Where did we go when we wanted some Christmas spirit on our Road Trip USA? Helen, Georgia, a tiny, fake Bavarian town in the Appalachians.
I came across Helen GA when I was investigating attractions in this part of Georgia after I fell in love with the idea of watching a cabbage patch kid born (ok so that sounds random – click on the link for more information!). The idea of a fake German village interested me. I liked the idea that they just created this out of a normal town in the 1960s in an effort to boost tourists numbers. It worked! And it is a very charming town, but more about that later.
I quickly learned that there would be Christmas celebrations in Helen around the time that we would be in the area. A Christmas parade seemed like a perfect idea for the kids. They also have a Christmas market which is something I have always wanted to go to and promised activities for the kids. I was sold.
We arrived in Helen around lunch time after a beautiful drive through the Appalachians from Chattanooga. The town itself is pretty and quite charming. There were a good amount of people – not so many that we couldn’t move around freely, but enough that there was a festive atmosphere.
We started at the Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas market. It was honestly very underwhelming. There was barely anything and not the types of things I imagined to be at a Christmas market, except perhaps the reefs. There were some free kid activities like face painting and balloon animals which the kids loved. S was soon a butterfly and had a cat balloon. Z had a dog. S also played some mini golf and ring toss. They were staffed by some friendly volunteers, although we could have done without the Christian propaganda.
We had a walk around the town. It’s cute. I am impressed by how they managed to have such success with their German theme. We ran around a steep park and waited for the main event – the Christmas parade.
Unfortunately, it was a disappointment. The parade was very short. It basically only seemed to be about throwing lots of lollies. There was no music at all which I found weird. Thanks to television and movies, I thought marching bands were everywhere in the US!! There was no marching band and not even any recorded music and the whole thing felt very empty.
Santa came by at the end. This part was super quick which was a shame, but thankfully he soon redeemed himself when we happened to be at the right place at the right time when he came back through, and S managed to go up and meet him.
After this, we checked into our hotel for Z’s nap. While he slept, S and I had a great swim in a big warm pool. So nice! We then headed down to Cleveland.
Cleveland, GA, is a bigger town about 15 minutes drive away. They were also hosting Christmas events this day, so we decided to go and check out their “lighted Christmas parade”. We have never been to a “lighted” one before and we hoped it might be more fun than the one earlier that day. It was!
First, though, we had dinner. I had hoped for German food but it was too pricey, so we ended up at “Ma Gooch’s restaurant”. I loved that name so I had to include it! The food was just ok though.
Cleveland had a festival going all day, and it didn’t look like much. We did love the Christmas parade though. Again, there were far too many lollies and they seemed to be the focus. By the end, the road around us was literally littered with lollies – and that’s after it had been raided by kids.
There were lots of lights and parade floats. Even Elvis made an appearance! Again, there was not much music although at least there was a little bit (even if it was just Elvis and some cadet groups singing).
I did love the “lighted” part of the parade though. We need these at home!! Although I guess it gets dark so late at Christmas time, that it may not work quite as well. It all felt more festive and special in the dark with lights. The kids also loved it, and it worked better with them than the earlier one as they weren’t keen to run off in the dark.
Both parades had a monster cabbage patch doll which also amused us. We were in cabbage patch kid land after all! This was good preparation for our visit to Babyland General Hospital the next day, the birth place of cabbage patch kids.
We were then back to bed in Helen.
We stayed at the Jameson Inn and Suites Helen, $64 including tax. This motel was great and excellent value especially as it’s only $40 on weeknights. It included fridge, toiletries, breakfast, wifi and a great indoor heated pool.
We went $10 under our $136 a day budget. This was easy to do thanks to free activities and cheap accommodation.
They loved the Christmas parades, the activities, seeing Santa and S loooved the pool. It was a very nice stop for all of us.
We enjoyed our quick stop in Helen GA. We didn’t expect the Christmas events to be fabulous, we were just happy to see yet another side of the USA. Helen is quite charming and pretty. The Christmas parades were something different. They were our first Christmas parades with the kids, so that made it special too. We are glad we stopped here. If you are in this area, make sure you also check out Babyland General Hospital!
You can also visit Helen as an easy side trip from Atlanta.
What do you think of the idea of creating a fake German town to raise tourist numbers? And is it normal for Christmas parades in the USA to not have Christmas music?