Learn and Play in Augusta Year-Round
by Hope S. Philbrick
Nestled alongside the Savannah River in the east central region of the state, Augusta is Georgia’s second largest city (after Atlanta) and the state’s second oldest city (after Savannah). But when you’re looking to get away and don’t want to bother with the airport or burn too much gasoline, Augusta, approximately 145 miles from Atlanta, is a great first-choice destination. Whether you’re looking to escape for a week, a weekend or even just for dinner, in search of romance, family time or a place to explore on your own, there are many reasons to visit throughout the year.
Exploring the Outdoors
Augusta is best known as the home of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. If playing 18 holes is your goal, there’s great news: Visitors are welcome to whack away at the dozen Augusta-area course options that allow non-member play. One option is the River Golf Club, just across the river in South Carolina. 803-202-0110, www.rivergolfclub.com.
While you can’t get onto the city’s most famous greens, you can get over them: Augusta Aviation, Inc. hosts aerial tours departing from Daniel Field and is authorized to fly anywhere within 25 nautical miles of the airport—and the great news for golf fans is that Augusta National is just three miles away. Other aerial tour highlights include Downtown Augusta, the Savannah River, the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area and Clarks Hill Dam. 706-733-8970, www.augustaaviation.com.
If you prefer boating, head to the Augusta Canal, Georgia’s first designated National Heritage Area, for a guided tour aboard a replica Petersburg canal cargo boat. Built in 1845 to harness the water and power of the Savannah River, the 8.5-mile canal today offers opportunities for walking, biking, canoeing and kayaking in addition to the informative historical cruise. Among the tour options is one commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. 706-823-0440, www.augustacanal.com.
Prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground? Stroll the boardwalks at the 1,100-acre Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, where the wildlife includes blue herons, egrets, red-shouldered hawks, otters, alligators and an elusive bobcat. Don’t forget your camera! 706-828-2109.
History and Culture
Learn while you stroll through the Augusta Museum of History, which showcases 12,000 years of local history. Collection highlights include a 10,000-year-old projectile point, a 1914 locomotive, a 1920s trolley car, an exhibition on the history of health care in Augusta and much more. A Local Legends exhibit showcases such famous residents as Ty Cobb and James Brown, who’s also honored with a statue in downtown’s James Brown Plaza. 706-722-8584, www.augustamuseum.org.
On Saturdays, departing from the Augusta Museum of History, The Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts a new Trolley Tour on the Lady Liberty Trolley that explores Augusta’s Historic Downtown. To journey at your own pace, pick up a CD at the Visitors Center for $10 and pop it into your CD player for a narrated self-guided driving tour through the city and its neighborhoods including Summerville, a resort area in the 1890s through the 1920s, and Old Towne, which boasts many fine examples of 19th century architecture. The narration includes details of Augusta’s founding, the Great Fire of 1916, cemeteries, presidential connections, arts, churches, museums, historic sites and more.
Among the places you’ll want to stop and explore is the Morris Museum of Art, dedicated to celebrating the American South. The collection includes nearly 5,000 paintings, works on paper, photographs and sculptures dating from Antebellum through contemporary periods. In addition to the permanent collection galleries, the museum hosts several special exhibitions each year. 706-724-7501, www.themorris.org.
At the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, discover the influence of African-Americans on education, banking, the arts and more. 706-724-3526, www.lucycraftlaneymuseum.com.
Glimpse Georgia life during the Civil War and Reconstruction at the boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson. The 28th president’s family home has been restored to its 1860s appearance with original paint colors, period furnishings including 13 original pieces used by the Wilson family, period accessories and replica floor coverings and window treatments. www.wilsonboyhoodhome.org.
Let loose your inner child at the National Science Center’s Fort Discovery, located on the scenic Riverwalk in downtown Augusta. More than 250 interactive exhibits inspire the imagination while promoting science and math through hands-on exploration of electronics, communications, automation, robotics, power generation and more. 800-325-5445, www.nscdiscovery.org.
Where to Stay
At the end of a busy day, you’ll welcome rest. Consider the Partridge Inn, a historic property with modern updates thanks to a multi-milliondollar renovation completed in October 2006. All 145 guest rooms— from studios to two-room suites—boast rich reproduction furnishings and amenities like plush towels and high-speed Internet access. The Partridge Inn was the first hotel in Georgia selected for inclusion in Historic Hotels of America. Each Sunday the award-winning “Best of Augusta” brunch buffet draws visitors and locals. The hotel is conveniently located in Augusta’s Summerville Historic District, ideal for a drive or stroll around neighborhood streets to peek at historic houses. 706-737-8888, www.partridgeinn.com.
Looking for cozy sleep on a budget? Consider the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson. It’s easy to locate and offers all basic amenities, plus free Internet access. Warm cookies await guests who stroll through the lobby in the afternoon, and a complimentary continental breakfast is available each morning. 706-736-8988, www.countryinns.com.
Visit Augusta and you’ll understand why 1.5 million people from around the world come to the city each year. Odds are, you’ll discover so many ways to play in Augusta—even if you never make it to a golf course—that you’ll likely return again and again.