Monday, November 11, 2013

Yodeling in the Georgia mountains

            Helen,Georgia, is an adorable mountain village. What’s unique is that Helen is not. The entire town is patterned after an alpine village.
            It all began in 1969 when three businessmen brainstormed on how to turn the north Georgia community into a tourist destination. They enlisted the help of artist John Kollock, who sketched visions of Helen based on Bavarian mountain villages he witnessed while in the service in Germany. The idea was adopted and Helen transformed into something right out of the Alps.
            One of the best times to visit Helen is during the holidays, especially if you’re lucky to coincide with a snowfall. Visitors can enjoy the sixth annual Christkindlmarkt, a German tradition where the center of town is filled with booths offering specialty gift items and culinary treats Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 7-8 in the Helen Market Platz. Santa and Mrs. Claus Santa sleigh into town via horse-drawn carriage during the Annual Lighting of the Village beginning at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 in downtown Helen.
            The Festival of Trees begins Nov. 27 at Unicoi State Park and Lodge, an affordable and family-friendly state park that offers a lodge, cabins, dining area, hiking trails and plenty of outdoor activities. The festival lasts until Dec. 14.
Joe and Tina Smith
of Serenity Cellars
with Dolce Bello    
            Get a two-for-one on Dec. 7 when the Helen Christmas Parade winds through downtown Helen beginning at 2 p.m. and the Annual Christmas in the Mountains LightedParade at 7 p.m. in nearby downtown Cleveland.
            Sticking true to the German theme is Kinderfest with its activities for children Dec. 7, 14 and 21 in downtown Helen.
            For the shopper, the area offers German-styled Christmas gifts, Appalachian artwork and crafts and several wineries, such as Habersham Winery, Serenity Cellars (make sure you sample the decadent chocolate Dolce Bello) and Yonah Mountain Vineyards, home to Georgia’s only wine cave. For an elegant meal, Bernie’s Retaurant in nearby Sautee Nacoochee serves up fine dining and pairs dishes with locally produced wine.
           To help plan your trip to the Alps of Georgia, visit

City photos courtesy of Alpine Helen-White County Convention and Visitors Bureau.