Sharaine and I decided to take a day trip to Helen, GA. I am always down to take trips to different places, and of course the adventurous one had something else up her sleeve. She wanted to take advantage of the fun activities that Helen had to offer. So, in addition to checking out this historic city, we decided to take on a little adventure as well.
Helen is a mountain town in White County, GA with a small population of ~543. It is known primarily for its Bavarian-style buildings as well as the trails, campsites, and lake at Unicoi State Park. The colorful half-timbering, steeply pitched roofs, and view of the mountains add to the creation of an enchanting, almost fairytale experience when you stroll the streets of Helen.
The annual Oktoberfest brings many visitors to this tiny town in the Fall; which includes many authentic German festivities, food, music, Lederhosen (short or knee-length trousers), and of course beer. The town doesn’t remain quiet for long after the festivities, because right around the corner is Christmas. And, what better way to celebrate the holiday season than in this magical little town. A traditional German market (Christkindlmarkt) is opened the first two weekends of December offering visitors a place to buy a variety of sweets, decorations, and gifts. At the end of the second week, the annual Christmas parade is held in the neighboring city of Cleveland.
Also in Cleveland, there is something quite unique just for the kiddos. Babyland General Hospital can be found here and it is the birthplace of the original “Little People” dolls (the Cabbage Patch Kids). This converted clinic serves not only as the birthing center of these Premium dolls, but also as a nursery and adoption center. Parents can bring their children to view the vast collection of Cabbage Patch babies/kids, make their selection, and adopt the one of their choice.
Now for the adventurous part of our journey through Helen, we decided on two activities: Ziplining through the canopy of trees and a ride on the new Alpine Coaster attraction. We chose to go ziplining at Unicoi State Park, which is a popular location for ziplining, hiking, canoeing, fishing, and mountain biking. We had been ziplining once before on a trip to Myrtle Beach and enjoyed it so much that we decided to try and even longer, more scenic version.
The Screaming Eagles Aerial Adventures zipline tour that we chose consisted of a 40-foot staircase, tight rope bridges (which I was not particularly fond of), and 4 suspension bridges. The ziplines ranged from 50-300 feet in length with a total duration of an hour. The cost for this particular tour (First 6) was $39, but there were two additional tours available. The Level 1 tour with a cost of $59 includes the First 6 ziplines plus 5 more, along with 3 additional suspension bridges and an increased height of 20-75 feet. The LeveL 2 tour has 19 ziplines and 9 suspension bridges (inclusive of the Level 1) and comes at a cost of $99.
For the ziplining tours, it is best to purchase your ticket(s) online to ensure your spot. Arrive at least 30 minutes early to check in and sign the waiver prior to suiting up. After checking in, you are directed to a small cabin where the tour guides instruct you on safety measures and assist you in gearing up (be prepared to be a tad uncomfortable around your groin area, because the harness straps can be rather tight, LOL). They also give us instructions on how to brake (the “pancake” method) prior to landing on each intermittent platform as well as what to do in case you get stuck midway (“hand over hand” method).
Once you walk up the 40 foot staircase to the first platform you can take a minute to scope out the scenery and decided whether or not you want to chicken out. The first zipline seemed to be the longest, fastest and most gut wrenching of the 6. The pancake method came in handy most of all, because we often found ourselves not slowing down fast enough as we approached the platform landings at accelerating speeds. There were a couple of people who didn’t brake at all and almost took the guide out and terrified those of us who were huddled along that tiny platform. Luckily, the experienced guides were well trained on what to do just in case the excitement and possibly a bit of anxiousness fogs your memory on what to do (i.e. BRAKE, LOL). By the third zipline most people got the hang of it and got the nerves out so after then it was pretty much smooth sailing. The views from the platforms were breathtaking and even gave you a chance to spot some local wildlife. All in all this was definitely an experience for the books.
Prior to taking the road trip to Helen, we came across an article on the new alpine coaster attraction that had opened back in May of this year (2019). The Georgia Mountain Coaster is currently the first and only German-made alpine coaster in the state. The cost per ride is $15 for adults and $5 for kids; it’s 1/2 off for an additional ride if you go that same day. The duration of the ride is ~5 minutes. Alpine coasters are different than roller coasters in that they are downhill, single (double occupancy) carts with adjustable speeds aligned on a track. The rider is able to control the cart’s speed: push to go forward or pull to slow down. This enables the occupants of the cart to take a little extra time to enjoy the natural outdoor views of the Helen hillside. Unfortunately for us, when we arrived to the site after ziplining and grabbing a bite to eat, Georgia Mountain Coaster was temporarily closed due to “technical difficulties” and they didn’t know if they would be back up and running by the end of that day. We were quite disappointed, especially since we opted for the shorter zipline to make time for the coaster. But, if we happen to find ourselves back in Helen in the near future, we will definitely be giving this alpine coaster a go!
Aside from these two adventures you can also partake in some more fun in the sun activities in this quaint city. Sharaine had been here a couple times before with the other girls to go tubing. For tubing you ride down the Chattahoochee River in what looks like an inflatable donut, “shooting the hooch” is the local term for it. The girls did this with the Cool River Tubing Company who also offer a zipline course along with other aerial adventures. The cost is $10 per person for either a one hour or two hour trip but you can get an all day pass for $14. You can also pay $5 for what is called a push stick that you use to push yourself away from the rocks or the bank of the river. This also doubles as a cool souvenir and you can bring it back with you if you ever want to go tubing again. Because there can be sharp rocks and other sharp objects in the water it is best to wear swim shoes to protect your feet.
Helen is also known for it’s hot air balloon race and festival, wineries, waterpark, Anna Ruby falls and many other historic sites. We quite enjoyed our visit to this part of Georgia and definitely plan on returning to do the extended zipline and hopefully ride the alpine coaster. I hope this article inspires you to add Helen to your to do list of places to visit.