More Than the Masters: Best Family-Friendly Things to do in Augusta
When Augusta is mentioned, does “golf,” “PGA Tour” or “Masters” pop into your brain? When my family visited, I learned there is more to Augusta than greens and tee times. Located about two hours east of downtown Atlanta off I-20, the city is an eclectic blend of history, urban scenery, natural wildlife, museums and culture. With the city’s walkability, it’s easy to take a relaxing stroll by the river, visit charming shops and art galleries, hike wooded trails or kayak on the Savannah River. Here are some ideas on how to experience Augusta with kids.
Augusta’s Riverwalk includes two levels that span between 6th and 10th Streets in downtown Augusta along the Savannah River. Observe turtles, ducks and scenic views of the river. Also along the Riverwalk is the Jessye Norman Amphitheater, a 1,800 seat structure that overlooks a covered stage for live music and events, and Heroes’ Overlook, a memorial honoring men and women from the community who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross or Navy Cross. Check out a waterfall and Japanese gardens, or on Saturdays in March through November, shop at the Saturday Market on the River.
My family was enamored with the huge Saturday Market at the 8th Street Plaza and Bulkhead. The street was lined with local and regional vendors and artisans with handmade art, jewelry, crafts, candles and soaps. There was fresh local produce and music, and a giant fountain in the middle of it all that kids can play in. This was a hit with my kids, Andrew, 13, and Gracie, 9.
Canal Boat Tour
Take a guided canal tour on a Petersburg boat and learn about Augusta’s role in the Civil War, 19th century textile mills and view the Confederate Powder Works, the principal gun powder factory in the South during the Civil War. Not a Civil War buff? Choose an Augusta history and nature tour, or take a music tour on Fridays and Saturdays. My family enjoyed spotting ducks, heron, turtles and otters in the canal. Alligators also live in the canal but did not appear during our tour. We did see a turtle with a blue shell – rare but naturally occurring, according to our guide. The open boat doesn’t provide shade, but there are large umbrellas for passenger use. Entrance to the Canal Discovery Center is free with purchase of a boat tour ticket, and we enjoyed checking out interactive exhibits, videos and displays in the cool air conditioning after our tour.
Augusta Museum of History
Learn all about Augusta at the Augusta Museum of History. Popular exhibits include “The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown,” which includes memorabilia owned by Brown, life-size statues of golf’s greatest players, and “Celebrating a Grand Tradition, the Sport of Golf.” My family enjoyed the award-winning exhibit “Augusta’s Story,” which highlights 12,000 years of Augusta’s history. The Transportation Corridor was our favorite part of the museum. We boarded a 1914 steam locomotive and passenger car, saw a Ford Model T in a reconstructed 1930s gas station, and pretended to drive a 1920s trolley car.
We’d never kayaked as a family, and I thought it’d be hard. But at Outdoor Augusta, we found a new hobby! The staff was friendly, knowledgeable and helped us into kayaks and a stand up paddleboard for my son. We started in Betty’s Branch, which was calm and easy to maneuver. Eventually we paddled into the Savannah, also serene, and enjoyed the wildlife and scenery. For a reasonable rate, we could kayak, canoe or paddle board for a 3-hour trip down the branch, looping back via the Savannah River to our starting place. This activity was our favorite family adventure of the trip.
Phinizy Center for Water Science Swamp and Nature Park
If you’re like us, and want to see an alligator, Phinizy would be a good place for it, but for the second time on the trip, the gators eluded us. We were surprised, however, when an armadillo crawled out of the bushes and crossed our path. We settled for the armadillo and the botanical beauty like cattails, lily pads and bald cypress. We hiked down a long boardwalk and spied an osprey nest at the top of a wind shear tower. The park is open and free to the public 365 days a year. The visitor center is open Saturdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays 1-5 p.m. and features park information, natural history exhibits and an observation hive with an active bee colony. I recommend taking binoculars and bug spray.
A Great Place to Eat
My family and I loved New Moon Café in downtown Augusta on Broad Street. Within walking distance of our hotel, it had the perfect laid back vibe and comfort food made from fresh ingredients. We all got sandwiches and sides, my kids and I tried the lavender blueberry lemonade, and my husband had some of their socially conscious coffee. The portions were big, and we had leftovers for later.
A Convenient Place to Stay
When we arrived at the Augusta Marriott Suites at the Convention Center, we were greeted by a friendly, helpful staff. Located on the banks of the Savannah River, it is an ideal place to stay within walking distance of shopping, restaurants and the Riverwalk.
James Brown Statue
While in town, we had to drive by the James Brown Statue, located on Broad Street, between James Brown Boulevard and 8th Street. The statue is a tribute to Brown, who grew up in Augusta and is considered a funk and soul pioneer.
– Janeen Lewis