Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Chattahoochee River runs through a little town that looks like a fairytale. Touted as “Alpine Helen” this former lumber town reinvented itself in the early 70s into a Bavarian village. It’s beautiful and strange and a great place to visit.
This small village packs in a lot of things to see and do.
Check out the shops on main street to find kitschy souvenirs like German hats and beer steins. Blown glass figurines and Bigfoot paraphernalia are popular items as well. Quality German crafted cuckoo clocks, clogs, and nesting dolls can be found at a store called Lindenhaus Imports.
Browse Tim’s Wooden Toys. The resident woodworker makes all the toys by hand in the store. Stop by to watch them being made and pick up a toy. For an extra $5, most toys can be personalized.
Another great store for kids and the young at heart is Jolly’s Toys. This store is stuffed to the gills with every toy imaginable. Customer service here is top notch. My daughter was looking for a couple specific things on our trip. The salesperson lead her all around the store showing her all her options. They had all kinds of unique items I had never seen before. Shelves are filled with retro toys that transported me back to my own childhood. Plus puzzles, dolls, pranks, trains, and building sets were weaved through the aisles. I kept overhearing people say, “There’s so much to look at!” It’s a really fun place to stop.
Another distinctive store is called Wildewood shop. They have a wide variety of items, everything from axes and knives to windchimes and jewelry. I loved these lighting fixtures.
It seems like there’s a place to buy a yummy treat on every corner of Helen. There’s several bakeries and fudge shops, ice cream, caramel corn, funnel cakes and soft pretzels everywhere you look.
We tried The Mason Jar Shoppe for coffee and gelato. It was tasty. There is of course German food available including a place called Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe- yep, you read that right. They specialize in authentic German and Czech cuisine. The nice thing about this busy eatery is that there are pictures all over the menu. So, if you aren’t familiar with all these European dishes, it’s not intimidating to order. Most meals are served with homemade roasted potatoes or homemade potato salad. There are gluten-free options too. If you aren’t interested in trying new delicacies, there are plenty standard options available too- Like the Hootch Pizza and Burger Joint and Paul’s Steakhouse. For breakfast, try Cimmi’s Cafe.
Things to do:
One of our favorite activities was a couple miles outside of town. We hiked to Anna Ruby Falls, charming twin waterfalls in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Be sure to add Georgia Mountain Coaster to your Helen bucket list. It’s exhilarating!
If you are a child of the 80’s, then Cabbage Patch Kids are probably dear to your heart. Well, in nearby Cleveland, GA, you can visit Babyland General Hospital. This is the birthplace of Little People and Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. They have the original handstitched dolls available here as well as vinyl. Staff are dressed in scrubs and there is an adoption office where you can officially sign paperwork to adopt from Xavier Roberts.
There is lots of fun memorabilia to look at from celebrities who visited Babyland and a little museum of Cabbage Patch History. Then, of course, the main event is a sprawling gift shop. When we were there, it was decorated for the holidays and was very pretty.
We RV. So, we chose Jenny’s Creek Family Campground in Cleveland, GA. They have a free arcade and game room with billiards, air hockey, foosball, and video games. There’s a nice playground here with ladder ball and giant Connect 4. There’s a little duck pond near the park office. It’s a family business and staff are very friendly. This campground had the cleanest laundry facility I’ve seen. They clearly take pride in their property. Everything is well-maintained. Our spot was next to the creek. We enjoyed grilling and watching an outdoor movie on our rig.
The Georgia mountains are beautiful. A visit to Helen is like visiting Europe without the plane-fare or Covid restrictions! We had a really wonderful time. If you visit in late November or December, like us, you’ll get to experience Christkindlmarkt, the annual outdoor Christmas market. But, there are events year-round like, Wine Fest in the Spring, Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race in the Summer, and of course Oktoberfest in the fall. There’s always something going on in Helen, GA- check it out.