Helen: An Alpine revival

Helen: An Alpine revival

September 14th, 2016 by Compiled by Lindsey Young in Glimpse 2016

Natural beauty awaits in Helen, Ga.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Reinvented as a replica of a German Alpine village, Helen offers its visitors something unique to experience practically every month of the year.

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 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, cheesesteaks and sandwiches. Customer favorites include a variety of schnitzels — the jaegerschnitzel with creamy mushroom sauce stands out — and schweinebraten, with sauerkraut and Czech bread dumplings.

There are numerous fried cheese options, including a fried cheese kebab and fried cheddar cheese stuffed with ham.

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

Tourist tip! 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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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 the world come to Helen Festhalle at 1047 Edelweiss St. for the beer, brats, bands and lederhosen.

>The 2016 edition, the 46th annual, begins Sept. 8 for four days, picks back up Sept. 15 for four more days and continues beginning Sept. 22 until Oct. 30.

Admission is $8 Monday-Friday, $10 on Saturdays and free on Sundays.

>This year’s lineup of bands includes Prost, Europa, the Rheingold Band and Squeeze Box featuring Ted Lange and Mollie B.

Source: Alpine Helen Chamber of Commerce; Alpine Helen Convention & Visitors Bureau

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*Oktoberfest isn’t the only festival in Helen. Check out these other annual events:

  • Fasching Celebration: This citywide German-style Mardi Gras festival is celebrated with elaborate masks, costumes and feasting. The 2017 event takes place on Feb. 18. Helen will come alive with music, food and a wide variety of parties across the village.
  • Helen Trout Tournament: Anglers will converge on the village March 25 for a shot at over $2,000 in prize money. The event, which takes place on the Chattahoochee River, has a $20 entry fee and all participants must have a valid Georgia fishing license with trout stamp. An award ceremony and raffle conclude the event at Festhalle.
  • Spring Bierfest: The city’s newest festival, which gets an official name this year, takes place April 22. Included in the activities, which occur on the banks of the Chattahoochee River and the Festhalle, are live Bavarian music, lots of food, bier tasting ($25 fee) and a party to conclude the day for a $7 admission fee.
  • 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 $7 for adults, though free for active military.
  • Holiday Happenings: The village offers numerous ways to celebrate the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, including the Festival of the Trees; the Annual Lighting of the Village, where kids can meet Santa; the Annual Christkindlmarkt, where shoppers can fill their Christmas shopping needs; the Christmas Parade; and the Dropping of the Edelweiss on New Year’s Eve.

*Source: Alpine Helen Chamber of Commerce

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Helen will host the 44th 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 event 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 helenballoon.com for more information.

Source: The Greater Helen Chamber of Commerce

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

In early June, the town roars to life with two events at once at Helen Riverside Park. The US Riders News Reunion Run and the 12th 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.

>All proceeds go to charity.

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

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  • 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

Buildings are painted to resemble an alpine German town in the city of Helen, Ga.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.