Editor’s Note: To celebrate the City of Gainesville turning 200 years old on Nov. 30, 2021, Gainesville Georgia Government is sharing interesting highlights from its centuries-old history. This is the seventh installment in a series, which will be featured monthly through November 2021 on gainesville.org and social media. For June, we present to you information spotlighting Gainesville's well-known and well-loved attractions.
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (June 30, 2021) – Located on the shores of Lake Sidney Lanier and at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the City of Gainesville is the tourism and economic center of Northeast Georgia. Gainesville sits halfway between the Appalachian Mountains and the urban city center of Atlanta. Having the nickname "Hospitality Capital of the World", Gainesville is home to more than 43,000 people, though that number skyrockets to 150,000-plus residents and visitors during the day.
Lake Sidney Lanier
Lake Sidney Lanier became a household name internationally when Gainesville hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics, specifically the canoe and kayak events, at Lake Lanier Olympic Park.
Lake Lanier is located in North Georgia, just 60 miles from the state capitol of Atlanta. The 692 miles of shoreline borders the following five counties: Dawson, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall and Lumpkin. The lake opened in 1957 after construction was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Today, Lake Lanier is a multi-purpose lake that's still operated by the Corps of Engineers.
The lake serves many important functions such as hydroelectricity, navigation, flood control, wildlife management and provides a water supply; however, you can find most natives to the area talking about the fishing, boating and parks that are home to the 38,000 acres of Lake Lanier. It's estimated that there are over 7 million visitors to the lake annually, all of whom are exploring the beauty of the North Georgia region and the recreational opportunities available.
Learn more about Lake Lanier here.
Engine 209 Park
Engine 209 Park is a community favorite, sitting at the corner of Grove and Davis streets. Engine 209 Park is closed and currently undergoing renovations. It will be incorporated as a key element in a new and larger park so this piece of beloved history will be more approachable and accessible for residents and visitors, including those who are out walking the Midland greenway.
The historic train, Engine 209, was built in 1930 and operated until 1959 before it was preserved for public enjoyment. The current park is located on the original route of the Gainesville Midland Railway and has been home to the engine, baggage car and caboose since 1991.
Recently, the baggage car was relocated to The Chair Factory in Midland, where plans call for it to be renovated and repurposed into a dining car.
Engine 209 Park is also part of the Adopt-A-Park program through the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
Historic Piedmont Hotel
Built in 1876, this historic Gainesville landmark has played host to many notable names in post-Civil War history. The Piedmont Hotel was owned and operated by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, CSA and served as his political base throughout most of his career as a Republican.
Generals Joseph Johnston and Daniel Sickles, editor and author Henry Grady, and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson were all frequent guests of the hotel. It is even reported that President Wilson's daughter, Jessie, was born on the ground floor of the hotel. In 1918, the family decided to raze the rundown building, but a last-minute decision saved the ground floor of one wing.
Today, the renovated north wing of the hotel serves as a living memorial to the general. The Historic Piedmont Hotel is open to visitors from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. To learn more about the hotel, visit longstreetsociety.org/home.html.
Rock Creek Veterans Park
Located on the corner of West Academy Street and Northside Drive, Rock Creek Veterans Park is the gateway into the Rock Creek Greenway, linking parks from downtown Gainesville to Lake Lanier.
The site of impressive World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials dedicated to local heroes is a must-see. Rock Creek Veterans Park is conveniently located near the historic downtown square.
In addition to the war memorial and its close proximity to the square, Rock Creek Park's other amenities include an amphitheater with seating for 300 people, benches, multi-use trail (Rock Creek Greenway Solar System Trail), parking on Northside Drive (five spaces, including one handicap-accessible space) and pond.
Atlanta Botanical Garden
*The following information is shared from atlantabg.org.*
The mission of the Atlanta Botanical Garden is to develop and maintain plant collections for display, education, research, conservation and enjoyment.
Since the Garden opened its doors in 1976 in Atlanta, it's become the emerald jewel in the crown of Atlanta culture. The Garden is an ever-evolving destination where the horticulturally-minded, nature-inspired and fun-seeking families come together to feel human again.
The Gainesville location, opened in 2015, celebrates years of planning and development of one of North Georgia’s most beautiful landscapes aimed at connecting visitors with both the natural world and cultural amenities. It is home to the largest conservation nursery in the Southeast. Renowned plant collections, beautiful displays and spectacular exhibitions make the Atlanta Botanical Garden the loveliest place to visit.
An urban oasis in the heart of Midtown, the Atlanta Garden includes 30 acres of outdoor gardens, an award-winning Children’s Garden, the serene Storza Woods highlighted by a unique Canopy Walk and the picturesque Skyline Garden.
Historic Downtown Square
Located in the heart of the business district, downtown Gainesville is home to a number of boutique and second-generation specialty stores, a wide variety of restaurants, and entertaining and vibrant downtown nightlife.
With all that Gainesville has to offer, it's hard to stay away – but why would you want to?
Explore what dining options downtown Gainesville has to offer here.
Known as the “Downtown Get-Around” and launched this summer, this eight-person club car services the area of the historic Gainesville square. The free service is available from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, rain or shine, making it more convenient for visitors to access downtown restaurants and retailers, plus City events.
Explore what services downtown Gainesville has to offer here.
Explore what retailers downtown Gainesville has to offer here.
Discover historical facts along Main Street Gainesville’s new self-guided walking tour. Learn more here.
Vibrant and lively, the City of Gainesville hosts many community events each year. This summer, the downtown Gainesville square is home to monthly concerts on the first Friday of each month. Lake Lanier Olympic Park hosts a food truck night on the second Friday of each month. And, back for 2021, Beach Bash will offer a taste of sand and sun from 5-10 p.m. Friday, July 16, on the shores of Lake Lanier. Look for these summer event series that happen monthly, plus plenty of other special events and festivals. Check out the City's events calendar here.
While exploring Gainesville, you're very likely to find paintings or sculptures or perhaps even a little gold "BURD". These installations of public art are displayed in accessible and visual areas across the community.
What is public art, you might ask? Works planned and created with the sole intention of being placed within an accessible public domain and created specifically for a public place which influences or makes a difference in how an individual or community relates to that place.
The City continues to place priority on bringing additional public art to Gainesville, especially impressive works the community can be proud of.
Use the Google map to explore many of the wonderful pieces of art around Gainesville. Or if you prefer, download the printable map. However you choose to explore, happy art hunting!
Galleries and Performing Arts Venues
The Arts Council, Quinlan Visual Arts Center, Brenau University Galleries, Gainesville Theatre Alliance and Gallery on the Square specialize in bringing the arts to the community. Learn more here.
Gainesville is the perfect place for a walking tour, with beautiful views of the City that span across many of our parks and the downtown area. All are easily accessible by foot to and from our local hotels and restaurants. All walking tours are self-guided and available to you at no charge. Learn more here.
To learn more about Gainesville, visit gainesville.org or "Like" and follow the following City-managed social media pages: @GainesvilleGeorgiaGovernment, @DowntownGainesvilleGA, @ExploreGainesville and @GainesvilleParkandRec.