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Masters Week reacquaints residents with what makes Augusta special

Two things happen in Augusta during the first full week of April.


If you’re a visitor, you’re likely here for the first thing – the Masters Tournament.

The second thing occurs among year-round residents. Their memories are jogged. They’re reminded of what a special city Augusta is.

See, for the other 51 weeks a year, we’re almost exactly like every visitor’s hometown. We gripe about taxes. We grumble about our public officials. Crime. Grime. There’s too much of this. There’s not enough of that. We too often forget about Augusta’s many good points.

We feel no need to apologize for pointing them out, either. Editorial writers do a fine job of noting shortcomings as well – and it’s no less truthful to take note of the positive.

It just happens that during this first full week in April, Augustans get a refresher on why we choose to live here for the other 51.

When you’re expecting visitors to your house, what do you do? You tidy up the place. You bring out your best china. When your guests arrive, you stay cheery and upbeat.

Augusta is no different.

And Augusta is special.

If you’ve been here before, we’re glad you’re back. If you are new to Georgia’s second-largest city, you couldn’t have picked a better time to visit.

We hope you will take some time during your visit to explore our city. You’ve probably already noticed that, for a metro area that exceeds a half-million people, it can be quite easy to get around.

That is, if you’re clear of the Masters traffic.

Venture past our main thoroughfares and you’ll find a wide variety of neighborhoods, from modest bungalows and typical single-family homes all the way up to multimillion-dollar antebellum mansions and riverfront estates.

It may surprise you to know just how far your housing dollar goes here. The Augusta metro has historically ranked high in the National Association of Realtors’ most affordable markets. Our median home price is about $150,000. Augusta also is No. 2 on this year’s Apartment Guide “Top 10 Most Budget-Friendly Metros” list.

If it’s arts and culture you crave, head downtown and you’ll find the heart of the city’s burgeoning entertainment district, site of major annual events such as the annual Arts in the Heart and Westobou festivals, as well as regular performances by the world-class Symphony Orchestra Augusta.

The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in many of the historic storefronts along Broad Street that have been converted into trendy bars, restaurants and shops. WalletHub recently named Augusta No. 3 on its 2014 “Best Cities to Start a Business” list.

And while you’re downtown, pop into the Augusta Museum of History, where you can learn more about the founding of Georgia’s second-oldest city as well as see more contemporary historical exhibits. Did we mention legendary soul singer James Brown called Augusta home?

Venture to south Augusta and experience the rustic beauty of Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, an 1,100-acre woodlands and wetlands preserve. On your way there you’ll pass by some of the city’s most prominent corporate citizens, including Starbucks, Kellogg’s, E-Z-GO and a host of diversified chemical and manufacturing companies. The city’s industry-friendly attributes have garnered it regular mention in
Site Selection magazine as a top economic development destination.

Take a bridge across the Savannah River and you’ll find yourself in North Augusta, “South Carolina’s Riverfront.” Keep heading east and you’ll find yourself in historic Aiken, nationally known for its equestrian community and annual Aiken Steeplechase event. The city is a frequent placeholder on numerous “best places to retire” listings.

If it’s water recreation you’re after, take Washington Road past the growing bedroom communities of Columbia County to find Thurmond Lake, one of the largest manmade lakes east of the Mississippi River whose 1,200-mile shoreline is larger than the Eastern seaboard.

For less leisurely water fun, you might want to come back in July for the Augusta Southern Nationals, the “World’s Richest Drag Boat Race,” or in September, when the country’s largest half-triathlon, the Intermedix Ironman 70.3, returns to Augusta.

We hope you have a safe visit, but if you happen to fall ill or injured, you can rest assured you will be in some of the most
capable medical care in the nation. The Augusta metro area enjoys one of the highest physician-per-capita populations in America, thanks to 11 full-service and specialty hospitals on the city’s Georgia side alone.

The region’s largest health care cluster, the downtown medical district, is home to the state’s second-largest hospital, University Health Care System, as well as the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital and the Georgia Regents Health System, the latter being an academic health center affiliated with the state’s only public medical research university.

Augusta’s also proud of its potential. At Fort Gordon, one of the country’s largest U.S. Army installations, preparations are in high gear to groom the fort as the new headquarters of the U.S. Army Cyber Command.

With cyberspace as a potential 21st-century battleground, Fort Gordon – already headquarters the U.S. Signal Corps – gains new strategic importance to national security. And that new mission is going to bring thousands of new people to the Augusta area.

Another area ripe with potential contains the impressive 19th-century Gothic Revival mill buildings near downtown. Workers there spun thread and cloth for more than a century.

Now, the unused Sibley and King textile mills are being eyed for an extraordinary proposed expansion of Georgia Regents University into academic space and student housing near the historic Augusta Canal – the nation’s only industrial power canal that’s still in use.

Many visitors are learning about these fascinating aspects of our area for the first time.

As residents, let’s try not to forget.



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