Helen, Georgia, is a charming Bavarian-style town known for its scenic beauty and unique cultural atmosphere. In December, this picturesque destination transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a wide range of festive activities to enjoy. If you’re planning a visit to Helen, GA, during the holiday season, here’s a list of must-do activities to make your trip truly magical.
1. Experience the Christkindlmarkt
The Christkindlmarkt is a German-inspired Christmas market that you absolutely can’t miss. It’s a hub of holiday cheer, featuring vendors selling handmade gifts, delicious food, and seasonal decorations. Strolling through the market, you’ll be enchanted by the aroma of roasted nuts, the sound of live music, and the twinkling lights that adorn the stalls. It’s an excellent opportunity to shop for unique Christmas presents and immerse yourself in the festive spirit.
Make sure to arrive at the Christkindlmarkt with an empty stomach. Sample traditional German treats like bratwurst, pretzels, and hot mulled wine. As you stroll through the market, keep an eye out for handcrafted ornaments, wooden toys, and other unique gifts. Also, check the event schedule for special performances and demonstrations that add to the market’s lively atmosphere.
2. Enjoy Holiday Parades
Helen hosts delightful holiday parades during December. These parades are a visual treat with colorful floats, marching bands, and of course, Santa Claus himself. The streets are lined with spectators of all ages, and the cheerful atmosphere is infectious. It’s a perfect family-friendly activity that will leave you with fond memories of your visit.
Arrive early to secure a good viewing spot along Main Street, and don’t forget to dress warmly. Many local shops and restaurants offer hot chocolate and warm beverages to keep you toasty while you wait. Make it even more memorable by bringing along a little something to share with your neighbors, like candy canes or small gifts.
3. Witness the Christmas Lights
Take a stroll through the town to witness the Christmas lights that adorn Helen. The entire town comes alive with a dazzling display of holiday lights and decorations. The Bavarian-style architecture of the buildings, coupled with the snow-covered landscape, creates a magical ambiance that’s perfect for a romantic evening walk or a family outing. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning displays.
Start your evening with a delicious meal at one of Helen’s cozy restaurants to set the mood. Afterward, take a leisurely walk along Main Street to fully appreciate the lights. If you’re traveling with your significant other, this is the perfect setting for a romantic holiday stroll. Capture the magic with photos, and consider bringing a thermos of hot cocoa to enjoy while you wander.
4. Sip on Warm Beverages
Stay warm and cozy by sipping on hot chocolate, mulled wine, or apple cider at one of the local cafes or the Christkindlmarkt. These warm beverages are the perfect way to ward off the winter chill while enjoying the festive surroundings. Grab a cup, find a spot to relax, and soak in the holiday atmosphere.
The Christkindlmarkt is a hot spot for holiday beverages, so start there. Try the traditional Glühwein (mulled wine) to warm your spirits. Throughout your stay, explore the local coffee shops and cafes to find unique holiday drinks. A warm beverage is a great way to take a break and absorb the holiday ambiance.
5. Explore Local Shops
Helen is home to a variety of local shops, perfect for picking up unique gifts and souvenirs. Explore the charming boutiques and art galleries throughout the town. From handcrafted ornaments to local artwork, you’ll find treasures that make for meaningful mementos or thoughtful presents for loved ones. The shopkeepers often add festive decorations, enhancing your shopping experience.
Begin your shopping adventure early in the day to avoid the crowds. Start with Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen, a local favorite known for its delectable handmade candies. Then, meander through the specialty shops, such as Christmas & More, to find ornaments and decorations that capture the spirit of the season.
6. Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride
Experience the magic of the season by taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the snow-dusted streets of Helen. The clip-clop of hooves on the cobblestone streets and the jingle of sleigh bells will transport you to a winter wonderland. Whether you’re sharing the ride with a loved one or the whole family, it’s a memorable way to see the town in a new light.
Carriage rides tend to be popular, so consider making a reservation in advance. Opt for an evening ride when the town is aglow with Christmas lights for a truly enchanting experience. Don’t forget to bundle up, as the crisp winter air adds to the charm of the ride.
7. Attend Live Performances
Enjoy live performances featuring holiday music and theater. Check local event listings for concerts and shows happening during your visit. These performances add an extra layer of enchantment to your holiday experience. Whether it’s a local choir’s rendition of classic carols or a theatrical production of a beloved holiday story, these shows will leave you feeling merry and bright.
Review the event schedule ahead of time and book your tickets, if necessary. Arrive a little early to enjoy the festive atmosphere before the performance begins. Keep an open mind and explore different types of shows, from classical concerts to community theater productions.
8. Go Tubing at Snow Mountain
If you’re in the mood for some adventure, head to Snow Mountain for tubing and snow-filled fun. It’s a great activity for the whole family. The snow-covered slopes of Snow Mountain provide the ideal setting for tubing. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or just looking for some lighthearted fun, racing down the hills on an inner tube is an exhilarating experience. The park offers various lanes suitable for all age groups.
Dress warmly in layers and wear waterproof clothing to stay dry. Check the park’s website for their current operating hours and any age or height restrictions for tubing. While at Snow Mountain, don’t forget to snap pictures of the snow-covered landscapes—it’s a memory you’ll want to capture.
9. Visit Babyland General Hospital
For a unique experience, visit Babyland General Hospital, the birthplace of the iconic Cabbage Patch Kids. It’s a quirky and fun attraction. The hospital is decked out in holiday decor during December, making it an even more whimsical place to explore. Learn about the history of these beloved dolls and perhaps pick one up as a unique holiday souvenir.
Capture the holiday magic by visiting Babyland General Hospital during their special holiday-themed events. Keep an eye out for Cabbage Patch Kid-themed ornaments or other unique Christmas merchandise that could make for wonderful souvenirs or gifts. If you’re traveling with kids, this stop is sure to delight them.
10. Enjoy Outdoor Activities
Explore the beauty of the North Georgia mountains with a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and zip-lining. While Helen’s winter wonderland is a sight to behold, the surrounding natural beauty is equally enticing. Hike through the scenic trails, fish in the pristine waters of the Chattahoochee River, or get your adrenaline pumping with a thrilling zip-lining adventure. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or just looking to take in the breathtaking views, Helen has something for everyone.
Research the outdoor activities available in Helen and choose those that best suit your interests. If you’re hiking, make sure to dress warmly and wear appropriate footwear for the terrain. For fishing or zip-lining, check with local operators for reservations and seasonal availability.
11. Visit Local Wineries and Breweries
Helen has several wineries and breweries where you can sample local wines and craft beers. It’s a great way to unwind and enjoy the holiday season. After a day of exploring, take a break and savor the flavors of the region. The wineries and breweries in and around Helen offer tastings and tours, allowing you to experience the rich heritage of the North Georgia wine industry.
Plan a wine or beer tasting day as a relaxing and indulgent experience. Discover the unique flavors of the North Georgia region by trying local wines and craft beers. Check the hours and availability of tours in advance to ensure you can make the most of your visit. Consider designating a driver if you plan to sample multiple beverages.
12. Explore the Local History
Immerse yourself in the local history of Helen by visiting the Helen Arts & Heritage Center and the Historic Hardman Farm State Historic Site. These sites provide insight into the town’s heritage and are often beautifully decorated for the holidays. The Historic Hardman Farm, in particular, offers tours and special events that highlight the holiday traditions of yesteryears.
Research the operating hours and any special events at the historical sites you plan to visit. Don’t forget to check if there are guided tours available to enhance your experience. Both locations are excellent places to learn about the history of the area while enjoying the holiday-themed displays.
13. Go Ice Skating
Seasonal ice skating rinks pop up in Helen during December. It’s a fun way to spend time with family and friends. Lace up your skates and hit the ice in the heart of Helen. The rink is typically surrounded by festive decorations and holiday music, creating a truly magical setting for a classic winter activity. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a novice, ice skating is a delightful way to embrace the season.
Check the rink’s schedule and hours of operation in advance to plan your visit. Dress warmly, and if you’re new to ice skating, consider bringing a friend or family member for added fun. Skating under the twinkling lights and holiday decor will surely get you into the festive spirit.
14. Relax at a Spa
Treat yourself to a spa day in one of the local wellness centers. Unwind and rejuvenate before more holiday adventures. The holiday season can be a hectic time, so take a moment to pamper yourself. Helen offers a selection of spas and wellness centers where you can enjoy massages, facials, and other rejuvenating treatments.
Book your spa appointment in advance to ensure you get your desired treatments and times. Consider a couple’s massage if you’re visiting with a partner for a romantic and relaxing experience. After your spa day, take a leisurely stroll through Helen to fully appreciate your rejuvenated state of mind.
15. Attend Holiday Events at Unicoi State Park
Unicoi State Park hosts a variety of holiday events, including tree lighting ceremonies and festive gatherings. It’s a beautiful park to explore as well. Unicoi State Park, with its stunning natural scenery, is a fantastic place to embrace the holiday spirit. Join in the park’s holiday events, such as the annual tree lighting ceremony, to witness the magic of the season in a pristine outdoor setting.
Check the park’s event schedule for holiday-specific activities and plan your visit accordingly. Arrive at the tree lighting ceremony early to secure a good viewing spot, and consider bringing some hot cocoa or a thermos of warm cider to make the experience even cozier. While at the park, take some time to explore the trails and enjoy the winter scenery.
We hope this guide has helped you plan your December adventure in Helen, Georgia, and that you’ve experienced the magic of the town in all its wintery glory. Whether you were tubing down Snow Mountain, sipping warm beverages by the fire, or exploring the local history, your visit to Helen is sure to be a cherished memory for years to come. Until next time, may your future journeys be just as enchanting and your travels filled with wonder and joy.