Ride Georgia’s first alpine coaster two hours north of Atlanta

An alpine coaster is similar to a roller coaster, except you control the cart. Riders can opt for a slower, leisurely run, or with minimal or no braking go for faster, thrilling rides. Pulling the hand brake causes the cart to stop; pushing or letting go of the brake allows the cart to accelerate. Each cart, or sled, can accommodate two people, but maximum weight is about 370 pounds. Carts are equipped with safety belts for both people.

If you’ve ever wished you could hurtle yourself down a mountain while sitting on a small cart, but you can’t afford a trip to Germany or Switzerland, then your wish is about to come true.

Georgia Mountain Coaster is open just two hours north of Atlanta, in Helen.

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An alpine coaster is kind of like a roller coaster, in that the cart moves along a tubular steel rail system. But with an alpine coaster, the rider controls the speed, which tops out at 25 mph.

Georgia Mountain Coaster's experience was designed by Wiegand Sports, the company that invented alpine coasters and has built more than 150 all over the world.

Owner Terry Sims, who also owns Cool River Tubing in Helen, introduced the coaster idea to Helen about three years ago.

The alpine coaster, at 8409 S. Main St., is open seven days a week, weather permitting, and is the first in Georgia.

Each cart accommodates one or two people. To drive, you must be at least 56 inches tall. Kids ages 3 and older can be passengers, provided they are at least 38 inches tall. There is a weight limit of 375 pounds per cart, however.

Georgia Mountain Coaster is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. There are lights along the track for riding at night.

As long as you're in Helen, why not make it a weekend trip? Designed as a replica of a Bavarian village, Helen has been hosting family outings for 40 years. In addition to tubing on the river and coasting down the mountain, your family can enjoy miniature golf, a hike to Anna Ruby Falls, a dinner of German food and more.

» Your family friendly guide to the spectacular sites of Helen

» Easy day trips to north Georgia

» Gatlinburg SkyBridge: Nation’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge opens