Skip to Content

Things to do in Helena Alabama: Top Attractions & Activities

Nestled in the heart of Alabama, the charming city of Helena offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors and residents alike. With its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and thriving community, Helena has something for everyone to enjoy. From outdoor adventures in parks and trails to engaging events and a lively arts and culture scene, there are plenty of options for you to explore.

Buck Creek Waterfall

Helena’s history dates back to the industrial era, with its roots in the coal mining industry. Today, the city pays homage to its past while building a bright future for its residents. Known for its friendly atmosphere, Helena is the perfect place for families and individuals seeking a blend of modern conveniences and small-town charm. Whether it’s strolling along Buck Creek, visiting the Helena Amphitheater, or shopping in Old Town Helena, you’re sure to create lasting memories.

Key Takeaways

  • Helena, Alabama offers a diverse range of activities, including outdoor adventures, cultural events, and a vibrant dining and nightlife scene.
  • The city boasts a rich history, dating back to its industrial roots in coal mining.
  • With its welcoming atmosphere and combination of modern amenities and small-town charm, Helena is an ideal destination for families and individuals alike.

Helena History

The city of Helena, Alabama, has a rich history dating back to its establishment in the early 1800s. Initially known as Cove, the city’s name was later changed to honor Helena Gantt, an early settler. Situated in Shelby County, Helena played a significant role in the railroad and coal industries, which contributed to its growth and development.

During the Civil War, Helena’s strategic location made it a target for military operations. The area around the city was an essential supply route, and its iron ore deposits were valuable resources for the production of weapons and armor. As a result, the city saw its fair share of military history, with significant battles fought in and around Helena.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, both the railroad and coal industries boomed in Helena, driving its growth and development. The railroad provided vital transportation links for the city, enabling it to thrive economically. Similarly, coal mining brought jobs and prosperity to the area, making Helena a hub for these industries.

Despite facing challenges such as the Great Depression and a devastating tornado in 1933, Helena’s resilience and determination allowed the city to rebuild and recover from these events. This resilience is a core aspect of Helena’s heritage and is an inspiration to many who visit the city.

Today, the City of Helena preserves its local history through museums, historic sites, and annual events. Visitors and locals alike can appreciate and learn about Helena’s history, from its early beginnings to its current status as a thriving community in Alabama. Through the celebration of its history, the city of Helena showcases its unique heritage and the pride of its residents.

Outdoor Activities

Helena, Alabama, offers a variety of outdoor activities that cater to different interests and fitness levels. With its beautiful parks, walking trails, and waterways, there’s something for everyone.

Joe Tucker Park is a local favorite for those who wish to stay close to the heart of Helena. This park features a lake, which provides the perfect setting for a relaxing picnic or an afternoon of fishing. The park’s walking trails allow visitors to explore the serene surroundings while getting some exercise.

If hiking is your passion, Helena is home to a variety of trails that cater to different skill levels. The Hillsboro Trail is a popular choice, providing a shaded walk through picturesque scenery. Mountain biking enthusiasts can also enjoy the challenging terrain on various trails in the area.

Buck Creek is another gem in Helena, offering opportunities for kayaking and canoeing. The creek snakes through the town, providing a serene and picturesque setting for a tranquil paddle. You can also take advantage of the numerous walking trails that run parallel to the creek, which are ideal for leisurely strolls or more intense trail running.

Oak Mountain State Park is located just a short drive from Helena and offers even more hiking trails, as well as mountain biking and horseback riding opportunities. The park also features two recreational lakes, perfect for a day of fishing, swimming, or boating. For those who enjoy birdwatching or hiking, Oak Mountain State Park is home to a diverse selection of trees and other flora that create a thriving ecosystem.

Recreational Facilities

Helena, Alabama offers a variety of recreational facilities for both residents and visitors. One of the most popular destinations is the Helena Amphitheater. This picturesque venue hosts a variety of events, including concerts, outdoor movies, and community gatherings. The amphitheater is located near the beautiful Buck Creek, providing a serene setting for relaxation and entertainment.

Sports enthusiasts will find an abundance of opportunities in Helena. The city is home to numerous baseball fields, where local youth and adult sports leagues can play and practice. The city also maintains a variety of ball fields for other sports, such as softball and soccer, making it a hub for athletic activities.

Joe Tucker Park is another highlight of Helena’s recreational offerings. This well-maintained park features a serene lake, perfect for picnics and outdoor relaxation. In addition to its picturesque setting, the park boasts several facilities, including tennis courts, a playground, and a play area for children. These amenities cater to visitors of all ages, making it a popular spot for families and individuals alike.

Helena’s Community Center serves as a central location for indoor recreational activities. The center offers a basketball court and a walking track, making it perfect for indoor exercise during inclement weather. Furthermore, the city’s Parks & Recreation department coordinates various athletic programs throughout the year, such as:

  • Baseball, softball, and soccer in the spring
  • Tackle football, flag football, cheerleading, baseball, softball, and soccer in the fall
  • Boys and girls basketball in the winter

These programs accommodate various age groups, promoting physical activity and community engagement among Helena residents.

Events and Festivals

Helena, Alabama, offers a variety of events and festivals throughout the year that showcase the town’s vibrant community spirit and Southern charm. One of the most popular festivals in Helena is the Buck Creek Festival, which takes place annually. This family-friendly event features live music, arts and crafts, food vendors, and fun-filled activities for all ages.

A unique aspect of the Buck Creek Festival is the Duck Race, where thousands of rubber ducks are released into the creek, and participants have the chance to win prizes based on the order their ducks finish. This entertaining event not only provides amusement for attendees but also supports local nonprofit organizations.

Another popular event in Helena is Helena Market Days, held every summer, where the community comes together to celebrate local produce, handmade goods, and artisanal crafts. The market features a wide range of vendors and offers a perfect opportunity to support local businesses while enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

For those seeking a more adventurous experience, Southern Balloon Journeys provides hot air balloon rides, allowing visitors to explore Helena’s stunning landscapes from a unique vantage point. This unforgettable experience is ideal for special occasions or simply indulging in a new perspective on the city’s natural beauty.

Lastly, don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in a lively carnival atmosphere when visiting Helena. With thrilling rides, exciting games, and enticing food options, the carnival is an excellent way to spend a day or evening in this charming Southern town. So go ahead and mark your calendar for these fabulous events and festivals in Helena, Alabama.

Arts and Culture

Helena, Alabama, offers a variety of arts and culture experiences for visitors and residents alike. The city is home to several noteworthy attractions and events that showcase its rich history and vibrant artistic scene.

One of the main cultural attractions in Helena is the Kenneth R. Penhale City of Helena Museum. This museum provides an insight into the history and heritage of the area, featuring fascinating exhibits and artifacts related to the city’s development. A visit to this museum is a must for anyone interested in learning more about Helena’s past.

The arts and culture scene in Helena extends beyond its museum. The city’s Old Town area harbors a charming ambiance, perfect for leisurely strolls and exploration. With its picturesque streets lined with boutiques, galleries, and restaurants, Old Town Helena serves as an ideal setting for spending a relaxing day and appreciating local culture.

Moreover, Helena takes pride in its thriving theater community. The North Alabama Theater Scene offers a diverse range of performances and events for those seeking entertainment. From local productions to larger shows and events, the theaters in Helena and the surrounding area provide ample opportunities for visitors to enjoy arts and performances.

In addition to these attractions, Helena keeps its arts and culture scene active through various events held throughout the year. These events often aim at showcasing the work of local artists, promoting community engagement, and celebrating the city’s unique identity.

Dining and Nightlife

Helena, Alabama, offers a variety of dining options for both casual and fine dining lovers. The city is home to several restaurants that serve various cuisines, ensuring everyone’s taste buds are satisfied. One of the top-rated places to eat in Helena is the Depot Deli & Grill. Known for its Philly cheesesteak and crispy fries, it has received rave reviews from locals and visitors alike. You’ll also find Chinese and Asian cuisine at Zou’s Kitchen, a delightful hidden gem offering an excellent dining experience.

For those interested in nightlife in Helena, there’s more to explore and enjoy in the town’s local pubs and breweries. Oak Mountain Brewing is one such place, offering fantastic craft beers and a lively atmosphere, making it perfect for a night out with friends. In addition, various events are hosted regularly at Helena nightlife venues to keep the entertainment going.

As for wines, several local restaurants have extensive wine lists and staff who can guide you through the selection process to find the perfect pairing for your meal. Make sure to order a glass of wine or check out the wine specials at these establishments to enhance your dining experience in Helena.

Shopping and Services

Helena, Alabama offers a variety of shopping and service options for both locals and visitors. The city center is home to numerous shops and boutiques that cater to a wide range of tastes and interests. One notable shop is the Frou Frou Boutique, which offers a selection of accessories, shoe stores, and women’s clothing. The boutique is set in an adorable white house, adding to its charm and character.

For those who enjoy thrifting, The Foundry Thrift Store is a must-visit location. This store offers a great shopping experience, with a wide variety of items to discover. Helena’s downtown area also features art shops, making it an ideal destination for finding unique pieces to take home.

If you prefer outdoor shopping experiences, don’t miss Helena’s Farmers Market. This market offers an array of local produce and handmade goods. It’s a perfect place to pick up fresh ingredients for a delicious meal or discover unique gifts crafted by local artisans.

Helena’s service providers are top-notch as well. The City of Helena Welcome Center, housed inside an L&R train caboose, is a charming spot for tourists to gather information about the city’s attractions and historic sites. Furthermore, Joe Tucker Park offers a serene setting for picnics, sunbathing, and picturesque moments by the lake.

Trails and Parks near Helena

Helena, Alabama, offers a variety of outdoor activities to its residents and visitors. With its scenic trails and well-maintained parks, there are plenty of options for adventure and relaxation.

One of the best places to enjoy nature in Helena is Joe Tucker Park. This park features a serene lake and well-kept grounds, making it an ideal spot for a picnic, sunbathing, and playing sports like baseball or tennis. The park has a host of children’s activities and recreational facilities, and it is a perfect destination for families to spend a day outdoors.

For hiking enthusiasts, AllTrails lists 7 scenic trails in the Helena area. These trails cater to various levels of difficulty, whether you are planning on hiking, biking, or trail running. Some of the most popular trails include the Cahaba Lily Park and the Hillsboro Trail.

Cahaba Lily Park, located at 3200 Hwy 52, offers a well-marked and lit path ideal for night walks. The park is nestled in a patch of woods with a brand new playground and picnic area, making it a pleasant spot for families and outdoor lovers alike.

Hillsboro Trail is a paved trail on an old train bed, ensuring a flat surface for walkers, bikers, and users with baby strollers. The trail’s forested setting makes it a favorite spot for those who want to get their miles in while enjoying the natural surroundings.

For those who are up for a short drive from Helena, Oak Mountain State Park is a must-visit. This park, Alabama’s largest state park, offers camping facilities, hiking trails, mountain biking paths, and various outdoor activities. With its beautiful landscapes and diverse wildlife, Oak Mountain State Park is perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Living in Helena

Helena, a suburb located in Alabama, has grown to become a sought-after place to live, especially for families with children. The town is approximately a 30-minute drive from Birmingham, offering both small-town charm and convenient access to urban amenities.

Safety and Crime Rate: Helena is known for its low crime rate, making it an attractive destination for those who prioritize safety. The community is vigilant and enjoys a strong sense of togetherness, ensuring a secure environment for its residents.

Affordability: Helena boasts a relatively low cost of living compared to other cities in Alabama. With a median household income of $89,982, it significantly surpasses the national median of $67,500. Furthermore, the poverty rate stands at only 4.8%, which is 66% lower than the national average.

Quality of Life: Money Magazine has recognized Helena as one of the best places to raise kids. Its excellent school system and numerous recreational opportunities, such as the Helena Amphitheater and Joe Tucker Park, contribute to a high quality of life for residents.

  • Family-friendly Activities: Some popular things to do in Helena include visiting the Kenneth R. Penhale City of Helena Museum, exploring Old Town Helena’s shops and restaurants, and enjoying the natural beauty of the area through its numerous parks and nature preserves.

  • Proximity to Birmingham: Helena’s proximity to Birmingham makes it a convenient location for those seeking employment, entertainment, and shopping options in a larger city. Louisville and Mesa, while not as close, are also easily reachable by car for extended weekend trips or vacations.

Other Nearby Attractions

Just a short drive from Helena, there are several other nearby attractions that are worth visiting. Birmingham, which is only 17 miles away from Helena, offers an array of activities and experiences for tourists and locals alike.

One of the most popular attractions in Birmingham is the Birmingham Zoo, known for its diverse collection of animals and interactive exhibits. The zoo provides a fun and educational experience for all ages, making it an excellent family destination.

Also in Birmingham, you can visit the McWane Science Center, an interactive museum that blends science and technology with hands-on exhibits and interactive demonstrations. The museum offers various workshops and events, providing a unique learning opportunity for both kids and adults.

For those interested in history, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a must-visit, as it offers a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights movement and its impact on the city. The museum’s exhibits cover topics such as segregation, voter rights, and the influential figures who fought for change during that era.

Outdoor enthusiasts can find their solace in Oak Mountain State Park, as it is the largest state park in Alabama, located only 7 miles from Helena. The park offers a wide range of recreational activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and camping. The park’s picturesque landscapes and serene atmosphere make it an excellent destination for outdoor adventures.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, you can visit the serene Joe Tucker Park to enjoy a leisurely picnic or take a relaxing walk around the lake. The park’s well-kept grounds make it a pleasant spot to spend an afternoon.

Moving away from Birmingham, just 41 miles away is Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama. The city is famous for its lively sporting events, particularly its SEC collegiate football games, which are held at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Apart from sports, Tuscaloosa offers a thriving arts scene, including galleries, theater productions, and musical performances.

Lastly, the nearby cove area offers a relaxing atmosphere for those looking to unwind amidst nature. You can take a scenic hike along the shoreline, enjoy water sports, or simply recline at one of the quiet beaches. The serene environment of the cove provides a perfect getaway from the bustling city life.