Looking for something new to do for the Christmas holidays this year?
Why not check out Christmas in Helen GA, which was recently rated the “Top Christmas Town in America” by MSN.com and one of Southern Living‘s Best Christmas Towns in the USA.
It’s not difficult to understand why this tiny North Georgia mountain town is widely considered one of the best places to visit for Christmas.
The temperate weather in Helen GA reaches highs of 70-77ºF, even in the first week of December. And from hiking trails and waterfalls to wineries and more, there are plenty of attractions in Helen to keep you entertained.
But December in Georgia finds the Bavarian-influenced town of Alpine Helen all gussied up in the festive sights and sounds of the holiday season.
It starts with the Lighting of the Village ceremony the day after Thanksgiving, continues with the Helen Christmas market and Christmas Parade in early December, and includes a plethora of holiday decor and Christmas lights into the New Year.
Read on for our guide to 10 festive ways to celebrate Christmas in Helen GA, including our picks for the best holiday shopping, restaurants, activities, and events in Helen!
READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Helen GA
Christmas in Helen GA Guide
- Breakfast at Cimmi’s Courtyard Cafe
- Christkindlmarkt Christmas Market
- Christmas Lights at the Gazebo in Unicoi Hill Park
- Explore Christmas at Babyland General
- Helen Christmas Parade
- Lighting of the Village
- Photos With Santa & Mrs Claus
- Shopping at Christmas & More and The Christmas Shoppe
- Take Selfies with Santa’s Sleigh at Riverside Park
- Victorian Christmas at Hardman Farm State Historic Site
Christmas in Helen Map
Things to Do in Helen GA at Christmas
1. Breakfast at Cimmi’s Courtyard Cafe
Originally opened by Cinnamon Spurlock in 2013, this charming Downtown Helen restaurant gradually grew so popular that they had to relocate to a larger location two blocks west of the Helen Square in 2018.
If the long line waiting outside for a table during our recent visit is any indication, “Cimmi” (her beloved grandmother’s nickname for her) may have to consider another expansion in the near future.
And it’s not just because the cute restaurant was featured as the “Jingle Bell Café” in the 2019 Lifetime Christmas movie, Christmas Love Letter. Cimmi’s also offers one of the best breakfasts in town, including the homemade buttermilk biscuits with which she first made a name for herself.
Breakfast here is served all day, and includes fantastic favorites like MASSIVE Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes, French Toast, Build-Your-Own Omelettes, Nora Mill Grits, and Ham (hickory smoked or country style).
But what really makes breakfast at Cimmi’s a must-do for Christmas in Helen is the seasonal spirit of the place. The walls and shelves are stacked with Santas, Xmas trees, reindeer, snowmen, and gingerbread houses, and staff members are dressed in festive clothing, jingle bells, reindeer antlers, etc.
In short, it’s a great place to start your day off with a fantastic meal and a heaping helping of holiday cheer!
2. Christkindlmarkt (a.k.a. the Helen Christmas Market)
Now in its 14th year, the Helen Christkindlmarkt takes place over the last weekend in November and the first weekend in December, from 10AM to 6PM.
The event is rooted in traditional German Christmas markets, which date back to the time of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther invented Das Christkindl, an angelic child who gave gifts to good children, which was originally designed to replace Catholic holiday customs (including the German Santa Claus).
Traditionally held on the Marketplatz (directly opposite the Helen Square), the Helen Christmas Market was expanded in 2021 to include booths at the Helen Festhalle (also home to Oktoberfest and other celebrations).
Although we didn’t see much in the way of German fare, we did find traditional Appalachian arts and crafts, organic soaps, handmade candles, Christmas decorations, and countless other options for your holiday shopping pleasure.
There are also lots of food and drink vendors, as well as live musical and dance performances.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Rental Cabins in Helen GA
3. Christmas Lights at the Gazebo in Unicoi Hill Park
The 2.31-acre park is a great place to spend a few hours at any time of year, with wildflowers blooming in spring, great fall colors that last into late November, and lots of picnic tables and grills for summer BBQs.
But if you’re visiting at Christmas time, the park’s main attraction is the Gazebo. It’s decorated with (and surrounded by) thousands of colorful lights, making it one of the best places to see Christmas lights in Helen.
This year’s decor includes a massive wreath, Gingerbread house-style candies, an illuminated Santa and reindeer, and Christmas trees festooned with vivid jewel-tone lights. It’s a great selfie spot during the day or night!
4. Explore Christmas at Babyland General Hospital
While Helen is inarguably among our favorite Christmas towns in Georgia, driving the 8.3 miles to visit Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland GA is one of the things to do near Helen GA for families with kids.
Better known as the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids, this expansive attraction is situated on 650 acres in the North Georgia Mountains.
If you were alive in the 1980s, you probably remember the time when Xavier Roberts’ “Little People” were the most-coveted Christmas gift in America (see: 9-month wait list, $150 price tag).
Touring the facility is a great way to learn about the history of the dolls, which are still hand-stitched by local artists. In November and December, both the building’s exterior and interior are completely decked with wreaths, trees, lights, and other traditional Christmas symbols.
For a full-on immersion in holiday cheer, head past the massive “Magic Crystal Tree” at the back and look for a room on the right. Inside you’ll find Cabbage Patch dolls dressed in their holiday best, an array of Christmas trees and wreaths, and even a full-sized sleigh with Santa ready to pose for photos on select dates.
5. Helen Christmas Parade
Another one of the most popular annual events in Helen GA, the 2021 Helen Christmas Parade fills the streets of town with holiday cheer on Dec 11 at 2PM.
Locals and visitors alike arrive early to claim a spot along the parade route through Downtown Helen, with prime places along Main Street opposite both the Helen Square and the Unicoi Hill Park Gazebo.
This is a classic small-town Christmas parade, complete with festive floats, horse-drawn carriages, costumed characters, and lots of sweet treats tossed to the kids (and candy-loving adults) along the way.
But of course the biggest stars of the show are Santa and Mrs. Claus, who briefly abandon their usual post in the band shell at the Helen Marketplatz to greet their adoring fans along the parade route.
6. Lighting of the Village
If you’re looking for that homey small town Christmas vibe, the Lighting of the Village at Riverside Park makes Helen one of the best places for Christmas in Georgia.
With a population of less than 600 people, Helen’s Christmas celebration feels like those you’ll find in little towns throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains. But thanks to its proximity to Atlanta, the town attracts 7,000-8,000 visitors for this annual Christmas event!
As the evening light begins to fade, Santa and Mrs Claus arrive at Riverside Park. Then local church and handbell choirs set the mood with classic Christmas carols. Some even invite crowd sing-alongs, which feels magical in that “Whos down in Whoville” kind of way.
Finally, right around 6PM, the crowd counts down from 10 and the lights switch on, illuminating the park (and Helen’s Town Square) with an array of dazzling colors. Massive Christmas trees, snowflakes, elves, and rocking horses cast a beautiful glow, and make great selfie spots once the crowd begins to dissipate.
There’s also carriage rides, free photos with Santa, and a small Christmas train to transport visitors from the park to the heart of downtown (and vice versa). All in all, it’s one of our favorite Helen events.
7. Photos With Santa & Mrs Claus
As someone who has been obsessed with jolly ol’ St. Nick ever since I was a young boy, any chance to see Santa Claus in the flesh is always exciting.
Santa and the lovely Mrs. Claus can be found at numerous different Helen GA events, including the Lighting of the Village in November and the Helen Christmas Parade in December.
But you can also find them at the band shell on the Marketplatz, where they greet children and pose for family photos from noon to 3pm every Saturday and Sunday through December 19.
Not only is it one of our favorite things to do in Helen at Christmas, conveniently located near the best shopping and attractions in Helen, but it’s also 100% free!
READ MORE: The 15 Best Waterfalls Near Helen GA
8. Shopping at Christmas & More and The Christmas Shoppe
But Alpine Helen is one of the few small towns in North Georgia where you can also shop for Christmas decor all throughout the year.
Located at 8749 North Main St, the Helen Christmas Shoppe is stuffed to the gills with Christmas trees, ornaments, and collectibles from brands like Big Sky Carvers, Enesco, Glory Haus, and Jim Shore. There’s also a massive Santa statue out front that makes for great photo ops.
Christmas & More is located at 80 South Main St (in the building right next to the Chattahoochee River), and offers high quality Christmas decor at surprisingly reasonable prices. If you love retro Santas, nature-themed holiday fare, and elaborate Advent calendars, this is the place for you!
READ MORE: 101+ Things to Do in North Georgia
9. Take Selfies with Santa’s Sleigh at Riverside Park
From reading “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (a.k.a. The Night Before Christmas) to watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Santa’s sleigh has always had a magical appeal for me.
But after attending the parade that signals the beginning of Christmas in New York City with my family a few years ago, I realized there’s nothing quite like seeing it in real life!
The great thing about the Lighting of the Village in Riverside Park is that, once the event ends and Santa moves to the Marketplatz downtown, you can view the best Christmas lights in Helen GA with virtually nobody else around.
We also loved the fact that you can not only see Santa’s sleigh (with five wooden reindeer) in Riverside Park, but you can take photos of yourself sitting in it!
In the end, this was one of our all-time favorite photos of Helen GA, and we were delighted to take pictures for several other families who wanted their own Santa sleigh selfie.
10. Victorian Christmas at Hardman Farm
North Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites may not be the first place you’d think of to spend your family’s Helen Christmas holidays.
But the Victorian Christmas celebration at Hardman Farm State Historic Site offers a unique opportunity to see what a Helen GA Christmas might have looked like 150 years ago.
Located directly across the street from the Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound, the gorgeous Italianate mansion was built in 1870 by Captain James Nichols. It was later inhabited by Georgia Governor Lamartine Hardman, then lovingly preserved and donated to the state of Georgia in 1999.
Although guided tours of the property are available throughout the year (Thursday through Saturday, 10AM to 3PM), their Victorian Christmas tours are offered on Friday and Saturday nights beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving.
The halls of the historic home are decked with boughs of holly and other period holiday decor, with living history interpreters and occasional live music offering an immersive introduction to Victorian Christmas traditions. –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted