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The annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race and Festival is one of the most colorful events in the area and draws balloonists from around the country.

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Helen, Ga.

Reinvented as a replica of a German Alpine village, Helen might have the most fun per square mile in the South.

Nearly 3 million visitors come to Helen's 2.11 square miles every year to partake in its numerous festivals and events, including the country's longest-running Oktoberfest, one of the largest motorcycle events in the South and an elite hot air balloon race.

On the quieter side, Helen offers breathtaking scenery at Unicoi State Park, home of the famous Anna Ruby Falls as well as a variety of hiking trails, from easy to challenging.

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MULLER’s Famous Fried Cheese and More

> Muller’s Cafe offers authentic German and Czech cuisine. Located off the beaten tourist path at 60 Chattahoochee Strasse, Muller’s is a family-owned restaurant featuring executive chef Zdenek Muller.

> Among the made-from-scratch specialties is an entire selection of fried cheese delights, including cheese sticks, cheese-steaks and sandwiches. The cheddar stuffed with ham is a local favorite.

> Want meat? Try the wiener and holsteiner schnitzels, order a bratwurst platter or indulge in the sirloin steak with cream sauce.

> Plan a trip to Muller’s carefully. It’s open Sunday-Monday and Thursday-Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m.

> The cafe does not have a bar, but the owners allow patrons to bring their own bottle of wine or other adult beverage.

Source: Mullerscafe.com, TripAdvisor.com

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Outdoor Opportunities

> Inside Unicoi State Park are the Anna Ruby falls that cascade along two creeks.

> Breathtaking views are available at Curtis Creek falls, a 153-foot drop, and York Creek falls, a 50-foot drop. Visitors can take a 1/2-mile paved trail hike to a view of both falls, or more adventurous hikers can trek the 4.6-mile Smith Creek Trail.

> The park hosts several annual events, including Saturday evening concerts from Memorial Day to mid-November. Stay at the lodge during Oktoberfest and you can take a hiking trail straight to the festival.

> Want to really test your endurance? Sign up for the annual Hogpen Hill Climb in January. Hailed as “One of the Toughest Races in America,” the 18k climb reaches 3,700 feet. Visit runthehogpen.org for more information.

> Admission for the falls is $2 a vehicle; a Georgia State Parks annual pass will get you in free.

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Motorcycle Mania

> Helen is home to one of the largest motorcycle gatherings in the South.

> In May Helen roars to life with two events at once at the Helen Riverside Park. The US Riders News Reunion Run and the Southeast Victory Rally take place over a three-day span.

> Thousands of cyclists will be on hand and, along with several recommended rides, there will be nightly dinner parties, raffles, a poker run and a bike show.

> Call 478-237-3761 or visit victoryrally.com for more information.

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Festivals Aplenty

The town hosts unique German festivals throughout the year.

> Bavarianfest: During Memorial Day weekend the city features a Bavarian atmosphere with an oompah band, dancing, beer, wine, sauerkraut and other savory treats in the Festhalle. Admission is free for active military and children under age 12. Adults are $7.

> Springfest: The city’s newest festival is in the spring on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, featuring Bavarian music, dancing and food. Admission is $7.

> Fasching: This citywide German-style Mardi Gras festival is celebrated with elaborate masks, costumes and feasting. On the last night of the feasting before Lent begins, Helen celebrates with music, food and a best costume contest with male, female and couple categories at the Helendorf River Inn, 33 Munich Strasse.

> Faschingsverein Tubing Parade: A week prior to the Fasching celebration in early February, the Helen River Rats begin a tubing parade at the Riverbend Motel and ending at the Festhalle in time for a 7 p.m. party that includes live music and games — and even a schnapps drinking contest.

Source: Alpine Helen Chamber of Commerce

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Gerstensaft!

> Helen claims its Oktoberfest, founded in 1970, is the longest-running such event in the United States. The annual festival commemorates an 1810 royal wedding in Bavaria.

> German-style bands from across the country, and even the world, come to Helen Festhalle at 1047 Edelweiss St. for the beer, brats, bands and lederhosen.

> This year’s festival starts Sept. 10 and goes through Sept. 13, with the annual parade on Sept. 12 at noon. After a break, the fun starts again Sept. 17 and continues through Nov. 1.

> Admission is $8 Monday-Friday, $10 on Saturday and free on Sunday.

> This year’s lineup of bands includes Prost, Europa, Jay Fox Band and Alpenmusikanten.

Source: Alpine Helen Chamber of Commerce

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Up, Up, and Away

> Helen will host the 43rd annual Helen-Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race early next June. It is the South’s oldest balloon event and features 30 or more colorful hot air balloons.

> The even has several opportunities for public interaction, including becoming part of a chase crew. Attendees can also take a tethered ride in a balloon or purchase a Champagne flight over the nearby mountains.

> Call 706-878-2271 or visit helen balloon.com for more information.

Source: The Greater Helen Chamber of Commerce

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Fast Facts

> Population: 526

> Biggest employers: City of Helen

> Landmarks or geographic features: Anna Ruby Falls, Unicoi State Park, Chattahoochee National Forest

> Date founded: 1913

> History: Helen was renovated into an Alpine village beginning in 1968, when a group of local businessmen met to discuss how to revive their town.

> Most famous residents: John Nichols, who first purchased the land where Anna Ruby Falls is located

Source: The Greater Helen Area Chamber of Commerce

 

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