A weekend visit to the northeast Georgia town of Helen might surprise you with its Bavarian-style architecture and alpine town vibe. Just two hours from the Atlanta airport, Helen is nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains and near the Chattahoochee River. It attracts thousands of visitors each year to its cobblestone streets, charming shops, restaurants, and proximity to outdoor recreation. North Georgia’s mild weather makes it easy to visit any time of year.
Where to stay:
For a luxurious stay, the Valhalla Resort offers scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and premium amenities. Glamping sites at the Unicoi Lodge at the Unicoi State Park, just two miles down the road from Helen, offer safari-style tents with amenities that include a coffee maker, mini fridge, wood fire ring, and hammocks. The Unicoi Lodge offers other accommodations like cabins and campsites, too.
Where to eat:
Traditional German cuisine is aplenty in downtown Helen. Grab a pretzel, bratwurst, or hamburger along with a beer at The Troll Tavern, or consider a full German dinner at Heidelberg German Restaurant & Pub.Betty’s Country Store offers groceries and an outdoor eating and drinking area with German beer on tap. Yonah Coffee Co. has freshly roasted coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries. Visit the tasting room of the Habersham Vineyards and Winery, one of Georgia’s oldest wineries.
What to see:
Downtown Helen is filled with fun shops and activities like the Georgia Mountain Coaster, an alpine roller coaster that allows you the thrill of rushing down the mountain, but while controlling your speed.
There are miles of hiking and biking trails in Unicoi State Park in the Chattahoochee-Uconee National Forest. Hike the Smith Creek Trail to Anna Ruby Falls, a spectacular waterfall (actually twin falls) that flows into the Unicoi Lake.
A drive down the Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway, starting in Helen, includes a 40-mile loop through valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians.
A visit to Hardman Farm State Historic site includes a tour of the Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound, a native American burial site, and the Hardman Farm home where Anna Ruby Nichols (namesake of nearby waterfall site) lived with her family in a 19th-century Italianate-style home.