For our anniversary, (New Year’s Eve) my husband and I try to get away for a little bit of a trip alone together to reconnect. This year, for the third year in a row, we visited our favorite place, Tybee Island, GA. (I seriously can’t get enough.)
However, this year, we decided to take our time getting there and use this as an opportunity to check out a few more things along the way. We are big fans of taking road trips, for the sheer purpose to seeing new things along the way.
I had first found photos of Helen, Georgia while I was scrolling on Pinterest earlier this year and I immediately fell in love with this adorable German inspired mountain town that is tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
For a bit of a backstory, Helen was once a booming gold mining town, until the gold was gone. And then, it was the home of a great sawmill and wide span of timber, until the timber was all cut. At that point, the mill was closed, and the settlers left for new opportunities. All that was left behind was a row of concrete buildings and a struggling community.
That is, until some savvy businessmen had a meeting to share ideas on how to save their town. They devised a plan, contacted a local artist, who had been stationed in Germany, and he got to work sketching the buildings adding gingerbread trim and decorative details to transform the failing community to a Bavarian wonderland.
In 1969, the work began. Local business owners and carpenters started to transform the downtown stores into a reality based on those ideas. Since then, everything downtown has been renovated. The details are incredible from the cobblestone walkways to the Bavarian Scenes painted on the buildings. Check out https://www.helenga.net/history.htm for more historical info, this is where I got the history information from!
Needless to say, their plan worked! Helen is the third most visited city in Georgia, with 3 million visitors a year.
I haven’t talked about it much on this blog, but my husband was actually stationed in Germany for the first 1.5 years of our marriage. I never got to visit him (and I regret that every. single. day.) so, when I learned that I could give him a little taste of Germany (literally, lunch was the main objective of this detour) I knew we had to make it happen.
We stayed in Chattanooga the previous night, so we only had about a 2.5 hour trek to our lunch date location. The drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains was absolutely gorgeous. The scenic mountain drive took my breath away, even though we drove through quite a bit of fog. It reminded me so much of the roads we have traveled in Western Colorado. So peaceful and beautiful. I want to spend more time in that are for sure! So, let me know if there are other amazing places I need to check out around there!
When we pulled into Helen, we immediately turned right before the first downtown block and were directed to public parking in a gravel lot. We paid $10 to park, so be sure to have cash. I’m not sure if the other lots cost the same or less, but just to be safe, have cash ready to go. I believe we beat most of the crowds by arriving around 10, because when we left there was not a parking spot in sight. This was also three days after Christmas so there were a lot of families visiting!
Once we got to the downtown area, the views were breathtaking. I really feel like there was no detail ignored. This idea could have either been carried out very well, or very poorly, and they knocked this transformation out of the park.
How cool is the Love Lock Bridge? If I had known about this beforehand, I would have brought a lock!
Helen is only about 2 miles wide. When we first looked at going, we looked at getting a hotel room there for a night before continuing on the way but everything was booked. The majority of the hotels are only about a 10 minute walk from the downtown area, so if you want to stay there, park at your hotel and have a beer (or 2) with dinner, walking back to the hotel shouldn’t be an issue.
For lunch, we had so many options for authentic German food! We decided to check out The Heidelberg, mainly because they had a huge menu. We were not disappointed at all.
We got to the restaurant right after they opened at 11 and immediately got a table, but again, time was on our side. When we go done there was a huge line of people waiting to be seated.
Justin had the Jagerschnitzel and I had the Das-Heidelberg Art Schnitzel. So delicious and worth the drive. I asked him how it compared to his food in Germany and while it’s been years since he was there, he said if it wasn’t perfect, it was close enough. So, I’m calling that a win.
After lunch, we got back on the road to our final destination to get to Tybee at a decent time. I’ve had a few people ask if it was worthwhile and my answer is absolutely yes!
This is a place where you could absolutely spend a few days if you wanted to. There’s a huge roller coaster, you could float the river, mine for gold and you could explore the Chattahoochee National Forrest. And of course, you could eat so much amazing food. (Am I the only one that plans vacation around food? Like I choose hotels based on nearby food I can walk to.)
Anyway, if you only have a couple of hours to spare, I still highly encourage you to stop and check it out! This is a place like nowhere else and you will not regret it.
Have you ever been to Helen? Or a place like it?