Helen, Georgia is a unique, folksy and funky little mountain village tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains about an hour and a half north of Atlanta. The entire town has been turned into a quaint, replica German town. It is in a perfect setting: not quite the Alps, but certainly convincing enough for any visitor to imagine that they are in a Bavarian Village.
The German Alps feel is enhanced when the village celebrates Oktoberfest. Not only do you have cobblestone streets under foot and shops selling German goods everywhere, but the sounds and smells that waft over the village are reminiscent of those you would find in Germany at this time of year. If you are on vacation in or near Helen, you can't miss the lengthy Oktoberfest from mid-September to the end of October. So sit back with your stein of German beer and immerse yourself in up-tempo German music, lively polka dancing and the endless flow of wursts, pretzels, red cabbage and potato dumplings.
Helen Oktoberfest Music in the Festhalle
The main action is in the Festhalle. The bands play almost non-stop, and you sit at long tables chattering loudly over beer and food, just like in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. It's as good a time as you will have in Germany, and a lot cheaper to boot. Admission during the week is $8, Saturdays is $9 and Sunday is free! Dig out your dirndl dress and lederhosen, grab your alpenstock and alpine hat, and prepare for a rollicking time at America's longest running Oktoberfest.
On the first three days of Helen Oktoberfest, you will get in the mood quickly to the music of the Chardon Polka Band that has been successfully entertaining the crowds in the Cleveland area for years. When they get the crowd rolling – which will happen right from the first song in their first set – you will have a hard time resisting the urge to get up and fling yourself around the dance floor, partner or no partner. The Chardon Polka Band will play on the same bill as Lorelei und Schatzi, a female duo specializing in the volksmusik of Alpine Europe. Some of their tunes you will instantly recognize.
Every few days a new lineup of musicians performs, so whenever you come to Helen Oktoberfest, even if you come several times, you are sure to have a memorable evening dancing and singing to the sounds of the likes of Dan Witucki & Heimatland Musikanten, Roland Kurz, a perennial favorite at the festival, and AlpenMusikanten, a trio known for bringing a crowd of partiers to their feet.
The final days of Helen Oktoberfest bring to the stage The Alex Meixner Band that will raise the roof of the Festhalle with the best polka tunes as well as other genres of music. That same night you will be regaled by a return performance of Lorelei und Schatzi.
Shopping with a German Twist in Helen
When you're not eating German food, drinking beer, dancing, singing and generally having a grand time in the Festhalle, you will enjoy popping into the shops of Helen that offer almost everything German you can imagine. One of the most special treats of German culture is their Christmas tradition, so you will not want to miss Christmas & More and the Christmas Shoppe, both of which are easy to find on Main Street, marked by a Santa and a sleigh on the front lawn. Nearby at Classics there is a huge stock of German and European merchandise, with a particularly large choice of dolls, steins, cuckoo clocks and Alpine clothing. You can buy an outfit for your next trip to Helen, or better yet, wear it for your evening at the Festhalle.
The German theme runs throughout the entire town. Be sure to stop by Charlemagne's Kingdom, where a miniature railway wends its way through miniatures of existing buildings in Germany. Continuing down Main Street to Black Forest Bear Park, you will learn about the details of the lives of several species of bears.
There's so much going on in Helen during Oktoberfest, and so much to see in town, that you will want to spend several nights in the Festhalle and days exploring the shops. The best way to enjoy Oktoberfest, especially if you are travelling with friends, is to book a Helen vacation rental. There are many in and around Helen, so you can very conveniently come and go as you please from the festivities, or cook yourself a traditional American breakfast or supper for a change of pace.