Insider’s Guide to Visiting Helen, Georgia with Kids
It may look like you’ve left Georgia, but the Alpine village of Helen is only about an hour and a half north of Atlanta and it’s a great place for adventures with the kids. Here are some favorite places around town to visit on your next day trip, on Main Street and beyond.
Pan for Gold
Dukes Creek Gold and Ruby Mines: Pan for gold and gems at the site of one the first major gold rush locations in American history. Panning tables are open rain or shine for prospectors. Pay for your bucket of choice and keep what you find. Kids can also mine for fossils or break open geodes to see what treasures they contain. The on-site gift shop features Native American arts and crafts, along with prehistoric fossils.
Taste German Cuisine
Stop by one of the German bakeries or restaurants in town for an authentic taste of schnitzel, apple strudel or spatzle. Hofer’s of Helen, Mullers Famous Fried Cheese Café and Old Heidelberg German Restaurant & Pub are a few to try.
Mark your calendar:
Helen Oktoberfest: Oktoberfest can be a fun cultural experience for your family. German-style bands from around the world visit the Helen Festhalle houses (1074 Edelweiss St.) and play a variety of instruments such as alphorns, cowbells and accordions. See helenga.org for the schedule. Be aware, the festival may get more adult after dark.
Art-Oberfest Arts & Fine Crafts Festival: Stop by the Helen Arts & Heritage Center (25 Chattahoochee Strasse) to meet craftsmen from around the Southeast. Enjoy the family-friendly area with face painting, music, baked treats and more. helenarts.org
Take a Hike
Unicoi State Park and Anna Ruby Falls: These popular Georgia State Parks are breathtaking spots to experience nature. Kids will be wowed by the pair of waterfalls at Anna Ruby Falls, a rare formation of nature. Families can fish, kayak and more at the beach of Unicoi State Park and Lodge (open Fri.-Sun. depending on weather conditions). If you are staying overnight, the Barrel Cabins (named for their circular architecture) are a fun place to sleep by the lake.
Tour a Candy Factory
Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen: Since 1973, Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen has been serving sweets that families adore, including molded chocolates, fruit jellies and its world-famous peanut brittle. Contact the owners in advance to schedule a free factory tour, and see candy making in action. Of course, visitors get a sweet treat at the end.
Visit a Miniature Train Village
Charlemagne’s Kingdom: This newly re-opened Alpine Model Railroad Museum features HO-Scale German Model Railroads in a 50-foot exhibit. Kids will love seeing the small trains run through detailed miniature terrain and architecture of Germany, from the North Sea to the Alps. Tour at your own pace, and leave yourself plenty of time to check out all the intricate details of the models, including hot air balloons flying overhead and a classic castle.
See Blown Glass Being Made
The Glassblowing Shop: Kids will love watching the master glassblower, also known as a flameworker, demonstrate glass-sculpting techniques right in front of them. Demonstrations are educational, but also exciting, as animals, icicles and ornaments take shape before your eyes.
Other fun stops:
Tim’s Wooden Toys: Looks like Santa’s workshop, with tons of handmade wooden toys, games and more.