Don’t let the postage stamp size of this small city fool you; there are so many things to do in Helen Georgia, making it one of the top three busiest tourist destinations in the state! Surrounded by the breathtaking natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains in the northeastern portion of Georgia, Helen is a recreation of a Bavarian Alpine town. Rustic timber frame facades accented by gardens and equally German names give the impression of stepping into the German Alps, all surrounded by exciting recreational activities that take advantage of the serene natural wonders of the state parks as well as the plentiful vineyards that ring this tiny town of only 2 square miles! If you too wish to see this unique and breathtakingly gorgeous town, be sure to read this article of the best things to do in Helen Georgia so you won’t miss any of the exciting activities that can be found here!
Things to do in Helen Georgia: The Ultimate Visitors Guide
Stroll the streets of Helen
Around 50 years ago, the town of Helen made the decision to undertake a massive initiative to renovate the facades of the town, which has resulted in a unified appearance throughout the city. Because of the surrounding peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, the decision was made to turn this tiny mountain town into a recreation of a Bavarian Village nestled in the German Alps. Today, you can stroll the cobbled streets or stay at quaint themed hotels. Shops selling themed goods and artisan crafts dot the streets amid restaurants, bars and cafes who have all taken the theme to heart and provide offerings that appear to be plucked right from the streets of the European country they are styled after. The theme of this city is perhaps its biggest draw, for which reason a stroll among its stylized streets is one of the first and perhaps most important things to do in Helen Georgia. For a truly immersive experience, try to plan your visit for the season of Oktoberfest, where the hills come alive with the sights and sounds of Germany!
Step back in time at Hardman Farm
Sprawling over 170 acres just south of the main city streets of Helen is the Hardman Farm. Built in the 1870s, the historic farmhouse and barn is open for tours that include examples of not only the art, architecture, infrastructure, and furnishings of the 19th century but also a peek inside the room of Anna Ruby, whom the nearby falls of the same name was named after.
The history goes back even further at this location! This area of Georgia was settled by the Cherokee tribe, but even longer before that, other native settlers claimed this place as their own, leaving behind the now famous Nacoochee Indian Burial Mound. An excavation in the early 1900s revealed approximately 75 individual burials within the mound, spanning different generations and cultures as well as the influence of European settlers on the tribes. Nearby, the Sautee Nacoochee Community Association operates as a resource for the preservation of the history, culture and art of the various time periods, their home base taking root in a small, restored rural schoolhouse. This community center is home to a history museum, contemporary art gallery, African American heritage site, art studio and the Folk Pottery Museum, all of which is surrounded by walking paths to explore the scenery as well as a playground for children. If you want to get a true snapshot of the lengthy and compelling history of this area, a visit to the Hardman Farm and Nacoochee Indian Burial Mound is one of the top things to do in Helen Georgia.
Float along the Chattahoochee River
For a truly unique perspective on the town, taking a river tubing tour is one of the top things to do in Helen Georgia. Equipped with tubes, life jackets and a convenient shuttle service, this tubing adventure allows you to float serenely through the center of town along the Chattahoochee River. If you want a little more speed, the water slide provides for a fun filled afternoon of water play for all ages!
Bask in the natural wonders on the Helen to Unicoi Trail
Spanning 3 miles one way between the town of Helen, Georgia and Unicoi state park is the Helen to Unicoi Trail. This moderately strenuous winding trail crosses a few small streams and intersects with the Unicoi Biking Trail while offering pleasant views of surrounding wild flowers and foliage. The trail is well kept making it one of the most family and pet friendly things to do in Helen Georgia.
Spend a relaxing afternoon in Gibbs Gardens
Over 200 acres of lushly landscaped property combines to create the Gibbs Gardens, a large and breathtaking public garden space created over a span of nearly 40 years by the owner Jim Gibbs. With 16 unique vignettes, 4 of which are themed feature gardens, the property has been painstakingly curated over the years to provide a year round outdoor experience for all ages. Fifty acres of daffodil fields bloom in the spring with over 20 million blooms, while the stunning Manor Garden is lush with terraces, waterfalls and blooms from early spring to late fall. A recreation of Monet’s famous bridge overlooks well over 100 different varieties of waterlilies and the Japanese Garden is a stunning array of ponds and islands connected by Japanese bridges with thousands of Japanese maple trees among rock gardens and statement boulders and rocks. If you are looking for a relaxing afternoon, a visit to Gibbs Gardens will fit the bill as one of the most serene and visually stunning of things to do in Helen Georgia.
Venture through wine country on a comprehensive tour
By far one of the most popular things to do in Helen Georgia is to experience the prolific and top-notch vineyards and wineries that surround this picturesque town and there is no better way to do so than with a comprehensive tour. Tour groups and companies provide transportation and guides that will help you create a tailored experience to see everything this area has to offer while also stopping at a number of wineries along the way. Elite Excursions and Wine Tours provides transportation and a professional driver who will take you on a journey to see all the natural wonders of the area as well as some of the more popular and well known vineyards and wineries along the way. Habersham Winery is one of the most popular AND oldest of the vineyards in the region. Since the early 1980s, Habersham Winery has provided some of the award winning wines from this region and as the oldest winery, paved the way for the prolific wine industry that now flourishes around Helen Georgia. Stop here to see the wine making process up close and personal from your seat in the tasting rooms and visit the gift shop for artisanal cheeses, gourmet food and souvenirs sourced from around the world!
Get your adrenaline pumping at the Adventure Lodges of Unicoi State Park
With over 1,000 acres of pristine wilderness to explore, the Adventure Lodges of Unicoi State Park is one of the top things to do in Helen Georgia if you want to experience the breathtaking scenery that draws tourists to the area year after year! Explore the miles of trails on a GPS scavenger hunt or head to the canopy for an aerial view of the forest on one of their ropes courses, canopy bridges or zip line adventures. Adventurers at heart can practice their aim at the archery and air gun fields while those seeking a more serene experience can try fly fishing or paddle boarding on the many creeks that run through the property. Also offering guided nature hikes, this state park provides access to trails leading to the well-known sites such as the Anna Ruby Falls, Smith Creek and Unicoi Lake, with many of the trails leading back to the pristine beauty of Alpine Helen.
Chase waterfalls through the forests surrounding Helen
If there is one thing that this area is known for, it’s the waterfalls that pepper the forest all around the town. One of the most well known is the Anna Ruby Falls, a spectacular cascade of twin waterfalls dropping a combined 200 ft in a thunderous rush of water before joining together to become the Smith Creek. A well manicured walking path connects the base of the falls with a parking lot, providing an easy half hour walk with benches to rest along the way and admire the serenity of the forests that surround it. Nearby, the Lion’s Eye Trail provides a way for the visually impaired to also enjoy the scenery of northeast Georgia. A well maintained and accessible trail lined with Braille signage that interprets the scenery allows everyone to get up close and personal with the natural beauty of the area, a feature that is often hard to find elsewhere. Exploring the waterfalls and forests around this tiny mountain town is one of the things to do in Helen Georgia that you won’t want to miss.
Hike to the stunning Raven Cliff Falls
Located within the Raven Cliffs Wilderness of the Chattahoochee National Forest is Raven Cliff Falls–one of the most popular waterfalls near Helen Georgia. Formed by Dodd creek, this remarkable landmark features a unique double cascade through a fissure in a giant rocky outcrop 100 feet to the ground below. From the creek, the water falls 60 feet as it pours through the fissure and drops another 20 feet into a deep pool, followed by another 20 foot drop into Dodd creek. The creek itself is considered to be one of the most beautiful in northern Georgia!
The Falls can be reached by Raven Cliff Trail, a 2.5 mile hike that is relatively easy to trek until near the end where the trail slopes up 2600 feet near the base of the waterfall. Enjoy the scenic route as you travel the steep path–vibrant flora, towering mixed hardwoods, and moss-covered seepage paint the surroundings with other smaller waterfalls and clear pools along the way. Marking the end of the trail is an 80 foot rock formation with a split down the middle giving view to Raven Cliff Falls in between. A tranquil path with a stunning view makes a visit to River Cliff Falls one of the most rewarding things to do in Helen Georgia.
Step back in time along the Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail
Only a mile away from the town of Helen, Georgia is the Hardman Farm State Historic Site. There was no link between these two locations until April 26, 2018 when the Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail was opened to the public. This one mile trail is situated along the Chattahoochee River and offers a look into the history and development of the area via kiosks and signage stationed along the way. Visitors can learn about the history of the area, dating back to Native American times, and also learn about the local plants and wildlife. This popular tourist attraction is both family and pet friendly, and the fact that it is free makes it one of the most economical things to do in Helen Georgia.
With so many things to do in Helen Georgia, it’s no wonder that it is such a popular tourist destination! From the picturesque Bavarian streets to the stunning natural wonders that surround them, you too will understand why this is such a hotspot for visitors! Visit this unique destination for yourself to see the appeal!
Fun facts about Helen Georgia:
- Rumor has it the gold rush did not in fact start in California, but right outside Helen just a couple miles in Nacoochee-Helen Valley in 1828.
- Helen was a logging town until about 1969 when that was no longer working for the city and they converted it to tourism. They created a Bavarian town that now boasts over 200 shops and thrives on tourism.
- Helen is most famous for being a Bavarian replica town and throws an insane Oktoberfest each year!
- Getting to Helen, Georgia: the easiest way to get to Helen if you need to fly into Georgia is by way of Atlanta. You can fly into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and then the drive is about 2.5 hours into Helen. You can rent a car right at the airport. but advise setting up your rental prior to arrival to guarantee you have get what you want.
- Elevation in Helen: 1447
- Currently there IS Uber and Lyft in Helen to get around – keep in mind the town is about 2 miles big so you won’t have to go far.
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