Let's face it, during the lazy hazy days of summer, leisure-time activities in Augusta often come to a meltdown nearly as stifling as the humidity-filled heat.
But within reasonable driving distance from the Garden City, there's an abundance of one-day family entertainment options that can alleviate out-of-school restlessness while leaving enough time to get home to your own bed.
From WhiteWater family water park just north of Atlanta to Columbia's Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden, we've outlined some ways to beat the summer doldrums -- if you're willing to get in the car and drive a few hours.
AMUSEMENT & WATER PARKS
For thrill seekers, Six Flags Over Georgia has seven roller coasters, including the legendary Great American Scream Machine and the park's newest, Batman the Ride, a ski lift-style train that whips riders through hairpin turns, vertical loops and corkscrews.
Other attractions include music and entertainment revues, children's rides, the Great Gasp parachute drop offering a view of Atlanta's skyline and the 88-year-old Riverview Carousel, featuring hand-carved wooden horses and chariots.
One-day tickets are $34 for adults and $23 for children ages 3 to 9 and senior citizens. Children under 2 get in free. For tickets and other information, call (770) 948-9290.
To get there, take Interstate 20 west through Atlanta past Interstate 285 and exit at the clearly marked Six Flags exit.
Also outside of Atlanta are White Water Park and adjacent American Adventures family amusement park off Interstate 75 in Marietta.
White Water, featuring waterfalls, slides, raft rides, a 750,000-gallon wave pool and two lazy rivers to float along at a leisurely pace, has two new attractions this year. New for 1998 are the Cliffhanger, a 90-foot freefall, and Run-A-Way River, a 735-foot enclosed tunnel raft ride.
General admission is $21.99 plus tax and $12.99 plus tax for children age 3 and up to 4 feet tall.Despite a recent outbreak of the E. coli virus at the water park, White Water is safe, company officials insist. After all the negative publicity it has received, it's probably THE SAFEST water park in the country.American Adventures, located next to White Water, has 15 child-oriented amusement rides, go-cart racing, 18-hole miniature golf, live entertainment and the Foam Factory, a 40,000-square-foot indoor play area where more than 50,000 foam balls launched from 80 catapults and blasters douse children as they romp about.
Admission to American Adventures is $13.99 plus tax for ages 4 to 17, $4.99 plus tax for children 3 and under. Parent passes are $2.99 plus tax.
Take I-20 west to downtown Atlanta, pick up I-75 north and travel to exit ramp 113, where both parks are located.
For more information about White Water and American Adventures, call (770) 424-9283 or check out their shared website at www.whitewaterpark.com.
Another amusement park about the same distance away from Augusta is Paramount Carowinds, which has movie-themed thrill rides and a water park. The park, 15 minutes south of Charlotte straddling the North Carolina-South Carolina border, boasts six roller coasters, entertainment shows, a 12-acre water park, several children's attractions and the Drop Zone stunt tower, a 100-foot tall, 56 mph free fall.
Admission is $29.99 for ages 7-54, $17.99 for seniors and children 6 and younger, and free for children under 3. After 5 p.m. admission is $14.99 for all ages. Parking is $5 per vehicle.
From Augusta, take I-20 east to I-77 north near Columbia, go north toward Charlotte and exit Carowinds Boulevard (exit 90) north of Rock Hill, S.C.
Call (800) 888-4FUN or visit the park's website at www.carowinds.com for more information.
ZOOS, GARDENS & MUSEUMS
Perhaps nature and science are more your scene.Columbia's Riverbanks Zoological Park and Botanical Garden is only about an hour away.
The zoo houses more than 2,000 animals in their natural habitats, mostly free of bars and cages. Approximately 200 individual mammals, 300 birds, 300 reptiles and amphibians and 1,300 fish and invertebrates can be seen.
A 70-acre botanical garden is Riverbanks' newest addition. It features a lush hardwood forest, walled garden, rose garden and scenic overlooks of the Saluda River.
Admission to the zoo and garden is $5.75 for adults, $3.25 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for children 2 and younger.
Also this summer, a special exhibit, Jewels of the Sky , featuring hundreds of North American butterflies, is running at Riverbanks through Sept. 7. There is a separate admission charge for this exhibit; $2 for adults and $1 for children 3-12.
From Augusta, take I-20 east toward Columbia. Take exit 64A onto I-26 east. Take the Riverbanks Zoo/Greystone Boulevard exit and follow the signs.For more infomation, call Riverbanks at (803) 779-8717 or look it up on the Internet at www.riverbanks.org.
If you prefer animals with star power, head to Zoo Atlanta, where Willie B., the 430-pound, 6-foot tall western lowland gorilla, holds court. Other attractions include an extensive reptile collection, bird collection, red pandas and a petting zoo.
Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for children 3 to 11 and free for children younger than 3.The zoo is located off I-20 east in Atlanta. Take exit 26 and turn right on Boulevard. Zoo Atlanta is a half mile on the right inside Grant Park.
For more information, call (404) 624-5600.
Also in Atlanta - and keeping in the vein of nature and science - are the Fernbank Science Center and Fernbank Museum of Natural History nestled away on 70 acres of woodlands in one of the city's most prestigious neighborhoods.
The science center has a planetarium, greenhouse, exhibit hall, library and observatory open to the public. Admission to all is free, except the planetarium, which is $1 for students and children and $2 for adults. For hours and more information, call (404) 378-4311.
The museum of natural history features permanent exhibits highlighting Georgia's landforms, a collection of pre-Hispanic Peruvian artifacts, and a 315-seat special effects IMAX theater.
Admission to the museum is $8.95 for adults, $7.95 for students and seniors, $6.95 for children 3 to 12 and free for children 2 and younger. Admission to the IMAX theater is $6.95 for adults, $5.95 for students and seniors and $4.95 for children 3-12. Combined tickets for the museum and IMAX theater are also available; $13.95 for adults; $11.95 for students and seniors; and $9.95 for children ages 3-12.
For more information about the museum, call (404) 378-0127.
To get to the Fernbank complex from Augusta, take I-20 west to Atlanta and exit Moreland Avenue (exit 28A), turn right and go through Little Five Points, then turn right on Ponce De Leon Avenue. Take a left on Clifton Road. The museum entrance, 767 Clifton Road, is on the right.
To get to the science center, at 156 Heaton Park Dr., go about 2 and a half miles east on Ponce De Leon and take a left onto Arrowhead Road, then the first right on Heaton Park Drive. The science center is on the left.The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia offers exhibits on the Palmetto State's art, history, natural history, science and technology in a building that had been home to a cotton mill since 1894.
Admission for adults is $4 for adults, $3 for students and seniors, and $1.50 for children 6 to 17. Admission is free the first Sunday of every month.
Take I-20 east to Columbia, exit onto U.S. Highway 1, follow several miles to bridge crossing Congaree River. Once across the bridge, the museum, at 301 Gervais St., is on the left.
Call (803 898-4935.
What about taking a trip to take a day-trip, the old fashioned way? The South Carolina Railroad Museum, in Winnsboro, S.C., just north of Columbia, offers rides on vintage passenger trains. The museum operates on two miles of the former Rockton, Rion and Western Rail Road (RR & W) line. Trains operate on the first and third Saturdays of the month through Oct. 17, running at 9:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. Adult fare is $4.75 and children's tickets are $2.75. For more information, call (800) 968-5909.
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