Travel to Germany without leaving Georgia with a visit to Helen, White County and the Sautee and Nacoochee areas. Located about 90 minutes north of Atlanta – these areas are rich with history, culture, entertainment, food and blessed by Mother Nature. Here are the top budget-friendly must-do’s when visiting this North Georgia gem:
- Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Helen’s downtown; then, seek out the perfect souvenirs and gifts in the hustle and bustle of Helen’s shopping street while German music adds oom pah pah from outdoor speakers.
- Pick up sweet treats at an authentic German bakery or candy shop.
- Tour the world’s largest Alpine model railroad museum at Charlemagne’s Kingdom.
- Come face to face with giant bears at Black Forest Bear Park; watch glass blowing at The Glassblowing Shop.
- Paint your own “green theme” child-safe toy at Elfmade Toys.
- Gain perspective as you soar to new heights with seasonal hot air balloon or helicopter rides that give a new vantage point of the surrounding beauty.
- Hop in the saddle with horseback riding, or take it to two wheels as you zoom up and down tree-lined paths while mountain biking.
- Outdoor enthusiasts can find adventures like zip lining at Nacoochee Outdoor Adventures or Sunburst Stables, just nine miles from the city center.
- Follow a round of adventure golf with a scoop or two of ice cream at an old-fashioned parlor.
- Continue family time during your mountain getaway in the foothills of the Appalachians by teaching kids about the great outdoors with seasonal programs at Unicoi State Park.
- Grab a snack at Fred’s Famous Peanuts, which began nearly 30 years ago as a roadside stand.
- Stop by the Old Sautee Store, in existence since 1872 and famous for the combination of old store museum, gourmet foods and fine jewelry.
- Don’t miss Loganberry Heritage Farm, an Appalachian Heritage Farm growing healthy, farm-to-table foods naturally, biologically, ecologically and sustainably on land that once provided home to the Cherokee Indians. Watch cooking demonstrations during Market Days, and sample the harvest in quick and easy recipes.
- At Smithgall Woods Conservation Area, where there are more than 5,500 acres of land, learning is fun for the whole family with special events like Kids Day at the Park and Junior Ranger Camp. Another can’t-miss bonding opportunity: children and their “big person” can fish in a stocked lake during Youth Fishing Days at Buck Shoals.
- Make your way to BabyLand General Hospital, home of the “hand-stitched to birth” soft-sculpture Original Cabbage Patch Kids, and be there when a baby arrives at this Southern-style mansion in Cleveland that sits majestically on a 100-acre spread in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains.
- Make mountain vacation memories while rafting, tubing and fishing the Chattahoochee River.
- Kayak and canoe Unicoi Lake.
- Bring a fly rod to reel in good times at Smithgall Woods Conservation Area, where you can fly fish on the legendary Dukes Creek trophy trout stream, or let Unicoi Outfitters guide you to prized trophy trout streams on private land.
- See who can slip and slide the fastest while sloshing down the slides at Helen Water Park.
- Recharge batteries with restorative treatments at nearby spas.
- Sip vino at local wineries and tasting rooms.
- Check out the Sautee Nacoochee Center: Visual and Performing Arts where you can take in a gallery show or live theatre performance, or the Helen Arts and Heritage Center and Unicoi State Park, with gallery showings, theatre, art and history exhibits, and Saturday evening concerts.
- Nearby, the only known slave cabin still existing in the Northeast Georgia mountains has recently been renovated and now joins the heritage landscape in Sautee.
- Explore age-old folk pottery traditions at the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia, housed in a post-and-beam building. This is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to folk pottery and showcasing a 200-year tradition of men and women who shaped the earth and water of the Georgia mountains into once-essential household items now valued and collected as distinctive folk art.
- Drive Georgia’s Folk Pottery Trail for an added dose of cultural and mountain heritage.
- Following a day of kid-friendly fun, share a meal and memories at multi-generation-pleasing Nacoochee Grill, Nacoochee Village Tavern & Pizzeria, Old Bavarian Inn Restaurant or Unicoi Restaurant.
When you are ready to hit the hay, Helen has cabins galore, hotels with swimming pools and lodge rooms at Unicoi State Park.
Mom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.