Cowboys keep tradition

Cutting horses is a sport that dates back to the 1880s when ranchers had to separate a cow from the herd for branding and discovered that certain horses were more adept at the skill than others. Before long, cowboys were pitting their cutting horse skills against one another in competition. The tradition continues in Augusta with the 31st annual Augusta Futurity, Jan. 22-30.

While the Cutting Horse competition is the highlight of the event, there are plenty of other cowboy-related attractions, including a bull-riding competition, a horse auction, vendors, a dance and a Fun Fest that features pony rides and live entertainment for the kids.

Outside the James Brown Arena, Augusta has much to offer, from a stroll along Riverwalk to a venture into Phinizy Swamp. While in town, check out some of the city’s great restaurants.

Don’t miss

The Augusta Futurity

Nine days of cutting horse competition and more. With a purse of $100,000, the competition is stiff. This year marks the first year of the Champion Challenge, a competition for past champions. James Brown Arena. www.augustafuturity.com

The Riverwalk

This recently revitalized section of downtown offers shopping, restaurants and sweeping views of the Savannah River. Extending five city blocks, the Riverwalk, built on two levels, runs along the Savannah levee. Easy walking distance to Augusta Museum of History, Fort Discovery National Science Center and the Morris Museum of Art. www.augustariverwalk.com

Phinizy Swamp

Officially known as the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy, Phinizy Swamp offers an opportunity for visitors to explore swamps, wetlands and, if they’re lucky, see some of the wildlife that inhabit the area, such as alligators and bobcats. www.phinizyswamp.org

The Augusta Museum of History

A variety of changing exhibits, a transportation museum and a children’s discovery area are all part of the Augusta Museum of History. Rotating exhibits on display during the futurity include an exhibit on the life of James Brown, one that spans the history of medicine in Augusta and an exhibit on the history of baseball in the area. There is also a history theater that shows a different movie each month. www.augusta museum.org

If you go

How to get there

Augusta is 145 miles from downtown Atlanta. Take I-20 east to Wrightsboro Road at Exit 2. Turn left.

Where to stay

The Partridge Inn: Suites and balcony rooms available. Rooms start at $99. 2110 Walton Way. 1-800-476-6888, www.partridgeinn.com

The West Bank Inn: Free wireless Internet and continental breakfast. Rooms start at $53.95. 2904 Washington Road. 1-706-733-1724, www.thewestbankinn.com

Where to eat

La Maison on Telfair: Wine and tapas as well as traditional dining. Fine dining with some adventurous choices such as ostrich. Reservations recommended. Entrees $18.95-$38. 404 Telfair St. 1-706-722-4805, www.lamaisontelfair.com

Blue Sky Kitchen: Many unique menu items such as Fiesta Catfish and Korean Beef. Entrees $12-$18. 990 Broad St. 1-706-821-3988, blueskyaugusta.com

Information

Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. 706-823-6600, www.augustaga.org