Spring is near, which means open season for picnics, but to be honest, late winter has plenty of good sit-outside days as well. Eating al fresco near Helen lets you enjoy your food in peace with nature, which can be especially rewarding if you have spent the morning/afternoon in busy stores or traffic. You can have your schnitzel and waterfall, too. Here are some easy options for an impromptu picnic:
1. Anna Ruby Falls: Just five miles from town you can see a clamorous set of 3 waterfalls, among the most dramatic in North Georgia. The paved walking trail is less than a half-mile to the falls, and there is a picnic area at the trailhead—the perfect place to have a quick meal before the hike.
If you want an easy German option, try brats in your backpack. You have several carry-out options in town. Just remember, get sauerkraut and mustard on the side. At The Heidelberg you can choose from bratwurst, knockwurst, or bauernwurst (the best of the wurst?)
2. Unicoi Hill Park: If you aren’t for driving or the exertion of hiking, Unicoi Hill Park is marked by a small waterfall running into the city. For families, there is a playground, as well as grills and tables. If you change your mind about hiking, you can actually walk all the way to Unicoi State Park on the Unicoi-to-Helen Trail (5.2 miles) that begins here.
Assuming you are going for hassle-free, try the quaint grocery store Betty’s for some cold-cut sandwiches. You could certainly pick up some charcoal and Angus steaks if ambitions rise.
3. As you probably know, the Chattahoochee headwaters are not far north of Helen. Since this portion of the river is relatively calm and undisturbed, tubing is a major draw as the weather warms. From Memorial Day through Labor Day you can be shuttled to and from the hooch for a 2-3 hour float. Go out in the morning and this sets you up with a good appetite for no-nonsense food. North Georgia Bar-B-Q is conveniently located in walking distance from Cool River Tubing, and it’s outside dining only. If you can’t get enough of the river, there are some picnic tables a few hundred yards away toward the water. And for additional opportunities to cool down on your Helen adventures, be sure to make your way over to Helen Tubing and Waterpark. With so many splish-splash activities, you may need to pack your picnic basket with even more fuel to keep the fun going all day long!
These are just a few ideas for integrating your appetite for local food with your appetite for nature. Go out there and create your own combinations! After all, Helen is the ideal locale for incredible eats and outdoor adventure—why not do a little of both at the same time?