times and is covered with graffiti from the inside.
Even in its current state, it makes a nice stop, is one of the popular things to see in Helen ga and is worth the pleasant drive from Helen. We loved watching the clear creek that flows under the bridge.
Explore the Smithgall Woods State Park and Conservation Area
Smithgall Woods Conservation Area has many things to do for outdoor lovers. GPS directions often mislead visitors and take them to a closed entrance but it has directions rerouting visitors to the main entrance.
The easiest way to find them is to look at the map of the park and talk to a ranger.
The area has several hiking trails, an old gold mine shaft, and the Watson Mill covered bridge, the longest covered bridge in Georgia.
Visitors cannot drive the covered bridge but can hike it. You can look down into the gold mine shaft and there is an interactive exhibit explaining the history of the mine.
The hiking trails are spectacular in fall. There are also many waterfalls, nature programs, fishing, and wetlands. They also have beautiful cabins available for rent. You can easily spend half a day in the area.
Enjoy white water rafting in Helen ga
The many rivers around Helen including the Chattahoochee are great for white river rafting. Other popular rivers include the Chattooga River and the Tallulah River. There are many companies located in and around Helen with whom you can go white water rafting.
Visit The Romeo And Juliet Indian Mound Tragedy Site
What to see in Helen ga for history lovers? The Romeo and Juliet Indian Mound Tragedy Site located across the Georgia State Historic Site of the Hardman Farm on Highway 17 is a must.
The mound is on private land and hence cannot be directly accessed but is viewable from the road.
It is a large impressive mound with a gazebo on the top and a nearby road marker explaining the cultural history of the Native Indian tribes that lived in the area.
The easiest way to see the mound is while driving from Ruby Falls to Helen or on the way to Stovall Bridge.
The book ‘Valley where they danced’ explains the history and importance of this archeological discovery. The Sautee Nacoochee Arts Museum, located less than a mile away, has much more detailed information about the mound.
Mountain Bike The Unicoi Gap
Wondering what to do near Helen ga for biking enthusiasts? You can bring your own or even rent mountain bikes in Helen from Woody’s Mountain Bikes and go on the self-guided Unicoi Gap Ride.
This trail is strenuous, for experienced bikers and you need to be in physically good condition to complete the ride. The route goes up and down the hills for 15 miles.
Woody’s provides great bikes, maps, detailed directions, and shuttle drop-off to the beginning of the route.
After crossing a highway at the drop-off point, the route begins at the Forest Service Road. You can also do the Horse Trough Falls detour which adds a mile to the ride.
The last couple of miles are really scenic and worth all the exercise. The entire ride takes about 3.5 to 5 hrs at a leisurely pace. We recommend carrying a gallon of water per person, especially in the summer.
Go Fishing In Helen With The Unicoi Outfitters
Helen has some great fishing opportunities. You can go on a half-day to full-day fully guided trip with Unicoi outfitters and catch lots of large trout while indulging in fishing in Helen Ga.
The guides teach fly fishing in North Georgia mountain waters; they also supply required fishing gear for the excursion.
Zipline The Blue Ridge Mountains Of Northern Georgia
Helen has excellent zip lining facilities and zipping through the beautiful forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most fun things to do around Helen Ga.
This company has excellent zip lines and friendly guides. Their course is excellent for beginners and has awesome views of the forest. The staff really ensures that everyone has a thorough safety briefing and then up the mountain, we went to start the course.
The first zip is short but they get subsequently longer with the option of the Intimidator Zip at the end of the course. The course is a blast and among the best outdoor Helen ga activities.
Unicoi Zip Line and Aerial Adventure Park
This company is located inside Unicoi State Park Lodge and is the official zip line course inside the Unicoi State Park.
They have several courses; Level 2 is most amazing with multiple water crossings and an almost half-mile zip that takes you over the Unicoi Lake at a very fast speed.
The guides are friendly and explain all the instructions very well.
Cool River Adventures
Along with water sports, this company also has a combined ropes course and zip line. While we haven’t personally done this course, we hear that it’s a lot of fun for families with younger kids (8+ years).
Guides are patient with the kids and teach the safety instructions well. There are 2 options big adventure and small adventure and both are good for the age groups.
Camp at Unicoi State Park in northern Georgia
Unicoi State Park is one of northern Georgia’s gems. This is a big, clean park with excellent facilities and has lots of things to do for families – making it crowded in summer and on holidays.
Camping at the park is a great way to connect with nature; the campsites are nestled among tall trees and have fire pits and decks with picnic area.
At the park, visitors can enjoy outdoor activities near Helen ga including kayaking and canoeing on the Unicoi Lake, zip-lining through the park (see above), and hike the many trails.
The park is also close to Anna Ruby Falls and is one of the best day trips from Helen Ga.
Unicoi State Park is especially spectacular in fall.
If camping is not for you then you can stay in the Unicoi State Park Lodge. The Lodge has beautiful rooms and cabins and is located in the park itself.
The lodge also has many holiday events and gets booked quite in advance.
Helen ga has many other camping opportunities nearby. Proximity to the mountains, gently flowing Chattahoochee river and dense forests make camping in Helen ga a fun activity for all ages.
While we have camped only at Unicoi State Park, you can see other campgrounds in Northern Georgia here.
We are pretty sure that Helen is one of the coolest things to do in northern Georgia. We hope you like our ‘what is there to do in Helen ga’ bucket-list! Did we miss any cool places to visit near Helen ga? Let us know in the comments!