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I have to admit, Aiken, South Carolina surprised me. In Aiken SC everything is an easy walk or within a five-minute drive of downtown. Chef-driven restaurants, live music, historic hotels, interesting museums, gardens, hiking trails, and lots, and lots of horses.

I had no idea what to expect, but loved catching a match at the Aiken Polo Club on historic Whitney Field. Sponsors set up their white tents around the field to tailgate. For those without a parking spot, you can pay a five dollar general admission or for a larger investment sit in the grandstand where the party includes food and drinks.

Had we not been heading back to Atlanta right afterward, the grandstand would definitely have been the way to go. I was a little worried about being under dressed as we had just come from a hike, but there were women in Lilly shifts, as well as men in shorts and t-shirts.

Not only seeing but hearing the horses thundering down the field at top speed was exciting! Pro Tips: Looking for a more relaxed polo experience? Aiken SC in known for thoroughbred racing in addition to polo. Not up to speed on this sport? Visit the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum for a quick history lesson and to learn more about the horses, the jockeys and the families.

Kids will have fun meeting Hitch, who may look like a toy horse, but was actually used to rehabilitate injured jockeys. Now that you know a little about the business, head over to the Aiken Training Track to see the horses practice in real life.

It all started when Thomas Hitchcock and Thomas Whitney convinced friends to join them in the mild climate. The avid sportsman owned 8, acres where they put on fox hunts.

Today 2, acres of that land, about three times the size of Central Park in New York, has been put aside to preserve the forest. There are 70 miles of sandy trails in Hitchcock Woods and in addition to hikers and dog walkers, it is not unusual to see people riding horses along the trails. Pro Tips: Wear sunscreen and bring water. Aiken is surprisingly hilly and the pine forest is very open. Get a map or take a picture with your phone. The wealthy colonists brought their love of gardens and green space to Aiken and that legacy manifests itself in formal gardens like Hopelands Gardens, the estate of a bad ass heiress Mrs.

Oliver Iselin who was quite a sportswoman and had no qualms about beating the men in her world on the field, or in a poker game. Nightlife in Aiken centers around the Alley Downtown. Grab a drink at Whiskey Alley or any of the restaurants or bars and take a stroll around to see the murals or play a little corn hole.

On the evening we visited there was live music. After a year plus of COVID lockdown, it was fabulous to see musicians performing, people dancing, kids running around and dogs wrestling. Amp the Alley brings bands on Thursday evenings. Even on Sunday, when the downtown shops are closed, this place was lively. Between the residents, tourists, and visitors still in riding pants from nearby horse events, Main Street Aiken was bustling with shoppers visiting the locally owned stores.

Two must-visits are Equine Divine for as you may have guessed, equine-themed gifts and Plum Pudding for the cooking enthusiast. The Aiken Center for the Arts is a half art gallery, half shop, and definitely worth seeking out to view and purchase the work of local artists.

Have a sweet tooth? The Visitors Center, located downstairs, can assist you with your questions, maps, brochures, event information, and more. The Train Museum, located on the second floor, has nine dioramas that depict the towns along the original South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company right of way.

Its 3. The purpose of the Aiken County Historical Museum , under the direction of the Aiken County Historical Commission, is to collect and preserve historical material relating to Aiken County, to display and interpret such information to the public. There is no charge to visit the Museum. Hours are Tuesday — Saturday — ; Sunday — Vendors sell fresh produce, baked goods, meat, honey, and dairy products, along with handmade crafts. Goods are displayed on tables built by farmers and their families of Aiken County over 50 years ago.

The Market, even now, is a place where conversation and recipes are shared with friends, old and new. The DuPont Planetarium exists to inspire others to explore the majesty of the heavens. Visitors age 4 and up attend public shows presented every Saturday.

We encourage our visitors to reserve seats in advance. If you make a reservation, please arrive no later than 20 minutes before the show starts. All unclaimed reservations will be released 10 minutes prior to the show. All well and good, but the proof is in the food, which revolves around locally sourced ingredients. Prior to dinner, we stopped for a glass of wine and walked through the gardens of the nearby Rose Hill. Aiken Golf Club is a historic course just a half mile from downtown Aiken SC making it extremely convenient.

Read his course tips , as well as a list of the other golf courses near Aiken. Downtown Aiken is teeming with a variety of restaurants. Sit at the counter, find a booth or dine al fresco on the sidewalk. The menu has lots of southern favorites like pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes, as well as weekly blue plate specials, in addition to standard burgers, salads and sandwiches. For dessert there are cakes piled three layers high and an extensive ice cream menu!

That alone is worth a visit. The Carriage House has a gorgeous porch for evening cocktails with an outdoor fireplace for chilly nights. Breakfast is included and in addition to continental items has a few hot selections made to order. And speaking of tours, I have a haunted Aiken tour by Tailored Tours on my list. Owner Marty Bailey was my trolley tour guide and left me wanting to know more. So tell me, what else did we miss? Looking for more small-town fun in South Carolina?

Check out our posts on Beaufort and Greenville. Ready to travel a little farther south? We recommend these small towns in Georgia , or these hidden gems in Florida. All articles belong to Atlanta Family LLC, and all photos belong to us as well, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. This site uses cookies to enhance your experience. We make no guarantees of any price listed on our site. We are not responsible for content on external web sites linked from ours, including linked resources, an external blog post, any partner site, hotel property sites, or affiliate sites.

Posts may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Several of our trips are also compensated by the respective tourism boards for the city or state we are visiting. This never impacts how we share the destination with you — opinions are always our own and we pride ourselves on that. We do not sell links or accept unsolicited guest posts under any circumstances.

About Latest Posts. Sue Rodman. Co-Founder at Atlanta Traveler. Sue came to Atlanta after finishing the Walt Disney World College Program where she was a tour guide then guest relations hostess and no she did not moonlight as Snow White. Sue spent 25 years in PR before adding freelance travel writing to her resume.

Her favorite place to visit is anywhere with her husband and three sons. Sue believes anytime is a good time for dessert and there are no bad field trips, just better stories. Latest posts by Sue Rodman see all.



South Carolina Calendar of Events and Festivals – April

Hitchcock Woods. Forests. Aiken County Historical Museum. Historic Sites • Educational sites.


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