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Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

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Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

Hi. While I have been to Gatlinburg many times, I have never been to Helen, GA. I love Gatlinburg, but we wanted to try something different for a short weekend trip. Could anyone give me advice over we should try Helen? We enjoy sightseeing, good restaurants, shopping and a cocktail or two. We are looking at March. Thanks so much!

Decatur, GA
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1. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

They are two completely different places. Helen is much smaller. There are things to see and do, little local shops and several restaurants. Take a look here: http://www.helenga.org/ and here: http://www.helengeorgia.com/

Saint Louis...
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2. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

I have been to both places many times. And I love them both. But yes, they are very different. Gatlinburg is VERY touristy. Fun, lots to do and see, and spend money on. Helen is much, much smaller, but depending on your interest can be a great weekend trip. The weather in March is hard to predict- could be warm and beautiful, could be quite cold. But here are some things that we LOVE in/near Helen.

*Favorite restaurant for relaxed pizza, beer, etc.. http://villagetavernpizza.com/

We also like Nacoochee Grill, and Troll Tavern.

We've not had a ton of luck with other restuarants in helen, but if you are willing to drive 15 minutes or so, there are some awesome ones.

*Hike- we love going to Anna Ruby falls. Paved hike (but pretty steep) but BEAUTIFUL!

*Wineries- I can give several good wineries in the area if you enjoy wine. I highly recommend Yonah Mountain Vineyard. The weekend of Friday the 23rd is a the Spring Winery weekend which is a ton of fun.

*Fishing- trout fishing in wonderful in this area

*Lots of fun little shops.

*Or just renting a cabin on the river can be SO relaxing. Sitting on the porch and listening to the water.

Let me know if you have any questions. I'll be happy to help.

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3. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

Thank you so much! I agree that Gatlinburg is very touristy, but I know a WONDERFUL place to stay in downtown Gatlinburg that is old Gatlinburg and just one street over from the main drag, so that is nice. We just wanted to try something different, and it sounds like Helen would be perfect. We are coming from Birmingham, Alabama. What would be the best way to get there? Shortest time, we hate riding in the car, haha.

Decatur, GA
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4. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

Take I-20 to I-85 to I-985 then US129 at Gainesville and Ga 75 at Cleveland.

Saint Louis...
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5. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

That way is good. If you want to make a pit stop in Dahlonega (another GREAT town) take 20, then in atlanta get on 400 north. Take that all the way into Dahlonega. They have a great town square and some WONDERFUL restaurants.

From there, you'll take 52/115 through Cleveland, Ga and then on up to Helen.

let us know if you have any more questions

virginia
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6. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

Would someone give me information on renting a cabin in the Helen Ga area or a nice lodge for 3 couples . Thank you. Eleana

Decatur, GA
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7. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

Check vrbo.com for a start. Also, if you check the websites in my post above, you will find lists of cabin rental companies.

canuckinidaho
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8. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

While I have never been to Gatlinburg, I have been to Helen and it was a huge disappointment. We stayed around for the afternoon and left. I cannot comment on the lodging, but the food was not yummy and we wandered around for a long time looking for something that appealed. I could have a skewed opinion having been to a number of places in Germany/Austria as well as Leavenworth, WA which is a fantastic US Bavarian village. Helen just didn't stack up at all. We were really hoping for some place we would want to return to over and over since we live not too far away, but sadly we will likely not be back. Whatever you decide I hope you have a wonderful trip!

Atlanta, Georgia
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9. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

I would definitely choose Helen over Gatlinburg. The town of Helen is small and rather kitschy (and not that interesting, IMO - maybe a day's worth of "fun"), but there is a great deal of natural beauty in the surrounding area - waterfalls, scenic drives, hiking, etc.

Someone mentioned Anna Ruby Falls - there is also Dukes Creek Falls, Raven Cliff Falls, and Horsetrough Falls. Unicoi State Park and Vogel State Park are nearby with some nice hiking trails (I personally prefer Vogel) and there are several access points for the Appalachian Trail as well. On the AT you can make a challenging hike to the top of Tray Mountain, where you will be rewarded with some nice views. If trail hiking is not your thing, then you can drive to nearby Brasstown Bald (tallest mountain in Georgia) where you can drive/shuttle to the summit for a spectacular panorama of the surrounding area.

As far as "how to get there" - I usually drive into Helen via the back way through Cleveland GA. Once you are on I-985, take the US 129 exit heading north. You will have to make a couple of turns to bypass Gainesville, but the route is well signed and if you just stay on US 129 north you will be fine.

Just north of Cleveland is the first turn to Helen on GA 75 (the "Helen Hwy"). Go past that for about three more miles and take GA 75 Alt instead (look for signs directing you to Smithgall Woods State Park - also worth a visit, and they have cottages for rent). GA 75 Alt passes through the Chattahoochee National Forest, and is a much prettier drive than the more commonly taken route on GA 75. It eventually rejoins GA 75, where you will turn right to get to Helen.

For an even more scenic drive, turn right off of GA 75 Alt at Ridge Road (a little over 7 miles from US 129). You can't miss it - GA 75 Alt crests the top of a long uphill section and then continues down the other side, while Ridge Road angles off to the right and continues uphill. This is a twisty road through a nice wooded area, that brings you into the back side of Helen (posted speed limit is about 20 MPH and you should take that seriously). It dead-ends next to the Chattahoochee River - turn left and then immediately right onto Unicoi St, which takes you directly by the Hampton Inn and the main city parking lot.

Another nice drive is the Chattahoochee River Rd, which turns left from GA 75 Alt right before it rejoins GA 75 (assuming you are coming from Cleveland). This parallels the Chattahoochee River along the west bank (GA 75 runs along the east bank, but too high and far from the road to see much of the river). The road is paved for several miles, then turns to gravel as it enters the Mark Trail Wilderness.

There is so much more to Helen than just the town (thankfully!). I would pick that area over Gatlinburg any day.

-JimG

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10. Re: Helen, GA or Gatlinburg, TN

Thank you so much for all the suggestions. Are you familiar with the Castle Inn?