As a Yankee transplant relatively new to the south, not only had I never been to Helen, Georgia- I had never heard of it, so when my disbelieving college friend offered to give me a personal tour, I agreed to go. Since this Bavarian inspired town tucked away in the North Georgia mountains was talked about like some mystical place in a Tolkien novel, I have to admit I didn’t get it at first. Sure, I had fun mini golfing through a windmill, and browsing countless shops full of T shirts and blown glass, but I didn’t understand what had my friend so captivated. This was before Helen became the backdrop for some significant memories in my life, which, over time, made Helen take on a personal magic for me as well.
I can remember the fun and freedom of packing too many people in the backseat of a car to drive out for Oktoberfest on fall college Saturday nights. It was on one of these particular Saturdays that my husband and I had our first date. We cooked food over a camp stove in a parking lot and threw pennies in the Chattahoochee for luck. A little over a year later, it was our hitch into Helen off the Appalachian Trail that ranks among our most interesting. Riding in the back of a pick up we held on for dear life, as the driver hugged the curves and blasted “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. It has become a special place for me, so why wouldn’t I want to share it with my children?
Recently our family ventured off to Helen for a day of fun. We started off with a trip to Betty’s Country Store. This southern grocer seems a bit out of place in its German themed surroundings. It’s front porch rocker welcomes you to sit down, enjoy a cold drink, and take it easy for awhile. Betty’s is filled with an interesting culinary selection that includes an incredible bakery. My kids were fascinated by the indoor beehive, where you can observe honey bees at work. Next we grabbed some lunch at North Georgia BBQ before heading to Cool River Tubing for a relaxing and beautiful day on the river. This is a perfect way to enjoy an afternoon and definitely one of the most affordable things our family of five has ever done. You know it’s been a good day when your 6 year old says, “I’m having so much fun, and I don’t even have to walk anywhere!” Before heading home, we enjoyed some ice cream while taking in various street performers, including a man dressed as a pirate and his dog showing off their troop of parrots.
Somehow I don’t think that it is Helen itself that brings people back year after year, but the memories that are created there, and it is more fun to embrace it’s quirkiness then try to explain its magic. So if you’ve never gotten a chance to experience it for yourself, please excuse me when I say “You mean, you’ve never been to Helen?”