Back in the 1960’s, the local leaders of a dwindling logging town in north Georgia came up with a great idea. They decided to recreate a Bavarian town, in the Appalachians instead of the Alps. In 1969, it became the law in Helen — your building must look like it’s made from gingerbread.
Since that rule went into effect, Helen has transformed itself into a tourist trap of sorts. There are German bakeries selling pretzels and restaurants serving up bratwurst and sauerkraut. Bavarian-themed stores are packed with souvenirs.
It’s all authentic enough to draw big crowds of visitors from Atlanta and beyond.
Helen even has a windmill — it’s part of a motel, perched on a hill overlooking the town’s main street, Georgia Routes 17 and 75.
The Chattahoochee River cuts through the center of Helen, and plenty of restaurants offer riverfront dining.
The river has caused problems in the past. Look for this marker on one of the buildings, showing where the flood waters once reached.
You can easily walk on the rocks, out into the middle of the Chattahoochee River.
Like any good Bavarian town, this one has a gazebo…
… in the middle of Unicoi Hill Park, which overlooks the main strip of businesses.
There’s even a manmade waterfall here. Up above it, there’s a picnic area and playground.
Even with its old-world theme, Helen wouldn’t be much of a tourist draw without all of the natural wonders nearby. Unicoi State Park is next-door to Helen, on the north side of town. One of Georgia’s most-visited waterfalls, Anna Ruby Falls, is just north of the park. And, the Richard B. Russell Scenic Byway begins just a few miles away.