If you’re looking for a change of scenery that feels like you’ve traveled across the world, but only used a tank of gas, then Helen, Georgia is the perfect place to go. This quaint mountain town in northern Georgia is a fun place to visit no matter what time of year you decide to go. Helen offers tubing in the summer, Oktoberfest in the fall, and numerous activities that celebrate German culture. We have all the information you need to plan your trip!
Check out this neighboring town that also makes for a great weekend getaway! Plan a Trip to Blairsville, in the Georgia Mountains
Bavaria In Georgia?
Bavaria, in the middle of the Georgia mountains, makes sense right? It did to a handful of local businessmen in 1968, who were trying to figure out how to revitalize this small mountain town. The idea was well-received by the town and now some 50 years later, it’s Georgia’s third most visited city. With all the things to do in this small town, it’s no wonder why people keep coming back.
Things to do in Helen, Georgia
2023 Oktoberfest in Helen
One of the two biggest attractions in Helen is their annual Oktoberfest. This traditional German festival is one of the longest-running in the country, lasting almost two months. The festival includes a parade, contemporary Bavarian music, food, and of course a Biergarten. The festivities run Thursday through Sunday during the month of September, and daily during the month of October.
Admission is $10 per person Monday – Friday, $12 on Saturdays, and Free on Sundays. Kids under 6 are free and children ages 6-12 are half price. This is just to access the festivities, all food and beverages are extra.
September 7 -10 (Thu – Sun)
September 14 -17 (Thu – Sun)
September 21 – 24
September 28 – October 29 (Nightly)
Tubing The Chattahoochee River
Tubing in Helen Georgia is hugely popular and runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are two companies that service the Chattahoochee River in Helen, and each offers shuttle service and comparable tubing adventures.
- Cool River Tubing- Cool River Tubing offers affordable tubing rates ($14 Monday – Friday; $18 weekends and holidays) so that anyone 3 and older can enjoy a ride down the river. Cool River also offers a 1.5-hour ride or a 2.5-hour ride to choose from. The Chattahoochee Outpost on the premises offers changing rooms, lockers, ice cream, and a souvenir shop. They will even hold your keys for you through their Key Saver Service provided in the purchase of your tickets. Ticket prices include the tube, tube ties, key service, lifejackets, and a shuttle ride. The Kidding Around Cool River Tubing review has more details about using the Cool River Tubing Company.
- Helen Water Park & Tubing– Helen Tubing offers an affordable per-person fee ($14 Monday – Friday; $18 weekends and holidays) along with a two and up age restriction. Lockers are not available, so pack lightly with essentials, especially if you have small children. Be sure to bring lifejackets or prepare to rent them for children 13 and under. Toddlers can enjoy tubing in their parent’s lap or seated in an inner tube. You can even bring your dog along for the adventure, but they will need a separate tube rental. Be prepared for a 2.5-hour-long ride down the river. If you’re still in the water mood afterward, you can purchase passes to the waterpark for an additional fee.
Things to Know Before Tubing in Helen, GA
- Alcohol is strictly prohibited on the river within the Helen City limits. Coolers are not allowed on the river either and each tuber is allowed up to a 32 oz water bottle. The local PD does patrol and enforce the rules and a violation will mean a steep fine.
- Push Sticks are a must to help you dislodge your tube when stuck on a rock. Buy one onsite (the ones at Cool River are $5) or bring one from home.
- Call the morning you plan on going, before heading out. If rain has made the river swell, this can drastically affect the way tubers are allowed on it that day, including increases in age limits.
- You will notice flip-flops floating down the river orphaned. I lost a pair that way. Water shoes can be purchased at the Cool River Outpost for just $10, or grab a pair locally.
- Straps are offered to keep two tubes together. It is recommended that no more than two be attached.
- A waterproof phone case is well worth the less than $10 investment to keep your device safe.
- Children under twelve are required to wear a coast guard approved life vest at all times, adults are not required to. Both companies supply these for anyone wanting to use one.
Parking In Downtown Helen
Parking at the tubing companies is only allowed while you are tubing. If you venture into the heart of Helen and need to move your car, the best option is the city-owned lot on the corner of Chattahoochee and Edelweiss. The fee is just $5 (some privately owned places charge more) for the entire day, and the revenue generated goes back into the development and maintenance of the parks.
Eat, Sleep, and Hike Around Helen, Georgia
Places to Hike and Explore Near Helen Georgia
Georgia State Park, Hardman Farm– As you drive into Helen, you will drive by The Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound at Hardman Farm. The park offers 173 acres to explore and includes the Indian burial mound, a dairy farm, and the historical mansion that was last owned by a former Georgia governor, for whom the park is named. The park is open from March through December and admittance starts at $6. Check out the Hardman Farm Historic Site event calendar for fun things to do while visiting.
Unicoi State Park is just minutes from Helen and offers so many activities at the park, you’d almost think you were at a resort! Almost any type of outdoor activity is offered, including zip-lining, kayaking, mountain biking, archery, paddle boarding, fly fishing, hiking, and a GPS scavenger hunt. They also have Go Pro Hero Cameras for rent so you can capture your adventures to keep as a souvenir.
Places to Dine in Helen, Georgia
There are a lot of dining options in Helen. Many of the local restaurants embrace the German culture by utilizing authentic German cuisine on their menus. Be sure to check out The Troll Tavern located along the riverfront which visitors find charming and authentic, serving both American and German cuisine. Also highly recommended is Bodensee for their delicious traditional German dishes, including pretzels with beer cheese and schnitzel! If you’re looking to fulfill a sweet tooth, Hofer’s Bakery and Cafe serves German food and “comfort fare”.
If you’re wanting to enjoy the outdoors during your meal, pack a picnic and head down to Riverside Park. Located just up from the Cool River outpost, it has a playground, picnic shelter, and restrooms. It’s the perfect place to enjoy lunch and watch other tubers float down the river.
Where to Stay in Helen, Georgia
The convenient distance of Helen from the Upstate means a day of fun can be had without requiring an overnight stay. However, if you choose to spend the night in Helen, you’ll have plenty of options. There are several chain hotels, like the highly-rated Hampton Inn Helen as well as locally owned hotels such as the Bavarian-style hotel The Helendorf River Inn and Suites.
If you’re wanting to camp near Helen, be sure to check the camping and lodging options at Unicoi State Park and Lodge, including barrel cabins! This lodge has a ton of outdoor activities available, a beach for swimming, dining options, and more. Check out our review of our barrel cabin stay at Unicoi Lodge.
Use this map to find more great places to stay. This map contains STAY22 affiliate links. KA earns when you book through these links.
Annual Festivals Hosted in Helen Georgia
Helen also celebrates several other annual events including, Fasching which is the Barvarian version of Mardi Gras, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Check out the Helen Georgia event calendar.
What are you excited about doing on your trip to this picturesque town in the Georgia Mountains?