When planning a trip there are lots of things to consider. But whether you’re talking about a long weekend or a summer vacation in some exciting, exotic locales, it all begins with location.
Paris … Rio … San Francisco … Gwinnett County.
Uh-huh, Gwinnett. Maybe it was the day we drove on two different presidential highways (from two different parties, no less!) there. Or maybe it was the thrill of getting lost just trying to find the bathrooms in the biggest mall in all of Georgia that did it.
Whatever. At some point it struck us. Why ever go anywhere else? Gwinnett’s simply the best.
Here’s 9 reasons why:
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1. It has the best civic mind-control mottos: “Gwinnett is Great.” “Success Lives Here.” For 40 years, those shy-and-retiring slogans were slathered across a pair of enormous water towers that rose side-by-side near the Jimmy Carter Boulevard exit off I-85 in Norcross. The county finally decided to demolish them in 2010 — but they still have their very own “Gwinnett Is Great Water Tower” Facebook page. And Gwinnett still has Snellville, “Where Everybody is Proud to be Somebody.” Or else.
2. It’s the most cosmopolitan place maybe in all of Georgia. You’d think that would be high-falutin’ Atlanta, right? You would be wrong. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics, nearly a quarter of Gwinnett’s population — 24.6 percent — is foreign born. That’s compared to 16.3 percent in DeKalb, about 15 percent in both Cobb and Clayton and 12.6 percent in Fulton. Which pretty much sounds like the textbook definition of cosmopolitan — “familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures” to us.
3. Waffle House Lives Here. Quick, somebody find a water tower and some paint for slathering! The syrup-soaked restaurant chain may be in 25 states now as it continues its inevitable march toward scattering, smothering and covering the entire country with its unique brand of comfort food-meets-hangover-cureall. But it all begins and ends at Waffle House’s corporate headquarters in Norcross.
4. It has an award-winning school system. Literally. Twice since 2010, Gwinnett County Public Schools has won the prestigious Broad Prize. No other school system in Georgia has even won it once. The national $1 million award goes to the large urban school district that demonstrates the strongest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among low-income students and students of color. The county’s also home to the state’s No. 1 public high school (and the 27th best in the entire country), according to U.S. News & World Report — Gwinnett County School of Mathematics, Science and Technology. Good. Maybe those brainiacs can finally explain Spaghetti Junction (also, where else, in Gwinnett) to us.
5. Two words: Button Gwinnett. C’mon, do we even need to explain this one?! It’s a rare enough feat to be the namesake county of someone who actually signed the Declaration of Independence. But … But … His first name was Button? Button?! How cool is that? Answer: So cool that “Hamilton” creator Lin Manuel Miranda and CBS late night host Stephen Colbert debuted their version of “Button!” aka “the next great American musical,” back in December. See it on YouTube.
6. Two more words: Box Lacrosse. Sure, you could go see the Atlanta Braves play right now. Or you could root for a local professional sports team, snicker. The Georgia Swarm is part of the National Lacrosse League, which plays its fast-paced games inside ice hockey rinks where the glass and rink boards remain (Sadly, they replace the ice with turf). The Swarm relocated here from Minnesota at the end of last season and plays at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth. They’ve also made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 — on Friday night, they’ll play at New England in the East Division semifinals.
7. A million people (any minute now) can’t be wrong. For three consecutive years in the 1980’s, once rural Gwinnett was the fastest-growing county in the entire United States. By 1990, in fact, the population had more than doubled to just under 353,000. To which Gwinnettians now say, Oh puh-leeze! In the 2010 Census, Gwinnett’s total population had swelled to an eyepopping 805,321. The county’s own “Unified Plan” projects that a little over one million people will be living there by the year 2030. Maybe it’s the only-in-Gwinnett thrill of getting to drive on both Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Ronald Reagan Parkway that’s attracting them all. Still, best book your tickets now for upcoming seasons at Aurora Theatre, the Lawrenceville juggernaut that’s pretty much swept the musical categories at the Suzi Bass Awards (Atlanta’s version of the Tonys) for the last four years.
8. Someone already living in Gwinnett is a major, major celebrity. With apologies to Glenn Burns or the good folks over at the Weather Channel, the most famous weather prognosticator here is General Beauregard Lee. For years, the esteemed groundhog has been emerging on February 2nd to look for his shadow and signs of an early spring at the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn. “Beau” has appeared on the Today Show, received honorary doctorates from several Georgia colleges and even had one of his claims rated “Mostly True” by the AJC’s no-fools-suffered Politifact operation.
9. Did we mention Button Gwinnett? Sorry, he’s too good not to repeat. Drop the mic, Gwinnett County, you win.