I had a much longer and verbose, then a much shorter and terse answer, but in the end, both brevity (the soul of wit) and pedantics went out the window, so here is my answer to simply expound upon this:
Yes, Linux is a hobby, if you choose to treat it like one
That is, something one dabbles with on a weekend, occasionally accomplishing something amazing, more often than not swearing and threatening to kick it down the sewer. Yet one resolutely soldiers on with wrench, hammer, and sandpaper, and when it's finally polished and purring like a kitten, it gets shown to friends and fellow enthusiasts to rounds of acclaim.
If that's how you see it or feel about it, then Yes, stick with Windows for "serious" work and play with your choice of distro when you get an itch to tinker with something that appears to be half-broke much of the time, trying to make something of it. That's what most hobbies are all about.
For others (e.g. yours truly) however, it is every bit as basic and essential as any other operating system. Just like users of Windows or Mac OSX, we do many of the same things, use different software, swear at bugs, work around shortcomings and occasionally mutter "I'm so glad I don't have to use [other operating system], my work would be impossible!".
For me, it's not a hobby. Bugs are mortal enemies, not curiosities to scoff at. Optimization is a task to be seized upon, not a pipe dream involving expensive hardware alone. Software is bent to my will or it doesn't survive, rather than vice-versa. A terminal is where I issue commands, not polite requests.
Most importantly, Linux is how I get work done, and it's proven more than adequate for the job. Sure, there are some Windows programs I miss (xPlorer2, Notepadd++), but I'm not crippled without them.
For the record, I'm running snappily with Debian Wheezy (production work on a Testing system? GASP!) on a 2.4 GHz single-core AMD 64 4000+, 4 GB RAM, a 160 GB hard drive, and ATI Radeon HD 2600XT graphics.
I abandoned Xubuntu a year and a half ago and never looked back (running waaay too slow, surprised?).
In that case, is Gnome 3 the way to go for a true Linux experience?
I'll just say this; A "true Linux experience" is not dependent on any gui or distro, it's whatever works for you
If Gnome 3 works and does what you want it to, then the answer is "Yes!"; for others... not a chance.
Personally, I use Xfce, because it (wait for it...) works for me
, and so it is (to me) a "true" Linux experience; in fact, one I am constantly trying to emulate when I get sat in front of a Windows machine.
... BTW, with Xfce, you can auto-hide panels, place them wherever you want, in any size.