Make the most of summertime with these 21 ideas for local fun that are (mostly) off the beaten path.
Food Truck Fridays, Evans
Bands and brews, food trucks and free admission — who’d want to miss that? This new summer event at the Columbia County Amphitheater (behind the library) will be serving up American fare (July 23), Italian (August 20) and Hawaiian (September 24) from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Bring a blanket and sit a spell. columbiacountyga.gov
Georgia Glamping Company, Appling
If you want to enjoy the great outdoors without getting too carried away, then Georgia Glamping offers (almost) all the comforts of home in lakefront safari tents at Wildwood Park. With beds, hammocks, string lights, fire pit, charcoal grill and amenities like a nice hotel room, you’ll no doubt want to come back for s’mores. georgiaglamping.com
Graves Mountain, Lincolnton
This gem rocks. A happy hunting ground for rockhounds, Tiffany’s once mined for rutile (used for polishing diamonds) here in the 1920s. If you dig this kind of recreation, make sure to call ahead because it’s open for rock collecting by appointment only: (706) 359-3862 or (706) 401-3173. Facebook: Graves Mountain
Baby Jo’s, Appling
When you know there are desserts like chocolate lasagna on the menu, you know the home-cookin’ and apps are going to be epic, too. Think barbecue, burgers, catfish, tacos, steak, shrimp — you get the idea. For summer on a plate, get the grilled pork chops with peach jalapeno glaze. Facebook: Baby Jo’s
Fishing Excursions, Clarks Hill Lake
If you don’t know a rod from a reel but want to catch the big one, book a trip with fish whisperers Captains Tony and Rocky of Little River Guide Service (they claim to “kick bass”), Captain Dave of Crockett Rocket Striper Service, Captain Eddie of Mason’s Striper Guide Service or Captain William of William Sasser Fishing Charters. All that’s left is the fish fry. littleriverguideservice.net, crockettrocketstriperfishing.com, masonguideservice.com, williamsasserfishing.com
Sunnyside ATV Paradise, Wrens
When you can’t get enough ATV or dirt bike fun, this Wrens park is right in your wheelhouse. It isn’t aka “The Sandbox” for nothing. Just play nice with the other kids. sunnysideatvparadise.com
Water view with your menu? Yes, please. With steak and seafood, live bands on the patio, and cocktails and ice-cold beer, this dockside restaurant is a fun place to kick back after a day on land or lake. Facebook: Williemacs
Palmetto Shooting Complex, Edgefield, S.C.
Take aim at some fun with sporting clays, trap and skeet fields and 3D archery at Palmetto. Or slow down and take a walk on the wild side with their interpretive walking trails, wildlife observation decks, wetlands and fishing habitat. nwtf.org/psc
Back Paddle Brewing, Lincolnton
Bring your appetite and craving for craft brews. This veteran-owned, small batch brewery offers styles you don’t typically see like an Imperial Stout or Scottish Ale, as well as farm-to-table dining. Along with signature burgers, they whip up specials like gumbo, shrimp and grits, Cuban sandwiches and burritos made with barbecue and mac ‘n’ cheese. Try the new peach wheat ale, and don’t forget to ask about their homemade peach cobbler. Facebook: Back Paddle Brewing
Laurel & Hardy Museum, Harlem
Looking to get yourself out of the heat and into a nice mess? Cool down with comedy. Kick back in the newly renovated Columbia Theater and watch the Laurel and Hardy slapstick films that run throughout the day. harlemmuseumandwelcomecenter.com
La Cantina, Clarks Hill, S.C.
Don’t let appearances fool you. This quirky restaurant (it looks like you’re pulling into someone’s yard) offers dinner Fridays and Saturdays followed by a show of the chef’s choice… because the chef is the show. Watch him cook steaks and seafood in the outdoor horno oven, and later entertain as a ventriloquist or play classical and flamenco tunes on his guitar. Make reservations and plan to stay awhile. No credit cards. 1750 Garrett Road
Pelican’s SnoBalls, Grovetown & Augusta
When the mercury goes up, cool yourself down with a fluffy, flavored SnoBall (not to be confused with its crunchy SnoCone cousin). Even reading the menu is entertaining — Shark Attack, Gone Fishin’, J’Makin Me Happy + 97 more. Decisions, decisions. Four-legged fans will love their pup cups. pelicanssnoballs.com
Ridge Road Café, Appling
Eggs and grits? Check. Burger, sandwich or fried shrimp basket? Check. Ribeye with some grilled shrimp on the side? Check and check. Get breakfast, lunch or dinner at this rural roadside diner where time stands still. Just as handy, it doubles as a convenience store and bait and tackle shop. 6539 Washington Road
Eudora Farms, Salley, S.C.
Follow your animal instincts to this 3-mile, drive-through safari park. You don’t have to leave your vehicle to see and feed more than 200 exotic animals from around the world. Then you can feed yourself at the picnic area and visit the enclosed petting zoo and Parakeet Adventure. eudorafarms.net
Lakeside Grill, Plum Branch, S.C.
Everyone is family at this 1950s throwback at Plum Branch Yacht Club. Get to the dockside eatery Thursday through Sunday by boat, car, golf cart or foot, then kick back with some fresh seafood, pizza, ice-cold beverages and everything else in between. plumbranch.com
Vance’s Bakery Bar, Augusta
OK, so you need to be at least 21 to hit this sweet spot. This mid-century modern bakery and cocktail lounge pairs local craft beers and spirits to create signature cocktails, coffee drinks and dessert drinks. Don’t forget to leave room for the decadent, alcohol-infused desserts. vancesbakerybar.com
Big Mo Drive-In Theater, Monetta, S.C.
Not all drive-ins have bitten the dust. For movie-going the old-fashioned way, park yourself at this 70-year-old outdoor movie theater with three screens and a concession stand. Chow down on hot dogs, pizza, burgers, nachos and more. You can even bring Fido, as long as he’s on a leash. thebigmo.com
Savannah River Brewing Co., Augusta
Things are always hopping at this craft brewery. Take a tour or join the activities they have on tap such as beer yoga, ax throwing, cornhole, Fitness on Tap, Tipsy Spelling Bee(r) Night, Dungeons and Dragons night and food truck offerings. Don’t forget to bring your dog and hang out on the deck. savannahriverbrew.com
Love Locks, Savannah Rapids Pavilion
Profess your eternal love with the one who makes your heart skip a beat by adding a personalized lock to the Savannah Rapids Pavilion headgates. According to ancient Chinese custom, as long as the lock remains, love will endure. For inspiration, check out the many creative locks already there. Facebook: Love Locks in Columbia County
Edgar’s Above Broad, Augusta
Go up to get down and have fun at this rooftop restaurant-entertainment venue. Where else will you see an Airstream trailer on the roof (it’s a bar), along with a bocce ball court, putting green and oversized outdoor chess board? While you’re having a good time, culinary students are serving up 5-star menu creations. edgarsabovebroad.com
Stay. Social Tap & Table, Evans
Well, it’s not off the beaten path, but this coffeehouse by day, self-serve taproom and tapas bar by night is front and center for fun. With indoor and patio seating, it has beer and wine taps, tapas served charcuterie-style, desserts and live music. You morning folk will appreciate the grab-and-go breakfasts, too. staysocialevans.com