5 Within 50


Wanna take a tour that doesn’t involve a droning museum docent? Jump outside the box of generic guided tours—and we mean way outside the box. Here are five tours less than 50 miles from Gwinnett that feel 10,000 miles away.

Babyland General Hospital


Shout out to the children of the 80s. Did you assume Cabbage Patch Dolls came from a toy factory in China? Wrong. They come from a magic fairy land in Cleveland, Georgia. Take a tour at Babyland General (along with the crowds of school children) and watch as nurses with salad tongs help Mother Cabbage give live birth. You’ll learn how the “magic bunny bees” on the ceiling “sprinkle magic pollen over the crystals” to help induce labour, along with other strange euphemisms for conception. The Stork Myth will sound pretty plausible by comparison. Bonus: all freshly birthed cabbage babies are available for adoption (a.k.a. purchase) in the gift shop at the end of the tour.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir


During the construction of the incredible BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, more than 34,000 hand-carved pieces of marble, limestone, and sandstone were sent from India and assembled piece-by-piece without mortar or nails. Located in Lilburn, it’s the largest mandir (place of worship) of its kind outside India. Enter this glittering Hindu temple and feel the American South drop away completely. Astonishing in beauty and craftsmanship, the structure features 86 decorative ceilings, 116 archways, and 340 columns carved with Hindu deities. Open to the public between 9am and 6pm, visitors are encouraged to attend the spellbinding Arti ceremony (daily at 11:15am) of twirling incense and musical prayer. Guided and audio tours available.

CDC Museum


Time travel to a post-apocalyptic world where mutating viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are fought by superheros in hazmats…except you don’t need to travel to the future, just to the Atlanta campus of the Center for Disease Control. At the goosebump-inducing CDC museum you’ll learn about the fight to eliminate polio and malaria, the investigation of Legionnaire’s disease, and the spread of Ebola. The best part? Those same toxic diseases are stored just a few hundred feet away at CDC National Headquarters.

Georgia Guidestones


Conspiracy theorists, this one’s for you. Did you know there is a Stonehenge-esque monument inscribed with a Rosetta Stone prophecy for a mutant future? Yeah, #ndb. Towering in a cow pasture in Nuberg, Georgia, the stones were erected in 1980 with the funds of a mysterious investor under the pseudonym “R.C. Christian”. Carved on four sides in Egyptian hieroglyphics, classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Babylonian cuneiform, it reads: “Let these be Guidestones to an Age of Reason.” The other stones are covered with a list of commandments written in Swahili, Hebrew, Chinese and other languages. There’s even an allusion to a time capsule buried underneath. Take a self-guided tour and draw your own conclusions.

Vampire Diaries Tour


A short drive to Covington, the filming location of Vampire Diaries, transports you to the Louisiana town of Mystic Falls. Take the “Stalking Tour” with the Vampire Stalkers company. Their guides know all the ins-and-outs of the secret locations (including Giuseppe’s Pub, Rousseau’s Bar, and The Voodoo Shop), and will even take you to site of Damon and Elena’s rain kiss (see episode 6:06). Eery back alleys, historic buildings, and personal anecdotes from the actors will bring back your favorite Vampire Diary moments. Just keep your wooden spike handy.