Every April, visitors from around the world descend on Augusta, Georgia for golf’s premier event — the Masters Tournament. Those lucky enough to snag what many call the hottest ticket in sports are treated to the lush green course, blooming azaleas, and those delectable (and ridiculously inexpensive) pimento cheese sandwiches, served up with the Augusta National’s famous Southern hospitality.
But take it from this former Augustan: there’s plenty to do in Georgia’s second-oldest city the rest of the year. Teeming with historic, cultural, and outdoor attractions, Augusta is an easy 2½-hour drive east of Atlanta. And whether you have a day to spare or an entire weekend, there’s something for everyone!
Out and About
If you’re a disc golfer, or if you want to give this growing sport a try, consider stopping in the small town of Appling, just west of Augusta. Here you’ll find the headquarters of the Professional Disc Golf Association and the International Disc Golf Center, with its three championship courses, pro shop, museum, and the Disc Golf Hall of Fame.
On the outskirts of Augusta, nature lovers can roam 14 miles of trails by bike or foot at the 1100-acre Phinizy Swamp and Nature Park, where admission is free all 365 days of the year. Designated an “Important Global Birding Area” by the Audubon Society, the park attracts plenty of birders as well as otters, alligators, and even an occasional bobcat.
Cyclists, runners and hikers have another winning option at the Augusta Canal towpath: a scenic trail stretching more than seven miles from downtown all the way to the canal’s headgates in neighboring Columbia County. The canal is also a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddleboarding (equipment rentals for bikes and watercraft are available through local vendors).
Not up for a strenuous workout? Then traverse the canal — a National Heritage Area — on a relaxing, Petersburg Boat tour, departing from the Augusta Canal Discovery Center, which is located in the beautifully restored Enterprise Mill. Here you can also view an informational film, artifacts, and educational exhibits that explore the history of the canal from its economic importance during the Industrial Revolution to its recreational value today.
The Downtown Historic District
History buffs will delight in many more remnants of the past scattered throughout the downtown area. A good starting point is the original location of Fort Augusta, founded by General James Oglethorpe in 1736. The site is now marked with a Celtic cross on the grounds of historic Saint Paul’s Church. Situated on the Augusta Riverwalk — an expansive park boasting sweeping views of the Savannah River — the church and its graveyard, with tombstones dating from the late 1700s, are accessible to the public.
Walk across Reynolds Street to trace a 12,000-year timeline of the area at the Augusta Museum of History, which showcases assorted treasures from prehistoric Native American artifacts to golf memorabilia to exhibits that celebrate local legends, including the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
Well-preserved historic buildings and landmarks in Augusta have survived centuries of devastating fires and floods, and more than 25 of them are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many are open for tours, including the boyhood homes of President Woodrow Wilson and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Lamar; the Ezekiel Harris House and Ware’s Folly (now home to the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art), both noted examples of Federal-style architecture; Springfield Baptist Church, an 18th century African-American church, and the oldest existing church building in Augusta; and the ornate Sacred Heart Cultural Center, which opened in 1900 as a Catholic church and now houses a gift shop and offices for local arts organizations.
Note: hours and availability for these sites vary, so check in advance for details.
Visit Historic Augusta’s website for a self-guided walking tour, showcasing many more buildings of historical significance along the Broad Street, Telfair Street, and Greene Street corridors downtown.
Scoop Tip: Take a break for lunch or dinner along Broad Street, a charming thoroughfare with an eclectic collection of tasty eateries enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. “Feel good” next to the life-size statue of the James Brown, and browse the funky art galleries that give Broad Street its nickname, Artists’ Row.
Immerse yourself in more visual art at the Morris Museum of Art, located on the Riverwalk. Its outstanding collection of some 5,000 paintings, sculptures, and photographs focuses on the American South, with pieces dating from the Antebellum era. Admission is free on Sundays.
And consider planning your visit around one or more of Augusta’s other signature cultural offerings, including Symphony Orchestra Augusta, the Augusta Choral Society, and the Westobou Festival, a 5-day fall celebration of visual arts, music, dance, film, and spoken art.
Where to Stay
From Hampton Inn to Marriott, there are plenty of familiar hotel brands in town. But if you’re looking for local charm and flavor, the newly renovated Partridge Inn is a great choice. Located in the elegant and historic Summerville district, the hotel is close to the downtown as well as upscale shopping and dining at nearby Surrey Center. Cocktails are especially refreshing on the breezy verandah at the P.I. Bar and Grill!
More Fun Facts
- For more than ten years in the late 1800s, Augusta was the state capital of Georgia.
- Augusta University is home to the Medical College of Georgia and the Dental College of Georgia, the state’s public medical and dental schools.
- Augusta is fast becoming a cybersecurity hub, with the Army’s new Cyber Command Headquarters currently under construction at Fort Gordon and plans in place for the new state-owned Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, to be located downtown.
- According to the Augusta Sports Council, the IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta, held every September, is “North America’s largest Ironman 70.3 event.”
June Newton is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Professional Writing program at Kennesaw State University. A freelance writer, she and her husband, Andrew, live in Kennesaw. They enjoy exploring Cobb County and beyond with Oscar, their curious canine.