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Going north into Georgia's mountains - Curt Yeomans

So, here is the final column I am writing about local vacations you can do in Georgia. It ends in Helen, our state's little "alpine village" in the north Georgia mountains. I went there for a one-day trip, on Monday, so you are getting the "fresh off my mind" report on this place.

Now, I'll be frank with you. Helen, by itself, is not a multi-day vacation. It is a nice, little one-day getaway, where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Of course, Helen attracts a lot of tourists because of its unique look, so it is by no means a sleepy little town. Still, it's hustle and bustle is downright minimal when compared to Atlanta.

So, in a nutshell, there are essentially four things to do in Helen: shop, eat funnel cake, ride in a horse-drawn carriage, and go tubing on the Chattahoochee River.

If you want to make it a two-day vacation, you can also take some time to go to nearby Anna Ruby Falls and Unicoi State Park.

So, we'll start with shopping. You can find a good variety of little shops among the main Alpine Village Shops along Main Street in the middle of town. And these are not your garden variety chain stores. They are all novelty shops, although a lot of them do sell University of Georgia products, or cheesy T-shirts.

There is a shoe shop, a frame shop, a biker shop, doll shops, ice cream shops, and shops where you can get a picture of yourself in antique clothing. And that is just scratching the surface.

My personal-favorite was the Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen, where you get to look through glass windows at shelves of candy, which is made in the store. You can get slices of fudge, Jelly Bellys, boxes of taffy sticks, chocolate-covered peanut butter balls, chocolate-covered pretzels, and even chocolate-, or caramel-covered apples. The shop can be found on the Internet at www.hanselandgretelcandykitchen.com/.

Now, the shopping leads to the funnel cake, because you can get it right in the middle of the main shopping area, at a place called Granny's Famous Funnel Cake Haus. You can get a small funnel cake for just $3, or you can upsize it to a large, for about $1 more. Now, a funnel cake is a great thing to eat. Fattening, and possibly artery-clogging, but delicious at the same time.

It's crispy, but it melts ever so pleasantly in your mouth. You can get it plain, with white, powdered sugar, but I opted to get mine covered in cinnamon. Much easier to work with, than the messy powdered sugar, if you ask me. It is also much tastier than the powdered sugar. You can also get fresh-made lemonade out front (they make it from the lemons while you're standing there.)

Now, the horse-drawn carriage rides are also done in the area around the Alpine Village Shops. The rides are basically a trip around the block, but the drivers do not push the horses to move quickly, so you take that trip at a very leisurely pace. An added bonus is, if you're traveling in a group, you can probably fit about six people in a two-seat carriage.

But, the activity that is probably the most entertaining to watch, and probably to participate in, is the tubing rides down the Chattahoochee. The company that operates the rides is called Cool River Tubing Company, and charges only $5 per person for the trip. There are two trips, which can take between one and two hours down the river.

The two-hour trip starts out about three miles north of Helen, at the corner of Chattahoochee River Road, and Ga. Hwy. 75, and ends at -- where else -- the Alpine Village Shops. People line the river banks near the shops to watch.

And, there you have it -- a day spent in Helen. Georgia's little "alpine village" in the mountains.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.