- Eileen Falkenberg-Hull For the AJC
Head north on I-85 from Atlanta to find these hidden gems of Gwinnett County.
Walk to ruins and a waterfall
Freeman's Mill Park (1401 Alcovy Road, Lawrenceville, Ga. 30045) offers visitors of all ages a short paved multi-use path for recreation and a playground for children, but it's beyond the typical Gwinnett parks experience that you'll find the real hidden gem. Visit a 19th century gristmill preserved on the property and the Alcovy River, which was once used to power the mill.
The dam that helped regulate the water flow is now broken and waterfalls run through its walls.
Best places for adults to play
The intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and I-85 in Duluth has long been best known for its notoriously terrible traffic. However, thanks to GDOT improvements and some new tenants, that corridor of Gwinnett County has become known as the best place for adults to play.
Within a one-mile radius of the intersection, you'll find K1 Speed, Studio Movie Grill, Dave & Busters, Laser Quest and Wild Bill's. Add to that an abundance of dining options and you're set for a day or night out.
Discover a new culture
One of Gwinnett's best-kept secrets is BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (460 Rockbridge Road, Lilburn, Ga. 30047), the largest Hindu temple in North America. The intricately hand carved structure rises above the shopping plazas that surround it to reveal a serene environment able to be explored.
Open for free self-guided tours at various times throughout the day, the Mandir asks that visitors abide by a few rules: All clothing must cover shoulders and knees, photography is not allowed above the first level and cell phones must be turned off.
The museum Atlanta forgot
Atlanta may be home to some of the best museums in the Southeast but most travel guides and websites forget about the gem of a museum Gwinnett County has built in Buford, the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center (2020 Clean Water Drive, Buford, Ga. 30519).
Featuring a kid-friendly approach to learning, the museum features a number of exhibits championing environmental causes like water conservation and the importance of a diverse ecosystem. For more exploration, book one of their guided hikes.
Explore the county's history
It's not all hustle and bustle in Gwinnett. McDaniel Farm Park (3251 McDaniel Road, Duluth, Ga. 30096) is home to McDaniel Farm, a 134-acre farm run like typical farms in Georgia in the 1930s. On the farm, visitors will find numerous buildings essential to running a farm, three miles of paved multi-use paths and restrooms. Each December, candlelight tours of the farm are offered featuring historically accurate holiday celebrations.
The Yellow River Post Office site (3519 Five Forks Trickum Road SW, Lilburn, Ga. 30047) features a peek at what commercial activity looked like in Gwinnett in the mid-19th century. Grounds feature a barn, slave cabin and the post office building, which once also served as a general store, sharecropper's house, and local school.
Go au naturel
Just down the street from downtown Suwanee, White Street Park (752 White St., Suwanee, Ga. 30024) is Georgia's largest organic community garden. If you can't get a plot at the garden, you can still enjoy the space. Explore the butterfly garden, loop trail, fire pit and the red barn that can be rented for events. There is also plenty of space for an impromptu photo shoot with your family.