Thinking about exploring Alpine Helen, one of the prettiest towns in Georgia? Get to know the town’s storied past and its lovely Bavarian Village by enjoying the best things to do in Helen, GA. Located in North Georgia, Helen is surrounded by the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, providing ample opportunity for an outdoor adventure.
Many of the top tourist attractions in Helen, Georgia, are in the mountains. The town has several top national & state parks within proximity, none better than the Chattahoochee National Forest. Along with hiking, you’ll discover a world of tubing along the river and gawking at fairytale waterfalls.
Owing to its German influence, Helen is also an interesting spot for history & architecture buffs. Modeled after a Bavarian town, the alpine village is chock-loaded with delectable German food and hosts one of the biggest Oktoberfests in Georgia.
Not sure what to do? Find something for everyone in our ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Helen, Georgia.
What to see & do
Anna Ruby Falls
For outdoor enthusiasts, one of the top things to see & do in Helen, Georgia, is Anna Ruby Falls. Perched within Chattahoochee National Forest, this beautiful waterfall is accessible via an easy, yet scenic hike.
Anna Ruby Falls is a double waterfall created by both Curtis and York Creek, which converge at the base before flowing into Unicoi Lake. The surrounding nature is gorgeous, especially in the fall when the foliage puts on a spectacular show.
For those seeking a more adventurous trek to the falls, skip the regular trail and hike the 4.6-mile Smith Creek Trail. The hike also connects the falls with Unicoi State Park (listed below), so you can knock off two Helen points of interest in a single day.
Unicoi State Park
Nestled in White County, Unicoi State Park is packed with exciting activities and beautiful scenery. With the Blue Ridge Mountains rising in each direction, there’s plenty of hiking on offer within the park. From easy treks around the Unicoi Lake to the ultra-scenic hike to Preachers Rock, there’s something for all skill levels.
One of the park’s top attractions is Unicoi Beach. It’s the perfect spot for young and old, who simply want to enjoy some sun, sand, and scenery. There’s plenty of on-water action here, too, from stand-up paddleboarding to fly-fishing and kayaking.
Unicoi State Park also offers primitive camping for those that want a night in the woods while in Helen.
Cool River Tubing
While you can’t see all of Helen, GA, in one day, there’s still plenty of opportunity for adventure. If you’re only around for 24 hours and need an adrenaline spike, venture down to the Chattahoochee River with Cool River Tubing.
There’s no better way to enjoy the water of the Chattahoochee River than jumping in a tube and cruising along. Floating along the river—or ‘shooting the Hooch’ as the locals say—is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day.
With Cool River Tubing, you can have the entire day planned out for you. The tour includes equipment and shuttles to & from the river along with jackets and safety equipment.
Everyone from the ages of three and up are welcome to enjoy the adventure. Cool River Tubing even offers kid-sized tubes for the little ones.
One of Georgia’s largest wineries, Habersham Winery has been one of the best places to go in Helen, GA, since 1983. Their delicious wines are waiting to be sampled in the tasting room, where you’ll get to decide which lucky bottle is coming home with you.
Habersham Winery offers a wide variety of wines. They produce them using European and French-American grapes, bring a touch of the Old Continent to Northern Georgia.
Along with wines, Habersham Vineyards & Winery has an on-site shop selling a wide selection of gourmet foods and cheese to complement your favorite Georgian wine.
Dukes Creek Falls Trail
For families seeking a child-friendly outdoor adventure in Alpine Helen, then you can’t go wrong with the Dukes Creek Falls Trail. The simple two-mile hike can be enjoyed by young and old alike.
The beginning of the Dukes Creek Falls Trail is paved, allowing for easy access—and even the chance to bring along a stroller. The highlight of the trek is the multitude of waterfalls to discover.
The biggest and best along the trail is Dukes Creek Falls, featuring an immense 150-foot drop. The water cascades past different levels, providing you with striking views from the elevated platform.
For some of the finest Helen, GA, sightseeing, carve out some time for the spectacular Yonah Mountain Trail. Featuring some of the Alpine Helen’s best hiking, Yonah Mountain Trail is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The scenic trail offers breathtaking views for hikers.
The 4.4-mile round trip is a moderate to difficult hike owing to the elevation gain on the way to the summit. But every yard gained on the Yonah Mountain Trail brings you closer to the reward at the top.
From the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views from the rocky outcrop, jutting out of the landscape like a concert stage. Pack a picnic to enjoy an unforgettable lunch at the top of Georgia.
Hot Air Balloon Festival
The most unique festival in Helen, Georgia, is its annual hot air balloon event, the only one of its kind in the United States. The Hot Air Balloon Festival takes place each summer. During the two-day extravaganza, high-flying balloons, along with airplanes and helicopters, hover in the skies above Alpine Helen.
Over 20 balloons take to the sky for the 225-mile race. The race usually occurs over two days, although it’s sometimes lasted twice as long. Each balloon has enough fuel for four hours. During the race, pilots must land and wait for their crews to refuel the balloon.
The added difficulty of the Hot Air Balloon Festival even is that crew and pilots often get lost along the way as they navigate the beautiful, yet difficult, mountain range.
Nora Mill Granary
For a slice of history and beauty in Alpine Helen, head to the historic Nora Mill Granary. The gristmill first opened in 1876 and is still in use today. The mill has been handed down through the Fain family for several generations.
On the north end of the Chattahoochee River, the Nora Mill Granary produces cornmeal, pancake, and waffle mixes along with classic pioneer’s porridge. The storybook country store and gift shop is the perfect place for any budding baker to load up on ingredients to create their own treats.
BabyLand General Hospital
It’s not every day we’d recommend going to a hospital on your travels. But the BabyLand General Hospital isn’t any old infirmary. Rated as one of the top toylands in the world, Babyland is one of the must-see Helen attractions for families.
Located on a sprawling patch of land in the North Georgia Mountains, the southern-style home was front and center as the Cabbage Patch Kids came into the world. Launched by the quilting skills of Xavier Roberts, the dolls have gone on to be a worldwide phenomenon.
Take a self-guided tour to explore the BabyLand General Hospital. You may even find the perfect Cabbage Patch Kid match for the young ones in your life!
Hardman Farm State Historic Site
Once the home of former Georgia Governor Lamartine Hardman, the Hardman Farm State Historic Site is a fascinating place to visit for history buffs. Built in 1870, the home is a classic example of Italianate architecture. The site is connected to many prominent local figures, including Anna Ruby Nichols, the daughter of the home’s original owner.
You’ll love taking time to explore the house and its well-preserved rooms, featuring 19th-century period furniture.
One of the other top attractions at the Hardman Farm State Historic Site is the Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound. The mound is an ancient burial ground for indigenous people and dates beyond the Cherokee nation.
Helen Tubing & Water Park
With its hair-raising rides and lazy river journeys, Helen Water Park & Tubing is a fantastic place to cool off and get the heart racing. For its size, the popular water park packs a lot of activities.
Be sure to test out the tube ride where all kids aged three and older can jump in the shuttle and journey down the Chattahoochee River. The fun group adventure lasts up to 2.5 hours and is a great way to explore the local waterway.
Helen Tubing & Waterpark also offers a ton of adrenaline-pumping fun, including water slides and a 25-foot rock wall. When you want to relax, gather the crew and roll down the Helen water park’s chilled-out lazy river.
Looking for more outdoor adventures? Experience the nature around Helen, Georgia, with Nacoochee Adventures. With the outfitter’s variety of tours, you’ll have a fantastic time experiencing the best of the North Georgia Mountains without a fuss.
Nacoochee Adventures offers giant swings, bicycle trails, and challenge courses. To truly immerse yourself in the wilderness, however, check out its zip line canopy tours.
Covering beginners to seasoned experts, there’s a zip line tour for everyone at Nacoochee Adventures. One of the most popular trips is the zip line through an underground 19th-century goldmine. After your adventure, you can hire a bike to explore the expansive trails.
Smithgall Woods State Park
For a relaxing day with a fishing rod in hand, head to Smithgall Woods State Park. With Duke’s Creek cutting through the woods, the park is home to one of the best trout streams in northern Georgia. Fishing is limited to certain days; you’ll have to reserve your spot in advance.
Other popular activities at Smithgall Woods State Park include hiking on the Laurel Ridge Trail. The 3.9-mile moderate hike features scenic views of a lake and limited elevation gain.
Smithgall Woods State Park is perfect if you want to enjoy local hunting traditions. Regulations and hunting season change often; it’s important to check with the authorities ahead of time if you’re planning a hunting adventure here.
Helen Arts & Heritage Center
One of the top points of interest in Helen, Georgia, is the Helen Arts & Heritage Center. With over three million visitors every year, the center is the second most visited attraction in town.
Inside the Bavarian-style building, you’ll find an art gallery featuring local artists and work from around the country. There’s also a fascinating history museum to explore, uncovering the early days of life in Helen and its German influence.
The Helen Arts & Heritage Center also hosts a vibrant community of artists who hold courses on pottery, jewelry making, and painting.
Outpost Gold & Gem Mining Co.
On a family trip to Helen? One of Helen’s top family-friendly attractions is the Outpost Gold & Gem Mining Co. Fun for all ages, the center lets you pan for gold and rare earth gems like sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.
At Outpost Gold & Gem Mining Co. you’ll learn all about America’s gold rush in North Georgia’s oldest mining town. With the help of experts, young and old alike can learn about the art of panning along with identifying classic gems. Journey back to the 19th century and see if you have what it takes to strike it rich!
Helton Creek Falls
Looking for another great family-friendly hike around Helen? Make the trek to Helton Creek Falls. Short and great for kids, the easy 0.6-mile round-trip hike leads you to two lovely waterfalls.
Beginning just out of Vogel State Park, Helton Creek Falls Trail begins with a subtle descent into the beautiful hardwood and coniferous forests. Quickly, you’ll be able to see the stunning waterfalls through the canopy along with a series of smaller, picturesque creeks.
On arrival, you’ll spot the lower and upper falls, splicing the hemlock-filled valley. The white falls contrast the dense greens and browns of the forest, making for an idyllic spot to relax.
After a big few days exploring the best places to see in Helen, Georgia, you’ve earned yourself a celebratory beverage. When you’re in Helen, there’s no better place to go than the aptly named Troll Tavern.
Found under a bridge along the river in the downtown district, the Troll Tavern and Restaurant specializes in Bavarian cuisine. The tavern serves up refreshing frothy German beer in classic beer steins along with their hearty food.
Along the riverside, you can enjoy the picturesque outdoor patio with the gorgeous mountains providing scenic views. While noshing on delectable German fare, remember to save room for the Troll Tavern’s scrumptious desserts.
Recommended places to stay
For a home-like feel on your stay in Alpine Helen, look no further than this cute bed & breakfast. Rooms are cozy and all reservations include a complimentary breakfast. Private cabins are also available for rent.
Located on the main street, this mid-range option is the perfect choice for couples and families looking to make the most out of their Helen, GA, trip. The rooms are douses in delightfully modern style and include a free breakfast.
Planning a romantic getaway in Helen? With its Central European castle-inspired architecture, this luxury resort delivers a stay fit for royalty. Guests will love cooling down in the seasonal outdoor pool and relaxing to beautiful mountain views from their private balcony.