There are so many things to do in Helen, GA, that no wonder it is considered Georgia’s outdoor destination. Helen is a charming Alpine town located just north of Atlanta, Georgia, and it is truly a hidden gem! We visited this adorable little town on our road trip around the South and ever since, try to return for different seasons. It promotes itself as “the charm of Bavaria in the heart of Blue Ridge Mountains”. The description is spot on! This town does, in fact, resemble a quaint Bavarian village (although it was not settled by Germans). There are plenty of Helen GA attractions for all ages and interests. Plus, because it is situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are plenty of hiking trails and outdoor activities to enjoy as well. Here is a family guide of our favorite things to do in Helen GA.
Helen GA Attractions
While Helen is a tiny town a little over an hour away from Atlanta, it has enough to keep tourists busy no matter what the season. It continuously ranks as one of the top-visited cities in Georgia. It is a small city with a big heart, and it’s one of our favorite Southeast cities. While I am certainly not mentioning everything there is to do in Helen, GA, I have tried to compile a list of what to do when visiting the Helen GA attractions.
Things to Do in Helen GA
Stroll through Downtown
This is one of the top things to do in Helen GA – just walk through the quaint downtown area. The main street of Helen is quite picturesque! It really does seem as if you’ve traveled to a German village. There are plenty of specialty shops, hidden alleyways, delicious snacks, and gorgeous architecture here. We meandered into various shops, and while they do have the usual magnet and Christmas ornaments available, there are also many unique, handcrafted stores here. These are some of the shops that stood out:
Hansel and Gretel’s Chocolate Shop
One of our family’s favorite places to stop for a quick snack was at Hansel and Gretel’s Chocolate shop. You can sit and watch them make any number of tasty treats like candy, fudge, and chocolate. They offered free samples and had a variety of truffles, cookies, fudge, and other great snacks on display. We also took some treats to go!
Tim’s Wooden Toys
Our kids loved playing inside Tim’s Wooden Toys. Here they browsed and played with so many handmade toys they had never seen before. At Tim’s Wooden Toys, they carry traditional type toys, as well as many different cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes. They have art sets and crafting kits, puppets, toy guns, as well as medieval swords and shields. We could have stayed and played for hours, but as usual, we were on a time crunch and wanted to explore more Helen GA attractions. If you have younger children or are shopping for younger kids, this is a great stop.
Windmill Dutch Imports
Everything at Windmill Dutch Imports is imported from the Netherlands. They have cookies, wooden shoes, gifts, cuckoo clocks, art, chocolate, and much more. We bought some snacks we had never seen before and enjoyed it on the road back to Atlanta.
Alpine Festival of Craft and Arts
Browsing the Alpine Festival of Craft and Arts was a lot of fun! It is considered the largest craft shop in Helen and has a variety of dolls, crafts, painting, ceramics, quilts, birdhouses, yard signs, floral displays, jewelry, and so much more.
Both times we have visited Helen, Georgia we walked into the Christmas Shoppe. They carry handmade ornaments of all kinds and even collegiate items too. One thing to note though is that they are only open from May-December.
Notre Gift and Art Studio
Notre Gift was a gem of a place! It is run by a local artist who specializes in personalized gifts and souvenirs. There are a variety of handmade products, create your own options, classes, and more. We bought a color-changing candle and loved it.
Fred’s Famous Peanuts
Our kids loved Fred’s Famous Peanuts! This roadside shop was such a unique and quirky find. Their peanuts are crunchy, fresh, and tasty. We tried a few samples but ended up buying the salted roasted peanuts and pralines. They also have pork rinds, local honey, salsas, salad dressing, homemade jellies and jams, bbq sauces, jerky, and more.
Charlemagne’s Kingdom is an Alpine Model Railroad Museum. This huge exhibit depicts the terrain and architecture of Germany countryside and is a unique stop. Admission is inexpensive at $5 for adults and $2.50 for kids.
The Glassblowing Shop
Our kids were very intrigued when we explained what glassblowing was as we walked by this shop. Here you will find thousands of blown glass items on display. When we walked in we could see someone at work, and it was very fascinating to watch.
Ride the Georgia Mountain Coaster
One of the new Helen GA attractions right in downtown is the Georgia Mountain Coaster. This alpine coaster is Georgia’s first and so much fun! Kids must be 38 inches to ride, and each ride is $16 the first time and half-price the second time. I recommend doing it twice – it is fast, yet family-friendly.
Visit the Nora Mill Granary
Nora Mill Granary is not located in downtown Helen, but it is a worthwhile stop on my Helen GA attractions list. This is an operational grit mill that produces fresh and delicious goods to purchase. They sell grits, pancake and waffle mixes, cornmeal, biscuit and bread mixes, porridge, oatmeal and much more. Each time we visit Helen, we buy a couple of pancake mixes, grits and biscuit mixes to take back home and make with the kids (by the way – they are fantastic). There is also a coffee shop next door, if you’re interested.
Eat Bavarian Food and Drink Beer
Helen, Georgia has an extensive array of Bavarian cuisine. If you have never tried any of these, don’t be shy about asking the servers, the food is very simple, yet flavorful, and best of all great with our picky eaters.
We have eaten at Old Heidelberg, Hofbrauhas, and Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe. All three places had authentic and delicious German food like schnitzel, spaetzle, potato salad, brats, sauerkraut, and apple strudel. Other restaurants on our list that have been recommended to us are: King Ludwig’s Biergarten, Old Sautee Store, and Hofer’s Bakery. On this recent visit in November 2022, we stopped into Yonah Coffee for some lattes and muffins. Their lunch menu looked delicious as well.
All around Helen, GA there is no shortage of German beer and classic Bavarian food options. We hope to be back during Oktoberfest, which is supposedly even more lively!
Take a Riverfront Walk
One of the relaxing things to do in Helen GA is to take a scenic riverfront walk. The Chattahoochee River runs right through Helen. A nice stroll along the river is a nice way to walk off all of that food you’ve been eating all day. There are even some areas where a paved path runs right along the river’s edge. Not many tourists seem to know about this path, so check it out for some scenic views.
Hike and Chase Waterfalls
There are plenty of things to do in Helen, GA in town, but if you are looking for some outdoor fun, then consider visiting Unicoi State Park and hiking some trails. We visited in the winter, but this is a perfect activity for any season.
After a quick 5-minute drive, you can reach Anna Ruby Falls. The hike was very short (only 1 mile) and pretty gentle the whole way. On our way to the falls, we walked past some creeks and wooded areas. It is a perfect hike for those with young kids or those not wanting anything strenuous. There were several viewing platforms to take pictures and soak in the beauty.
Some other great waterfall hikes nearby are:
River tubing is a very popular summertime activity in Helen. In fact, it is rated among the top things to do in Helen GA. Our kids were too young to tube when we visited in the summer (3 and 5), so I wanted to wait until they were a little older. Here are the two main companies that provide river tubing down this gentle section of the Chattahoochee River.
Cool River Tubing is located across the street from the Helen Welcome Center. They offer a one-hour trip or a two-hour trip for $10 or you can choose to buy an all-day-pass. The company provides free shuttle service from their parking lot to the two entry points.
Helen Water Park and Tubing contains 4 water slides, a lazy river, a kiddie splash area, and a 25-foot rock wall for climbing. Admission to the water park ($25) includes unlimited tubing down the Chattahoochee River. If you’d prefer to only tube, the cost is $8.00 per person for a single ride which lasts about 2.5 hours. They also provide free shuttle service between the river and water park.
What family Helen GA attractions list would be complete without mini-golf? If your kids are anything like mine, they love a themed mini-golf course – the more elaborate the better! Here are the top two mini golf locations in Helen:
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
If you have pirate loving kids, then this mini golf course in Helen, Georgia is perfect. This 18 hole course has caves and waterfalls, and is, of course, pirate-themed.
Bavarian Mountain Golf Course
This place has two 18 hole courses with stunning views. They also have arcade games and billiards, ski ball, air hockey, and other classic games. A very fun, family-friendly place and one of the top things to do in Helen GA with kids.
Mine for Gems
A great Helen GA attraction for kids might be will love mining for gems and fossils. Helen was originally a mining town and there are still many mines around the area as proud reminders of Helen’s history. Mining is one of the unique things to do in Helen GA and can be a fun, educational activity to learn more about mining and rocks.
Outpost Gold and Gem Mining Co.
Outpost Gold is located around the corner from the Helen Welcome Center in downtown. It is the second location of the popular mining company Dukes Creek Gold and Ruby Mines. Here, just like at the original location, you can sift through buckets for precious metals and gems like gold, ruby, sapphire, amethyst, and quartz, mine for fossils, or break apart a geode.
Take Old Time Photos
If you’ve ever considered taking some of these types of photos with your family or significant other, check out these top two options for old-time photos in Helen Georgia.
Wild West Old Time Photos and Steve’s Old Time Photos
Both places have a great collection of vintage props, backgrounds, and period costumes. This could be a fun and unique thing to do in Helen GA.
Where to Stay in Helen
Let’s face it; Helen is a touristy town, which means higher prices on places to stay. Although walking into town would be quite convenient, my recommendation is actually not to stay right in Helen, so you can getaway from the hustle and bustle. Staying outside of Helen, would also be better if you were interested in making this your home-base and exploring more of Northern Georgia.
Stay in a Vacation home or cabin
Staying in a vacation home or a cabin, would be my advice when visiting this area. We stayed in an adorable cabin called The Bear Affair and loved the seclusion and decor! It was only a 7 minute drive to downtown Helen and located 3 minutes from Unicoi State Park. The weather was too chilly (for us “Florida folk”) to enjoy the outdoor spaces of the property, but the amenities were wonderful. There was wifi, a full kitchen, tv, heaters/AC, bbq grill, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, board games, and so much more. It really felt like a home, more than a vacation rental.
Holiday Inn Express Helen
I am a big fan of IHG branded hotels, mainly because of my loyalty with them for my rewards credit card. I am a platinum elite member, and I can honestly say they are perfect stays for a traveling family. This Holiday Inn Express in Helen is no different. It is located just outside of Helen, but very close to Unicoi State Park. Clean rooms, free breakfast, and great prices.
The Jameson Inn is a great choice because it’s just a short drive to downtown Helen and to surrounding attractions like the Babyland General Hospital. It has all the facilities you need with nice rooms with fridge and toiletries. It is basic and a bit dated, but also very good value, and breakfast is included. Kids will especially like the indoor heated pool which is a big plus.
Contributed by: Sharon Gourley
Heidi Motel and Windmill Suites
Heidi Motel is one of the most photographed landmarks in Helen Georgia. It is still a working windmill and a very popular selfie location. It is located just on the edge of the town, which means you can walk to almost anything. In terms of staying here, the motel itself has very high ratings and positive reviews, plus you have the option of staying in an authentic windmill suite.
Check out rates for hotel stays in Helen.
Things to Do Nearby
Besides all the things to do in Helen, GA, there are plenty of activities in towns or state parks within a couple of hours drive. Here are some ideas on what to do if you are planning on combining your Helen trip with other activities in Georgia, North Carolina, or South Carolina.
- Visit the town of Greenville, SC
- Hike Tallulah Falls Gorge
- Have lunch in Blairsville, GA
- Go horseback riding with Chattahoochee Stables
- Visit Babyland General Hospital (like a Build a Bear, but for Cabbage Patch Kids)
- Hike to Blood Mountain
- Go white water rafting in the Nantahala Outdoor Center
- Visit Blue Ridge, GA
- Walk the Boardwalk at Congaree National Park
View this post on Instagram
Helen, Georgia is one of the most unique towns in the U.S. It’s modeled after a Bavarian village and many of the the shops and restaurants have Austrian and German influence as well. — • • Helen is an easy drive north from Atlanta and offers plenty of things to do year round. Our family visited in the winter and enjoyed strolling the downtown area, eating some delicious schnitzel, sauerkraut, and spaetzle, and browsing local shops. Nearby are a couple of state parks with various easy hiking trails with waterfalls. — • • I would love to visit during their Octoberfest celebration, as I hear it’s one of the largest in the country (but that trip has to be without the kiddos). — • • If you’re curious about this little town and what there is to do then check out my post by clicking on the link in my bio. — • • #visittheusa #visitgeorgia #visithelen #helenga #georgia #georgiatravel #georgiatrip #familytravel #familytravels #roadtripusa #roadtripping #familytravelfriends #helengeorgia #peachstate
If you enjoyed this post and are planning on visiting Helen Georgia in the future, then Pin for later.
This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission from any sale of a product linked to this post. DQ Family Travel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. Your price does not change when you click on these links, but it does provide me with a small commission.