As winter 2020 rolls around, it’s natural to want to hunker down, TV remote control in hand. But even when it’s cold, there’s a slew of free (or almost free!) activities to keep you busy in January and February. With a little pre-planning, exploring Gwinnett (and metro Atlanta) doesn’t have to break the budget. Here are a few of our favorite ways to wile away the winter blues.
If you weren’t already convinced that the Gwinnett County Public Library is all that, this will probably do it. Library customers can check out a one-week pass for free admission for a family of 4 to several great local/regional attractions—including the Southeastern Railway Museum, Wrens Nest Museum, Center for Puppetry Arts, Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites, William C. Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, Chattahoochee Nature Center and Zoo Atlanta. Visit www.gwinnettpl.org/passes for the scoop!
Another great way to save—and enjoy free admission at three additional museums—is as easy as getting out your wallet. Present your Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® credit or debit card and a picture ID on the first full weekend of every month for one free general admission to several of Atlanta’s most popular museums, including the Atlanta History Center, Center for Civil and Human Rights, High Museum of Art and Tellus Science Museum. The Tellus is 40 minutes north of Atlanta, in Cartersville, but it is one of our favorite gems, no pun intended.
Tellus, a Smithsonian Institute Affiliate Museum, houses four major galleries: Weinman Mineral Gallery, Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion Gallery and My Big Back Yard. In addition, the museum includes a fossil dig and gem-panning hands-on experience, a planetarium and an observatory. It’s a great day trip from Gwinnett. For all museum experiences, visit www.about.bankofamerica.com.
Our website (www.exploregwinnett.org) is another great destination for bargain hunters—visit www.exploregwinnett. org/deals for BOGO deals on Stars and Strikes, Aurora Theatre tickets or Malibu Norcross. You can get $5 off a Georgia
Swarm ticket, a free train ride at the Southeastern Railway Museum, 20% off your next visit to Brainstorm Escape Games or spend-$20-get-$20 at Dave and Buster’s. The Aurora Theatre’s eagerly anticipated winter production of the Tony-award winning “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a great way to utilize the deal.
There’s nothing better than a relaxing night out enjoying a craft beverage during a cold winter night. A few of our favorites include Team Trivia at StillFire Brewing in Suwanee or playing cornhole at Slow Pour Brewing (the home of Peach State Cornhole’s winter league). Anderby Brewing in Peachtree Corners is turning out some of the best craft brews around, and their ever-rotating list of creations includes Pale Ales, English Bitters, Sours, IP and my personal favorite, the Peachtree Pils lager. Town Center Snellville hosts one of the biggest and best Winter Farmers Markets (running from 9 a.m. to noon on 1st Saturday of month) featuring the freshest produce, meats, eggs and honey. After filling up at the market, it’s a short drive to the popular Lincoln Fill Station, one of Atlanta’s premier destinations for craft beer, fine cigars and occasional live music. Beer buffs can choose up to 5 tasters from among 65 taps (or defer to the staff’s choices) for just $10.99!
Foodies will also love the charming VSOP (Olive Oil and Vinegar) Taproom, located in the heart of historic downtown Norcross. VSOP specializes in the finest extra virgin olive oils (EVOO), balsamic vinegars and specialty oils and vinegars from around the world. But the most splendid attribute of VSOP is that visitors can taste everything. When you enter, you’ll notice each oil and vinegar station has small tasting cups so you can try the products before you purchase. Equally splendid are VSOP’s monthly free wine tastings! Check out www.vsoptaproom.com for 2020 dates.
Lastly, if you haven’t been to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn, it’s about time you get to know this stunning cultural destination. One of the largest mandirs in the world, the Mandir is free and open to all. Visiting hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and visitors can choose from either a free self-guided tour or a $5 audio tour detailing the fascinating story of how the Mandir was built, the Hindu sentiments for the sacred images and the significance of Hindu rituals. The audio tour is multilingual. For groups of 10+, the Mandir offers guided tours with reservations at www.baps.org. Experiences include immersion in the ‘Abhishek’ ritual (chanting of prayers and mantras) and witnessing the midday Arti ceremony, an ancient Hindu offering made by waving lighted wicks before the sacred images to the accompaniment of a musical prayer.
Lisa is the Executive Director of Explore Gwinnett, Gwinnett’s official tourism office, and also serves as Gwinnett’s Camera Ready/film liaison representative to Georgia’s film/TV industry.