RF and I are headed “back home” tomorrow. Well, back to my family’s neck of the woods. Both of my parents were raised in North Augusta, South Carolina. It’s a town about a tenth the size of its neighbor across the Savannah River, Augusta, Georgia, which you’re more likely to have heard of since it’s home to The Masters Golf Tournament. Even if you don’t know golf, you probably know The Masters.
Typically a town of around 200,000, Augusta’s population surges in the weeks surrounding the tournament. Private planes stack up at the small airport. Local homes are rented out months in advance; tickets nearly impossible to score. But once that green jacket is bestowed upon the latest champion, life gets back to a typical Southern pace for the rest of the year.
In honor of our trip, here are Things to Do in Augusta that Aren’t The Masters:
Frog Hollow Tavern – As a child, my grandfather would take me down to Broad Street in downtown Augusta every Christmas to see the lights and stop in the bank where, much to my delight, they always had a tray of fruitcake. My tastes have grown up and so has Broad Street. Frog Hollow, one of Chef Wight’s three restaurants, serves up farm-to-table fare with a list of organic and biodynamic wines to match. We’ll be celebrating RF’s birthday here on Friday.
Augusta Riverwalk – Built as part of the downtown revitalization in the 1980s, Augusta Riverwalk is a park that extends along the Savannah River and adjacent levee in downtown Augusta. Nothing reminds me more of this area than the vibrant colors of azaleas in bloom. Home to the Morris Museum of Art, dedicated to art and artists of the American South, the park also hosts summertime outdoor movies and concerts and fireworks on the 4th of July.
Phinizy Swamp – Growing up, I never heard good things about Phinizy Swamp – it was pretty much an illegal dumping ground. In recent years, however, the area has undergone a tremendous overhaul and is now a recovering ecosystem. For nature buffs, there are a series of trails through these wetlands where you can view birds and plants. Quiet and patient types might spot one of the many elusive species such as alligators, armadillos, or river otters.
Imperial Theatre – I tend to think of Augusta in terms of its post-WWII boom with the addition of the Savannah River Site (where both of my grandfathers worked), but Augusta was founded in the early 1700s and thrived as cotton farmland for many years. The Imperial dates back to 1918 when 15-cents would score you seats for Vaudeville acts. Charlie Chaplin made an appearance just three months after it opened. Today, the ornate hall plays host to local troupes and touring companies, various musicians, and is home to a Mighty Wurlitzer.
James Brown Statue – You can’t talk about Augusta and not mention The Godfather of Soul! James Brown was actually born in Barnwell, SC, but later relocated with his family to Augusta where he started in career in local talent shows. He is memorialized with a life-size bronze statue on James Brown Blvd. I’m pretty sure that RF and I need to schedule a photo op!