A suburb of Atlanta, Lawrenceville is located in Gwinnett County, roughly 50 kilometres northeast of the Georgia state capital’s downtown district.
The second-oldest city in the metropolitan Atlanta area, Lawrenceville was founded in 1821. Its earliest origins can still be easily found in the buildings around town square in the downtown area.
Lawrenceville relied on a largely rural economy for many years, and didn’t really come into its own until nearby Atlanta started to grow.
Having undergone extensive regeneration in the last two decades, Lawrenceville is once again a thriving community, offering a wealth of attractions.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
1. Gwinnett Historic Courthouse
Listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, this courthouse was built in 1885 after the first structure was destroyed by fire.
Located in central town square, visitors to the courthouse are able to explore many of the building’s one-off features.
These include the lighthouse-like clocktower, soaring ceilings decorated with grand chandeliers, false fireplaces, and delicate wood carvings that feature throughout the property.
The main atrium hosts regular art exhibitions, while the manicured lawns outside are home to a delightful gazebo.
2. Gwinnett History Museum
The Gwinnett History Museum is housed within an old seminary building constructed in the 1830s. It was first used as a finishing school for the region’s upper class young women, before being converted into the museum.
Its displays cover the most important eras from the city’s two centuries as a settlement. Artifacts cover the area’s long farming traditions, and display a variety of attractive home-stitched textiles.
Alternatively, around the back of the historic courthouse you’ll find the entrance to the Veterans Memorial Museum.
It pays tribute to the men and women of the United States you fought for the country’s freedoms, from the War of Independence against the British Empire, to the battles of the twenty-first century.
3. Lawrenceville Ghost Tours
An alternative view of Lawrenceville’s past can be had on one of these well-run ghost tours. The brainchild of the people behind the city’s Aurora Theatre, the tours connect professional storytellers with some of the most intriguing tales the city can offer.
Tours take in a variety of sites considered to be haunted, apparently largely a result of the city’s recent programme of regeneration.
Lasting 90 minutes, tours include the story of the day the dead were seen strolling along Lawrenceville’s main street. They also allow visitors inside the old jailhouse, where numerous ghostly goings-on have been reported.
4. Lake Sidney Lanier
One of a series of man-made lakes created to supply suburban Atlanta with drinking water, Lake Sidney Lanier was nothing but valleys creeping out from the banks of the Chattahoochee River until the 1950s.
Its intricate modern shoreline spans close to 1,200 km, providing an almost endless choice of attractive places to stop for a picnic to the lapping of the lake’s waters.
More organised destinations on the lake include the resorts of the Lake Lanier Islands, actually the tips of submerged hilltops. They have white sand beaches that make coastal destinations jealous.
Named after a local poet, the lake welcomes around 10 million visitors each year. It is approximately 45 minutes north of Lawrenceville.
5. Southeastern Railway Museum
The Southeastern Railway Museum in nearby Duluth is Georgia’s official transportation museum.
Spanning 14 hectares, the museum’s galleries and outdoor exhibition space together contain around 90 pieces of historic railroad stock.
They include locomotives and engines, passenger cars, freight coaches and even maintenance vehicles. In addition, there are several historic non-railway vehicles, including fire trucks and buses.
There is also the chance to ride a short distance of track on a vintage caboose (a combined engine and passenger car) or in a carriage pulled by an antique engine.
Duluth is less than 20 kilometres west of Lawrenceville.
6. Lawrenceville Heritage Trail
Rather than focussing on the buildings that made Lawrenceville, the city’s heritage trail instead highlights the contributions of some of its leading citizens.
Each of its points of interest are marked with a medallion set into the sidewalk, with the first located at the Fallen Heroes Memorial.
Taking in some of the most important streets in the downtown district, the trail goes on to Rhodes Jordan Park.
Along the way, visitors will learn about residents including Hillard Rhodes Jordan, the city’s two-time mayor, and Philadelphia Winn Maltbie, whose father donated the land on which Lawrenceville was built.
7. Aurora Theatre
The Aurora Theatre is one of the best anywhere in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Opened in 2007 after a $7.5 million conversion from a one-hundred-year-old church, it boasts two separate performances spaces. Together they produce more than 850 events each year.
The largest arts organisation in the county, its team of dedicated performers put on everything from musicals and hit Broadway shows to contemporary theatre.
What’s more, the award-winning Aurora Theatre is well-known for its stand-up comedy nights, orchestral performances, and children’s shows.
8. Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain is part of the Piedmont mountain range which ripples across the southeast of the United States from Alabama to New York State.
The mountain is one of many isolated protrusions of natural rock, and rises to over 500 metres above sea level to be one of the highest points in the Atlanta region.
This dramatic eruption of smooth bubble-like quartz makes for an incredible contrast to the surrounding landscape of trees, and offers fantastic panoramas from its summit.
However, Stone Mountain is perhaps most famous for being the site of the largest bas-relief carving on Earth.
Dating to an earlier memorial to Confederate troops who fought in the American Civil War, it portrays three of the southern states’ most important generals.
9. Tribble Mill Park
Of all Lawrenceville’s many parks, Tribble Mill Park is one of the largest. It spans an area of just over 280 hectares, a significant proportion of which is covered by its fishing lake.
In addition to angling, the lake welcomes non-motorised forms of boat, should you be looking to explore the park from the water. There are also several kilometres of trails suitable for walkers, cyclists, and horse-riders.
At the other end of the scale, Freeman’s Mill Park may be small, but it is both historic and filled with natural beauty. It includes a restored gristmill which sits on the banks of the attractive stream that once powered it.
10. Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament
Claiming to be the most popular dinner attraction in North America, Medieval Times takes ticket holders back to the mythical era of European history when brave knights roamed the world on horseback looking for princesses to rescue.
Seating rings the sand-filled arena where the knights and their horses perform impressive stunts to bring medieval times to life with just the right amount of theatre.
This fairy-tale extravaganza is made all the more atmospheric through the clever use of music and lighting, as audience members enjoy a four-course meal.
11. Gwinnett Stripers
Based in Lawrenceville since 2009, the Gwinnett Stripers are a minor-league baseball team. They play their home games at Coolray Field, which has a capacity of a little over 10,000 people, creating a lively but intimate atmosphere.
Hosting 144 games each season, there’s a good chance a game might be taking place when you’re visiting Lawrenceville’s other attractions.
As the national game, there’s perhaps no better way to explore what it means to be an American. At the same time, Georgia’s famed southern hospitality is sure to mean you leave the stadium with some new friends.
12. Lawrenceville Historic Cemetery
Just a short walk from downtown Lawrenceville, this historic cemetery is the final resting place of several important city citizens, including the founders of Gwinnett County, William Maltbie and Elisha Winn.
It also contains the grave of the city’s first mayor, a man by the name of John Clay Smith. However, the stones here go further back than even the founding of the city.
It includes the graves of men who fought for American Independence from Britain, and several unmarked graves which are thought to be where African-American slaves are buried.
13. Fernbank Museum of Natural History
If you’re considering some time in Atlanta during or after your time in Lawrenceville, it’s certainly worth considering Fernbank Museum of Natural History.
A treasure-trove of the natural world, a glass-filled atrium directs the gaze of visitors out towards Fernbank Forest.
This is an important area of old growth woodland within the foothills of the Piedmont mountains. It can be explored in more detail thanks to winding walkways dotted with information boards.
Back inside the museum itself, kids and adults alike will enjoy the dinosaur exhibits in particular. These include an Argentinosaurus, which at 37-metres long is the largest species of dinosaur yet discovered.
The Fernbank Museum can be reached from Lawrenceville in around half an hour.
14. Slow Pour Brewing Company
Just a couple of years old, the Slow Pour Brewing Company is a family enterprise which began with a home brew kit.
While known for their in-house craft beers, which can be sampled in the dedicated downtown tasting room, the Slow Pour Brewing Company is a key part of the community hosting everything from quizzes and bingo nights to farmers markets.
Its brightly coloured cans are pieces of art in themselves, and contain a range of limited release beers and others that are available year-round.
These include the Southernality India pale ale, and breakfast stouts. The tasting room is also the place to head for glasses and similar souvenirs of your time in Lawrenceville.
15. Collins Hill Park Aquatic Center
The Aquatic Center at Collins Hill Park is part leisure centre and part amusement park. Under cover, serious swimmers are able to make use of the 25-metre-long competition pool.
Outside, the more relaxed visitor will find the leisure pool, which has a river channel and zero-depth entry point.
Water play structures allow even the youngest visitors to enjoy splashing about in the water safely, while older children and adults are able to take on the adrenaline rush of the two giant slides.
Should the usually-excellent Georgia weather be misbehaving, a fully-indoor alternative to the aquatic centre is Sparkles Family Fun Center. This boasts a large space for rollerskating and rollerblading.