Fall is definitely in full swing in East Tennessee. The weather is getting cooler and the leaves are starting to change colors. While many families have just returned from fall break vacations, I’m going to share with you all the reasons why you should plan a fall getaway to Helen, Georgia. I had only recently heard of Helen from social media posts. When I researched it a little bit more, I realized it’s only a three hour drive from Knoxville, which is the perfect distance for a quick getaway. The drive this time of year is absolutely beautiful.
Helen is a small town known for its German-style buildings. It is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Chattahoochee River in northeast Georgia. There are many things to do in Helen throughout the year, but it is especially worth visiting in the fall due to Oktoberfest which runs from early September through the end of October. All you need is just a few days to explore this family-friendly town.
Where to stay:
Heidi Motel and Windmill Suites: This hotel is located within walking distance to most restaurants and shops. Many of the rooms have recently been renovated and the furniture and décor inside is super cute. They have a limited number of double rooms, so if you are planning to visit with family, you will need to book early or your dates may need to be flexible. They have a bench swing outside as well as a fire pit with a sitting area.
Where to eat:
Village Crepe Haus: This small restaurant has amazing crepes and you can get just about anything on them. We went here for breakfast both mornings we were in Helen. I compared them to the crepes in Paris because they were that good!
Granny’s Famous Funnel Cake Haus: The funnel cakes here are delicious! They also have freshly squeezed lemonade and they will make it while you wait. They also offer a variety of pretzels.
Cowboys and Angels: This is a steakhouse, and the steak is amazing. They have a gouda grilled cheese sandwich, which is really good as well as bison chili. This was our favorite restaurant, hands down.
The Troll Tavern: If you are looking for a regular American-style restaurant, this place is for you. We enjoyed chicken wings, burgers and sandwiches here. The roast beef and cheese croissant (called the Roast Beast) was amazing!
Alpine Brew Deck: This is another American-style restaurant. We sat outside, next to the river and we really enjoyed the peaceful scenery here.
These are the restaurants we visited, but there are also lots of German restaurants, if you are interested in German-style foods. Many of them were very busy with wait times. Most restaurants in Helen have covered, outdoor seating so you can hear the performances and music playing during Oktoberfest.
Betty’s Country Store. This is a small supermarket where you can buy groceries, snacks and souvenirs. The Heidi Motel is right across the street, so we basically shopped here each night. There is also an outdoor seating area as well as a bar where you can order from a small food menu or just order drinks. It’s a super cute store that is definitely worth checking out.
Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen: This place has everything from caramel apples to truffles, and fudge to basically anything chocolate you can think of. My kids begged us to stop here every time we walked by it.
Nora Mill Granary Grist Mill and Country Store: This is on the opposite side of town from the Heidi Motel and while it is not too far away, you will have to drive to get here. They have all kinds of different corn and wheat mixes. I bought some pancake mix and it is absolutely amazing. It’s a really cute store that sits right along the Chattahoochee River. Be sure to walk outside to check out the view of the river.
There are a lot of other cute shops all around the town, but these are the ones that we liked the most that you should be sure to check out.
Things to do
Horseback riding at Chattahoochee Stables: My past experiences with riding horses has not been the greatest, but my daughter really wanted to go horseback riding, so I agreed. This was the best and most pleasant horseback riding experience I have ever had. The guide was excellent and provided us with so much information about the area. The views were pretty awesome too. The horses were great and really easy to ride. I felt like I didn’t have to do much except relax and enjoy the experience. This is cash only and you have to make your reservations by phone.
Ziplining at Nacoochee Adventures: My husband is terrified of heights and really wasn’t looking forward to doing this, however it ended up being his favorite part of the trip. We had never ziplined before so we were not really sure what to expect. The guides were really fun and made the experience even more enjoyable. We all agreed that ziplining was our overall favorite activity that we did in Helen.
Putt-Putt: There are two putt-putt golf courses in Helen. Of course, we had to check both of them out. Alpine Mini Golf is located at the end of town and has an ice cream parlor. It is a fun course but only has one course of 18 holes. There was a hole that if you got a hole-in-one, you would win another round for free. We were all unsuccessful. The lights on the course at night are really nice. The other course is Bavarian Mountain Mini Golf which sits on a hill and you can view part of the town from the course. It has two 18-hole courses, one is easier than the other. We chose the more difficult one. It has a hole where you can hit your ball into the water and it will flow down to the other side of the green. It was a fun hole to play. It closes at 6pm, so if you want to play here, you have to go early.
Unicoi State Park: This is only a few minutes outside of Helen. My son loves to fish, so he wanted to check it out. You will have to pay $5 for a daily parking pass. Fishing licenses are available at Betty’s Country Store for anyone 16 and over. There are several picnic areas, hiking trails, and fishing docks in the park. There is also a lodge with cabins and places to camp. It is beautiful, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing.
Valhalla Golf Club: If you like to golf, there is a resort just a few minutes outside of Helen with an 18-hole golf course. My husband and son played nine holes while my daughter and I were horseback riding. The course is narrow, but they enjoyed it and said the views were really nice. They also saw some deer on the course. They really wanted to play the full course, but we were pushed for time.
Anna Ruby Falls: I really wanted to go here but we did not have the best weather our last day so we never made it. I have heard that it is beautiful. It costs $5/person, ages 16 and up to enter the area. The route is paved, so it is stroller friendly. The hours are 9am-5pm and you cannot enter after 4pm, so you will have to go early.
Festhalle: This is where the main performances during Oktoberfest take place. There is a weekly schedule as well as an entry fee per person, but it is free on Sundays. They offer food and drinks for purchase inside. Not only do you watch the performances, but there is a dance floor so you can actively participate as well. This is kid-friendly.
Georgia Mountain Coaster: This is the first alpine coaster in Georgia. There are height and weight restrictions. We did not have time to do this, but we heard that it is fun and goes really fast.
Outpost Gold and Gem Mining: Here you can pan for gold, gems, or fossils. They have a variety of different options as well as a gift shop. We had about 30 minutes to spend here so we got a small bucket and my kids sifted out a handful of neat looking gems.