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Atlanta is the big city in Georgia that sees the most visitors each year, but Augusta is a beautiful and very accessible place that’s worth a trip as well. This charming southern city is located on the banks of the Savannah River and offers lots of amazing outdoor recreation, shopping, cultural, and culinary experiences. Here are our favorite things to when we visit Augusta!
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Get Outside and Active at the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area
Augusta has become famous for being home to the Master’s golf tournament each year. But there are lots of other ways that you can get outside and active when you visit this fun city. One of the best places to be on a nice day is the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. This is a great place to hike, run, and bike because the recreational path is wide and level. This route used to be traveled by mules that pulled boats to the canal’s head gates. This canal largely contributed to the city’s growth because it spawned the textile mills and other industries that brought jobs and prosperity to the region. But today, it serves as a wonderful way to experience the wooded areas and urban environment of the Augusta area.
Take a Stroll Along the Riverwalk
A great way to get to know the heart of a riverfront city when you first arrive is to take a stroll along shore to see the skyline, glistening water, and local businesses along the way. There are trees that shade parts of the walkway for hot days and convenient benches to take a break and just watch the water flow. The Riverwalk extends from 6th Street to 10th Street, so it’s not terribly long, but well worth the walk. The city’s most popular events take place here, including the Saturday morning market and live jazz music performances in the summer. This is also where you’ll catch the St. Patrick’s Day events and the 4th of July fireworks. Many shows take place at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater near the 9th Street Plaza.
Experience Art and Culture at First Friday Downtown
Many cities across the country host First Friday evens to showcase local art and bring the community together in a fun and culturally rich way. Augusta is no exception, as the city hosts a fun art event on the first Friday of each month. Head downtown to view art, sample delicious foods, and soak up the city’s culture. This is a rare time when the galleries and shops stay open late and some of the restaurants have special deals. First Friday events in Augusta are family-friendly and run from 5pm until 9pm.
Free Sundays at the Morris Museum of Art
The Morris Museum of Art is worth a visit on any day of the week, but Sunday is a particularly good time to visit because admission is free! The museum is located right on the Riverwalk, so it’s easy to combine your Riverwalk stroll with a stop in to see some art. What makes this museum unique is that it showcases artists from the American South. The artwork here dates back to the late 1700s and brings us up to the present day. Inside you’ll find thousands of paintings, photos, sculptures, and temporary exhibits that rotate throughout the year. It was founded by William S. Morris III and opened to the public in 1991. Not only is admission free on Sunday, but gallery tours are then as well. Located at 1 10th Street, the museum is open from Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10am to 5pm and on Sundays from noon to 5pm. At other times of the week, admission for adults is $5, for teens, students, military, and seniors is $3, and kids under 12 are always free. Free parking is accessible on the west side of the Augusta Riverfront Center in designated spaces.
Browse the Augusta Market at the River
If you’re looking for something fun and local to do on Saturday morning when you visit Augusta, head to the Savannah River. On Saturday mornings, you’ll find lots of produce, bakery goods, and art and jewelry created by regional artists along the river. Take your time to browse the stands and chat with the locals about their goods for sale. There are often live musical performances taking place on the Riverwalk stage, as well as food trucks from local businesses when you get hungry. The market typically opens up for the season in mid-March through November and runs on Saturdays from 8am to 2pm. It’s located at 15 18th Street in Augusta. Another fun local event to join here is the weekly group run, which is open to everyone who’s up for jogging one, three, or eight miles around town. Just meet at the fountain at the Augusta Market to start running at 8am.
Visit the Sacred Heart Cultural Center
It doesn’t matter whether your family has a Catholic heritage or not, the Sacred Heart Cultural Center is worth a visit when you’re in Augusta. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and was built in 1897 as a Catholic church. But it’s stunning architecture is what makes this building so significant, thanks to over a dozen styles of brickwork, nearly 100 stained glass windows, and iconic arches. It was transformed from a church into a cultural center when it was reopened in 1987. Today you can attend choral concerts, the Garden Festival, and a wide variety of theater productions and cultural events here. Quite a few local nonprofits are housed in the nearby and renovated church buildings today as well. You can also take a free tour of the cultural center and browse local art and unique gifts at the onsite gift shop.
Wildlife Watching at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park
One of the most unique natural areas in the Augusta area is Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. The park is just a few minutes away from the downtown area of Augusta and spans about 1,100 acres of pristine swampland. This is an ideal place for animal lovers to visit because you’ll have the opportunity to see rabbits, fish, turtles, and many different species of birds. Other animals that call this place home are alligators, hawks, blue herons, and otters. The Phinizy Center for Water Sciences uses the park as a living laboratory and conducts habitat research here. Spend your time here hiking along the trails and across the boardwalks, and don’t forget to bring your binoculars! Popular spots to check out include the Rain Garden Deck & Boardwalk, the Floodplain Boardwalk, and the Beaver Dam Trail. To learn more about the swamp park, consider taking a free guided tour.
Watch a Performance at the Imperial Theatre
Very few theaters have survived the changing times since the early 1800s. But the Imperial Theater in Augusta is one of those rare gems. It began as a vaudeville and photoplay theater, and you can take a tour to learn about the theater’s fascinating history and architecture. It’s also fun to catch a live performance at the theater when you visit the city. These days, you’ll often find musicals and instrumental concerts take the stage at the Imperial Theater.
Go Shopping at the Augusta Mall
If you love to pick up a few good deals or designer goods when you travel, then the Augusta Mall deserves a place on your trip itinerary. This is a stylish mall that’s one of the largest shopping complexes in the entire state. You’ll find high-end stores like Coach and Michael Kors here, as well as trendy favorites and specialty shops. Overall, there are nearly 150 stores here to browse and buy from. There are also may dining options here to satisfy your appetite after a long and fun day of shopping. The mall is located at 3450 Wrightsboro Road in Augusta and open from 10 am to 9 pm Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 6 pm on Sundays
Sip a Local Beer at Riverwatch Brewery
After a long day of sightseeing, there’s nothing quite like kicking back with a cold one. One of the best local breweries in town is Riverwatch Brewery, which has four core brews and a variety of limited release and experimental brews. On tap, you’ll find a blonde ale, pale, ale, double IPA, Belgian triple, and more. This a fun brewery to hang out at because there are board games to play, and tours are offered hourly between 5 pm to 8:30 pm on Fridays and 1 pm and 8:30 pm on Saturdays. Bring your own food in, and dogs are allowed!