By Debra Pamplin
Located in the northeast corner of the state, the small town of Helen, Georgia, is big on tourism. Even with a population of just 582, it’s the state’s third most visited city. With the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Chattahoochee River and Georgia’s only German-style Bavarian Village, it’s no wonder the 2.1 square miles of Helen is so attention-grabbing.
Helen’s beginnings offered a much different atmosphere than we see today. Incorporated in 1913, the town was primarily a logging location. After seeing a large decline in work, the small town chose to give itself a complete makeover. In 1969, Helen began its transformation with German-influenced buildings, storefronts and cobblestone alleys. The word began to spread and with each passing year, more and more tourists paid a visit to see the little Bavarian village. “Alpine Helen” now holds over 35 events annually. Helen’s Oktoberfest is one of the nation’s largest.
With nearly 200 stores, there’s something for everyone. One shop you don’t want to miss is one completely unique to Helen. Fred’s Famous Peanuts was started by Fred and Dianne Jenkins nearly 40 years ago. They created recipes and developed all the homemade products that the store sells today, including 17 flavors of homemade jelly. Try the habanero flavor and give your taste buds a kick. They also have jams, preserves and pickles in a variety of interesting and uncommon flavors.
Food & Drink
A trip to Georgia’s version of the Alps wouldn’t be complete without an authentic German meal from Hofer’s Bakery & Cafe. The Hofer family has served up distinctive dishes in a real Bavarian konditorei and café since 1991. Try one of the “Specialties from the Grill:” Wiener schnitzel (a lightly breaded pork cutlet pan fried) or Ziguener schnitzel (Wiener schnitzel with a spicy green and red pepper sauce). They also offer imported German beer. If you’re in the mood for steak, lasso some grub from the Cowboys & Angels Restaurant and Bar. Try one of their many cuts of steak or sink your teeth into a longhorn burger. Don’t miss their fried green tomatoes.
Unicoi State Park & Lodge is over 1,000 acres and includes the 53-acre Unicoi Lake. You’ll find accessible fishing docks, 12 miles of hiking and biking trails, ziplining and swimming, as well as seasonal canoe, kayak, paddle board and paddle boat rentals. Near the state park is a half-mile paved walking trail that leads you to Anna Ruby Falls. It’s a great place to picnic and provides a beautiful background for photos. The Chattahoochee River is a prime location for tubing. Float downstream for a few hours taking in the beauty that’s all around you. Part of the journey leads you through the heart of town and there are optional waterslides along the way.