Have you been to Duluth, Georgia? Find out why you should visit this charming “small town” (my hometown) and what to do once you’re there!
Duluth is my hometown, and my mom’s side of the family has lived there since the 1970s. Back then there were less than 2,000 inhabitants. Now Duluth has reached city status with a population of almost 30,000. But it still has all that small town charm!
From a lovely town green to cute shops to creative art installations, you will love the atmosphere downtown. Not to mention all the fun activities the area has to offer! Duluth is an ideal destination for adults and kids.
So let’s get started. Here are all the secret and not-so-secret things to do in Duluth!
Duluth, Georgia: Quick Facts
First, let’s orient ourselves. This is Duluth, Georgia – not Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth is located a little over 20 miles northeast of Atlanta, in Gwinnett County. It is an incredibly diverse area, with high percentages of immigrants from Latin America and Korea.
A Little Bit of Duluth’s History
In 1818, Gwinnett County was formed out of Cherokee and Creek land. Shortly thereafter, white settlers began to move into the area. One of them, Evan Howell, founded Howell Crossing on the site of present-day Duluth.
In the 1870s, a major change occurred: the railroad came to Howell Crossing. The grateful inhabitants decided to rename their town in honor of the railroad’s northern terminus – Duluth, Minnesota. So there is actually a connection between the two Duluths!
Trains brought life to Duluth. Over the years, more and more people moved into the area – with a decided boom at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century. Now, as you will soon see, Duluth is a happening place!
What To Do In Downtown Duluth, Georgia
If you are in Duluth, your first stop should be to visit downtown. There is lots of free parking available on Hill Street and on Main Street, so unless you are visiting on a festival day parking won’t be an issue. Plus there are free, clean public restrooms right on the Town Green around the back of the Festival Center!
And now here is my list of top things to do in downtown Duluth, Georgia.
1. Relax on the Duluth Town Green.
The Duluth Town Green is beautiful. Green lawns stretch down to a bubbling fountain, and shaded benches and lawn chairs abound. The City Hall rises up at one end of the green, while the Duluth Festival Center/amphitheater overlooks the fountain.
You can spread a blanket on the grass or lounge in one of the lawn chairs. Or simply stroll around! Keep an eye out for various monuments, such as “The Dream Keepers” and “The Living Honorarium”.
The Town Green is an excellent place to bring your children. I have many fond memories of playing here as a child, and to this day kids are always running about on the grass and splashing in the fountain. There is also a train-themed playground up the hill, next to the City Hall, where kids can have fun!
2. Snap a photo with the Duluth Eastern Continental Divide Monument.
The eastern continental divide runs straight through the heart of downtown Duluth. What does this mean? Basically, that on one side of the divide water drains east to the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other, water drains west to the Gulf of Mexico.
Duluth chose to mark the divide’s location with a monument. It’s a great photo op, not to mention a chance to learn (or teach your kids) about science. In my opinion, it’s one of the best roadside attractions in north Georgia!
The monument doesn’t appear in Google Maps, but it’s hard to miss if you are strolling around downtown Duluth. It’s right across from the Maple Street Biscuit Company!
3. Admire the public art installations in and around Parsons Alley.
Just across from the Town Green is Parsons Alley, named in honor of the Parsons store that used to be on the spot (more about Parsons below). Now Parsons Alley is home to cute shops, restaurants, and public art installations.
See if you can find the Historic Duluth mosaic, the mermaids tail mural, and the phoenix wind sculpture (all right in Parsons Alley). A little further away, on Hill Street, some giant ants decorate the wall next to the sidewalk. And, of course, there is the “Chocolate Lady” mural outside The Chocolaterie!
Speaking of chocolate . . .
4. Grab a snack or a meal at one of Duluth’s tasty eateries.
There are so many delicious treats available in downtown Duluth. Visit The Chocolaterie for handmade artisan chocolates and fudge, as well as gourmet ice cream. And don’t miss Simply Done Donuts with their amazing mini-donuts in creative flavors!
If you want a more substantial meal, there are plenty of options. Some of my favorites are Pure Taqueria (Mexican) and Sweet Octopus (Asian fusion). And the Maple Biscuit Company is a great breakfast destination serving classic southern dishes.
5. Visit the old Duluth jail.
The original Duluth jail – the Duluth Calaboose – still sits in the center of Main Street, a few minutes’ walk from the Town Green. The two-lane road divides to pass around the historic one-room building, which was built in 1909.
The jail is only open to visitors during the Duluth Fall Festival (more about the festival below). But during the rest of the year you can peek in the windows and get a good look at this relic of times past. The jail isn’t on Google Maps, but you can find it right across from the Duluth branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library.
6. Walk through the historic Duluth Church Cemetery.
If you like old cemeteries, then don’t miss the Duluth Church Cemetery. It is located right behind the City Hall and the earliest grave dates to 1878. Many of Duluth’s founders found their final resting place here.
See if you can locate the grave of Alice Harrell Strickland, the first female mayor of Duluth and of the whole state of Georgia. She was elected in 1921, just one year after women gained the right to vote!
7. Go watch the trains roll by.
Do you like trains? Or do your kids like trains? Then walk down to the parking lot behind Pure Taqueria (only a few minutes from the Town Green). You will have a great view of the tracks and you can easily see the crossing guards going up and down. Just stay a safe distance back and hold onto your kids!
Trains still pass through downtown Duluth several times a day. It’s frustrating when you are running late to piano lessons and get stuck waiting. But it’s also fun to count the train cars. And I remember falling asleep every night with the comforting sound of the train’s whistle echoing in the distance.
Things To Do In Duluth, Georgia
The Duluth Town Green is beautiful, but this isn’t all Duluth has to offer. Here are some of the best things to do in and near Duluth, Georgia!
1. Go tubing on the Chattahoochee River.
Looking for some adventure and relief from heat on hot summer days? Then river tubing on the Chattahoochee is just the thing! Chattahoochee River Tubing offers 2-hour and 4-hour experiences on the river all summer long.
Limited free parking is available onsite, and then shuttles will take you to the river and pick you up at the end of your tubing trip. You can also rent kayaks!
Address: 4349 Abbotts Bridge Road, Duluth, GA 30097
2. Learn about the past at the Southeastern Railway Museum.
Railway buffs come to Duluth from all over to visit the Southeastern Railway Museum. It’s easy to see why! The museum has thorough exhibits on transportation history and features dozens of retired railway cars – cabooses, locomotives, passenger cars, etc. You could easily spend an entire day here.
There are also things of interest to more casual visitors. For instance, you don’t need to know anything about railway history to enjoy touring the Pullman Superb. This private passenger car once carried President Harding!
Kids love this museum, because you can climb all over the train cars. Plus your admission ticket includes a short ride on a historic train. Last time I visited, happy children were bouncing around everywhere.
The one downside is that tickets are a bit pricey – $18 for adults and $12 for children. But they also include entry to the Historic Duluth Train Depot, which is next door. This tiny museum on the history of Duluth is run by the Duluth Historical Society.
Address: 3595 Buford Hwy, Duluth, GA 30096
3. Enjoy a night out at the Red Clay Music Foundry.
Are you a fan of some good old live music? Then Eddie Owen Presents @ the Red Clay Music Foundry is the perfect place for you.
This cozy 260-seat live music venue welcomes singer-songwriters of all different kinds. Country, bluegrass, rock . . . you can find it all here. The small size means that you have a great view and sound from everywhere in the venue!
Live music takes place on the weekends; you can check out the schedule here.
Address: 3116 Main Street, Duluth, GA 30096 (right off the town green)
4. Buy souvenirs at Parsons Gifts.
Parsons Gifts & Boutique is a classic Duluth shop. The first Parsons store opened on Main Street in 1925. Originally they sold groceries, hardware, and retail items, but over the years they gradually reduced their scope.
Now Parsons has left Duluth and moved a few miles away to Suwanee. But we still think of it as a Duluth store. You can find a bit of everything there – clothes, jewelry, purses, candles, chocolate – but we usually go to buy Georgia and Duluth-themed gifts.
For instance, when I traveled to Peru to meet my now-husband’s family, I brought them Georgia-themed coasters from Parsons!
Address: 1500 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Suwanee, GA 30024
5. Explore McDaniel Farm Park.
Duluth has many lovely green spaces. One of my favorites is McDaniel Farm Park, located on the site of an old cotton farm from the 1820s. In fact, I love this park so much that my husband and I took our engagement photos there!
There are two main entrances. The historic one is near the restored farmhouse, barn, and outbuildings. The park entrance, on the other hand, is by the playground and dog park. Both entrances connect to the 3 miles of trails. It’s a great place to walk, bike, and relax!
Historic Entrance: 3251 McDaniel Road, Duluth, GA 30096
Park Entrance: 3020 McDaniel Road, Duluth, GA 30096
6. Find filming locations at Gwinnett Place Mall.
Are you a Stranger Things fan? Then you won’t want to miss this stop. Netflix filmed the Starcourt Mall portions of Stranger Things Season 3 in Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth.
Now the film set is gone, but you can still visit the mall. To be honest, it’s a bit of a dump. I remember years ago when it was a lively place, but now only few stores remain. Definitely don’t go here after dark on your own!
Address: 2100 Pleasant Hill Rd, Duluth, GA 30096
7. Enjoy an evening out at Medieval Times.
I mentioned that Gwinnett Place Mall is struggling. Well, that is mostly due to competition from Sugarloaf Mills. This massive shopping mall arrived in nearby Lawrenceville in 2001 and is now the largest outlet mall in Georgia.
Sugarloaf Mills is technically in Lawrenceville, but it is close to the Duluth-Lawrenceville line and Duluth residents go there all the time. Shops, restaurants, a movie theater, mini golf . . . there’s a lot to do. But one of the best entertainment options is Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament.
Go and enjoy a medieval dinner while watching a jousting tournament in the court of the Queen. Cheer on your knight as he strives to win the title of Defender of the Throne! Guests of all ages will love the excitement and drama.
Address: 5900 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville, GA 30043
8. Play miniature golf at Pirate’s Cove.
Duluth has its own Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf course. If you are looking for a fun family activity in Duluth, then Pirate’s Cove is a great option. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the experience, which takes you around various water features and even up onto a pirate ship.
Go test your golf skills and learn some fun facts about 18th-century buccaneers! You can choose between 18-hole and 27-hole options. Pro tip: visit between 4 and 6 pm Monday through Wednesday for lower “happy hour” prices.
Address: 3380 Venture Parkway, Duluth GA 30096
Seasonal Things To Do in Downtown Duluth, Georgia
No matter when you visit Duluth, there will usually be something exciting occurring on the Town Green. Here are some events to watch for!
- The Duluth Farmers Market operates on the last Thursday of most months. Head to downtown Duluth to purchase produce, baked goods, candles, lotions, and other homemade/homegrown goodies.
- If you are visiting in May, don’t miss the Duluth Spring Arts Festival. Dozens of artists set up booths on the Duluth Town Green; wares range from paintings to glasswork to jewelry. There is also music and food!
- On Friday nights during the summer, the Duluth Town Green comes alive. Residents come out for Food Truck Friday and have fun listening to live music on the green. On select Fridays there are family-friendly outdoor movie showings (Flicks on the Bricks).
- On the last weekend in September the city hosts the Duluth Fall Festival. Almost 200 vendors come from all over the southeast to sell their arts and crafts on the Town Green, and over 100,000 people attend. There is also a parade – that was definitely my favorite part as a child!
- Finally, I have to mention Duluth’s Christmas House. Every Christmas season, the owners of 2929 Mockingbird Circle turn their front yard into a holiday wonderland. You can park nearby and explore the dozens and dozens of lights, blow-up decorations, etc. This house isn’t in downtown Duluth, but it’s only a 5-minute drive away.
And all of this is just a taste of what Duluth has to offer. Make sure you check the Duluth events calendar to see what’s happening while you are there!
Plan Your Visit to Duluth, Georgia
I hope that I have convinced you that Duluth, Georgia is definitely worth a visit. There are so many fun things to do in Duluth, no matter what season you visit.
So don’t delay – plan your trip to Duluth! There’s no time like the present.
And if you enjoy visiting small towns, check out my post on Elberton, another unique destination in north Georgia. Read all about the mysterious Georgia Guidestones and downtown Elberton!
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