You’d be surprised what’s just around the corner

You know how you always drive the same route to your regular places? The grocery store? Your favorite park? Your marina? The kids’ school?

It’s time you got lost, right here in Hall County and Lake Lanier. You’d be surprised how much there is to do and see – enough to fill more than a long weekend or a week’s vacation. And all without having to fully tank up at today’s ever-increasing fuel prices.

Inside view of new Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Center showing rack with brochures, shirts, and other lake items for purchase.

The new Lake Lanier Visitors Center in downtown Flowery Branch

Thanks to the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau the ideal stay-cation is right around the corner.

“Whether you want some fun day-trips, an afternoon adventure or a full weekend including lodging, we’ve got you covered,” said Stacey Dickson, executive director of the bureau. “With new and hidden treasures at Lanier Islands to myriad dining choices from down home to white tablecloth, you don’t need to drive far to discover fun for the family or a romantic getaway.”

She suggests visiting and explore places to play, eat, shop and stay, as well as a comprehensive and up-to-date list of events.

“Then take your pick, build an itinerary, load up the car and head out,” she said. “Be adventurous and you’ll find out without venturing too far from home that you can discover what brings visitors from across the state and the Southeast to Lake Lanier for recreation, lodging, dining and attractions.”

Downtown Flowery Branch

Changes are afoot at the once-quiet downtown Flowery Branch. With new eateries and retail stores moving into the south side of Main Street, the Thursday farmers’ market under the spacious pavilion, and a staffed welcome center at 5512 Main Street, it’s worth a visit. It has a gift shop featuring a colorful Lanier Hawaiian shirt that’s sure to keep selling out.

The Social Peach Boutique is filled with stylish and fun clothing; other stores are set to move in as well. Several new restaurants are opening in the next few months, including El Sabor Consteno Mexican food and 4 Elephants featuring Laotian specialties.

The city’s new amphitheater is the location for festivals and concerts starting this summer.

Long-standing businesses include the successful Antebellum, a constant national award-winning white-tablecloth restaurant created by Nick and Alison St. Clair, their popular Peyton’s Pies wood-fired pizza with a second location in downtown Gainesville, Beer Me Taproom, Whole Being Café and Janet Upchurch’s Sample Pleasures for local art and antiques.

Key destinations reveal their newest fun

Head shot of Jaemor Farms employee in front of bins of fresh produce.

Carli Echols is a third-generation family member at Jaemor Farms

For years people have flocked to Jaemor Farms on Ga. 365 for farm-fresh produce, fresh peach and strawberry ice cream and seasonal peaches and apples. This year, visitors can also partake of you-pick wildflowers.

Don’t forget to try at least two varieties of fried pies; choose from old-fashioned dried apple and dried peach, fresh fruit apple, peach, cherry, blueberry, sweet potato and sugar-free apple. Apple fritters are large enough to share.

The Lake Lanier Olympic Park is a flurry of activity as the new boathouse rises from the shoreline off Clarks Bridge Road. The racing tower side of the park offers a wide range of activities for both the rowing and canoe/kayak venue, from Food Truck Fridays and reginal/national competitive events to the July 14 Beach Bash and the Chicken Cook-off on October 21.

New Lake Lanier Olympic Park boathouse under construction.

Looking to the future: The brand-new boathouse at Lake Lanier Olympic Park takes shape.

A Kayak Kiosk with kayak and paddler standing in front.

Gainesville’s Kayak Vending Machine at Longwood Park offers self-serve access to paddling on Lanier

An innovative program to provide more lake access, Gainesville’s Kayak Vending Machine at Longwood Park received a Trailblazer Award, presented by the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus. The partnership between Gainesville Parks and Recreation and the Gainesville CVB provides kayaks for people to rent.

“This is an excellent way to spend some time on Lake Lanier, even if you don’t have a boat,” said Robyn Lynch, director of tourism for the city. “This is just another way that we can help our area residents enjoy the many recreational resources we have to offer.”

Eight years ago, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville opened to rave reviews. Created on part of 168 acres donated by the Smithgall family in 2000, it has become the largest conservation nursery in the Southeast.

In addition to tours, the Gainesville location offers family programs and brings in traveling exhibitions. Its current display, which continues through August 27, La Calavera Catrina’s nine colorful and whimsical larger-than-life sculptures represent the most popular figure during Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, Latin America and the U.S.

“Death is treated as a celebration of life, not a mournful commemoration,” said Mildred Fockele, director of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville. Monarch butterflies and Mexican marigolds are woven into the figures as well, two important themes in the celebration of life.”

The garden recently added several sculptures, donated by Hamilton Gardens in Blairsville. They include a praying mantis, a dragonfly with wings that move in the wind and a clump of stately cattails.

Exploring Lanier Islands and Margaritaville

Don’t think you know everything there is to do at Lanier Islands and Margaritaville. Perhaps you’ve visited the park for a day, but there’s more to see and do if you add a couple of overnight stays.

Inside view of new recreational facility at Lanier Islands showing indoor golf and game machines.

An Escape Room, indoor golf and dozens of games are just part of the fun at Game Changer at Lanier Islands.

Lanier Islands recently opened Game Changer, its 15,000-square-foot indoor recreation destination that includes virtual sports suites, a hole putting green, arcade games and an escape room. Game Changer has its own chef for its restaurant and bar, plenty of large-screen televisions that are tuned in to the latest sports programming.

The two-level entertainment facility has four lanes of ax throwing, more than 50 classic and state-of-the arts arcade games, a 9-hole putting green and a western-themed escape room that includes a bank-vault break-in challenge. Four virtual sports suites, ideal for corporate events and private parties, can simulate golf, soccer, football and baseball.

In addition to Legacy Lodge, overnight guests can choose from the newly renovated Lakehouses at Legacy for family gatherings, or Legacy Villas that can be booked with as many as six individually keyed rooms and flexible floor plans.

Margaritaville’s brand-new RV and Camping Resort is nestled along the shoreline under tall pines and hardwoods and offers several options for RV stays. And if you don’t have an RV, there are a couple that you can lease to experience the lake life.

Inside of a Glamping tent with bed, wood floors, and lighting.

Check out the upscale glamping sites at the Margaritaville RV Resort.

Tiny house-style cabins at Camp Margaritaville have lake-front views, firepits, and furnished kitchens to serve as home base for visiting the beaches and amenities at the park.

Out-of-town guests have experienced Margaritaville in a way that locals often miss. By booking an overnight stay, locals can become immersed in the lake lifestyle without a long drive.

Just scratching the surface

The area offers many more attractions, including the Northeast Georgia History Center and the Quinlan Arts Center, breweries and distilleries including Liquid Nation Brewery and Remedy Distillery, the Elachee Nature Center with regular nature hikes and family adventures, plus the Highlands to Islands Trail.

Georgia State Parks like Don Carter State Park on Lake Lanier, and Historic sites and many US Army Corps of Engineers’ lakeside parks and campgrounds broaden options.

“So many people miss what’s going on in their own backyards because it’s local and they take ‘close by’ for granted,” Dickson said. “However, maybe it’s time to dig deeper beyond what’s familiar and check out what Lanier, Gainesville and Hall County have to offer. You won’t be disappointed.”

Getting started here at home

Here are several resources for planning your stay-cation: