If you’re looking for something in the Atlanta area other than big-city crowds and traffic, go Gwinnett! Just 30 minutes north of Atlanta, Gwinnett County offers an entirely different experience and offers some of the best things to do near Atlanta.
Charming small towns dot the landscape and delectable food experiences from nouveau gourmet to down south home cookin’ await. There’s history and culture, and even a bit of fright!
Ready to explore Gwinnett? Here’s your guide to best things to do in Gwinnett County in a weekend.
1. Seoul of the South
Get your Asian foodie on in Duluth, home to a plethora of excellent Korean cafes, bakeries, restaurants, and markets. I’ve been to South Korea, so I can attest to the delicious authenticity. You can dedicate an entire day to this Korean food and culture tour, but be prepared to roll out of your car and into your hotel! Here are just a few of the things to do in Duluth GA.
Jang Su Jang
You won’t go hungry at Jang Su Jang. A diverse menu offers tofu soups, Korean BBQ, Bossam, savory seafood entrees, vegetable and rice side dishes, and lots of other goodies.
Tree Story Bakery & Café
Get ready to channel your inner-five-year-old at this whimsically-decorated bakery which is reminiscent of a treehouse. The choices of baked goods at Tree Story are almost infinite with both Korean and American scrumptious treats. As for me, I indulged in several, including a piece of cake as big as my head.
I was glad to take a break from my gluttony to browse through H Mart, a Korean-American Asian supermarket chain with all manner of merchandise, including processed food, fresh seafood, Korean-style deli, housewares, souvenirs, beauty products, and clothing.
Who doesn’t love French macarons? Located within the Korean section of Duluth, Mac Lab is an East Asian–inspired café that makes macarons that are not only delicious but also colorful and thematic. Also offer matcha and chai tea, and specialty coffees.
K-Factory BBQ was my favorite restaurant in Gwinnett County! It reminded me so much of a Korean BBQ that I ate at in the town of Songtan, South Korea. Marinated meats are grilled over an open fire until they are succulent and delicious. Rice and multiple kinds and preparations of vegetables are served.
And don’t forget the soju! It’s the Korean version of vodka made from either rice or sweet potatoes. With a variable alcohol content from around 17% to 53%, soju is stronger than beer or wine, but it’s usually sweetened with a bit of fruit syrup or in a fruit drink, so it goes down really easy – it’s dangerous!
2. Jeju Spa
Jeju Spa offers a variety of experiences and treatments to cater to each individual’s desires. There are gender-segregated traditional Korean public bathhouses, as well as unisex areas such as the swimming pool, exercise room, food court, ice rooms, and heated mineral rooms. The spa is decorated with several kinds of materials –wood and stone, crystals, minerals, and metals – to inspire different moods.
3. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
I’ve been to India, and I can tell you, I was extremely impressed with this magnificent mandir. A mandir is a Hindu house of worship. At the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the idea was to focus the eye upward and the soul inward. The mandir is dedicated to followers of the Lord Swaminarayan, also known as Sahajanand Swami. Born in 1781, the ascetic traveled throughout India bringing a message of harmony and peaceful coexistence. He promoted education for everyone, including women.
The foundation of the mandir is made of pink sandstone from India; the outside is limestone from Turkey; the inside is carved from Italian marble. Each of the 34,000 pieces was hand-carved in India and transported to the US where it was assembled like a giant puzzle.
The inside of the mandir is incredible. Entirely white marble, the walls, ceiling, and columns are carved in such exquisite detail that seems impossible. Truly, it’s beyond anything that I ever saw in India. Unfortunately, photos of the interior are prohibited.
It took 17 months to construct the mandir and 1.3 million hours from volunteers from Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
4. Explore the Shops in Norcross
Norcross is only 25 minutes north from the heart of downtown Atlanta. The preserved historic downtown is the jewel of Norcross. It’s a great place to spend the morning browsing the boutique shops, cafés, and antique stores. There are also two nearby parks to enjoy nature.
5. Lawrenceville Theater & Ghost Tour
Lawrenceville is the county seat of Gwinnett County and the second oldest city in the metropolitan Atlanta area. The city is named for hometown hero Commodore James Lawrence, commander of the frigate Chesapeake during the War of 1812, best known today for his dying command, “Don’t give up the ship!”
The downtown is sprawled around an attractive brick courthouse, built in 1823. Just a couple of blocks away, the world-class Aurora Theater offers more than 600 events a year. The theater also produces a popular nighttime ghost tour which begins outside the building and rambles through the historic sites in the downtown. Tour participants are regaled with colorful ghost stories from an even more colorful period-clad character.
6. Tannery Row Artist Colony
Nestled in the North Georgia hills of Buford, Tannery Row Artist Colony is a place for artists to create and display their work in an inviting atmosphere. The cavernous building is a re-purposed leather factory that’s been beautifully designed in such a way that it’s a piece of art itself. Artists are juried and then assigned one of the coveted 15 design studios which they can decorate and furnish to inspire and sell their artwork or give lessons.
7. Suwanee SculpTour
Across from the City Hall in charming and hip downtown Suwanee (twice named, one of America’s Best Places to Live by Money magazine) the SculpTour is an outdoor art exhibit, and probably my favorite thing to do in Gwinnett County. A one-mile walkway meanders through the beautifully landscaped Town Green displaying 14 contemporary sculptures, 8 additional permanent exhibits, wall art, and sidewalk paintings.
My favorite display was the piece of twisted patina metal, an actual piece taken from the demolished New York Twin Towers that were bombed on 9-11. The wreck sculpture is set on cement which displays the timeline, beginning with when the four planes departed, the time the four sites were hit, and when each of the towers fell. It’s guaranteed to produce goosebumps or tears, and I could not help but recall exactly where I was when I watched the second tower get hit on television.
8. Everett’s Music Barn
If you’re looking for an authentic downhome south experience, Everett’s Music Barn is the place to go. The Everett family established this music tradition in 1964. Colorful brother and sister duo, Rena and Russell Everett, gave us a tour and history of the bluegrass tradition. If there’s a better example of sweet, southern hospitality, I haven’t found it. The barn is open every Saturday night, offering some of the best Bluegrass talents. There’s food, and it’s free for all, with a donation jar for people to pay what they can if they choose.
If you’re visiting near Halloween, Netherworld is one place you won’t want to miss. Voted “Top Haunted House in America” by HauntWorld.com, Netherworld is more like the “Disneyworld of Haunt.” There are two haunted houses; the larger one is quite amazing in the elaborate details, including an optical illusion bridge that actually had me hanging onto the rails for dear life. Between the two haunts, there’s a midway with vendors and multiple photo ops with ghouls, monsters, and other oddities. There’s also a museum featuring past ogres, beasts and freaks from years gone by.
10. Places to Eat
Baking Grounds (Buford)
45th South Café (Norcross)
Local Republic (Lawrenceville)
Uncle Jack’s Meat House (Duluth)
Noble Fin Restaurant (Peachtree Corners)
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Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Explore Gwinnett during her stay in Gwinnett County, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. Patti has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.