Places We Love: Helen Edition
At just three hours from Fort Benning, the charming German town of Helen, GA is an absolute must-visit. Whether you're going for its acclaimed Oktoberfest celebration or for a quiet weekend of wine, cabins and lazy rivers, this town has so much to offer year-round.
The first thing you should know about Helen is that it is a legit German town. Not one of those facade towns that hosts an Oktoberfest and calls it a year. The history of Helen is pretty interesting. It used to be a logging town, but when that started to go under, the city brought in an artist with Alpine experience to help redefine the town. The result was the best damn German town in America! So that brings us to the fun part...
Beer, Wine & Food
This could depend a lot on what time of year you choose to visit. But you should know that Helen hosts one of the biggest and longest-running Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany; it runs roughly from September through October. Since this is the town's signature event, I recommend reserving a place at the beginning of the year. Also, be warned...Oktoberfest in Helen is akin to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Pack the Pedialyte.
For those of you who bleed red, white and blush, Helen and the areas right around it are teaming with vineyards! My husband and I traveled to nearby Dahlonega and checked out Yonah Mountain Vineyards. They give a great tour and the tasting is enough to get you nice and toasty. Plus there's live music and games!
For food, head downtown and grab yourself a real German meal (and a few beers to go with it!). Our favorite spots were Bodensee and Muller's Famous Fried Cheese Cafe. Both had authentic German cuisine and were family friendly.
The Great Outdoors
If you're looking to get in touch with nature, then Helen is 100 percent the place to go. There are way too many options to list here, but some of our favorites are tubing on the Chattahoochee, hiking Mount Yonah (also where Mountain Phase of Ranger School takes place), and checking out Anna Ruby Falls.
Hiking Mount Yonah is a great way to start the morning and it's best to get there before noon in the warmer months so it's not too crowded. You can bring your dog and the kiddos and enjoy a nice, slow 4+ mile hike. There's some great photo-op spots at the top and along the trail, so it's definitely worth the trek. And! Mount Yonah vineyard is nearby so you can reward yourself afterward.
My husband and I visited in spring, but we'd love to go back in winter for the spectacular Christmas celebrations! Nothing better than a cabin in the woods and some mulled wine. Am I right?!?
Helen is one of those places you can go to without any plans and still have a great time. If you're stationed at Fort Benning, then you need to add it to your bucket list!
What are your favorite things to do in Helen? Let us know in the comments!
about the author
Riley is an active duty US Army Captain and the Founder of Right and Up. She’s currently stationed in Washington, DC, with previous assignments at Fort Huachuca, Fort Bliss, Fort Riley and Fort Benning. You can typically find her eating embarrassingly large amounts of food in local restaurants, or exploring her military town with her husband, Sean and her dog, Gus. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!