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My Honest Review of Helen, Georgia

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I’ll be 100% honest in that I often feel like every place I visit should get a glowing recommendation from me. If I’ve put the time and effort to plan a trip somewhere, then I’m pretty sure about what I’m gonna find and how much I’ll enjoy the time spent there. However, my trip to Helen, Georgia last year wasn’t as awesome as I had hoped. I’ve debated on writing about it at all. Yet, I think part of being a traveler and writing about those travels is being truthful and telling my thoughts exactly as they are. This honest review of Helen, Georgia is intended to do just that. There were definitely parts of the trip I really enjoyed, but equally there were aspects of the town that I downright didn’t like. After reading my thoughts, I hope that it helps you make a decision on making your own trip to Helen, Georgia.

What I Liked About Helen, Georgia

I want to start off this review of Helen, Georgia with what I did like about the town. It’s not that the little village in northern Georgia is without it’s charms or good reasons for visiting.

The first of these reasons center around the Chattahoochee River. A popular past time in the area, known as Shootin’ the Hooch, involves tubing down the river which runs right through the heart of town. I’ve been tubing many times down the Ichetucknee River in Florida, but that sticks to the wilds of North Florida. The water levels on the Chattahoochee can get quite low, however, we still had a really fun time on the water. Its a fantastic way to spend a hot summer day, which is exactly what we did. Rent your tubes with Cool River Tubing and enjoy a couple hours floating down the river.

Tubers floating down the Chattahoochee River taken during a review of Helen Georgia
Tubers floating down the Chattahoochee River through Helen Georgia

Another aspect we liked about Helen, Georgia was the theming. While Helen isn’t an “authentic” German/Bavarian/Austrian mountain town, it is certainly designed to mimic one. For the most part, this is pretty successful. Many of the buildings in the core of town invoke these design aesthetics. This is amplified even further during the Christmas season, when Helen seeks to mimic the Christmas Markets found in many parts of Europe. I really enjoyed walking around the town and looking at the different buildings. This also extends to places beyond downtown, though not to the same extent.

The last thing that I want to mention in this review of Helen Georgia is the food. There are a ton of restaurants in town, many of which serve up some delicious German dishes. In particular, I highly recommend Hofbrauhaus. The food is absolutely delicious, but the best part is probably the outdoor seating and location. It sits right on the Chattahoochee River, letting you enjoy watching tubers go by at Lunch or the sounds of the river at Dinner. One of the main reasons to visit Helen, Georgia is the food, so definitely take advantage. The Alpine Brew Deck and Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe are two other great places to eat while you’re in town.

What I Disliked About Helen, Georgia

I’m not going to beat around the bush here: Helen, Georgia is a tourist trap. You won’t really know that going in because most reviews of Helen Georgia aren’t going to mention it. I’ll admit that I was fully caught up in the thought of visiting this themed village in the Georgia Mountains, and didn’t consider why it was there in the first place. Yet, the history of the town is rooted in its creation as a way to simply draw tourists in. Hard to get more tourist trappy than that.

This aspect of the town extends very much to what you’ll find while shopping or walking around. A couple shops will draw you in with neat architecture or appearing to stock handmade items. However, these often aren’t small town shops but are selling mass manufactured items that fit the “theme” of the town or store. There are even more stores which are simply slinging your standard “gift store” schlock like stupid t-shirts or other novelties. It’s not every retail establishment for sure. Yet, the sheer number of these tourist trap stores really made me disappointed and weary by the end of our walk about downtown.

Image of the german themed buildings found in Helen Geogia
The aesthetic is there, but the merchandise isn’t anything special

Helen, Georgia being your standard tourist trap was my main dislike of the town, it wasn’t the only thing. It became harder to overlook small dislikes thanks to my major dislike. For one, the age of the buildings is really showing. As you walk around, you’ll really start to notice it when you may not have just driving by. Second, parking and getting around can be kinda difficult. At least twice we drove around for a bit looking for parking, both times having to settle with going away from downtown a bit and walking back to our destination. Finally, once you have made your trip downtown, there really isn’t any reason to come back to spend more time. Walk around, get lunch or dinner, and then you’re really done with your visit to the town itself.

Why I Still Think It’s Worth Visiting

If you’re still here after reading my honest review of Helen, Georgia, then you’ve probably decided that you may still want to make a visit. Which is great for you as there are plenty of things to do in Helen, Ga. Most of them just happen to be away from the main part of town. So I still think it is worth making a visit to Helen, Georgia… if you spend most of your time away from town.

A picture of a mini golf course with an alpine theme found in Helen georgia
Alpine Mini Golf was a bright spot of attractions in Helen

After one day in the village proper, you’ll have seen all it has to offer. So spend a day shootin’ the hooch. Go antiquing at a number of the great shops away from the town center (like at Nacoochee Antiques). Do a tour of the great wineries in the area, including the fabulous Habersham Winery next to Nacoochee Antiques. Explore the natural beauty of North Georgia’s best waterfalls. Get really adventurous and hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail! Helen can be a great base of operations for all of this and more. It just shouldn’t be the primary focus of your trip.

Where to Stay if You Choose to Visit Helen, Georgia

Visitors to Helen, Georgia have a number of different options for where to stay. The town has a number of larger hotel chains, including one of my favorite brands Holiday Inn. Staying at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in town minimizes parking issues and puts you just steps away from Cool River Tubing in town. You’ll also be able to walk down to Alpine Mini Golf which is a cute mini golf course with an Ice Cream shop attached.

If you don’t mind staying a bit outside of town, then I’d highly recommend Bleu Canoe. They have a number of unique tiny homes for you to stay in and they are open year-round. Plus, there is a spectacular Cajun restaurant on site as well. In fact, even if you don’t choose to stay here, you need to make the drive up to eat at the restaurant. It really is that good!

Bleu Canoe tiny homes are just outside of Helen Georgia
The Hemlock Tiny House was an excellent stay for our nights near Helen Georgia

You can also visit Helen, Georgia as part of a camping trip as well. Unicoi State Park is just a couple miles to the north of town. Their campground is an excellent option if you’re making Helen, Georgia a small part of your overall visit of Northern Georgia or you plan on spending most of your time outside. There are options for traditional camping, glamping, car camping, or staying in an RV!

Final Considerations For Your Trip

If you’ve made it this far in my review of Helen, Georgia, then you’ve probably made up your mind about making a visit. Ultimately, I enjoyed our trip to Helen, Georgia. We spent the appropriate amount of time in town for what is there. Tubing down the river was a ton of fun and is something I’d definitely do again. The antiques and wineries were a great part of our visit, and fortunately these are both right up our alley. We also stayed at Bleu Canoe, which meant we had plenty of time away from town which I think helped make the trip less “disappointing” once we figured out what town was like. If you end up making a trip, or have any other questions about what our trip was like, let me know in the comments below!

Alternatively, if you’re looking to make a trip to that part of the country but aren’t sold on Helen, Georgia being the right place I have some other options. You can spend a fantastic weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee and still not see everything the Scenic City has to offer. Brevard, North Carolina is my favorite small town in America that I highly recommend making a trip to and exploring.

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2 Responses

  1. You are absolutely right about Helen, GA. I live here full time and I can tell you that it stinks here!! City hall is a joke. WAY to many Short Term rentals. The trash that is thrown around town on Mondays when everyone leaves is disgusting. Broken glass everywhere.The restaurants are way over priced and not good since Covid. Those of us who live here stay home on the weekends and holidays because we can’t get out of our driveways. Stay away from Helen, you’ll be glad you did!! In the words of the late Major Charles Winchester, (MASH) “The boil on the buttocks of the world”!! Yep, that describes Helen, GA to a tee!!

    1. You are so right! The police are a joke now. Nothing is clean, and you are right over priced. I have been coming to helen for 35 yrs. Numerous times a year. Only 90 minutes away. I wish that town peace. Many other places to visit. Have a great day😁

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