Sugar Hill, Georgia lies in the northern parts of Gwinnett Country. One of the most northern reaches of the Atlanta metropolitan area, it edges towards the shores of Lake Sidney Lanier.
The town and then city of Sugar Hill was only established in 1939, although the site sat on a traditional trade route used long before that date.
Named after a large sugar spill, the 20,000 residents of the city have easy access to a whole string of different attractions both in the surrounding urban areas and in the north Georgia countryside.
Here are the 15 best things to do in and around Sugar Hill, Georgia.
1. Settles Bridge Park
Settles Bridge Park is located 4 miles west of downtown Sugar Hill. Occupying a site close to the banks of the Chattahoochee River, it covers more than 250 acres of land.
The park takes its name from the remains of an old bridge which crosses a tributary of the Chattahoochee. Now just a metal frame sat on its stone piers, its an attractive view for a picnic.
Elsewhere in the park, there’s a paved and accessible multi-purpose trail, and a longer soft surface trail.
The outdoor basketball courts and skate park are always popular with the city’s residents, while the public grill is also busy on fine days.
2. Lake Sidney Lanier
For anyone seeking out more outdoor space than Settles Bridge Park can offer, Lake Sidney Lanier is probably the place to head.
Its waters are not named after a local geographic feature but a popular poet. Constructed to supply the Atlanta metropolitan area with drinking water, the lake was only formed in the 1950s when the Chattahoochee River was dammed by the US Corps of Engineers.
The result is a shoreline stretching for almost 1,200 km, and a beach-style resort on islands within the lake. Together with a water park they attract somewhere in the region of 10 million visitors every year.
The islands can be reached in around 25 minutes, while the shore itself is just a few minutes north of Sugar Hill.
3. Sawnee Mountain Park
Head west around the southern shores of Lake Sidney Lanier and you’ll reach Sawnee Mountain Park in roughly half an hour of road travel.
Four times the size of Settles Bridge Park, it is home to a number of attractions.
A good place for visitors to the region to start is the dedicated visitor center, which has information detailing the natural habitats, flora, and fauna of the area.
At the top of the preserve’s system of trails, those who can should check out Indian Seats, which provides outstanding views towards the North Georgia Mountains.
4. Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center
A similar distance roughly south in the city of Johns Creek is Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center.
Here explorers interested in the history of settlement in northern Georgia and the Atlanta region can take in the remains of a historic maize grinding (or grist) mill.
It sits romantically on a stream which it used as a power source, which itself runs through several hectares of woodland.
The same site also contains Summerour House, a Victorian farmhouse from the 1880s, an even early structure used as a visitor center, and a small farm museum.
5. Southeastern Railway Museum
On route to Autrey Mill you might also like to stop in the neighbouring city of Duluth, which is the home of the Southeastern Railway Museum among other landmarks.
Georgia’s official transportation museum, its 14-hectare site has one of the best collections of railway and roadway artifacts anywhere in the southeast of the United States.
In total the museum’s collect spans almost 100 items of rolling stock which date back close to a century. They include the private rail carriage used by President Warren G Harding in the first years of the 1920s, Pullman carriages, and steam locomotives.
6. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
The Chattahoochee River flows from its exit at Lake Sidney Lanier across the northern Atlanta region a short distance from Sugar Hill.
An important water source, its 75 km length is dotted with several ‘units’ that together form this National Recreation Area.
There are five such units in the vicinity of Sugar Hill, providing a way for visitors and residents to enjoy all the river has to offer.
Canoeing and kayaking are regular pastimes here, with plenty of places to easily enter the water, while fishing and hiking are other favorites.
7. Gwinnett History Museum
Gwinnett History Museum is located in Lawrenceville, the county seat, less than 30 minutes south of Sugar Hill by road.
The museum is housed within a Victorian seminary building completed in around 1830. Before its conversion into the county’s history museum, it was a finishing school that taught the children of the region’s ruling classes.
In addition to this history, the museum covers the earliest days of Gwinnett Country, with displays on the area’s rural economy and the typical textiles stitched by the wives and female children of Gwinnett’s men.
8. Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain is one of a number of summits that push their way out of the Georgia woodlands. It can be reached in 45 minutes from Sugar Hill.
While Stone Mountain will never win any records when it comes to mountain heights, it is one of the highest points in the Atlanta region. This means it can offer phenomenal vistas right across the north of the state.
A series of well-signed trails lead around and over the mountain, and have been designed to enable those of all levels of ability to enjoy this natural spectacle.
Where the mountain does break records is with the largest bas-relief carving in the world, which portrays three confederate generals from the American Civil War period.
9. Splash Park
Both attractive and useful in the summer heat, Splash Park can be found at the heart of Sugar Hill. It sits behind the grand edifice of Sugar Hill City Hall and The Bowl at Sugar Hill, a major outdoor music venue.
A long stretch of lawn leads towards a circle of hard surfacing which has a series of water jets hidden within it.
Its 50 of so jets rise and fall, shoot and dip to the delight of the city’s younger residents who can be found soaking themselves on summer days.
A great excuse to discover Sugar Hill whether you’re with children or not, Splash Park is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Back in Johns Creek is XtremeHopp, which makes for a family-friendly escape whatever the weather is doing outside.
Offering next-level trampolining, XtremeHopp has an area of wall-to-wall trampolines for anyone who’s keen to do try out their Neil Armstrong impressions, as well as a trampoline-based dodge ball court.
Should bouncing on a flexible mat somehow not suit your mood, serious free runners should check out the ninja warrior course and the warped wall.
There’s also a splatter room for getting messy in the style of Picasso, and an escape room if mental agility is more your thing.
11. Dahlonega Gold Museum
Perhaps an hour north of Sugar Hill, having circled Lake Sidney Lanier to either east or west, is Dahlonega Gold Museum.
It stands pride of place on the main square in Dahlonega in an 1830s red brick building that also lays claim to being the oldest surviving county courthouse in the state of Georgia.
As a museum it details what is known as America’s first gold rush and its objects include panning equipment, gold nuggets as they are found in the ground, and the precious metal coins that result.
While discovering this history, be sure not to miss the original judges’ deliberation chamber, courthouse and jury room.
12. Southern Beer Tours
A fine way of seeing Gwinnett County’s hidden gems, getting to understand the culture better, and checking out the craft beer seen is by joining a Southern Beer Tour.
These small group tours come with everything including transport, meaning you have nothing to worry about other than which beers are worthy of your time.
Taking up much of the afternoon, they cover three of the best small-scale breweries in the county. They promise a guarantee of a behind the scenes look at the brewery aspect of the business in at least one of them.
13. Gold Mine Park
It may be Dahlonega which hosts the gold museum and is known for its mining heritage, but there is also evidence of America’s first gold rush right here in Sugar Hill.
The gold may be long gone from the hills, but evidence does remain, and will form the centerpiece of Sugar Hill’s newest park.
The 9.2 acre park will also act as the trail head for the 16 mile greenway which will circle the city as an alternative to its road network.
14. Georgia Museum of Art
In addition to the official Georgia transportation museum, its official art gallery is also located within striking distance of Sugar Hill.
Part of the University of Georgia, the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens is able to list a staggering 12,000 works. They range from traditional drawings from Southeast Asia to the paintings of Renaissance-era Italy.
This is a far cry from the situation when the museum was founded in 1945, when just 100 paintings hung from its walls.
Since then, a lot of effort has gone into forming a worthy collection of American painting from the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, with Georgia O’Keefe a particular name to look out for.
Athens is a little over an hour east of Sugar Hill.
15. Downtown Alpharetta Historic District
Half an hour west of Sugar Hill is Alpharetta. Its centre is a district of buildings that date from the birth of the city in the 1850s. It is therefore a great spot to understand how the area looked before Sugar Hill was even conceived.
What’s more, many of the structures in downtown Alpharetta are typical of the region, mixing southern clapboard homes with exterior verandas and relatively-plain brick structures.
There’s nothing plain about the Dodd Hotel, however, which was constructed in the 1870s and continued to offer boarding until the 1940s.
Not far away you’ll also come to Skeleton-Teasley House. Adopting the Greek Revival style fashionable at the time, it was built in the 1850s for a local cotton trader.