Written by Susan Frampton + Jana Riley
Augusta’s River Region is an area full of opportunity; a place where you could try something new every day of the year and still only scratch the surface of things to do around the city. Whether you’re a nature lover, a theatre fanatic, a history buff, a foodie, or anything in between, we’ve got you covered. Here, we share 25 of our favorite things to do in the area: try one, try them all, or find your own adventures and share them with us. Most importantly, have a great time!
CATCH SOME LIVE ENTERTAINMENT
Augusta’s thriving performing arts culture has historically launched world-famous entertainers, and that tradition continues with live performances and events throughout the year.
Check out the newly-renovated Miller Theater for internationally-recognized acts and moving orchestral performances by the Augusta Symphony, or head on over to the Imperial Theatre for traveling shows, concerts, and live performances by the Augusta Players. The Aiken Community Theatre brings big culture to a small town through their various productions, while the Augusta Entertainment Complex, including the James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium, host shows, festivals, and larger events.
On a smaller scale, the Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre offers dinner and a show, while Le Chat Noir brings together drinks and improv comedy. For music lovers, don’t miss the note-worthy 100-member Augusta Choral Society, or take a nighttime stroll down Broad Street to hear a showcase of artists playing at various live music venues. For concerts, ballet, comedy, and Broadway—check out all that Augusta has to offer!
HANG OUT AT GARDEN CITY SOCIAL BEER GARDEN
Newly established in the former Sky City building on Broad Street, Garden City Social is an experience; one that encourages good, clean fun in an energetic atmosphere. The beer garden at the establishment is a vast, astro-turfed space that feels more like a backyard gathering than a downtown hot spot, and it fills nightly with revelers sipping on expertly-crafted cocktails and a wide range of craft beers.
While the bar is hopping at night, don’t miss the Endless Bloody Mary and Endless Mimosa Bar on Saturday afternoons; the ideal spot to hit after having brunch nearby. Exciting events happen regularly at Garden City Social, so follow them on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings.
PICK LOCAL PRODUCE
There is something beautiful to be said about eschewing the grocery store, with its sometimes questionably ripe produce of mysterious origins, in favor of gathering your own food at a down-home local farm. Not only is it the ultimate in farm-to-table practices, but it is often cheaper to pick your own than to source from a grocery store.
Children love to seek out the perfect pear or vine-ripened blueberry, and it can only be a good thing for everyone to get in touch with where their food comes from. Augusta’s River Region contains many “U-Pick” farms, each with their own unique list of seasonally-available produce. From blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries to greens, muscadines, beans, tomatoes, and more, there is something for everyone to harvest.
CAMP AT A STATE PARK
With the weather warming up, there is no time like the present to pitch a tent and take in the beauty of our natural surroundings.
At Mistletoe State Park, the beauty includes the 71,100-acre Clarks Hill Lake, known to be one of the best bass fishing spots in the nation. Situated on a peninsula, the campground offers incredible views of both the sunrise and sunset, and has plenty of room to explore. On the other side of Clarks Hill Lake, Elijah Clark State Park has 165 campsites, a sandy swimming beach, and a log cabin replica of a frontier cottage.
In Aiken, check out Aiken State Park, which borders the Edisto River, includes four lakes, and offers recreational opportunities like canoeing and swimming.
VISIT A MUSEUM
As the second-oldest city in Georgia, Augusta is filled with history and art, and there is no better place to get a crash-course in the culture of the town than at one of its premier museums.
Art fanatics can browse canvases and sculptures at the Morris Museum of Art, which is filled with impressive works of Southern artists. Over at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, exhibits are always inspiring, which is all the more reason to take advantage of their extensive class offerings. To get in touch with the past, the Augusta Museum of History showcases a permanent collection that covers 12,000 years of local history. Check out the transportation corridor featuring a 1920s trolley car, a 1914 locomotive, and a 1930s gas station.
For a deeper look into Augusta's black history, visit Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History. Over in Aiken, don’t miss the Aiken County Historical Museum, which shares frequently-changing exhibits, many of which come from the private collections of locals.
SHOP A FARMERS MARKET
There may be no better way to get a sample of local flavor than to shop at a local farmers’ market: the open air, food trucks, artisans, live music, and, of course, locally-grown produce come together in a perfect symphony celebrating the region. Starting March 17th, the Augusta Market is perhaps the area’s most widely-attended affair, with a perfect location on the 8th Street Plaza next to the Riverwalk. Open 8am-2pm, it is ripe for picking out culinary delights, ingredients, and handmade goods, as well as trying the fare from various local eateries.
On Tuesday evenings April through October, the Veggie Park Farmers’ Market at 109 Eve Street in the Harrisburg neighborhood of Augusta features some of the most sought-after farmers in the region. At the Aiken County Farmers’ Market, open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, sunrise to noon year-round, visitors can browse sprawling tables filled with produce, baked goods, and crafts.
Try one, or try them all: no two markets are alike. More than anything, support your local farmers and have a great time!
The Augusta region includes thousands of nonprofits. Most are run by a handful of people passionate about the cause, and many are staffed only by volunteers. All of them could use a little help.
Whether you are culinary inclined, a hit with kids, an animal activist, a small business owner, a tech guru, a crafting maven, or just have a heart for helping, one thing is for sure: whatever your skill set, there is a place that could benefit from your assistance within a short drive of your home. Often, opportunities require only a few hours of commitment, making lending a little assistance an easy choice.
ATTEND A LOCAL FESTIVAL
Whatever you’re into, you can bet there are Augustans celebrating it at some point: this city is not shy when it comes to going all-in on their passions.
In April, the Sacred Heart Garden Festival attracts floral fanatics from all over, while brew fans can get their hops on at the Augusta Craft Beer Festival at SRP Park. Into music and barbecue? Check out Papa Joe’s Banjo-b-que at Lake Olmstead Memorial Day weekend for a mashup of pork and incredible bands from all over the country. In May, PaddleFest encourages its attendees to get on the water and enjoy the journey, while the Aiken Bluegrass festival creates a pickin’ good time for everyone. Don’t miss the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival this summer in Thomson for soulful, heart-wrenching tunes in an open atmosphere. In June, Augusta Pride celebrates diversity and promotes unity through stellar music performances and a colorful parade through the city.
VISIT LIVING HISTORY PARK
In a quiet neighborhood in North Augusta, eight acres of restored, well-tended land showcase life as it was during the 18th century: British invasion and all. Explore over a dozen buildings, including a schoolhouse, chapel, mercantile, sweet shop, blacksmith forge and cabinet shop, all created using traditional building techniques.
During special monthly events and two large festivals a year, the fictional village of Willow Springs comes alive, staffed by volunteer reenactors who educate visitors in an immersive setting. The rest of the time, the land is open for exploration from dawn until dusk. Don’t miss the natural spring in the center of it all, feeding an idyllic creek through the town.
Visit Colonial Times for more information.
SWIM CLARKS HILL LAKE
Names are a funny thing, aren’t they? On the federal level, the 71,000 acre reservoir and third-largest artificial lake east of the Mississippi River is designated as J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir, and is most often called Lake Strom Thurmond by many South Carolina locals. On the Georgia side, the state—as well as both Georgia and South Carolina residents—designate the body of water Clarks Hill Lake, refusing to acknowledge the Strom Thurmond moniker for reasons related to an impromptu name change in the 1980s.
Whatever you call it, the lake is one of the southeast’s most popular lakes, providing a host of recreational activities for all who visit. Check out Clarks Hill Park, Hickory Knob State Park, Parksville Recreation area, Eddie Fletcher Memorial Park, Elijah Clark State Park, Mistletoe State Park, West Dam Recreation area, and more for swimming opportunities.
VISIT WESTOBOU GALLERY
Situated right in the heart of it all on Augusta’s Broad Street, Westobou Gallery is the hub of creativity in Augusta, displaying contemporary art that encompasses what seems like a limitless amount of genres and mediums. Offering carefully curated exhibitions with special focus on regional, local, emerging, and mid-career artists, Westobou is the place to go to see something unlike anything you’ve seen before.
To top it all off, the gallery atmosphere is incredibly welcoming, and free for anyone to check out during gallery hours. Don’t miss opening nights at the gallery, where exhibitions are unveiled in a lively atmosphere, always attended by some of the city’s best artistic talent. For more information, follow Westobou on social media.
SHOP AIKEN'S LAURENS STREET
In every town, there is a small area that hums with the energy of the community, showcasing the culture and encompassing the spirit of the locals. In Aiken, Laurens Street is that hub, and spending a few hours perusing its offerings is always a good choice. Visit any number of carefully-curated boutiques including Caroline’s Boutique for women's clothing and accessories, 3 Monkeys Fine Gifts for jewelry, home decor, and gifts, Beyond Bijoux for jewelry, and Lionel Smith for men’s clothing and formal wear. For art enthusiasts, get your creative fix at Aiken Center for the Arts, Aiken Embroidery and Design, and Equine Divine, a shopping boutique and art gallery.
When it’s time for a break, take your pick from a variety of restaurants, from the casual diner atmosphere at Blue Moon Cafe to the upscale ambiance at Malia’s and everywhere in between, Laurens Street has it all. Before you go, don’t forget to stop by Cyndi’s Sweet Shoppe to pick up a treat—or two—for later!
TAKE A CLASS
No matter your age or station in life, it is never too late to further your education, and taking classes alone or with loved ones can be a lovely experience. Wonderfully, opportunities abound around every corner in Augusta’s River Region—if you know where to look.
At one of Augusta’s most treasured institutions, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, adult classes include pottery, painting, photography, weaving, and even welding. At Augusta’s Jessye Norman School of Arts, try your hand at dancing, yoga, guitar, and singing. Over in Aiken, the Art Nook School and Studio hosts “Canvas and Cork” events for those who want to pair painting and vino, and “Canvas and Cupcake” events for the little ones.
For chefs looking to hone their skills, Helms College offers “Saturday Chef” community cooking classes. Other classes are available through local libraries, theaters, dance centers, and more; simply search your city, your interest, and the word “classes” online to start your journey.
HOST A BACKYARD BARBEQUE
The gorgeous landscape of the southeast and its mild spring weather practically beg residents and visitors alike to spend time in the sunshine, and around here, that’s an easy ask. After taking advantage of the host of outdoor activities this region offers, stop off at a local farmer’s market for some seasonal ingredients, pick up some handcrafted beer at a local brewery, and call up friends new and old to enjoy an al fresco afternoon together.
Or, if you’re comfortable passing the grill baton to someone else, call up one of Augusta’s finest in BBQ catering, Campbell’s BBQ Company. Founded in 2016 by pitmaster extraordinaire Chris Campbell, the company takes a true farm to-table-approach to its meat and sides, blending traditional techniques found in both Georgia and Texas, and is always up for hosting a good time.
VISIT CAROLINA MOON DISTILLERY
In a structure steeped in history, and with a front row seat on Edgefield, SC’s picturesque town square, Carolina Moon Distillery reawakens the spirits of another time in the most tasteful way.
Stop in for a short, behind-the-scenes tour of the modern-day distillery and a glimpse of the timeless process that delivers the clear corn potion of legend and lore, and a wide range of other potent potables. Those over age 21 may sample from the array of spirits beautifully displayed on the shelves of apothecary-style cabinetry in the tasting room. With offerings like Tally Ho Bourbon, May Lady Rum or Rabbit Spit Moonshine, you’re sure to find a favorite flavor to take home and savor as a tasty reminder of your time in historic Edgefield.
Their second location, 2nd City Distilling Company opened in Augusta, Spring 2019.
SPEND THE DAY AT NATIONAL WILD TURKEY FEDERATION PALMETTO SHOOTING COMPLEX
Long-heralded for its dedication to wildlife research, conservation, and unparalleled opportunities for outdoor education, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Hunting Heritage Center outside Edgefield, SC is a community aimed at building the future of hunting and wildlife conservation.
Located on the far side of the Heritage Hunting Center campus, the organization’s Palmetto Shooting Complex is a premier shooting destination for those looking to hone their shooting skills or engage with friends in a round of friendly competition. Helping fulfill the organization’s commitment to shooting sports, Palmetto Shooting Complex is open to the public, offering both members and non-members access to the facility’s two dedicated sporting clays courses, five trap and skeet fields, a 3D archery course, and a picturesque 9,300 square-foot pavilion.
HIKE HITCHCOCK WOODS
Take a walk with history as you follow trails that pedestrians and equestrians have walked and ridden since the early 1800s. Spanning 2,100 acres in Aiken, SC, Hitchcock Woods is the largest privately-owned urban forest in the country, with 70 miles of trails open from sunup to sundown 365 days a year.
There are seven main entrances to the Woods, and you’ll find signs at strategic locations to help you on your way as you wander trails offering a stunning variety of extraordinary habitats and ecosystems that have all but disappeared from the Southern landscape. Make sure you’re familiar with the guidelines to make the day perfect for all who share your path.
Bring the kids, the dog (leashed, please), and a picnic for a day you will never forget.
VISIT REDCLIFFE PLANTATION
Named one of the Top Ten Sites to Visit in South Carolina by the SC African American Heritage Commission, Redcliffe Plantation is a must-see for history lovers.
Completed in 1859, Redcliffe was once the home of James Henry Hammond, three generations of his descendants, and numerous African-American families who worked at the site as slaves and later free men and women. Daily house tours Thursday through Monday explore the rich and complex history of Redcliffe Plantation. The extant slave quarters and mansion, located on the plantation’s 369 acres, and an iconic lane of magnolia trees planted in 1861 serve to highlight its rich and varied past and the generations of families whose intertwined lives tell the story of this historic site.
WATCH THE MASTERS®
April in Augusta brings with it the promise of spring, with glorious azaleas and flowering dogwoods.
Since 1934, it also heralds the return of thousands to Augusta National Golf Club, where the smallest field in major championship golf follows in the footsteps of golf’s giants. Competing over four days and 72 holes for their place in history, these pros vie for the right to wear the iconic Green Jacket of a Masters® Tournament Champion.
You need not be a golf fan or walk the greens to get caught up in the excitement. Join old friends and new as they gather in living rooms, watering holes and restaurants to celebrate the rite of spring you’ll find nowhere else.
PADDLE THE RIVER AND CANAL
From the waterline of boats that paddled the Savannah River, the region's first explorers looked with wonder on the land that would become Augusta. Though explorers these days glide along the surface of the water on paddle boards or in brightly colored kayaks and canoes, they share that same wonder as they discover the area's natural beauty.
From the swift water of Savannah River Rapids to the slower pace of Steven's Creek, whether you're looking for a guided excursion or looking to chart your own course, Augusta's vibrant outdoor culture offers equipment and opportunities to launch an adventure you'll never forget.
CHECK OUT A LOCAL BREWERY
Good news! Prohibition is over, folks, and the taps are open as Augusta’s burgeoning brewery scene takes full advantage of the opportunity to serve up a selection of their finely crafted beers.
At Riverwatch Brewery, you’ll find four core brews, in addition to limited releases and experimental brews. A family-friendly space with lots of tables for you to bring a picnic, guided tours are also available Saturday at 3 and 6.
At Savannah River Brewing Company, 15 taps serve a wide variety of large, small, and specialty batch craft beers. Soft beverages and food items are available (and usually a food truck too!) or bring your own. There’s plenty of air-conditioned indoor and outdoor seating for families and their well-behaved pooches, and free parking, too!
CATCH A BASEBALL GAME
You’ll find much more than peanuts and crackerjacks at the Augusta GreenJackets home at SRP Park in North Augusta.
Surrounded by restaurants, shopping, and an unmatched river view, it’s no wonder SRP Park was voted the Best Minor League Ballpark in 2018. By the start of the 2019 season, some key components of the Riverside Village development will be up and running, including a Southbound Smokehouse and SweetWater Brewery in a building in right field, and a new Crowne Plaza hotel.
The Augusta GreenJackets are a Single "A" Affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
VISIT HOPELANDS GARDENS
Opened to the public in 1969, you’re welcome to enjoy the lazy curves and garden borders of this quintessential Southern garden that lead visitors to reflecting pools and rock fountains, through labyrinths and oak allees, past grassy fields and flowerbeds to a world of adventures sure to please all ages and interests. Linger in the Gazebo, follow the Touch and Scent Trail, and visit the Aiken Garden Club’s Dollhouse, and then prepare to be amazed by all you find at the Carriage Museum and Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame & Museum.
Open every day from 10 am to sunset.
TAKE A TOUR
Make the most of your Augusta adventure with one of the many tours offered to learn what makes this city by the river one of the most captivating in the South.
Take a bus around town or a boat down the canal; visit homes to catch glimpses of where history was made and the fascinating final resting places of those who made it. With so much to do and see, you might choose to take a Black History Tour, learn the behind-the-lines story of the Confederate Powder Works by boat, hear a spooky story of a haunted house, or visit the birthplace of a president. We’ll save you a place!
DRIVE A BACKROAD
If life in the fast lane is wearing you out, why not go for a change of pace?
Take the roads less traveled to see the area from a whole new perspective. You needn’t go far to find rolling green hills that soothe the soul, orchards that hold promise of a fruitful year, and postcard-worthy vistas of picturesque pastures. Trade the hustle of drive-thru windows for the hometown goodness of country stores and roadside restaurants, stop in and browse quaint galleries and shops.
You may be surprised by how much you enjoy the slow lane.