Exploring the Alpine Village of Helen, Georgia
Southeast Toyota Distributors, LLC (“Toyota”) provided me with compensation and use of a Toyota RAV4 for a short period of time. The opinions I have shared about this vehicle are my own.
Picture this: an Alpine village nestled among the mountains, home to Oktoberfest, where you can enjoy authentic German cuisine and Bavarian oompah bands.
No, I didn’t road trip to Southeast Germany… I was still in the Southeastern United States. North Georgia, to be precise. Perched upon the Chattahoochee River and bordering several State Parks and National Forests, you’ll find the quirky, tiny “German Alpine village” of Helen, Georgia.
Earlier this month I grabbed my friend Jen and road tripped to Helen to experience a Bavarian weekend of epic delights courtesy of Southeast Toyota. My personal sedan is far from equipped for a road trip in the mountains during inclement weather, but my decked out 2017 RAV4 handled the trip like a champ. The SUV has a ton of cutting-edge safety features like a bird’s eye camera view, lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control (it’s almost like “auto-pilot”)!
Although Helen is only about a 90 minute drive from Atlanta, I took the scenic route, weaving through the mountains in search of Instagram-worthy north Georgia beauty. A crazy thing happened during my drive… it started to snow. If you’re from the North and
know how to drive in the snow are used to the cold white fluffy stuff that falls from the sky, you may not understand the significance of this statement… IT DOESN’T SNOW IN GEORGIA.
If you live in Georgia and the weatherman tells you to expect snow flurries, you probably have one of two responses: (1) You are filled with child-like delight and can’t wait to try your hand at sledding down your driveway on a cookie sheet; or (2) You are terrified and run out in a hurry to try and scoop up the last of the milk and bread at the grocery store… if the shelves aren’t already cleared out by the time you get there. Those Georgians in the latter category find themselves hunkered down, curled up by the fireplace and refusing to leave their home in fear of the unavoidable havoc which the 1/8 inch dusting of snow will surely cause. (Okay, to be fair, Atlanta hasn’t had a great luck when it comes to snow and ice in the past few years… just Google “snowpocalyse.”)
Back to my road trip: I headed up to Helen, sleet, snow, ice and all. I took my time to get to Helen and purposefully got lost in the surrounding area. I passed orchards, wineries and plenty of quaint country dirt roads.
January is typically slow season for Helen, but the town was more crowded than typical due the Floridians who drove into town to experience snow in Helen for themselves. You read that right… Floridians who drove up. To essentially be forced to drive around in the snow. (Note: There is even less snowfall in Florida than Georgia)… The careful drive may have taken me a bit longer than usual, but the snow-dripped scenery was worth it. Helen was a winter wonderland!
The snowflakes were coming down more rigorously by the time I finally arrived in Helen. There was time to stroll around the downtown Alpine village-area, which is very walkable on foot, before settling into the historic Hofbrauhaus Restaurant.
We sat at a table overlooking the Chattahoochee River while we watched the snowflakes build stamina and overindulged in wiener schnitzel. It was only a short walk back to the hotel, but we couldn’t resist one quick snow angel before heading to our warm bed.
The following morning we woke up early and drove to Unicoi State Park, located just a few miles from downtown Helen. Being born and raised in the Midwest, I’ve seen snow plenty of times, yet I found myself squealing with delight as I drove into the park. (I may have been as excited as my travel partner who hails from the sunny beaches of south Georgia). IT WAS GORGEOUS!
The bright blue lake was lined with fluffy snow drifts and there were icicles swinging from tree branches. We spent the entire day playing in the park much like I did 20 years ago during wintertime in Wisconsin.
When our initial awe wore off, we set off for a lengthy hike to take in more of the stunning snowy scenery. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched two children build a rather impressive snowman, before instigating a snowball fight of my own (sorry, Jen). When we got chilly, we hopped back in the RAV4 to warm up in between our playtime sessions (thank you, seat-warmers).
After we arrived back to my hotel and warmed up a bit, we headed out to explore more of Helen’s quirky, bizarre Alpine village. We strolled the length of the village, enjoying the decor and popping into a souvenir shop every couple feet. Before we knew it, we had worked up quite an appetite, so we headed to Old Heidelberg for a delicious bratwurst (which is no small compliment from this Wisconsin girl). Sadly, just as we had truly began to relax and slow down to the small (Bavarian) town pace, it was time to head back south to Atlanta.
My final thoughts on Helen, Georgia?
Helen may not be the most authentic German experience, but it’s ridiculously scenic and a heck of a lot of fun. Helen’s quirky Alpine village has plenty to keep you busy for a weekend if you enjoy new culinary experiences, chatting up the locals and tourists, and beautiful outdoor scenery.
My weekend in Helen was quick, fun and snow-filled, but if you’re headed to the area and have more time, I would highly recommend that you also explore the area’s natural surroundings.
I got quite comfortable in my RAV4 and didn’t want to give it back once the weekend had ended. Honestly? I was surprised how luxurious the new RAV4 is! My life is a bit if a dichotomy – I straddle the line between full-time attorney and adventuress. The RAV4 is similar. It is obviously ready for an adventure, but it’s also ready to get me to the courthouse in style.
So, what do you think? Is Helen, Georgia the quirkiest city in the Southeast? Have you traveled anywhere you thought was unique or quirky?
The opinions and statements expressed in this post are my own and Southeast Toyota, LLC, including their agents and representatives, are not responsible for my opinions, advice, statements or content.
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Southeast Toyota. The opinions and text are all mine.