If you have four days, then you have ample time to explore Columbia County
and Augusta, Ga
., and Aiken. S.C.
Pack your walking shoes, bring your sense of adventure and readiness to explore some of the best outdoors, cultural and food experiences all within a very easy driving distance of one another.
Begin your visit to Columbia County in the small town of Harlem
with a stop at their international attraction, the Laurel & Hardy Museum
. While it might seem unusual to come across a museum like this in Georgia (and the only one in the U.S.), there is a reason for it. Harlem was the birthplace of Oliver Hardy. The museum pays homage to the duo with various artifacts and memorabilia collected from all over the world. There is even a room watch their movies.
Lunch suggestion: WifeSaver, and either dine in or enjoy a picnic at Wildwood Park in Grovetown.
Situated on Clarks Hill Lake, Wildwood Park offers fishing and boating opportunities as well as camping sites. It is also home to the National Disc Golf Association
and Ed Headrick Memorial Museum
. Headrick was the inventor of the Frisbee and disc golf. If you would like to play, there are three courses
to choose from; and yes, there are water hazards and challenging tees.
Depending on the season, you can paddle down the Augusta Canal with Savannah Rapids Kayak Rental
. Launching from the Savannah Rapids Pavilion in Martinez, they provide a pick up service at Lake Olmstead as well as a shuttle back to the pavilion.
After your half day (or day) exploring Columbia County, it’s time to move on to Augusta.
Head to downtown Augusta, park your car and explore Artists Row
on Broad Street. Featuring around seven art galleries and shops, each one is notably different from the other. Never know what you might find to take home. If shopping isn’t your thing, you can always take a stroll along the Riverwalk
Dinner suggestion: Go tapas-style at Bee’s Knees. Accommodation suggestions: Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center on the Riverwalk or Partridge Inn (re-opening in March 2015.)
There is coffee, and then there is coffee
at Buona Caffe
. Discover the art of savoring a cup (or two) of coffee at this warm, intimate coffee house. Inspired by both national and international coffee houses owners Pat and John Curry visited during their travels, they took the best experiences from each and replicated them in their own style to create Buona Caffe. Compliment the coffee with a locally-made treat.
Time to learn the history of the second largest and second oldest city in Georgia. Best way to begin is with a guided canal tour
Departing from the Canal Discover Center
, also home to the Augusta Canal Interpretive Center, board the replica Petersburg boat and journey down one of America's oldest continuously operating industrial canals. It was because of this canal, a designated National Heritage Area, which allowed Augusta to be the site of many firsts in the South. It was the first southern city to have electric street lights and electric trolleys. It was also the first southern city in the South to have a night baseball game, which was between the two textile mills.
Over at the Augusta Museum of History
, the museum details the city's as well as the region's rich history through collections and exhibits. Everything is covered from the Civil War era to James Brown
and much more, including The Sport of Golf
, which details golfing in Augusta. One of the more interesting aspects of the museum is their "Curiosity Corner.” These display cases, located on stairway landing is filled with items that don't quite fit in with collections or exhibits, but are unusual/unique enough to be displayed. One of them happens to include a black hood and rope from Georgia's last hanging which occurred in Augusta in 1913.
Enjoy a satisfying lunch at Nacho Mama’s
After lunch, take a self- guided tour of Sacred Heart Cultural Center
. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the church was built in 1897, and was the second Catholic Church in the city. The first mass was held in 1900, with the last one held in 1971. In the mid-1980s, it was purchased, renovated and reopened as a cultural center. Guided tours are also available by appointment.
Finish your afternoon of exploration with a tour Morris Museum of Art
. Opened to the public in September 1992, it holds the distinction of being the first museum in the country dedicated to the art and arts of the American South. In addition to the museum's permanent collection galleries, they host over 20 special exhibitions yearly.
Return to your hotel, or if you don’t want to rest, check out such places like Tire City Potters
and find a fun piece to purchase.
Dinner suggestion: Veritas Wine and Tapas Bar located in La Maison on Telfair.
Enjoy breakfast at New Moon Cafe.
Many aren’t aware that President Woodrow Wilson lived Augusta until he was nearly 14 years old. His father served as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, which is still active today and is located across from the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson
. Tour the home site and see such artifacts like the dining room table used by the family.
Drive to Aiken, and head to Betsy’s On the Corner for lunch.
Learn the lay of the land on a Historic Aiken Tour with Marty Bailey of Tailored Tours of Aiken
. On the two-and-a-half hour tour, see everything from the state's oldest serving farmer's market to Charleston-style homes, learn the difference between a "cottage" and a "mansion" and hear fascinating anecdotes about the wealthy families who wintered in them.
Spend some time outdoors in places like the 14-acre Hopeland Gardens
, complete with a dollhouse. Located in the gardens’
1900s carriage house is the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum
. Learn about the 39 champion thoroughbreds have trained at Aiken Training Track as well as view photographs, trophies, and racing and equestrian memorabilia.
The 2,100-acres Hitchcock Woods
is one of the largest urban forests in the nation. Open from dusk to dawn, it offers 70 miles of trail, perfect for joggers and hikers. Don't be surprised if you see equestrians on the trail as well.
Dinner suggestion: Prime Steakhouse. Accommodation suggestions: The Willcox Inn or Carriage House Inn.
Enjoy breakfast at your accommodations.
Aiken is home to the biggest collection of oaks in the nation as all species of pines in the southeast is represented here. Along Colleton Avenue
is where you can find around 100 different types of trees. Pick up a brochure at phase one of the tree trail, or dial the cell number on the plaque in front of them for a more in-depth information.
Stop in the Aiken County Historical Museum
. Housed in one of Aiken’s “winter colony” cottages, the museum highlights everything Aiken.
Before you settle down for lunch, explore downtown
. Be sure to swing by the Aiken Center for the Arts
to find a one-of-kind hand-crafted gift to remember your trip to Aiken.
Wrap up your visit (and your four-day adventure) with lunch at Malia’s.