Alpine Octoberfest, held in the charming Bavaria-inspired town of Helen in North Georgia, is the longest running celebration of its kind in the entire United States – a much-anticipated event that has been engaging folks for 53 years! Held from September 7 – October 29, and hosted by the Helen Chamber of Commerce, participants enjoy great German food, entertainment, dancing to the polka, live music (accordion anyone?) and activities for kids of all ages.
The Blue Ridge foothills of North Georgia have often been compared to Bavaria. This similarity inspired the German architecture of Helen, with its gingerbread trims and cobblestone streets. It is a delightful place to visit any time of the year, but comes alive during Octoberfest!
The Helen Festhalle, located at 1074 Edelweiss Strasse, is the center of the festivities. Here you can see performers in authentic German costumes, dirndls, Tyrolean hats and lederhosen, entertaining the crowd and can sample the wurst sausage, German potato salad, red cabbage and, of course, the beer! Make sure to check the schedule of keg tapping events held at many of the town’s restaurants and biergartens. During these ceremonies, a town official says a few words and the crowd chants “O’zapft is” (it’s tapped) and then “Oans, zwoa, drei, g’suffa!” (one, two, three…drink!)
Helen Accommodations and Restaurants
Helen is a wonderful day trip experience, but if you can plan an overnight stay, you can take advantage of all the area has to offer. There are accommodations to meet every interest, including German-themed hotels, national chains, bed and breakfasts and camping options. Popular Alpine-inspired lodging includes Valhalla Resort Hotel and the Heidi Motel. Cabins and camping sites are available at nearby Unicoi State Park and Smithgall Woods State Park. If Helen is fully booked, you can usually find great options in nearby Dahlonega or Cleveland.
During Octoberfest, German cuisine takes center stage! Hofer’s of Helen is the go-to place for breakfast or lunch. Don’t miss their famous Reuben sandwich. Other noted food establishments include The Heidelberg German Restaurant, Old Bavaria Inn Restaurant, Hofbrauhaus, Café International and The Troll Tavern. Make sure to ask about the Octoberfest specials.
Activities in and around Helen
If wine is more your taste than beer, be sure to sample a few of the many wineries in and around Helen. Habersham Winery is family-owned and offers an extensive list of wines to taste, and features food items from around the world. Yonah Mountain Vineyards, in nearby Cleveland, is nestled at the base of beautiful Yonah Mountain and features scenic views and world-class wines. Other noted wineries include Sweet Acres Farm Winery Tasting Room and Fox Winery, both in downtown Helen.
For nature lovers, there are miles of hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls and mountain views in the area. Raven Cliff Fails Trail is one of my favorite hikes, where you follow the trail about five miles (out and back) along a creek with several small waterfalls. Anna Ruby Falls is a must-see – a combination of two creeks that together create a 153 waterfall drop. Unicoi State Park and Smithgall Woods State Park offer many scenic trails with breathtaking scenery, especially in autumn during Octoberfest.
Insider tips to enjoy your visit to Octoberfest in Helen
Helen can get crowded during Octoberfest, especially on South Main Street through downtown. But there is a less-travelled road through town, Edelweiss Strasse, which runs parallel to South Main Street from the Budgetel Inn and Suites at the south end to the public parking at Chattahoochee Strasse on the north end (a good place to park). If you can schedule your visit during the week, you will enjoy the town with less traffic and crowds. Plan to be an early riser to hit the popular breakfast spots before lines form and peruse the many German-themed stores before they get crowded. Book your visit well in advance for Octoberfest festivities. For more information on the festival and visiting Helen, go to helenchamber.com/octoberfest.