Before moving to Fort Gordon, Georgia I had no expectations.
A lifelong Westerner, I assumed that Georgia would be similar to the base we were leaving, Fort Bragg in North Carolina. I figured it would be a slightly hotter, slightly muggier, slightly buggier version of the place I’d already been living.
However, Fort Gordon and the surrounding area has turned out to be one of my favorite places I’ve lived so far.
Boasting great food, outdoor adventures, and plenty of other great destinations only a few hours away, it’s definitely a place to rank high on your list the next time you PCS.
1. The Community
The CSRA (short for Central Savannah River Area) is very family-friendly. There are frequent fun, often free events. We live near Evans Towne Center in Evans, which hosts many events. Boom in the Park is an event honoring service members and their families with live music, food trucks, and a spectacular fireworks show; Kids Fest gives families to the opportunity to watch circus performers and participate in circus related activities, a free family carnival, and an ice rink during the holidays. Touch an Animal Day a few miles away in Aiken, SC gives visitors the opportunity to touch and learn about wild animals in the CSRA. Many churches also provide free festivals, such as the Harvest Festival at Wesley Methodist Church and the Pumpkin Patch Story Time at St. Bart’s Episcopal Church. There are is no shortage of things to do in this busy community!
2. The Hiking
Great trails abound in the area. Just over the border in South Carolina is the Forks Area Trail System, or FATS, with 37 miles worth of trails. We’ve taken many beautiful walks at Savannah Rapids Park, which is great for walkers and bikers. And there’s a stretch of the Bartram Trail that is the perfect length for a shady hike with kids.
3. The River
Fort Gordon is near the Savannah River, which is a great spot for kayaking and paddle-boarding. Nearby Thurmond Lake has a boat launch and designated beach and swimming areas. If you’re a hard-core athlete, Augusta’s half-Ironman is considered a great race for beginners, with a downriver swim in the Savannah River. There’s a lovely river walk on the Georgia side with a farmer’s market in the summer, and the South Carolina side has a beautiful greenway along the river.
4. The food
My husband and I are self-avowed foodies with picky palates, and we’ve found many restaurants to love here.
For local burgers, Farmhaus is unbeatable. French Market Grille is home to amazing Cajun food. Namaste Indian Street Food is a unique take on Indian food, and its neighbor Laziza boasts incredible kababs and gyros. For special occasions, we love sampling the small plates at Craft & Vine or diving into the pork chops and macaroni and cheese at Frog Hollow.
5. The library system.
Georgia has an extensive library system called the Public Information Network for Electronic Services, or PINES. Almost all the libraries in the state are part of the program, meaning patrons can do interlibrary loans between several libraries. The majority of the books I put on hold are available within the week, which has led to a serious issue as I can’t finish my books fast enough!
The local branch nearest to my family is the Columbia County Library. It has an amphitheater, park, and splash pad behind it. It also hosts many excellent programs for kids, teens, and adults, such as storytimes, puppet shows, opportunities to meet animals, book clubs, knitting clubs, podcast discussion groups, and more!
6. The parks
There are so many great playgrounds and parks to choose from here. We especially appreciate the many parks with a splash pad feature, as the weather gets pretty steamy in the summer months.
7. The Weather
When I first moved to Georgia a year ago, I found myself complaining about the heat constantly. As a western desert dweller, I didn’t know what to do with the air that clung to my skin or the oppressive heat. But my complaints dried up by October. The rest of the year is absolute perfection – delightful in fall and spring and only slightly chilly in winter. I was so grateful that my kids could spend quarantine playing outside in our yard March through May when everything was closed due to COVID-19.
8. The Masters
If you love golf, this is hands down the duty station for you. Each year, Augusta hosts the Masters, a golf tournament. Active duty military can enter a lottery for tickets, and the entire city is overrun by tourists. Many residents who choose to leave during the Masters rent out their homes as an Airbnb and make thousands of dollars!
9. The Day Trips
Augusta is a short drive away from many great destinations. The beaches of Hilton Head and Jekyll Island, the history and grandeur of Savannah and Charleston, the mountains of Greenville, and the urban atmosphere in Atlanta are all within a few hours. And this just scratches the surface!
10. The Wildlife
My kids are obsessed with finding animals and bugs, and Georgia has been our favorite place to catch them. We’ve found three types of lizards and two types of frogs in our backyard alone. (This may dissuade some of you, but trust me, they’re fun!) I love birdwatching and am constantly in awe of the beautiful birds nesting right on my street.
There are also fantastic nature centers. Phinizy Swamp is a water sciences center and nature park that is home to alligators and many other creatures; Reed Creek Nature Center holds classes for toddlers to adults that have storytimes, homeschool classes, summer camps, and opportunities to hold and feed animals.