The American South might not be the first place that comes to mind when you hear the word “Oktoberfest,” the world-famous folk festival that started in Germany 200 years ago and continues to this day. Nevertheless, Helen, Georgia, is the South’s little alpine village, and it comes to life every fall for a celebration of “beer, brats, bands and lederhosen.”
photo: Dizzy Girl/Flickr
The tiny Georgia town is home to fewer than 500 permanent residents but attracts tens of thousands of tourists to its many festivals throughout the year, none more famous than its annual Oktoberfest, which runs from September to November. Helen promises “Bavarian charm in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” and that’s what visitors get.
Although cities large and small across the United States celebrate their own versions of Oktoberfest, Helen stands out because of town’s unique design. Back in the 1960s, Helen rebranded itself as a little Bavarian mountain village, and each commercial building — from the McDonald’s to the Hampton Inn — is made to look that way. The buildings and décor all shout “Bavaria,” and a walk around town will have you forgetting you’re in the Appalachians and not the Alps.
Concerts, polka dancing, accordion music and German festival fare are a few of the things you’ll encounter in autumn here.
In addition to the festivities, Helen has much to offer outdoorsy types. Bike trails, hiking trails and great campsites can be found at nearby Unicoi State Park, which is especially beautiful in October when fall foliage peaks. There are also several private RV campgrounds in the area, but Unicoi our vote for the most scenic. Whether you have a tent site, RV site or room at the lodge, you can’t go wrong with this park.