Exploring the Beauty and Richness of Helen, GA with Kids

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Incorporated in 1913, Helen began as a logging town in the Appalachian Mountains in northwest Georgia and was on the periphery of the Georgia gold rush. Once the wealth from the natural resources declined, Helen reinvented itself as a tourist destination, transforming into the Bavarian themed village you see today. Strict zoning requirements preserve this classic alpine look (even the downtown Wendy’s and Huddle House are not immune). While on our trip we enjoyed various activities, shopping and dining in Downtown Helen, while also taking a short drive to soak in the beauty of Anna Ruby Falls.

The gurgling water makes for a gorgeous photo backdrop.

Downtown Helen

As you walk along the cobblestone streets, the Bavarian-themed architecture, with its steeply pitched roofs, transports you to a timeless German village somewhere in the Bavarian Alps. With over 200 specialty and import shops, boutiques, and emporiums to explore, along with a wide range of restaurants, taverns, and pubs throughout downtown, you’ll find plenty to do and see while admiring the beauty of downtown and the mountains in the background.

While there are plenty of shopping and dining options to keep you busy, Helen also boasts numerous attractions to round out your experience. Be sure to check out the Georgia Mountain Coaster, “Shoot the Hooch” (Chattahoochee River tubing), as well as various mini golf courses and nearby vineyards. Along the Chattahoochee River, there are several spots to sit back, swing and relax while the calming sounds of the nearby river soothe your spirit.

A dad and his daughter and son stand in front of a sasquatch sign in Helen, GA.
There’s plenty of attractions and shops to enjoy in Helen, GA.

Helen at a Glance
Hours – Varies depending on activity and when businesses open.
Parking – Various paid parking lots and street parking.
Restrooms – Visitor’s center, and other public restrooms.
Allotted time – At least one full day to experience downtown and its various attractions.
Other – This little city can get really crowded on weekends and school breaks.
Website | Phone: (706)878-2181 | Address: S. Main Street, Helen, GA 30545 (map)

Helen’s Anna Ruby Falls

Located in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Anna Ruby Falls is a quick drive from downtown Helen and well worth it. Anna Ruby Falls are a twin set of waterfalls, cascading more than 150 feet in a shallow pool, which feeds into a stream that winds down the mountain. The trail to the falls is a 1-mile round-trip hike on its National Recreation Trail. The trail starts from the park’s visitor’s center and is fully paved, with a few staircases along the way. As you walk the trail, under a canopy of tall trees, you will hear and see the rushing water of Smith Creek which eventually joins the Chattahoochee River.

This gorgeous hike takes you to two wooden viewing platforms, providing two different angles to admire the beauty of the twin waterfalls. After taking in the site and taking as many pictures as you can, you easily hike down the same path to return to the visitor’s center. Be sure to check out the live animal and other interactive exhibitions put on by the park rangers throughout the day. We recommend visiting first thing in the morning to avoid crowds and beat the heat during the Summer. There are also signs everywhere stating to stay on the pathway (no wading in the water) as the slippery rocks and fast-moving water can be dangerous. This is an amazingly family and dog friendly hike that will please everyone in your group.

Anna Ruby Falls can be seen cascading down the mountainside outside of Helen, GA.
Anna Ruby Falls is a family-friendly and dog-friendly hike with a spectacular view.

Anna Ruby Falls at a Glance
Admission for Self-Guided Tour –Ages 16 and over are $5; and ages 15 and under are free.
Hours – 9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. 7 days a week; no admission after 4:00 p.m.
Parking – Ample parking in paved parking lot.
Restrooms – Inside the visitor’s center.
Allotted time – Around an hour and a half
Other – While the hike is not physically intensive, there is a 400 ft. stretch with a 20% gradient. There are also stairs in various spots with no alternate wheelchair/stroller access, so plan accordingly.
Website | Phone: (706) 878-1448 | Address: 3455 Anna Ruby Falls Road, Helen, GA 30545 (map)

See Also

BONUS: McKay’s Bookstore – Chattanooga

Whenever we pass through Chattanooga, we ALWAYS make a stop at McKay’s, and our trip to Helen was no exception! If you or someone in your family loves to read and get great deals on used books, toys, video games, movies, comics, board games, electronics, and more, McKay’s has it all! This well-organized, two-story used book warehouse is a treasure trove of great finds waiting to be uncovered. You can easily lose track of time wandering the aisles, looking for interesting reads and seeing everything else this place has to offer.

McKay’s boasts of bringing in as many as 10,000 new items each day and we don’t doubt it! Their shelves are constantly rotating merchandise, so each visit is a new experience. Be sure to come prepared with used books and other media to trade for something new. The trade-in process is simple and easy, allowing you to shop while they value your trades. McKay’s has additional locations in Knoxville and Nashville, TN, and Greensboro and Winston-Salem, NC. I guarantee you, every member of your family will be able to find something to enjoy.

A young boy holds three comics that he found at McKay's Bookstore.
Be sure to stock up on new reading materials at McKay’s before your mountain getaway.

McKay’s Bookstore At a Glance
Admission – FREE!
Hours – Monday thru Thursday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Parking – Ample parking in paved parking lot.
Restrooms – Inside the store
Allotted time – At least an hour
Other – There is an elevator to the second floor, so baby carriers, strollers, and wheelchairs will be fine. Upon entry, head to the right, pick up a bin or two to sort out your items to trade. Hold on to the ticket number they give you because they’ll display your number on a large screen when your trade value is ready.
Website | Phone: (423) 800-8119 | 7734 Lee HWY, Chattanooga, TN 37421 (map)

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