Travel #TBT // Downtown Helen, GA

Helen/North GA Downtown Helen prides itself on recreating the look of Bavarian Germany and claims to be the third most visited city in Georgia. Their commitment to maintaining the Alpine Germany aesthetic is impressive, especially if you ever wanted to visit a German Wendy’s or Huddle House.

The most entertaining feature of Downtown Helen is watching the tubers shuffle and slip down the Chattahoochee. The river was low when we visited making the entertainment even more wildly delightful. Except when we saw a person’s tube pop. Tragic! Then there were other anomalies – tubers would park on the grass banks in front of restaurants to stop for a smoke or abandon their floats completely to grab a drink, perhaps? Or the frightful journey of a person ejected from their float and then left to waddle after it, slipping on river rocks the whole way. We watched one woman struggle for a good 45 minutes until a courageous bystander assisted her. (As soon as she mounted her float she was stuck between rocks.)

A big shout out to Cool River Tubing. Mom and I went tubing three times in a week. Even if it rained. At one point in the river, there is a huge rock you can jump off of into the water. It was so darn fun I could burst. (Next time we're in the area I'd love to go ziplining. Another activity provided by Cool River Tubing.)

On the exterior of downtown Helen, the shops are quaint, adorable, inviting. This makes the inside of them all the more disappointing. Overpriced tchotchkes fill nearly every store. It reminds me of a small defunct mini mall living on the sweaty desperate fumes of the recession. Or to put it another way, one of my most excitable purchases was a mood ring.

However, there were a few gems that made my eyes sparkle. Places like Betty’s Country Store with cream soda so bubbly it’ll make you float. Or the fudge shops with blueberry muffin flavored truffles. And then Wildewood which has the collection you might have originally anticipated from other stores. Wooden wind chimes, bird houses, hammocks, unique jewelry, bags, leather goods, the list goes on. The best makers of a place are what kind of original items you can purchase there, fortunately or unfortunately. And it felt like Wildewood had the inside scoop. It was a costly scoop, but a scoop nonetheless.

Another must see is Charlemagne's Kingdom -- a giant model train station and it is amazing. You have to go up to a second floor to get the full view. My mom and I rounded the thing pointing, laughing and awestruck. Who has the time? The money? They request no photos be taken of it, and I understand why. There is no capturing the experience. I admire meticulous obsession, especially over something so joy-inducing. For goodness sakes, there were hot air balloons hovering above the whole scene!

Downtown Helen makes for good photo ops and fudge tastings. The Troll Tavern provides a quality view of tubers floating down the river and decent German fare. It’s a unique Georgia attraction worth visiting at least once. What’s really worth revisiting are the mountains that Helen is nestled in… Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Helen/North GA Catch my next #tbt post to read more about the mountain adventures we had. 
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