Just an hour north of Atlanta, Helen is a little mountain town that’s successfully reinvented itself as a picturesque Alpine village and family tourist destination. With the natural beauty of the Georgia mountains and the Chattahoochee River, plus plenty of quirky attractions, Helen and its surrounding communities have plenty of options for family fun.
Have Quirky Fun
It takes about 20 minutes to drive from the center of Helen to Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, but the scenic commute is worth it if your kids are Cabbage Patch Kids fans. Cabbage Patch Kids were created by a Cleveland local, and this museum-slash-attraction pays tribute to the Kids with a themed hospital, the cabbage patch where the Kids are born and -- of course -- plenty of Kids hoping to be adopted. In Helen, kids can marvel at a model train wonderland at Charlemagne’s Kingdom. Four hundred feet of train tracks wind through a German village, featuring a 22-foot high Matterhorn mountain. Plan to grab lunch or ice cream at Goats on the Roof, where -- as you might have guessed -- a family of goats lives on the shop roof.
Explore the Outdoors
Take a trail ride along the Chattahoochee River with the Chattahoochee Stables, about 8 minutes from downtown Helen in Sautee. The 1-hour rides are beginner-friendly, and the stable doesn’t have minimum age requirements. Most people head to Unicoi State Park to hike up to the spectacular double waterfalls of Anna Ruby Falls, but kids will also enjoy swimming or kayaking on the lake, fishing from the dock or exploring the park’s 8 miles of hiking trails.
Hit a River
Tubing down the Chattahoochee River is a summertime must for many Georgia residents. Pick up your tubes and life jacket at Cool River Tubing Company, then set out on an easy, hour-long float down the river to the company’s pick-up station. For a more adventurous day out on the water, take your kids rafting on the Chattooga River with Southeastern Expeditions in Clayton, a little less than an hour's drive northwest of Helen. Kids do need to be at least 10 to navigate the mostly Class II and Class III rapids on this trip.
Visit a Local Attraction
Kids can put their miner skills to work panning for gold at Dukes Creek Gold and Ruby Mines. This area was the site of the first U.S. gold rush, and there’s a good chance kids will find a few tiny flakes of gold in their buckets of rocks and sand. The Black Forest Bear Park is home to grizzly bears, cinnamon bears and black bears. Pick up one of the feed trays when you buy your tickets -- some of the bears will perform tricks for food. Play a round of miniature golf right in the heart of Helen at the Alpine Mini Golf Village.