Helen, Georgia

The easiest method to select one's ideal vacation spot is to pick a place that gives the best of both worlds. It should be in a natural setting, close to the mountains, but also have the most beautiful streets and buildings to give one the sensation of a typical town. Helen, located in the US State of Georgia's White County, perfectly fits the mold. It is a bustling alpine town set against a picturesque backdrop of mountains, forests, and riverbanks. One will think that one has been transported to the cobblestone streets of the renowned Bamberg or Lindau in Germany with numerous colorful shops dotting the landscape and the wonderful fragrance of authentic German cuisine filling the air. However, Helen is also in the center of Northeast Georgia, where tourists may enjoy several outdoor activities like hiking and tubing as well as wine sampling at the numerous neighboring wineries.

Geography Of Helen

Helen, Georgia, town skyline at Helen Square
Helen, Georgia, town skyline at Helen Square.

Helen is a small town situated along the Chattahoochee River's headwaters at the edge of the Nacoochee Valley in Georgia's White County. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, this small town is situated approximately 60 miles north of Athens. Helen covers a total area of 5.43 sq. km, all of which is occupied by land. The principal roadways that pass through the city include the Georgia State Routes 17 and 75, which jointly form North Main Street in the downtown area of the city. Together, GA-17 and 75 run 34 km north to Hiawassee. The two routes diverge south of the city, with GA-17 leading 24 km southeast to Clarkesville and GA-75 leading 14 km south to Cleveland, the county seat of White County.

Climate Of Helen

Helen, Georgia in fall
Helen, Georgia in fall.

According to the Köppen Climate Classification, Helen experiences a humid subtropical climate, with long, hot, and wet summers and short, mild winters. The average annual temperature ranges between 41°F to 93°F. The cold season, which lasts 2.9 months, from December 1 to February 26, has an average daily high temperature below 67°F, whereas the hot season, which lasts for 4 months from May 20 to September 19, has an average daily high temperature above 87°F. On average, the town receives 66 inches of rain and 1.5 inches of snow each year.

History Of Helen

Helen City Hall in Helen, Georgia
Helen City Hall in Helen, Georgia. Editorial credit: PQK / Shutterstock.com

The residents of this former economically depressed town transformed it into a Bavarian hamlet in the late 1960s, and now, it is Georgia's third most visited city after Atlanta and Savannah. The Byrd-Matthews Corporation, a lumber firm that erected a sizable sawmill in Helen in 1910, took note of the area's abundance of virgin hardwood trees. The sawmill saw great success up until the Great Depression, at which point most of the timber had already been cut and processed. The community was entirely deserted by the 1950s and 1960s and became a ghost town. The Bavarian style was created in 1968 due to a consultation with John Kollock by a group of businesspeople looking to capitalize on tourists visiting the waterfalls and mountains. 

The new and improved Helen was created by Clarkesville-based artist Kollock, who was motivated by his recollections of serving in the military in southern Germany in the 1950s. The business idea's success is still evident today in Helen, where there are still restaurants serving wiener schnitzel and sauerbraten, buildings with chalet facades and red roofs, and salespeople who still wear dirndls and lederhosen. Helen also receives over 1.5 million visitors annually who spend over $100 million in White County.

Population And Economy Of Helen

Brown draft horse pulling visitors in a carriage along main street in Helen, Georgia
Brown draft horse pulling visitors in a carriage along main street in Helen, Georgia. Editorial credit: The Brownfowl collection / Shutterstock.com

As per the latest US Census, Helen has a population of 531 inhabitants. The top ethnic groups in the city include White (non-Hispanic) at 88.32%, African American at 0.75%, Asians at 3.2%, Other races at 5.65%, and Hispanic group at 2.07%. Veterans make up 14.9% of Helen’s population, of which 100% are males. English is spoken by 97.3% of the population, while the rest speak other Indo-European languages (2.7%). The same Census also revealed that the employment rate in Helen is 48.9% with a poverty rate of 16%. The median household income is $65,125 and the percentage of people without healthcare coverage is 11.7%. Moreover, over the past year, the job market in Helen has increased by 5.1%. In comparison to the US average of 33.5%, future job growth is expected to be 68.8% during the next decade.

Attractions In And Around Helen

Unicoi State Park And Lodge

Lake Unicoi in Unicoi State Park
Lake Unicoi in Unicoi State Park. Image Credit: Thomson200, via Wikimedia Commons

The Unicoi State Park & Lodge is a wonderful location for visitors situated just north-northeast of Helen. At this 1,050-acre state park, one can find enormous hill areas, endless forests, enormous lakes, and treehouses. The 53-acre Unicoi Lake is the park's main attraction. Indoor games, archery, hiking, birdwatching, butterfly gazing, fishing, and other recreational activities are available here. The park grounds also include dog parks, swimming beaches, community halls, souvenir stores, restaurants, barrel cottages, boating areas, camping spaces, and lake walks.

River Tubing

Tourists tubing the Chattahoochee River in Helen, Georgia
Tourists tubing the Chattahoochee River in Helen, Georgia. Editorial credit: Paul Hakimata Photography / Shutterstock.com

As thrilling as it may seem, river tubing is a major factor in luring travelers from all over Georgia to Helen. In the city, there are several places to go tubing, including Helen Water Park & Tubing and Cool River Tubing. Once inside the donut-shaped tube, get ready to glide over lush alpine greenery, the loveliest riverbeds, and breathtaking vistas of lakes and woods. The Chattahoochee River serves as the main channel leading to the Appalachian Mountains.

Downtown Helen

Cityscape view of the Bavarian style architecture in Helen, Georgia
Cityscape view of the Bavarian style architecture in Helen, Georgia. Editorial credit: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

One must allow Downtown Helen's artistic splendor to overwhelm one's senses. With finely adorned sets of Bavarian-style buildings that make the streets appear like settings from a medieval movie or a fantasy country, the neighborhood has gorgeous architecture. There are several marketplaces filled with eateries and antique stores, as well as relic nooks and amusement spaces for individuals of all ages. Hand-blown glass sculptures may also be seen in places like the Glass Glowing Shop in the downtown area. The Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen, which always has the aroma of fudge, caramel, and sweets, is another famous tourist destination.

Vineyards And Breweries

The mountain town of Helen has the best wineries and breweries, offering the perfect tastes and the nicest scenery to go with your beverage. The renowned Unicoi Wine Trail ensures that tourists experience the best and most diverse flavors of the foothills. Enjoy the ideal gourmet dinner to accompany the experience as you unwind with that perfect glass of fine wine.

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