For many families in the South, visiting Helen is an annual event. After all, there’s Oktoberfest and tubing and the delicious candy shops to enjoy, but what else is there?
Can you really spend a couple of days in Helen and do more than just walking around the shops? Of course, because no matter how many years you’ve visited, this Alpine Village has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.
You’ve got several to choose from, all gorgeous, all fun to splash around in and hike to and enjoy.
Anna Ruby Falls is actually two waterfalls, and one the of the most popular sites in Helen. The hike to the falls is minimal, with benches along the way and a paved trail, so it’s super accessible for strollers or little legs that don’t want to walk far. Admission is $5 for those over 16 and free for children 15 and under.
You also have Dukes Creek Falls, which is a longer hike and a little more dense; this might be better for the older kids. It is accessible for a bit, then the trees will get in the way of the view from the easy-to-get-to observation decks. There is a $4 fee per vehicle per day.
Finally, there’s Raven Cliff Falls. You can see the falls and the many small cascades along a well-marked trail. To reach the cliffs it gets a little steep, but it’s worth the work to see a waterfall that courses down through a chasm in the cliffs. Raven Cliff Falls requires a small parking fee of $5.
Dukes Creek Gold & Ruby Mines
This is a very fun thing for kids – especially younger ones. You buy a bucket for either gems or gold (they come in different sizes), and you pan for gold – simple enough. Not only do you get to cool off while you pan in the river or the panning stations, but you also have the option of getting any gems you might find fashioned into jewelry or a trinket you can take home. There’s also a gift shop on site where you can check out pottery, gems and prehistoric fossils. Prices start at $15 and depend on what you want to do and what size bucket you purchase.
Location: 8808 North Main St., Helen, Ga. 30545; Website: dukescreek.com
Helen Tubing and Waterpark
Everyone knows you can go tubing in Helen, and it’s a classic way to spend some time, but did you know Helen has a massive waterpark, too? Four large water slides, a lazy river with controlled water, a rock wall, water mushrooms – who could ask for more? It’s a perfect spot for the kids who want to race down the slides, but also a nice spot for parents to sit and relax. If sliding isn’t quite your style and you want to tube the Hooch, then you can purchase passes to do that as well. Prices vary depending on what you want to do.
Location: 9917 Highway 78 N., Helen, Ga. 30545; Website: helenwaterpark.com/
Zip line at Nacoochee Adventures
Want to experience north Georgia like never before? Then why not give zip lining a try? There are several zip line canopy tours to choose from, all of which have a theme. One note: There are weight restrictions (40-250 pounds). You can also rent an ATV and explore the town, check out the giant swing or try the challenge course. Prices vary depending on what you want to do, but you could easily spend a day just hanging out at Nacoochee Adventures.
Location: 7019 S. Main St., Helen, Ga. 30545; Website: nacoocheeadventures.com
Horseback riding at Gold City Corral
You can try horseback riding, take a carriage ride, enjoy a hayride or even experience a traditional chuck wagon dinner at Gold City Corral. Horseback rides are available for all experience levels, and for an hour to a half day. Hayrides are on a covered wagon and available for groups as well as just your family. Carriage rides are popular for couples but are available for small families as well; and chuck wagon dinners feature a horse-drawn ride to the river house where there’s food, bonfires and live entertainment. Prices vary depending on what you want to do and how long you want to spend doing it. If you really want to go all in, you can plan a horse lover’s vacation and stay on the property.
Location: 49 Forrest Hills Road. Dahlonega, Ga. 30533; Website: goldcitycorral.com
Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen
They might be in the main shopping area of Helen, but Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen is an institution where you can not only buy delicious candies, but also watch them being made. In the mornings, workers make the chocolates, and in the early afternoons you can see the candy and caramel apples being dipped. This is a must see for any trip to Helen.
Location: 8651 N. Main St., Helen, Ga. 30545; Website: hanselandgretelcandykitchen.com