This year was our first Labor Day weekend without a plan. Initially we honed in on Florida. Sick of excessive heat and humidity, we changed our plans on a whim and booked a trip to Northern Georgia. How lucky we were! Florida was a no-go thanks to Tropical Storm Hermine ripping her way right through the state and unfortunately for us, our home was also in her direct path. We left a night early to avoid driving through the storm. On our agenda for the weekend was visiting Helen, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls, eating some good food and playing a round of golf! Nothing too wild! It turned into an interesting trip…
Helen, Georgia is an Alpine town with a Bavarian feel right in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Apparently with a population of just 430, Helen is the third most visited town in Georgia! After spending so many years traveling around Bavaria, I must admit it does have a genuine Bavarian feel. I would highly recommend it for any military friends pining for their old German duty station!
Fussen, Bavaria is the town we would stay at whenever we visited Schloss Neuschwanstein where we got engaged. I was excited to find out that Helen is her sister city!
The architecture and decor is undeniably Bavarian.
We ate at a really authentic German restaurant called Bodensee on the outskirts of town. To find it just cross the bridge on the main street and make an immediate left. Schnitzel after two years without it, really hit the spot!
We spent a few hours walking around Helen, visiting the stores, eating and of course having a Bier! There’s a large parking area with $5/day parking which I don’t think is a bad deal. However if you are staying in Helen then there’s no need to move your car from the hotel. The majority of the hotels are no more than a 10 minute walk away. There’s a lot to do in Helen and around it’s outskirts. One fun family activity is tubing on the Chattahoochee river. For the adults, Oktoberfest starts the weekend after Labor day each year, a fest not to be missed!
Our accommodation destination was Clayton, Georgia. A small town near Tallulah Falls. I won’t talk about where we stayed because frankly, it doesn’t deserve a review. It was the downfall of our trip and we were definitely disappointed to find that it was nothing like advertised and was exorbitantly expensive for the condition it was in. If you like luxury hotel stays, it is very easy to be fooled by fancy (edited) pictures and exaggerated descriptive words. still, we decided to make the most of it and not let the hotel get us down.
That night we decided not to bother eating at our destination and instead ventured into Clayton to The Laurel restaurant at The White Birch Inn. The White Birch Inn is a boutique hotel in the historic part of town and I just about died over the decor in there. It all made sense when I read the owner is an interior designer! If only we’d booked a room there – divine!
Saturday was hike day! Tallulah Gorge State Park is located in the town of Tallulah Falls, just 20 minutes away from Clayton. I was excited for this for a while but I was initially disappointed by how short the trails were. Don’t get me wrong there are many trails but the best and most fun are for experienced hikers with real deal equipment. Someone I am not. So only two trails were available to me and my abilities. We found that one of those (South Rim trail) was a no-go due to a 600 step descent, something that was unfortunately a health concern for me at the time.
I must also add that if you are one of those hardcore hikers planning to visit the park this Autumn to hike to the gorge basin where the sliding rock/beach area is, it is closed due to dam maintenance until Memorial Day of 2017.
The paths are easy and quite open (I was worried about this due to the many snakes inhabiting the park). In some areas the paths narrow and there’s lots of roots to wary of. In wet weather it can be pretty soft and slippery. Obviously appropriate footwear is a necessity.
If you do attempt the descent on the South Rim trail then you will arrive at the suspension bridge which allows you to cross the gorge.
We hiked he North Rim trail to ‘Inspiration Point’ where your eyes are treated to this stunning view! There’s a perfectly placed bench up there to sit and take it all in after your walk. This trail has a steep incline and while the path isn’t difficult, it gets quite tough in hot weather. Despite the short trail (2.5 miles) do not start it without water.
The beauty of the park is amazing. It was so nice to be away from the crippling humidity of coastal Georgia. To breathe in fresh air and hear the rush of the water from the various falls reminded me of home!
The saving grace of our hotel was that it had a relatively decent golf course for my husband to play a round on. I tagged along for the fun/companionship but didn’t play. I did try my hand at swinging some clubs though. It was pretty enjoyable just to take in a beautiful serene mountain view. Even if I was trying to avoid being thrown from a golf cart by the world’s most erratic cart driver. Not to name any names…
One of my favorite parts of this trip was my morning coffee. That sounds really sad but I just really appreciate funky little coffee houses that are NOT serving me Starbucks. It turns out that The White Birch Inn also has an adjoining store/coffee shop call White Birch Provisions. Again I was in love with the design. It helped that the coffee and pastries were just as perfect!
Have you been to any of these locations and what was your favorite?