Where to Stay in Helen, Georgia for Oktoberfest

Located in the northeastern part of Georgia lies the charming Bavarian town of Helen. Despite having only 500 residents, Helen is the third most visited city in Georgia! It’s just a two-hour, 93-mile drive from Atlanta.

In 2022, my fiance and I embarked on a last-minute road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains to escape an incoming hurricane that was headed straight for St. Petersburg (thankfully, it veered off course). As luck would have it, we discovered that Oktoberfest was taking place in Helen during our visit. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience one of the best Oktoberfests in the United States, and we had an absolute blast! We made unforgettable memories that I still cherish.

In this guide, I’ll share how you can make the most of your visit to Helen Oktoberfest. I’ll provide tips on where to park, where to stay, what to do during the festival, and other fun activities in the area in case you decide to extend your stay beyond a day.

History of German Influence in Helen, Georgia

You may be wondering if Helen has always been a German town. Surprisingly, it was not. The Cherokee people were the original inhabitants until the early 1800s. However, in 1828, the discovery of gold just five miles away in Duke’s Creek attracted settlers in search of riches. But this gold rush was short-lived, and Helen soon became a logging town. By the mid-90s, the town was in trouble as the demand for lumber diminished due to the rise of plastic products.

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However, in 1968, a group of local businessmen devised a plan to revitalize the town by transforming it into a Bavarian district. The eye-catching storefronts caught the attention of travelers passing through on their way to the mountains, and they began stopping in Helen. Within a few years, tourism skyrocketed, and the town started to resemble an authentic German village.

The inaugural Helen Oktoberfest took place in 1973 and has been celebrated annually ever since!

About Helen Oktoberfest 2023

Welcome to Oktoberfest Banner Helen Georgia

Where to Stay in Helen for Oktoberfest

Due to the massive influx of visitors during Oktoberfest, it’s crucial to book your accommodations well in advance. Otherwise, you’ll have limited options and may end up paying inflated rates.

  • Riverbend Motel & Cabins (budget-friendly): Starting at just $89 USD, you can stay at Riverbend Motel & Cabins, situated along the picturesque Chattahoochee River. Although an older motel, it has undergone updates to provide modern comfort. With swings and picnic tables by the river, you can fully enjoy the serene surroundings. Plus, it’s conveniently located within walking distance of downtown Helen.

  • Heidi Motel – Helen (moderate budget): For a reasonably priced option with good reviews, consider the Heidi Motel. Located within a short walk of everything in town, the recently renovated rooms offer amenities such as cable TV, a small refrigerator, and a microwave. Some rooms even come with a cozy fireplace. Free parking is included in the average nightly rate of $162 USD.

  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Helen (higher budget): If you prefer a more upscale experience, the Holiday Inn Express offers one of the best stays right in town. This reliable chain is unlikely to disappoint. With its prime location and spacious rooms, it’s an excellent choice. Start your day with a complimentary hot continental breakfast and take advantage of the on-site gym.

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Things to Do at Helen Oktoberfest 2023

Enjoy a Beer and Pretzel from International Cafe on the Chattahoochee River

There’s no better way to celebrate Oktoberfest than by savoring a cold beer alongside a breathtaking view. I highly recommend visiting Cafe International, which boasts one of the most picturesque deck views of the Chattahoochee River. The servers are all dressed in traditional dirndls or lederhosen, adding to the authentic experience. Even if you’re not a beer aficionado, the friendly servers can help you find a brew that suits your taste. And don’t miss out on their excellent Bavarian Pretzel with beer cheese – it’s simply divine! If you’d like a souvenir, they also sell Oktoberfest collector’s mugs to take home.

Indulge in a Bavarian-Style Meal

No visit to a Bavarian town would be complete without savoring some authentic German cuisine. With a multitude of choices, it can be overwhelming. However, The Heidelberg is an excellent option with reasonable prices and a solid reputation. My fiance and I were delighted with our meals there. We opted to sit in the cozy loft space on the third floor, where we were treated to live music that evening. I highly recommend trying the Wurstsampler, which includes three different types of sausages, sauerkraut, and German potatoes. To avoid long waits, plan your visit after the lunch rush or for an early dinner.

Explore the Local Shops

Take a leisurely stroll along Main Street and immerse yourself in the delightful array of shops. From gift shops and clothing stores to wine-tasting and gourmet cheese shops, there’s something to suit every taste. Make sure to explore the charming back alleyways, as they often hide hidden gems. During my visit, I found a Helen Oktoberfest collector’s pin at Helen’s Best. Let me know in the comments if they still have the same design available in 2023!

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Listen to Live Music at the Outdoor Auditorium

Man Playing Saxophone at Outdoor Auditorium During Oktoberfest in Helen, GA

Adjacent to the strip of shops, you’ll find an outdoor auditorium where live music performances frequently take place throughout the day. During our visit, we had the pleasure of listening to a talented saxophonist. The vibrant atmosphere and exceptional talent make this a must-visit spot for music lovers.

Celebrate in the Helen Festhalle

While researching Helen Oktoberfest, you may come across information indicating a $10 USD admission fee to enter the festival. However, this is not entirely accurate. Unlike some other towns, visiting Helen itself is always free. The $10 USD fee is specifically for entry into the Helen Festhalle, the town’s official event hall, where they host the official Helen Oktoberfest celebration. The admission fee applies on Fridays and Saturdays, but Sundays are free. The Festhalle offers a lively experience with scheduled live music, dance performances, yodeling, and an energetic atmosphere. However, based on reviews, the food and drink options inside may not match the quality of the authentic restaurants downtown. Personal preference and desire for a complete German cultural experience should inform your decision.

Other Things to Do in Helen, Georgia

If you find yourself with more than just a day to explore Helen, there are several other attractions worth checking out:

  • Uhuburg (Eagle Owl Castle): Although it was under construction during my visit, in 2023, you’ll have the opportunity to explore this stunning pure white castle that appears straight out of a fairytale. Join a guided tour with the owner to learn about the architecture and gardens, or take a leisurely stroll through the grounds. Don’t forget to head up to the 8th floor of the tower for a breathtaking view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tickets cost $35 USD per person.

  • Unicoi Hill Park: Located right in downtown Helen, this city park offers a pleasant escape. Marvel at the small man-made waterfall called Alana Falls at the entrance. Take a leisurely walk on the short loop path to burn off some of the delicious food you’ve eaten and capture some photos of the charming covered bridge. There’s also a playground for kids.

  • Take a picture with Willie The Wildewood Bear: Whether you’re visiting during Helen Oktoberfest or at any other time, capturing a picture with Willie the bear is a quirky and fun thing to do. It’s a great way to commemorate your visit.

  • Go Tubing: If you’re visiting during the summertime, tubing down the Chattahoochee River is a highly popular activity in Helen. Two companies, Cool River Tubing and Helen Tubing, offer this enjoyable adventure. It’s an affordable activity, costing $14 USD on weekdays and $18 USD on weekends.

  • Georgia Mountain Coaster: For a quick thrill, the Georgia Mountain Coaster is a family-friendly activity that allows you to control the speed of your own cart. It costs $17 USD for adults and $14 USD for children. Plus, if you decide to ride again on the same day, you’ll receive a 50% discount on your second ride.

  • Visit Local Wineries: Helen and its surrounding areas are home to numerous wineries. While there are many excellent options nearby, I recommend checking out Jumping Goat Coffee Roasters and Tasting Room, just a short 10-minute drive from downtown Helen. Besides offering delicious wine and mead, its outdoor seating area offers a breathtaking view of Yonah Mountain.

  • Nora Mill Granary Grist Mill & Country Store: Immerse yourself in history at this quaint establishment situated along the river. Step inside the old-timey store and browse through quality grits, porridge, pancake mix, jellies, jams, and more. From the back patio, you can enjoy a lovely view of Nora Mill Dam.

  • Anna Ruby Falls: If time allows, make sure to stop by Anna Ruby Falls, just 15 minutes away from Helen. A quick 0.9-mile uphill walk leads you to the twin falls, which stand at 153 ft and 50 ft tall, respectively. There is a $5 USD recreation fee to enter this picturesque natural attraction.

  • Hike Blood Mountain: Take on the challenge of hiking Blood Mountain, the tallest peak on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. There are several hiking routes available, but my recommendation is the 4.4-mile out-and-back trail via Byron Reece Trail. Although the hike may be moderately challenging, the rewarding views at the end make it all worthwhile.

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Final Word on Helen Oktoberfest

Thank you so much for reading this guide! I hope you find it helpful as you plan your visit to Helen Oktoberfest in 2023. Make sure to indulge in plenty of beer and savor the delectable German cuisine. Prost!

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