The small town of Helen, Georgia was little more than a sleepy mountain community before the 1960s. But today, it has one of the biggest and longest-running Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States complete with traditional music, dancing, and beer straight from the motherland.
Held every September and October for over 40 years, the Helen Oktoberfest celebration takes place at the Festhalle, a permanent building for festivities with a dance floor, stage, and beer garden. It’s a short walk from the rest of downtown Helen.
Decide if you want to do a weekday or weekend.
Like with the original Oktoberfest in Munich , Helen Oktoberfest‘s festivities depend on what day you go. Weekends tend to be more raucous and popular with college groups. Weeknights are laid-back and have an older crowd. And Sundays are family-friendly. Plan your trip around the parade on the first day of the event.
Book your accommodations.
You can book shuttle buses from Atlanta but for the full experience, book a night or two at one of the inns or cabins near Helen. The hotels downtown fill up quickly, especially for tour buses. Valhalla Resort Hotel and Hofbrau Riverfront Hotel are themed accommodations within walking distance of the Festhalle.
If you don’t mind staying within driving distance, the cabins at Unicoi State Park are great. Helen cabin rentals from VRBO or Black Forest Vacation Rentals are another option that comes with hot tubs and views of the forest. Keep in mind that you may need to pay for parking downtown and you should sort out a designated driver in advance.
To access the Festhalle, you’ll need to pay an admission fee for some days. From Monday to Friday, it’s $8 and on Saturdays, it’s $10 per person. On Sundays, it’s free to enter.
Food and drink cost extra. Inside the hall, you’ll find German and American beer along with dishes like sausages and pretzels. You’ll find ATMs around town.
Dine around Helen.
The Festhalle is the center of all activity, but there are ten German restaurants in the town of about 2 square miles. Over the years, Helen became a place where actual German people moved. They share their family recipes for goulash, spaetzle, and schnitzel.
If you tire of beer, there are also a number of wineries in the area.
Dress the part.
There is a good mix of people at Helen Oktoberfest, including some that have dressed up and others that haven’t. You won’t feel out of place if you decide not to wear lederhosen, the traditional male attire, or a dirndl, the Bavarian female dress.
But if you do want to dress up, you can find a store inside the Castle Inn selling the handmade German apparel. There are also cheaper options online at Halloween stores and on Amazon. Also, look at websites like Poshmark for pre-owned attire.