What to expect in Augusta, Georgia?
March 15, 2012 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Augusta, Georgia, for a few years to pursue an awesome professional opportunity. What can you tell me about Augusta?

I suppose this is a bit of an open-ended question, but I'll be in Augusta for the next few years, and I'm not completely sure what to expect. I'm a mid-20s guy without any friends or family out there, although my similarly aged future colleagues seem like they'll be great people. I do worry about the fact that Augusta seems like a bit of a cultural backwater, surrounded by more interesting cities that are close enough for a day trip but too far to actually live in: Atlanta (where I've been for a few years), Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Charlotte, and so on.

So, what can you tell me about Augusta? Can you assuage my nervousness about moving out there? Or can you just give me practical advice about finding a place to live in the city and such?


Previously, sort of: 1, 2, 3, 4
posted by SpringAquifer to Travel & Transportation around Augusta, GA (11 answers total)
One thing you may not know, you can make a ton of money renting out your place during the Masters.

Two, Historic Augusta (the preservation group) is pretty cool and has a neat museum down by the river.

Three, it has a really great old theatre.

Four, since it is at least nominally a college town you get cool college town things like art shows, movies, and festivals.

Five, downtown is pretty cute and utterly walkable, with lots of cute and relatively cheap eatiers.
posted by stormygrey at 10:27 AM on March 15, 2012

I live in Savannah, spent a day in Augusta last year. The latter is probably slightly hipper than the former. Both are ecliptic.

The real question is, where are you coming from? What city do you live in now, what sort of lifestyle are you used to?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:38 AM on March 15, 2012

I'm not going to lie, Augusta isn't the most exciting place you'll ever live, but it could be worse. Your best bet for a place to live (without knowing about where you work) will likely be near the university. Avoid living out in Columbia County unless you get married and are worried about school districts.

The downtown has been heavily renovated in the past decade or so, and it is the closest thing to hip that the town has, and you will often find people from the school drinking or eating there. It's not Decatur, but it's pleasant enough.

Also, do remember that many people will be heavily religious and conservative, and if this isn't your background, it may be a culture shock. Be prepared for questions about what church you attend, etc.

And yes, unless you get tickets, plan to be out of the city during Masters week. The entire town shuts down and mostly goes to the beach or something.
posted by tau_ceti at 12:53 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Brandon: I'm currently living in Atlanta. Virginia Highland, to be precise. I like it, and I like the big city life. And, since I like to skip town with relative frequency, I like that Atlanta's airport has more than two direct connections to other major cities.

tau_ceti: While I won't be working in downtown Augusta, I'll be pretty close, near the intersection of Walton Way and one of the numbered cross streets.
posted by SpringAquifer at 1:10 PM on March 15, 2012

I'm currently living in Atlanta.

Prepare for the culture shock tau_ceti mentioned. Augusta will be slower, with less options for music, culture, arts and entertainment.

Consider it a learning experience and that you don't have to stay there forever if you don't want to.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:15 PM on March 15, 2012

Brandon: Yeah, I'll only be there for a few years.
posted by SpringAquifer at 1:22 PM on March 15, 2012

I was stationed at Ft Gordon for several months in 2009. A few things to share:
There are a lot of junior military members, because Gordon is a major training center for the Signal Corps. Combined with the colleges, this is a huge amount of underage, single, and annoyingly undersexed population. It makes Augusta's first Friday's entertaining as they circulate. There's also a high STD rate, at least for the people I was in charge of. Just a heads up. I mention this mostly because the military kids are forever underfoot,
On the plus side, you'll have access to the Boll Weevil sweetery, which has NATIONAL AWARD WINNING CAKE! MMMM cake. No, really, it was some of the best cake I have ever eaten.
Broad street is actually quite fun and walkable, and there are several national Parks within a few hours. Congaree was my favorite, mosquitoes and all.
For weekend trips, Charlotte NC is onyl a few hours away, as is Savannah and Charleston.

I would summarize the overall Augusta experience int he words of a fellow NCO(from Gainesville GA): Augusta is weird South. It's a blend of modern hipster and bible belt sensibilities.
All in all, not a bad place if you get a little creative with activities and just look around for fun. .
posted by Donkey_Unicorn at 4:02 PM on March 15, 2012

One important fact to keep in mind about Augusta and the surrounding Central Savannah River Area is that between the military, the colleges, and the nearby Department of Energy National Lab, there's a steady influx of decently-paid, well-educated out-of-towners which puts a bit of a skew to the cutural backwater effect that you mention. I'm not saying it completly offsets it, but it's not as bad as you'd think it'd be at first blush.

Things I would rate as positive for the area:

The number of parks. Whether you like to walk, ride bike, or play amateur sports, the number of facilities available in the greater Augusta area gives plenty of variety.

The food. As a city, Augusta loves to eat, and so many of the local resturants are top notch, it can be hard to decide (and the chain resturants aren't half bad either). As a point of reference, at one point, the owner of one of the more famous barbeque pits in town manged to get himself elected City Mayor, mainly on the strength of name recognition from everyone who had eaten there.

The history, particularly in some of the surrounding smaller towns on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River. Aiken, South Carolina is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Augusta, and has been the winter home for many thoroughbred horse racing breeders for decades. New Ellenton is a town that was formed when the US Government bought out 310 square miles of South Carolina in the 1950s to site cold war era nuclear material processing facilities, displacing several small rural towns in the process.

As for downsides to the area, my personal pet peeves are:

Limited avenues to pursue hardcore geekery. I know of only one good comicbook store in the area, only two stores for tabletop gaming, and if you need any computer parts that can't be found at a Best Buy, office supply store, or the little mom & pop computer repair places, your only option is to order online.

Masters Week traffic. One reason why it's so popular to rent your house out for the golf tourney, is so that you can be out of town on vacation and avoid the frustration of the traffic snarl that it brings.

Abysmal arport service. I know Augusta's Bush Field is a small regional airport and not a major hub, but in my experience, trying to fly people in or out of that airport is a lost cause. You'll get charged an arm & a leg for the ticket, and they'll probably cancel your flight anyway, because it's not a moneymaker for the airline. There is a company in town that runs a shuttle van service down to Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta for reasonable prices, so you don't have to put the miles on your own vehicle.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:36 PM on March 15, 2012

Welcome to Augusta! I grew up here (with a couple of extended absences to go to college) and so have 40+ years of familiarity with this town. I pretty much agree with everything above, and there are also some good answers in the threads you linked in your original question. I have a few other things to add as well.

Although Augusta is a far cry from Atlanta in many ways, it has become a much better place to live over the past few decades. There are a lot more arts, cultural, and sporting events than there used to be and you should be able to find something fun to do in your spare time. If you are the outdoorsy type there are a lot of opportunities for hunting, biking, boating, and so on. Clarks Hill Lake (do not call it Strom Thurmond Lake here in GA) and to a lesser extent the Savannah river are recreational opportunities for a lot of people here.

Since a couple of others have mentioned it I will say that the Masters Golf Tournament is the biggest event of the year by far. It is the first full week of April every year and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. Hotels rooms can be impossible to find for 50 miles and the west side of town gets very crowded. Despite that it is possible to get around with minimal delays if you plan around the traffic; I normally drive right through the most congested area on my way to work but can get around it and only add 5 or 10 minutes to my commute. As mentioned above if you want to rent your house out you can get a good bit of money with the added bonus that it is tax free (local lore has it that the bigwigs at the National used their pull with the IRS to carve out an exemption for rental income for less than 15 days rental). It is pretty much a week long party and can be a pretty fun time.

You mention that you are a professional and it sounds like you will be working near the medical center (the area around 15th Street and Walton Way). Most of the people who work there live on the west side of town (which includes the aforementioned Columbia County, where I live) but there are some areas closer in that are somewhat gentrified and have a lot of young professionals living there (for example Old Towne and Summerville, AKA "The Hill") Where you would want to live depends a lot on how much you want to spend on housing, what kind of neighbours you want (young singles vs. families, for example), and whether you plan to buy or rent. In general housing will be much more affordable and your commute much shorter than in Atlanta. I work at one of the hospitals, live about 15 miles away, and generally have a 20-25 minute drive to work (although that is at 6AM). The south side of town tends to be more blue collar and is dominated by industrial plants (Federal Paperboard, Columbia Nitrogen, Proctor and Gamble, and so on) and Fort Gordon.

Politics tends to be pretty conservative, especially in Columbia County, but there are plenty of more liberal people as well, more so in Augusta/Richmond County. Local politics is dominated by petty bickering which can be an endless source of entertainment but results in not much getting accomplished.

The airport does suck, despite a major upgrade a few years ago. Delta is pretty much the only option, which means everyone goes to Atlanta. Leaving Augusta isn't usually a hassle, but delayed flights and lost bags are pretty common when returning. Many people fly out of Atlanta as mentioned above and there are a number of options for getting to and from the airport; some hotels in Atlanta offer special deals where if you stay there the night before your flight you can leaver your car there and they will shuttle you to and from the airport, for examplle, or you can take a shuttle from Augusta. In my experience, though, Columbia, SC has the best airport to fly out of. Much smaller and easier to navigate than ATL, but still has a decent number of flight options. It is about an hour drive down I-20; the Augusta airport is about a 40 minute drive for me (I live way on the other side of town from the airport), so getting there is not a hassle.

Other random thoughts: Public transportation and taxi service here suck so plan on driving or walking everywhere you go.

Based on what you have said, if you plan on renting an apartment you may want to look at Enterprise Mill, which is very close to where you will work (although there are a lot of other options)

The night life is pretty much centered on Broad Street, with a few more places to go out in the I-20/Washington Rd. area and scattered in various random locations throughout the area.

I need to do some actual work now, but if you have any specific questions or want to know about things to do that you are interested in feel free to contact me either in thread or via memail and I can get you more detailed information. I think you will like it here.
posted by TedW at 6:07 AM on March 16, 2012

And I did go to college in Austin (Hook 'em Horns!), so I do have some basis for comparison between Augusta and other cities. I will admit that if there were a medical school in Austin I probably wouldn't have left. Despite haveing a number of schools here, Augusta really isn't much of a college town. The largest school by far is the recently re-named Georgia Health Sciences University (where I work). Although it is one of the three main research institutions in the state (along with The University of Georgia and Georgia Tech) it really doesn't have the same effect on the town as UGA or UT.
posted by TedW at 6:55 AM on March 16, 2012

TedW: I did my undergrad at UT, too. Glad to see some fellow alums out there!

Thanks for the great answers, everyone! Very helpful.
posted by SpringAquifer at 8:15 AM on March 16, 2012

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