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Obscure Georgia


November 06, 2017

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I have spent my entire life an hour and a half from Augusta and I have never actually been there. I was aware of it in a vague way (the Masters, Lady Antebellum) and encountered it only in passing (the most I had ever seen of the city was from the highway), but I recently got a chance to visit it for the first time and, honestly, I’m disappointed that I’ve put it off for so long.

Augusta is full of restaurants. It seems like there’s a quaint little café tucked in every shop front. From locally sourced organic eats to good ol’ Southern traditional, this town has it all. It’s not short on coffee shops either. Buona Caffe is known for its artisanal offerings and it was named one of America’s Best Indie Coffee Shops by Fodor’s Travel, if that tells you anything.

I passed a dozen places where I wanted to stop, but when I researched for this trip I found a place I knew I had to see. New Moon Café, nestled into a space that on first glance appears to be simply the entrance to an apartment building, is weird in all the right ways. It’s locally roasted coffee and locally sourced ingredients in a space that could only be described as eclectic. The walls are lined with quirky art and the table markers are pictures of famous authors. Your receipt is likely to come out marked “Twain” or “Kerouac.” And there are always people in line. I sat and sipped my coffee for over an hour and the people never stopped coming. That’s how you can tell a place is good. And it was. I’d go so far as to say fantastic, which is the best word I can think of to describe the sausage and kale quiche I had that morning. I also sampled a tomato, egg, and cheese breakfast quesadilla which was delicious (and y’all, I hate tomatoes).

After breakfast I took my coffee across the hall to The Book Tavern, a bookstore selling new, used and rare books. They carry classic lit, graphic novels and everything in between so be sure to stop by. Whether you have a particular title in mind or if you’re looking for some recommendations, the friendly staff is always ready to stop and chat.

On Saturdays through the month of November, craftspeople and vendors line the 8th Street entrance to the Augusta Riverwalk. Pick up fresh produce, a snack from one of the many vendors or food trucks, or catch some live music down by the river. Also take some time to enjoy the beautiful green space next to the river where locals jog and bike. The Riverwalk has several gardens and is adjacent to the Augusta Museum of Art and the Augusta Museum of History. As I was leaving the market with a hand-thrown mug I just couldn’t resist, I lady in a green T-shirt clutching a walkie-talkie approached. “We’re filming a movie downtown today and we’re looking for extras to fill out a parade scene,” she explained. Police cars blocked off a side street and cameramen stood in the street pointing as they figured out the best angles. The film probably won’t make it to any major theaters, but it just goes to show the vibrant artistic culture of Augusta. Where else can you appear in a Bollywood movie across the street from the historic Imperial Theatre and within sight of a statue honoring Augusta native James Brown?

I wrapped up my day at the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. The National Heritage Area is an urban green space where visitors can kayak the canal, walk or bike on the trails, take a boat tour, or browse the interactive Discovery Center to learn more about the history of Augusta’s canals. Located in the old Enterprise Manufacturing building, the Discovery Center is a well-designed space emphasizing the importance of the canal to Augusta and tracing its social and cultural impact. The hour long boat tours are informative, giving visitors a chance to see historic buildings and landmarks from the surface of the canal itself. The canal is a popular kayaking spot so, besides various species of water birds, you are likely to see a few friendly faces as well.

On Nov. 11, Augusta will celebrate Canalfest, a celebration of all the canal has meant to Augusta since its conception in 1845. Events will include live music, fishing and kayaking demonstrations, raffles and local food trucks.

Whether you’re familiar with Augusta’s charms or, like me, you never really thought anything of it, I encourage you to take some time in this underappreciated little city and just soak it all in.

 


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