Horse and carriage rides are part of the old-world appeal of Alpine Helen.
During our recent traverse of the Appalachian Trail, Laurie and I resupplied in Helen, a town we had bypassed on previous thru-hikes.
To make itself a travel destination, Helen has transformed itself into a replica of an Alpine village. Being walkers, we strolled along the main thoroughfare, looking at old world towers, exploring cobblestone alleyways and wandering into the more than 200 shops carrying cuckoo clocks, handblown glass and handcrafted quilts.
A sampling of wines offer in Fox Vineyards' tasting room made us a little giddy and we couldn't resist taking pictures of our heads resting atop the painted plywood cutout that made it look as if we were dressed like alpine country natives. The 30 huge, hairy arachnids displayed in the Live Tarantulas Gallery quickly cleared our thought processes. And having enjoyed HO trains as a youngster, I had to take a peek at Charlemagne's Kingdom, which claims to be "the largest alpine model railroad museum known."
We may have been in make-believe Europe, but true American Southern hospitality shown through when an employee of the Haufbrau Motel offered to drive many miles of twisting mountain highways to return us to the trail.
- BLAIRSVILLE 706-745-5789, blairsville.com
- Eat: Casual lunches at the Hole in the Wall Restaurant; southwestern mountain dinners at the Comfort Cafe
- Stay: Seasons Inn on the historic town square
- See: Union County Courthouse Museum; Al Garnto's Fine Art Studio
- CLAYTON 706-782-4812, celebrateclayton.com
- Eat: On the deck at Key West-reminiscent Humor Hazit's; lunch at the Sandwich Shop
- Stay: Old Clayton Inn
- See: Gallerines include the Greenleaf and Main Street Gallery; Rabun County Historical Society Museum
- DAHLONEGA 706-864-3711, dahlonega.org
- Eat: Find dining at the Corkscrew; coffee at Crimson Moon Cafe
- Stay: The Smith House B&B
- See: A play at the restored Holly Theatre; Gold Museum Historic Site; the Fudge Factory
KEY TRAVEL INFO
- State travel information. 800-847-4842, georgia.org
- State Parks. 404-656-3530, 800-864-7275 gastateparks.org
- Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. 770-297-3000, fs.fed.us/conf
- Georgia Innkeepers Association. 615-263-6042, georgiainnkeepersassociation.com
- Northeast Georgia Mountains Travel Association. 404-231-1820,georgiamountains.org
- Georgia's Historic High Country Travel Association. 800-733-2280, georgiahighcountry.org
- Mountain weather. 770-486-8834, 864-848-9970