Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Gainesville, GA

  • Published 2022/11/30

Surrounded by wonderful nature, Gainesville attracts tourists from all over with beautiful landscapes, a rich history, and amazing art and cultural scenes.

Nestled in the state’s Hall County, you can find this city at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, right next to the beautiful Lake Lanier.

Apart from its amazing location, Gainesville houses many historical and natural attractions that provide its visitors with a memorable and fulfilling time.

Planning to visit this charming city soon?

Here are some of the best things to do while visiting Gainesville, GA:

Learn about Historical People at the Piedmont Hotel

Piedmont Hotel in Gainesville

Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gainesville is home to many historic sites and landmarks.

Built way back in 1876, the Piedmont Hotel served as the political base of Lt. general James Longstreet.

Many significant historical figures frequent the hotel, including U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

The said hotel was almost demolished in 1918.

However, a last-minute decision managed to become the saving grace of one wing’s ground floor area.

Currently, you can visit the hotel’s north wing.

It was renovated to serve as the general’s memorial.

Spend a Relaxing Day at the Don Carter State Park

Any tourist wants to experience some relaxation and fun during their trip.

In Gainesville, you can go to many different locations to experience this, one of which is Don Carter State Park.

Serving as the state’s newest park, Don Carter also has the honor of becoming the first state park found on the 38,000-acre Lake Lanier.

You can find this park at the northern end of the said Lake.

This attraction features amenities that would let any visitor try out many different types of water sports.

While here, you can opt to cool down at the huge sand swimming beach with a bathhouse.

You can also find boat ramps at the park, providing tourists with quick access to the water.

If you prefer to experience the beauty of this area on land, you can hike or bike across the multi-use trail heading towards a hardwood forest.

Take a Splash at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center

Planning to have fun in the Summer?

If you happen to visit Gainesville, looking to find a good time with your family, don’t forget to check out the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center’s Splash Zone.

This place features all the amenities you can think of to have fun in the water.

If you like thrilling rides, the Splash Zone has two body slides that are three stories high.

It also has interactive pools for kids, including their own kiddie slides.

You can also stay in one of the Splash Zone’s swirl pools, competition pools, or indoor warm water pools.

This destination comes complete with fitness and wellness centers, locker rooms, family changing rooms, ample deck, lounge space, and chairs and umbrellas that you can use.

Learn About Nature at Atlanta Botanical Garden

Majestic natural landscapes surround the beautiful city of Gainesville, and visiting the Atlanta Botanical Gardens provides information to anyone curious about it.

At the gardens, you can find several short woodland paths that lead you to a showcase of the state’s endemic species of flora and fauna.

It also houses the beautiful, waterlily-covered “Forest Pond,” which is a good hangout spot for people near the visitor center.

Here, the garden’s plethora of flower species will amaze you, apart from the area’s many natural wonders.

Make Memories at Kinsey Family Farm

Consider visiting Kinsey Farm with your family while on a trip to Gainesville.

Spending time at this family-run farm opens up many interesting, fun, and educational activities that both you and your kids can enjoy.

Partnered with a gorgeous backdrop of the city’s natural landscape, you and your family can pick up some plants while at the farm’s nursery.

You can also purchase tools and decorations for your garden at home.

During the fall season, you can also come here to pick the best pumpkin to make your Jack-o-Lantern with.

When the winter holiday season comes around, you can also come here to pick out some decor.

You can even cut a fresh Christmas tree here!

Discover Facts about Space at the Gainesville Solar Walk

Did you know that you can learn more about the solar system while you visit Gainesville?

From the city’s heart until the end of Lake Lanier’s Longwood Park, you can find a 1 to 2,000,000,000 scale model of the solar system.

This model spans around 1.8 miles (3.6 miles round trip), and you can take a walking tour to find out new facts about the Earth’s immediate area in space.

North Georgia Astronomers created the scale model and tour for its “Millennial Project.”

Finishing a round trip of the model means that, according to its scale, you will have gone 4 billion miles in space.

You will also learn about the planets within our solar system and its other celestial members.

Apart from learning about space, you also will have the opportunity to take in the beauty of downtown Gainesville on your walk from one end of the model to the other.

It’s a fun and unique activity that you should definitely check out while you are in the city.

Discover the Beauty of Lake Sidney Lanier

Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia

User:PBT1981, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Serving as Chattahoochee River’s dam, Lake Sidney Lanier first came to be in the 1950s.

Named after a Georgia poet, this lake boasts more than 621 miles of shoreline, thanks to the many finger-shaped projections within the water.

Here, you can opt to sail across the waters of the lake to discover stunning views.

If you don’t consider sailing as your cup of tea, you can also partake in many water sports, such as jet skiing.

Alternatively, you can just enjoy the beaches of the lake at the resort and water park.

The fun doesn’t end when winter rolls along, as you can come here to witness an animated Christmas light show on the lake’s islands.

Apart from that spectacle, amusement rides and a Christmas village are also set up for the entertainment of tourists here.

Let Your Children Learn Valuable Life Lessons at INK

Traveling with kids?

Gainesville has many attractions that perfectly cater to children.

INK or Interactive Neighborhood for Kids serves as one of them, where your kids can experience fun and learn simultaneously.

This local children’s museum encourages small children to use and develop their imagination.

It features exhibits that anyone from toddlers to young children can enjoy.

Your kids can also have fun and roleplay here while learning about many different establishments that they may find in the community.

Located near 985 in Gainesville, don’t hesitate to add this museum to your itinerary if you plan on bringing your kids to your trip.

Learn About Ecology at the Elachee Nature Science Center

Elachee Nature Science Center is one of the popular family destinations in Gainesville.

Here, young and old can learn about the environment and how to appreciate it.

The said science center supports and serves over 35,000 students and around 30,000 visitors of its nature preserve and museum.

You can find this awesome science center within North Georgia’s Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, which spans 1,500 acres.

Apart from being an educational tourist destination in Gainesville, it provides a curriculum to local school programs that teach children about ecology.

While it aims to educate people, no one can deny the beauty this ecological haven provides.

Know the Region’s Past at Northeast Georgia History Center

Get to know the city and the region it belongs in by visiting Northeast Georgia History Center.

Running like a museum, this place dedicates itself to preserving and educating people about the history of this region in Georgia.

It houses artifacts and images of historical landmarks that date back 11,000 years.

Here, you can even find an 18th-century wooden cabin that served as the home of White Path, an important leader of the Cherokee nation.

It also displays an exhibition titled “the Land of Promise,” which showcases the region’s story, along with its people, dating back from the earliest times recorded in history up until the present day.

Apart from these, the center also houses a gallery for folk art and the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

Have Fun at Historic Green Street Walking Tour

Given the rich history of the city, walking tours set in many different areas of Gainesville exist.

One activity you may want to try while in the city is a walking tour of the historic Green Street, found in the downtown district of Gainesville.

Here, you can learn more about Green Street’s past by letting you imagine what the 1800s and 1900s look like.

Here, you can hire the services of a local guide, who can tell you more about the area, the buildings, and the homes lining its streets.

If you are interested in the tour, you can pick up the map at the city’s Visitor Center.

If you have companions, you can also book group tours prior to your visit.

Appreciate Masterpieces at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center

Apart from having a rich history, the city also sees arts and culture as important parts of its identity.

Founded back in 1946, the Quinlan Visual Arts Center serves as one of the many art hubs in the city.

This gallery dedicates itself to showcasing visual arts and sharing its beauty with the public.

When you visit, you can find that five galleries make up this visual arts center.

All of these galleries host more than seven exhibitions annually.

It houses collections of different forms of visual arts media, including photography, paintings, and sculptures.

Visit its galleries to be awe-struck by the amazing works of talented artists from all over the region.

Learn About the Life of Beulah Rucker at This Museum

Interested in some of the people who lived in this region of Georgia?

If yes, Beulah Rucker Museum will tell you the story of one such person.

Housed in a building constructed in the late 1800s, this place has a collection that shares the story of its namesake, an African-American woman who dedicated her life to using education to improve the people’s lives in her community.

If you want to learn more about African-American heritage in the region and the importance these people had in the community, then don’t miss out on visiting this museum.

Discover Amazing Art in All Forms at Smithgall Arts Center

Another arts hub found in Gainesville is the Smithgall Arts Center.

The organization called “The Arts Council” operates this center, and it has a spot at the center of the city’s arts and culture scene.

It aims to share and showcase arts from various disciplines.

It houses its collections and stages its performances at an old railway depot built in 1914.

Apart from visual arts, it hosts jazz performances and other performing arts stages that you can catch during your visit.

While in Gainesville, stop by this art center and appreciate the beauty of art in all forms.

Discover Sights in Gainesville along Rock Creek Greenway

Rock Creek Greenway is a two-mile trail that connects Gainesville Downtown Square to the scenic Lake Lanier.

It includes a series of trails that connects to four city parks, namely the Rock Creek Veterans, Ivey Terrace, Wilshire Trails, and Lakeside Parks.

You’ll enjoy a relaxing stroll with canopies of trees lining this trail.

Drop by the Rock Creek Veterans Park on North Drive to visit the War Memorials, see the Amphitheatre and start the Solar System Trail.

At Ivey Terrace Park in Ridgewood Terrace, you can find the historical Civilian Conservation Corps structures.

When you reach Wilshire Trails Park, you’ll find some public art and a bilingual storybook trail you can follow with your kids; they can also enjoy the playground.

Lakeside Park offers tennis courts for you to enjoy the sport, a boat dock, and fishing pier, and also a playground area for kids.

All these parks have ample benches, picnic tables, pavilions, and gazebos so you have plenty of areas to rest and relax.

See different areas in Gainesville at Rock Creek Greenway.

Explore Ecosystems at Linwood Nature Preserve

Ready for more outdoor adventures? Then, head off to Linwood Nature Preserve.

You’ll enjoy the sights of nature on the two-mile easy trail winding through oaks and hickory forests and prairies.

Spot over 40 bird species roaming and flying around the meadows, lakes, creeks, and forests.

You can also learn about scale plots and rain gardens used to control soil erosion and stormwater.

Visit the Native Plant Specimen Garden and discover more about shrubs, trees, and various plants native to the Gainesville Ridges area.

You can also sign up and join various educational programs offered by Linwood Nature Preserve.

Enjoy a Delightful Dinner at Scott’s Downtown

For an enjoyable casual fine dining experience in the city, Scott’s Downtown on Bradford Street is a must-try.

Owned by award-winning restaurateur Scott Dixon, his years of experience offers no less than excellent dishes served to patrons.

You’ll have plenty of options on the menu along with a list of wines, cocktails, and drinks to complement your meal.

Start your dinner with the Soup of the Day followed by hearty salads like Traditional Iceberg Wedge, Classic Caesar Salad, or Scott’s Caesar Salad.

Try the Risotto Bowls in Salmon, Shrimp, Chicken, and Mahi-Mahi varieties.

If you want some unique burger and sandwich recipes, try The Scott’s Burger, the Fresh Fish Sandwich, Fish Tacos, or the House Chicken Sandwich.

Craving for juicy steaks? Scott’s Signature Steaks like the Prime Filet Mignon or Prime Aged Ribeye will satisfy your palate.

Scott’s Downtown also serves appetizers and small-plate servings like Chipotle Candied Bacon, Artisan Meat and Cheese Pallet, New Zealand Lamb Lollipops, Sesame Crusted Rare Seared Tuna, and others.

Embark on a Wildlife Adventure at Elachee Nature Science Center

Elachee Nature Science Center is one of the many natural attractions you can visit in Gainesville.

This large area on Elachee Drive takes you on a great nature trip and plenty of activities you can enjoy too.

Take the 0.64-mile Dodd Loop Self-Guided Trail and follow the Interpretive signages dotted along the forest.

Your little ones will enjoy seeing the center’s Live Animal Exhibit featuring native reptiles and amphibians native to Georgia.

Visit the Ecology Exhibits, study different species of plants and trees and view the colorful murals of winged pollinators; likewise, see these pollinators at work in the interpretive exhibit.

Bring lunch and have a picnic at the Nature Center patio and drop by the Outdoor Aviary after to see the Great Horned Owl; otherwise, greet Chewy, the center’s animal ambassador.

You and your family can also join Elachee Nature Science Center’s nature programs available all year round like Science Nights, Discovery Saturdays, and Stars Over Elachee.

Get Choice Products at Gainesville Farmers’ Market

For samples of local produce and items, you can visit Gainesville Farmers Market.

The market runs from May to October every Friday at the Historic Downtown Square.

The market is purely Gainesville, with farmers and businesses selling local quality goods.

Take your pick from a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, farm-fresh eggs, honey, and pasture-raised meats.

Try some baked goods like breads, cakes, pastries, jams, jellies, and more from various food suppliers.

Check out some Hall County crafts like woodwork, handmade soaps, lotions, and others.

Aside from great finds at Gainesville Farmers Market, you’ll also enjoy local musicians performing at The Bench in The Square’s center area in the afternoon.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Watch a Stage Production at Gainesville Theater Alliance

If you’re in the city, don’t miss out on any of the productions staged by the Gainesville Theater Alliance.

Formed as a collaboration of students, professionals, and community members, it aims to promote learning and growth through the performing arts.

Nationally recognized, this group of talented people organizes performances of popular stage plays and musicals.

If you love the theater, a show run by this group is definitely a must-add to your itinerary.

Final Thoughts

If you want to experience rich history and culture while being surrounded by majestic nature, then make Gainesville, GA, your next holiday destination.

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