Pixabay / Paulbr75
The ‘Best Little German Town in America’ has fun and free down pat.
The town is full of museums
The scenery is breathtaking and photo-ready.
The small but mighty town is well worth the visit.
Helen, Georgia is known for Bavarian style and culture and its deep Native American roots. Set among the Appalachian foothills, Helen has been called ‘the best little German town in America.’ With a population just under 600, it’s a wonder that it’s the third most visited town in Georgia.
But tourists flock to Helen almost as much as they do Atlanta or Savannah because of its rich history and picturesque small-town vibe. It’s a perfect getaway without having to fly to Germany. With so much to do and see in Helen, you might want to skip the ATM and choose something that will let you leave the wallet at home.
Look up at The Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race and Festival
If you’ve ever wondered what a hot air balloon race was like, head on over to the Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race and Festival in June. It’s the only festival and race of its kind in the US and features around 20 different colored balloons. Root for your favorite and get swept up in the beauty of hot air balloons.
Get in the holiday spirit at the Christkindlmarkt
Offering everything German, this annual event is a one-stop-shop for all things Christmas. Browse the local vendors and experience a holiday tradition full of (optional) food, gifts, and decorations.
Window shop at Helen’s boutique stores
The quaint town of Helen is home to boutique stores of all varieties. Betty’s Country Store has a live beehive, and the Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen is full of sweet treats that visitors can sample for free. There is a store for everyone, and even if you don’t buy anything, you can marvel at the unique German-style shops.
Hike the Helen Waterfalls
Test your hiking skills through the vast forested area in Helen, and see some serene waterfalls. There are many waterfalls to hit up, but seven stand out as the most worthwhile. Anna Ruby Falls, Dukes Creek Falls, High Shoals Falls, and Helton Creek Falls are great for the leisure hiker while Desoto Falls, Amicalola Falls, and Raven Cliff Falls offer a more moderate to difficult level for those more experienced.
Celebrate at an authentic German-style Oktoberfest
It wouldn’t be a trip to the best little German town in America without attending the longest-running Oktoberfest in America. The event runs from the beginning of September to the end of October and offers live music, a parade, and local activities for the whole family. If you want to skip out on paying admission, Sundays are free.
Visit mini-Germany at Charlemagne’s Kingdom
Take your inner child on an adventure through a small town in Germany at Charlemagne’s Kingdom. The Alpine Model Railroad Museum showcases a 50-foot HO scale of Germany’s architecture and terrain. The intricate craftsmanship and detail come complete with a functioning railroad and highlight terrain from the North Sea to the Alps.
Take in some natural scenery at Unicoi Hill Park
Just a few steps away from the bustle of the village, Unicoi Hill Park offers a relaxing atmosphere and picturesque trail. There’s also a covered wooden bridge along the walking loop, so you can take photos or just enjoy the serenity of nature.
Take a stroll downside the Chattahoochee River
A casual walk down the side of the Chattahoochee River is another free activity in Helen. It’s a popular spot for tubing, but the path alongside the river is just as beautiful.
Indulge your artistic side at The Gourd Place
The Gourd Place is a charming gourd shop and museum. The museum is free and features gourds from over 23 different countries.
Kick-off Christmas at The Lighting of the Village
Set your sights on Mr. and Mrs. Claus as they sled into town at the annual Lighting of the Village. The event features a full choir performance, a chance to sit down with Santa, and the ceremonial lighting of the village to mark the official start of the holiday season.
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
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- Your wallet will thank you for choosing these cheaper destinations for your next vacation | Living 101
Wanderlust doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.