Helen, Georgia is a quaint little Bavarian Alpine village in the Georgia mountains. While it is most popular during October for Oktoberfest, it is worth a visit during Christmas time because of the Christmas lights and decorations.
While December is a good time to visit, be sure to keep in mind that many of the shops and restaurants are closed on Wednesdays. Helen is on its own time, and I wouldn’t rely on times listed on websites either. Many of the stores we visited were closed when they were supposed to be open, so it’s best to call ahead if there’s a particular place you really want to go to make sure it will be open. And most shops and restaurants close by six p.m. There are few restaurants that are open past six, but you can find them.
There are stores with German, Dutch and Scandinavian imports like cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, steins and more, as well as stores selling crafts by local artisans. There’s something for everyone here–mini golf (not open in winter season), a grist mill, antique shops, tubing, ziplining, and hiking where one can see gorgeous waterfalls.
On this trip, we were interested in Christmas shopping and eating. Some of the stores we enjoyed were Lindenhaus Imports owned by a friendly gentleman who happily shows you fun German and Scandinavian goods, Classics owned by a friendly woman who sells German collectibles and apparel and Windmill Dutch Imports with a good selection of Dutch food and ceramics. Euro Food is a small shop with German foods. There are a number of other shops, but many were not open on the Wednesday and Thursday that we were there (especially the Christmas shop which was a bit disappointing).
Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen is a fun stop for chocolate-covered pretzels, fudge, chocolates, divinity, peppermint bark and more.
There is a plethora of German food in Helen, as expected, but not much variety for a vegetarian. We ate at the few restaurants that had vegetarian options, so if you are a vegetarian, be prepared for that. High on the list is Muller’s Fried Cheese.
Breaded squares of cheddar, brie and mozzarella fried to melty perfection. If you love cheese, you will love these.
They also have German and Czech specialties like bratwurst with cabbage, sauerkraut and potato salad.
Another must is Hofer’s German bakery, a cafe, bakery and deli in one.
We had a delicious breakfast here of vegetarian hash.
Our breakfast came with really nice assorted hard rolls.
For dessert, really lovely cream puff and beehive cake.
For the road, we got rye bread, jelly doughnuts and hamentaschen. My favorite was their jelly doughnut–it was filled with ooey gooey jelly.
A restaurant that was open later in the evening was Cowboys & Angels. We had a very good pimento cheese appetizer.
I got the pork chop with apples and raisins and it was delicious.
My friend got a vegetable plate with macaroni and cheese that was creamier than any I’ve had at a restaurant. It says it’s made with real cream and I believe it.
The food was cooked to perfection here, and the vegetables were flavorful as well.
Bigg Daddy’s is a divey sports bar that is open later and has an interesting offering of calamari tacos. They were delicious.
I had the spicy fish tacos which really brought the heat.
We shared an appetizer of buffalo hummus, which looked like a mound of hummus surrounded by a moat of hot sauce. This would have been better with a drizzle of hot sauce on top, as this was just too much sauce.
After my spicy dinner, I wanted some ice cream. There are homemade ice cream shops in town, but they weren’t open. The options included Mayfield (made not far from here in Tennessee) and Blue Bell.
At one shop, they had some gelato from Italy. The salted caramel was perfetto.
A must-see attraction in Helen is Charlemagne’s Kingdom. This is a miniature replica of the country of Germany with miniature trains and villages. The attraction was created by a husband-and-wife team, the husband from Germany, and is still family-owned today. It is truly awesome. If you appreciate miniature artistry, you will love this. The work is so detailed and there are so many wonderful nooks and crannies to see interesting things.
Other things to see not too far outside of Helen are the nearby Indian mound and the folk pottery museum. And of course, Babyland General Hospital, which any child of the ’80s should know. This is where Cabbage Patch Kids are born/grown. Yes, you check in as if you are checking in to a real hospital. You can see the babies growing from the cabbages, with a green IV drip from a tree. Cool yet freaky at the same time.
Helen is a fun town that’s great to visit for a day trip, a weekend or a week, depending on what you want to do.