Where does the South go to find the warmth of winter’s most time-honored traditions? In this part of the country, a region that’s notorious for hot hot summers and especially abbreviated transitional season, it can be difficult to capture the magic of a season that has been represented by misty mountains, snowy plains, and cultural trappings of particular food, festivity, and decorations. The lore of winter kind of left the South and all her charms out, but be heartened, there is one convenient winter getaway that brings old world coziness and multi-hilled vistas like no other: Helen. Every year, people count on Helen for walkable shopping, beautiful decorations, accessible outdoors experiences, and family tradition. Here’s your must-do winter checklist in this enchanting holiday locale:
- Anna Ruby Falls: It’s a pleasure as old as humanity, breathing in deeply the mist of primeval water falls as they rise from rocky outcrops. Helen was chosen as a Bavarian-style town because the Blue Ridge Foothills resemble Bavaria. The Helen area is home to dozens of waterfalls. Even better, they remain unfrozen, flowing year-round. Winter is the best time to see the most of these falls because the leaves have thinned, leaving unfettered views of the beguiling natural wonders that await. Anna Ruby Falls is the most popular of all because it is two waterfalls that drop in tandem, 150 and 50 feet, respectively. The crisp water comes from the seventh highest peak in Georgia, Tray Mountain at 4,430 feet. Just a simple, paved one-mile hike away, Anna Ruby falls gives you a great series of viewing options accessible to the whole family.
- Georgia Mountain Coaster: While we are on the topic of views, how about one that has some adrenaline with it? Check out the newly opened Georgia Mountain Coaster. Alpine coasters are an innovative new way to give you a roller coaster experience with more control: each standalone, two-seater coaster is capable of speeds up to 25mph, but they have a brake to give the riders a choice in the matter! The location for the one-mile track was chosen for breathtaking scenery plus heart-pounding drops and curves. Since the track is open until 10pm on weekends and 8pm on weeknights, you can take your time and see Christmas lights dotting the surrounding hills this winter. The height requirements are 56 inches to drive and 38 inches to ride, ages 3 and up.
- Babyland General Hospital: Cabbage Patch Kids seem like they have always been among us, a wholesome gift for generations of children. They were born in White County, Cleveland to be exact, which is Helen’s county seat. Visit the sprawling 70,000-square-foot mansion that Travel Channel called one of America’s Top Ten Toy Lands.
Sign in at the hospital’s front desk, then learn the history of Cabbage Patch Kids and see valuable originals you won’t find anywhere else. Be sure to check out the nursery and allow your children to choose hand-stitched original kids and babies to adopt. For a little more magic, visit the Crystal Tree where Cabbage Patch Kids are born! And finally, allow your kids to take the special oath of adoption for the doll of their choice in order to receive a custom birth certificate. Talk about a sweet tradition with serious staying power!
- Alpine Mini Golf Village: Mini-golf is always a great choice for a low-stakes bonding activity with the family. In downtown Helen, Alpine Mini Golf Village places you in the middle of winter festivity. During the holiday season, the course is transformed by thousands of lights. Get ready for 18 holes of Bavarian-themed challenges, interconnected by flowered paths and gazebos.
- Shopping: Helen brings together around 200 shops in a walkable, 2 square-mile downtown. Of course, winter is a time we think of buying gifts for those we care about, but you may also find crafts or unique souvenirs to capture your attention here as you browse.
Something for the little ones: Tim’s Wooden Toys and Jolly’s Toys are both homes to handmade toys and games that will last a lifetime.
Something for friends: Lindenhaus Imports brings together unique items from around the world, perhaps best known for their cuckoo clocks.
Something for Mom and Dad: Custom glassblowing in Helen represents several generations of passed-down family craftsmanship. Watch your piece come to fruition in the Glassblowing Shop.
Something for the road: Watch handmade candy roll down the line at Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen and get a custom box to enjoy on your way home.
Something for the season: Dolls, Nativity Scenes, hand-made European ornaments: Pick out a Christmas keepsake that will remind you of Helen every year at the Christmas Shoppe.
This is really only the beginning of what winter brings to Helen. Check out our events calendar for the yearly tree lighting, Christkindlmarket, and other fun festivities. You can also count on the holiday spirit being reflected in decor and menu specials at local restaurants and hotels. Get the best out of winter and leave the snow shoveling to more seasoned hands! For more information on why Helen is so magical during the holidays, click here.