Surprising Suburbs: Harlem

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Silly is good in the suburbs, especially when you choose little Harlem, Georgia.  Consider this a suburb of Augusta and Thomson in Columbia County, which Grammy winner Lady Antebellum calls home.

Laurel and Hardy pull raucous laughter out of thousands of visitors all year long, and by the thousands during the annual first Saturday in October festival tied to their museum in Harlem.  Movie dates are noisy, a cause and effect of laughter from the Laurel and Hardy Museum’s non-stop run of classic film.

Family travel builds bridges here, with some children seeing their first silly slapstick black-and-white short films; first wondering why their parents are stricken with the giggles, before contracting them, too. Laurel and Hardy films are a good counterbalance to the werewolf and vampire dominance in film-watching America today.

Laurel.Hardy.MuseumThe Laurel and Hardy Museum is a homey, unpretentious, sort of simple place with thousands of memorabilia items. Most everybody poses for a picture with Stan and Ollie in their car, known from their 1929 film “A Perfect Day.”

Museum docents are proud to tell this is the only Laurel and Hardy museum in America, and one of only three in the world. As such, it attracts visitors from all over. You don’t see signatures listing Saudi Arabia as home in just any museum guest book, but I did here. This idiosyncratic museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

You might consider staying overnight at nearby Red Oak Manor bed and breakfast. That will give you another day to watch more films and laugh longer.

horizonal tree through trees webBuilt in 1885, seven years before Norvell “Oliver” Hardy was born, Red Oak Manor has five guest rooms; the downstairs room and bath are handicap accessible. Two upstairs guest rooms have private baths, and two share one. Acorn is the name of the Manor’s restaurant with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pass under centuries-old oak trees walking through the yard to the museum.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com.

Get Outdoors in Augusta

When you think of Augusta, The Masters golf tournament or James Brown might be the first things that come to your mind. However, what you may not know is that Augusta is a fantastic place to get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.  Here are my suggestions for great outdoor attractions & activities in Augusta, Georgia:

Augusta Riverwalk: Augusta is situated along the Savannah River, which forms the state line between Georgia and South Carolina. Take a stroll down the multilevel Riverwalk and enjoy the scenery of the river, gardens, abundant opportunities for picnicking and a playground for kids (and kids at heart). Riverwalk is a great place to experience 4th of July fireworks, the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration and the Augusta Market on the River, where you can find fresh produce, food and crafts during the warmer months of the year. It is also home to the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre, a unique spot for outdoor concerts.

Kayaking the Canal

Kayaking the Canal

The Augusta Canal: The Augusta Canal was built to provide water to textile mills and factories that used hydro-power to operate large machinery. Today, you can tour the canal by boat, bike or foot. If you have your own canoe or kayak, you can put in at the canal head gates and paddle the 7 miles past Lake Olmstead to the 13th Street Bridge. There are several outfitters in town that offer boat rentals and shuttles. Because there are no gas-powered boats allowed in the canal, the only traffic you will see is tour boats and other paddlers. It’s pretty cool to be on the water, viewing birds, turtles and possibly alligators and heading right through the heart of downtown at the same time. If you’d rather stick to land, you can experience the Canal Trail, a dirt path that runs the length of the canal and is great for biking or hiking. The trail is shaded by large trees, so it is enjoyable year-round, and there are different entrance points, so you don’t have to trek the entire length of the trail if you’re not up for it.

Disc Golf: Augusta is home to the PDGA International Disc Golf Center, making it a mecca for disc golfers. You can toss some discs there or at several different courses throughout the area. Just bring your own discs, and you’re all set.  Pendleton King Park is great for beginners. If you’re looking for a challenge, I suggest the Lake Olmstead course is perfect, which is built around the water.

Auggie

Auggie

The Augusta Greenjackets: The Augusta Greenjackets are a minor league team affiliated with the San Francisco Giants that plays at Lake Olmstead Stadium, just minutes from downtown. The tickets are affordable and the beer is cold, making it a great option for a night out with family or friends. Insider tip: Don’t miss out on the chance to have your picture taken with the mascot Auggie!

Lake Thurmond

Lake Thurmond

Camping: After all of your outdoor adventures, it’s time to relax with nature. What better way to do that than by camping at Lake Thurmond? Mistletoe State Park is only about 30 minutes from downtown and a great place to set up camp. You’ll be right on the banks of Lake Thurmond, where you can swim, boat or simply laze about and enjoy your surroundings. The last time I camped there, the weather was perfect and peaceful. It’s also nice to know you aren’t too far from civilization in case you forget to pack any essentials.

Camping in the Giant TentAnna Lee Mikell is a Southern girl raised in Georgia and South Carolina. She loves Southern food, photography and SEC football. You can often find her searching for old records at the flea market or sipping sweet iced tea.