Oktoberfest 2013: One Place You Must Do “die Wiesn” near Atlanta

Fall is my favorite time of year. I can’t put my finger on why but every fall I get overwhelmed with motivation for something new and stay outside as much as possible marveling at the strangeness that is life. The air is crisp, the leaves start changing colors, and Oktoberfest is staring at us like that awkward kid you sat behind on your last business trip. A few years back we stumbled upon the gem of North Georgia that is Helen. Helen is a tiny town way up in the gorgeous Appalachian mountains just north-east of Atlanta. Each year we make a serious effort to find our way up there and get in on the good times. There’s a long list of things I love about this place starting with the drive up there. “Are we there yet” is a common phrase as we wind our way through the hills. Even though it’s about a 3 hour drive for us, the last hour is like a vacation from reality. The rolling hills begin to build and the big city disappears far behind us.  One of the first places that we go to when we arrive is the Habersham winery. The building is an old-style joint that almost looks like an old-fashioned school or barn with a giant red roof. Once inside the wine is great but the people are better. It feels so good to walk into a new place and feel right at home. Smells like cinnamon and pumpkin spice and everyone is happy to be out and about. We leave the winery and head into town. All the buildings in town have a distinctive white and brown paint scheme. I’m not sure if that’s what Germany looked like when Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony in 1810 but it certainly has that Oktoberfest feel to it. This year is officially the 180th Oktoberfest. That doesn’t quite  add up correctly from 1810. There must have been a few years where it was “unofficial.”  Oktoberfest was originally a celebration of the wedding between the aforementioned royalty and the party ended with some horse racing. It was so much fun it became a yearly event and now it is the largest festival in the world with over 6 million annual visitors to Munich, Bavaria, Germany. Princess Therese was the namesake of the grounds in front of the town gates in Munich where the first festival was held in 1810. The locals called the place “Theresienwiese” or Therese’s meadow. This has been shortened to “Wiesen” or “die Wiesen” now. In Helen, there are a ton of local specialty shoppes that cater to every taste and whim. You can spend the day walking the small downtown area where you can get anything from homemade chocolate to a real tattoo of the edel wiess flower.

Walking the street at Oktoberfest in Helen, GA 2012.

Walking the street at Oktoberfest in Helen, GA 2012.

We get settled into our hotel and make plans to get to the “Festhalle.” This place is the main reason we keep coming back. It’s the heartbeat of Helen. If you are looking for somewhere to pull up a chair and drink beer with good people, I can think of no better place. This is a single floor, wide-open dance-move and friendship-factory. Pitchers of beer and German brauts are cheap and you can expect to be entertained by a very authentic German band until you have warmed up and begin providing entertainment yourself! And parents don’t shy away, unlike in most American beer drinking establishments where bringing your family is frowned upon and in most cases a terrible idea, you can expect everyone here to keep it decent and happy. There’s never any trouble and there’s actually a dance floor just for the little ones. The crowd of strangers dance the night away and laugh until it hurts. If you want to make some good memories and meet some awesome people, find your way to Helen this Oktober. We’ll be looking for you!

If you have another awesome Oktoberfest spot, please put it below in the comments so I can check it out!!

Don’t forget to watch the video “Festhalle” and see how it goes down.

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