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Nov. 20, 2018
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Treasures, tastes and fun await in Gwinnett County

By Pamela A. Keene 
 
You don’t have to go far to experience world-class restaurants, live theater, cutting-edge music, significant art, and sports. Just head down I-85 to Gwinnett County. From a plethora of authentic Korean fare and hand-crafted pizzas to professional theater and music from bluegrass to pop, the towns of Gwinnett have every bit as much to offer, just a short drive away. 
 
On a recent three-day media trip, the folks at Explore Gwinnett showed off many of the county’s assets. Although it was only about 15 minutes from my home in Flowery Branch, we stayed at Sonesta Suites off Pleasant Hill Road. It was a good central location for our adventure, close to I-85 and easy routes to the county’s municipalities. 
 
Victoria Hawkins, marketing communications director at Explore Gwinnett and Jessica Whittingslow, marketing communications manager, and Mary Huff, media specialist with Laurie Rowe Communications created a non-stop schedule to sample local cuisine at three full meals each day, plus a couple of snacks. We didn’t go hungry. 
 
We visited two to three destinations each morning, another two to three in the afternoon and after a serious dinner, experienced the nightlife. 
 
Restaurants provided the anchors for the trip. Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Duluth serves up tasty aged beef, from mammoth prime rib to burgers and seafood. Modeled after its sister restaurant in Queens, New York, Uncle Jack’s hit all the right notes for the meat-lovers in our group. Try the Applewood Smoked Bacon appetizer served with house-made peanut butter and chipotle maple glaze, or the Long Island duck meatballs. They’ll whet your appetite for what’s to come – USDA choice chops and steaks, specialty sides for sharing including 5-cheese macaroni and shredded crispy Brussel Sprouts.
 
We dined at 9292 Korean BBQ in Duluth, true Korean cuisine prepared at our table, Noble Fin Restaurant in Peachtree Corners, rated as one of Atlanta’s Top 40 Restaurants, and Local Republic in Lawrenceville, a gastropub with beer from many states, regions and countries. O4W Pizza, a recent addition formerly located in Atlanta’s Fourth Ward, is known for Grandma’s Pie, Jersey style and recently featured in Bon Appetit magazine. It would be hard to choose a favorite because each has distinctive menus. 
 
Breakfast and “treat” places we visited offered an array of goodies 45 South Café in Norcross features locally roasted coffee and serves breakfast, lunch, brunch and weekend dinners and live music each weekend. Baking Grounds in Buford on Lee Street tempts sweets-lovers with colorful cakes, pies, pastries and cookies and serves up a full breakfast and lunch menu. The Blue Rooster Bake Shop & Eatery in Lawrenceville makes chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons to die for, plus breakfast and lunch. 
 
Slow Pour Brewing Company in Lawrenceville stays busy with special events and its locally crafted brews. A corn hole contest was taking place during our visit. Hope Springs Distillery in Lilburn hand-crafts Top Hat Vodka and the legendary absinthe. They’re the only absinthe producers in the state.
Once you’re become a Gwinnett restaurant expert and picked your new favorites, check out the many activities for families, date nights or just because. 
 
Georgia’s official transportation museum is located in Duluth. Southeastern Railway Museum (www.train-museum.org) features historic Pullman cars, including the one used by President Warren G. Harding. Each December, the museum’s Polar Express Experience entertains kids dressed in pajamas to watch a special screening of the film with Santa. The Hudgens Center for the Arts, endowed by developer Scott Hudgens, offers dozens of classes and 34,000 square feet of exhibit and education space; free admission. 
 
In Buford, 15 artists at Tannery Row Artist Colony (www.tanneryrowartistcolony.net) occupy loft spaces with working studios and galleries. Some offer classes, lessons and artist talks. Works for sale range from paintings and pottery to found art and sculpture. Studios are typically open on the second Saturday of each month and for special events and exhibition that are listed on the website.
 
Suwanee is known for its public art and sculpture initiative displayed in its Town Center. One of its most recent additions is a tribute to 911 and includes steel girders from the World Trade Centers. SculpTour’s 79 works (www.suwanee.com/engage/public-art/suwanee-sculptour) are located within a mile radius of downtown. A phone app tells stories of several artists.
 
Music aficionados familiar with Eddie Owen and Eddie’s Attic in Decatur can now hear live music at Red Clay Foundry (www.eddieowenpresents.com). Wednesday is songwriters’ night and don’t be surprised to encounter nationally known writers from Nashville and beyond. Check out the website for a full schedule. Located in very walkable downtown Duluth, Red Clay with only 260 seats is a good after-supper night out. 
 
Everett’s Music Barn in Suwannee (www.everettsmusicbarn.net) may be a bit off the beaten path, but it’s been around for more than 50 years. It’s a bluegrass mecca every Saturday night. For a donation, you can hear top-name bluegrass artists in a family-friendly setting. 
 
Gwinnett is home to the second-largest professional theater in Georgia. The Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville (www.auroratheatre.com) currently has two theater spaces in a historic former church and produces a full season of plays, plus music, comedy and children’s plays. The Aurora is also known for its ghost tours each fall. Plans are for the organization to expand its facilities in the next couple of years to produce even more events. 
 
Did you know that the largest Hindu Temple in the Southeast is located in Lilburn? Hand-carved in India of Turkish limestone, Italian marble and Indian pink sandstone, its 34,000 individual pieces were shipped to its current site and assembled in 17 months using 1.7 million volunteer hours. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, (www.baps.org/global-network/north-america/atlanta.aspx or just Google name) is an architectural wonder that is open to the public. Opened in August 2007, it conducts regular services, as well as audio tours and guided tours for groups. The day we were there, several buses from nearby states’ Baptist churches. The temple and grounds are breathtaking.
 
Premier concert and event venues include the Infinity Energy Arena and Performing Arts Center that brings in national and international shows and entertainers, Coolray Field, where the Gwinnett Stripers play, and Buford Arena, home of the Atlanta Havoc arena football team. 
 
As the summer season winds down on Lake Lanier, there’s still plenty to do in our part of Northeast Atlanta. And the good news is that the choices are endless and they’re a short distance away.
 
For more information about Explore Gwinnett, visit (www.exploregwinnett.org). And plan to keep busy. 

Posted online 8/31/18
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