The Bavarian village of Helen, GA, is among our favorite North Georgia mountain towns because of the number of outdoor adventures. It is no surprise that Alpine Helen/White County has been designated by the State House and Senate as Georgia’s Outdoor Adventure Destination.
We’ve been to Helen dozens of times, and we can tell you that in addition to all the outdoor fun, you’ll also find great shopping, amazing restaurants, historical sites, can’t-miss special events, and even a castle!
Here are 37+ of the best things to do in Helen GA that we’re sure you’re going to love.
25 years. That’s how long we’ve been exploring every inch of The Peach State… and hands down, our favorite town is Blue Ridge.
Georgia’s favorite mountain town is where city sophistication meets small town charm. Great restaurants, stylish shops and galleries, hiking trails, waterfalls, beautiful mountains, vineyards, breweries, cozy cabins and friendly people.
It’s closer to Atlanta, but a million miles away from it all.
HELEN IS A HOT SPOT: GET YOUR HOTEL OR CABIN NOW!
- When It's Just Adults: Valhalla Resort Hotel is the city's newest hotel. The spa and golf course are big draws for those seeking an upscale stay in the region. Bringing the kids? I'd opt for a cabin instead.
- Cozy For Couples Rental: How amazing is this secluded getaway? Private property, full kitchen, screened porch and hot tub!
- Walk To The Wineries: This newly built cottage vacation rental offers a spacious kitchen as well as a living area and fireplace, and it's only a 3 minute walk to Serenity Cellars.
- Best Location In Town: Black Forest Bed and Breakfast is right in the middle of Downtown, sitting on Main Street. Since it's up on the hill, though, covered in trees you will not hear the hustle and bustle below. Breakfast is always included.
- Best Hotel For Families In Town: One of the newest hotels in the area, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Helen is a great family option. It's right off Main Street and comes with multiple room configuration options.
- Awesome Family Rental: There is plenty of space on the wrap around porch of this cabin for relaxing or enjoying breakfast. Bring s'mores for the fire pit, your swim suit for the hot tub, and bring Fido if you'd like - dogs welcome.
- Family Reunion or a Wedding: Lantern Lodge offers extraordinary views of the sun setting over the mountains. Cozy and inviting, the lodge offers 7 bedrooms, each with direct access to the one of 6 baths; plus 2 additional attic dormers, offering 3 bunkbeds each PLUS a guest house. Whew!
NEW IN 2023! UHUBERG, THE EAGLE OWL CASTLE
If you're looking for a castle in the mountains, look no further than Uhuburg, the Eagle Owl Castle, located just two miles from downtown Alpine Helen.
After 14 years of construction, architecture, lifestyle, and philosophy come together at Uhuburg. Open for weekend tours, you can explore the beautifully landscaped gardens, grounds, walking trails, and castle. Make sure to check out the Lookout Tower for sweeping views of the North Georgia mountains.
General admission tours at the castle can be reserved online, and walk-ups are also accepted.
HIKING AND WATERFALLS IN HELEN GA
- Anna Ruby Falls - Anna Ruby Falls is actually two waterfalls, where two rivers meet and create Smith Creek – the creek that fills the lake at Unicoi. The falls are majestic, and the paved walk is short and easy. We love taking our kids to Anna Ruby Falls, and do it at least once a year. Read More: A First Timer’s Guide to Hiking Beautiful Anna Ruby Falls
- Raven Cliff Falls – Many families avoid this hike because they fear it isn’t family-friendly. Have no fear – most of the hike is very flat, and it follows Dukes Creek, with multiple smaller falls and places to dabble in the water. It is only the very last 1/8-mile that is not safe for kiddos, but the hike is still worthy – awesome, in fact – even if you can’t do the whole thing. Read More: Raven Cliff Falls Georgia: Hike This Gorgeous Trail in Helen
- Dukes Creek Falls – I love this waterfall in winter, but any time of year will do. From the cabins at Smithgall Woods or from the Dukes Creek parking lot, it is only a 2-mile round trip to the viewing platform. We love the multi-tiered fall dropping 150-feet.
- DeSoto Falls – Two falls for the price of one (yes, this is a paid park area). You’ll hike to the left to see the lower falls, then head back and to the right to see the upper falls. The entire trip is only 2.25 miles, but if you can’t do it all (or you’re not sure the kids will make it the whole way), I recommend heading to the upper falls first.
- Horse Trough Falls – This waterfall is within the Upper Chattahoochee National Forest campsite in the Mark Trail Wilderness area. You must pay to camp here, but not if you just want to see the falls. It’s only a half-mile walk and sees far fewer visitors than other falls in the area.
- Yonah Mountain – This one is a 4.4-mile difficult hike primarily because of the pitch. I haven’t done it with my young ones. Go without them and then reward yourself at the nearby vineyard. You’re going to love the views of Helen, GA from this 3100-ft bald.
- Whitley Gap Trail – Take this short trail (named for a nearby AT shelter) to the top of Wildcat Mountain, this trail is filled with fairyland shrubbery that my kids adore.
OTHER OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN HELEN GA
- Tubing the Chattahoochee River – This, my friends, is a Georgia must-do! Rent a tube from Helen's Cool River Tubing and hitch a ride from them to a drop-off location up the river. Whether you take the short ride or the long one, be sure to purchase a push stick!
- Georgia Mountain Coaster opened its newest Bavarian Alpine attraction a couple years ago and it is EPIC! It's fun, fast, and family-friendly. Kiddos must be 38 inches to ride. Bonus! After you pay for the first ride, your second ride will be half off...and you WILL want to go again!
- Helen Waterpark – If the water is too low for tubing (or you just want to have some old-fashioned fun!) then head to this Helen, GA, waterpark where you can tube the 1000-ft lazy river, or take on the four waterslides. Tube rental is also available here.
- Camping – There is nothing like camping in fall in Helen, with the changing leaves and the crisp mountain air. Andrews Cove is a small campground just off the road but a world away. The Upper Chattahoochee Campground is a bit more secluded, with toilets and a waterfall. There’s also camping at Yonah Mountain and Unicoi State Park.
- Alpine Mini Golf - Alpine Mini Golf is right on Main Street. The clean course, with German flare and white washed fences was a wonderful way to spend an hour. Be sure to make time for an ice cream next door.
- Chattahoochee Stables – One of the few horseback riding places we’ve seen in Georgia with no age limit. Kids under 5yo can ride with an adult! Take an hour guided trail ride, including 1.5 miles along the river (the only “river ride” around)!
- Wildwood Outfitters – Select from 4 different 5-10 mile kayaking trips down Georgia's Chattahoochee – either a leisurely trip or an exciting whitewater experience. Trips are 2-5 hours, depending on where and how long a trip you take. Rentals include kayaks, canoes or tandems, life jacket, paddles, helmet and shuttle. Kiddos must be at least 5 yo.
- Alpine Carriage Company - Whether you are visiting with your family, as a couple, or on your own, you can’t skip the carriage ride with Alpine Carriage Company. Kids will especially get a kick out of this adventure and feeding the horse!
- Hardman to Helen Trail - We love this trail! It's a 1-mile paved walkway along the river, running from Hardman Farm to Downtown Helen. There are beautiful stops along the way (like a terrific view of Nora Mill!) Bring the stroller, the kids' scooters, or just your feet.
HELEN GA STATE PARK ADVENTURES
SMITHGALL WOODS STATE PARK
We’ve visited about half of the state’s lovely parks, but Smithgall Woods State Park is my favorite one by far. I love the creek running through, the towering trees that change the temperature by a good 10 degrees with their full canopies, and the unique cottages from which you can explore.
The cottages allow easy access to Dukes Creek Falls (or you can drive only a few miles to the trailhead). Hiking, trout fishing, geocaching, ranger programs…there is so much to do!
UNICOI STATE PARK
There is a second Georgia State Park in Helen with outdoor activities galore: Unicoi State Park. Enjoy hiking, biking, walking, fishing, boating, canoeing, swimming, and more!
Don’t forget there is lodging here, too…Barrel Cabins dotting Unicoi Lake, cottages (3 are pet friendly), camp grounds and a Lodge.
Hardman Farm is the newest Georgia State Park Historic Site, sitting on 173 acres in Helen. You can take tours of the Italianate architected house and dairy barn built in 1870, home of the family of Anna Ruby, for whom the falls are named.
The Nacoochee Mound is a burial site and was probably used long before the Cherokee inhabited the area.
SHOPPING AND MUSEUMS
This logging town turned adorable German-style Alpine village set among the Blue Ridge Mountains is not just for outdoor lovers. There are amazing museums, festivals, shops and restaurants serving plenty of German fare in the town of Helen.
- Nacoochee Village Antiques – This amazing antique mall is full of amazing and unique treasures. This is also a great place to grab a bottle of Habersham Wine or locally roasted JumpinGoat Coffee.
- Babyland General – If you are a product of the Cabbage Patch generation, this is a must see. See Cabbage Patch Kids baby dolls being "born", tour the "hospital", and play with (and maybe even adopt) Cabbage Patch Kid baby dolls.
- Habersham Winery - One of Georgia's oldest and largest wineries is right in the downtown area of Helen. When visiting, you can enjoy a wine tasting with five wines.
- Old Sautee Store – The building is beautiful by itself, but it is fun to see that the shop keeps the spirit of roots in their detailing, candy barrels, and sweet staff. Whatever you do, don't leave without asking them to start the music player.
- Sautee Nacoochee Center - The Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center includes a theatre, a history museum, dance and art studios, an art gallery, a folk art pottery museum, and an environmental educational resource center. If you have an appreciation for the arts or a desire to learn about the history of the area, I highly recommend a stop.
- Nora Mill Granary - Do stop into the granary to see the millstones and the dam. Take a peek at the 1876 building, with all her character. Pick up a package of freshly milled grits. It's history...in real life.
CAN'T -MISS EVENTS IN HELEN GA
- Oktoberfest – Helen’s Okterberfest is a can’t-miss. It’s the longest running Oktoberfest in the U.S., starting right after Labor Day through Oct 29. Besides the brats and beer, there are Alphorns, Cowbells and Accordions for your listening pleasure when you head to the Helen Festhalle. Don’t miss the kick-off parade – Sundays are free for Festhalle events.
- Hot Air Balloon Festival - The South’s oldest balloon event and the United States’ only long distance hot air balloon race will begin (weather permitting) with a mass ascension of 30 bright and colorful hot air balloons. We can never get enough of this June festival – love it!
- Christmas in Helen – There is nothing quite like Helen at Christmas. Tour the Festival of Trees beginning in November, with the culmination being the Helen Christmas Parade with a bonfire, s’mores and paper lanterns.
Find the perfect gift at Christkindlmarkt, a German tradition where the center of town is filled with booths offering specialty gift items, decorations, assorted savory food, drinks and candied treats, the first two weekends of December.
THINGS TO DO IN HELEN (printable)
Download this 1-page checklist of Things to Do in Helen to print at home or your local print shop. Perfect to keep in a binder, bring on your adventure or just put on the refrigerator!
(PS. A portion of this list is detailed in our article, The 39+ Best Things To Do in Helen Ga for Alpine Fun.)
Format: PDF, US Letter Size, Portrait (8.5”x11”)
You will receive one PDF file. File will be emailed and available for download up to three times upon payment. No physical item will be shipped.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO HELEN
- YOUR GEORGIA VACATION
- HOTELS: 7+ Best Helen Georgia Hotels Your Crew Will Love
- RESTAURANTS: 15 Restaurants in Helen Ga: The Best Places To Nosh
- WEEKEND GETAWAYS: Weekend Getaways in GA: 31+ Awesome Drivable Adventures
- HELTON CREEK FALLS: Helton Creek Falls: Georgia’s Most Family-Friendly Waterfall
WHERE TO STAY IN HELEN GA
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