Beat the Heat in Aiken

Summer is flying by! Beat the heat and take a trip to Aiken, recently named one of the South's Prettiest Towns by “Southern Living.” A popular destination with its food scene, performing arts, museums, and equine activities, make plans for unforgettable experiences in the Sporting South. Check out this list of places to eat, places to stay, and things to do. 


Experience the best barbecue joints Aiken has to offer. The Pot Smoker serves meats pot smoked with the best rubs using the savory flavor of a family secret homemade barbecue sauce. Carolina BBQ has been in business for over half a century, and named by “Garden and Gun” readers as a favorite small-town barbecue spot. Established in 1985, Bobby's Bar-B-Q wows diners with their buffet of ribs slow-cooked over hickory wood. Highly acclaimed for the best chopped and pulled pork, Dave's Grill & Grocer uses the famous mustard base of South Carolina's barbecue. Shane's Rib Shack is best known for its ribs, brisket, and pulled pork platters. Blue Collard sells pre-prepared pulled pork and beef briskets for pick up. Located just outside of Aiken, JDubbZ is a new eatery that serves hickory-smoked chicken wings brushed with their homemade barbecue sauce. 


Aiken is rich with history and has five museums (all with free admission) depicting the past. Located near downtown, The Center for African American History, Art and Culture preserve the legacy begun in 1881 by Rev. W. R. Coles, who established The Immanuel Institute to educate African Americans. Be sure you see the “Reflections” exhibit on display until September by local artist Robert Atkins', and join the Justice First Tour on August 12.  Dive into Aiken’s deep-rooted history at one of Aiken's famed “Winter Colony” cottages, Aiken County Historical Museum, also known as “Banksia.” Happening now at the museum is the Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit, “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America.”  Explore the Aiken Visitor's Center Center and Train Museum, located at the rebuilt Aiken Railroad Depot, to see the nine dioramas that depict towns along the original South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company right of way. Visit Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum to learn more about Aiken-trained horses who have become national champions, and sign up for the Ginny Southworth Equine Photography Lecture and Exhibit on August 14. SRS Museum visitors can experience life at the Savannah River Site and see exhibits on the Cold War, local fallout shelters, plant production, radiation, waste cleanup, space exploration, and ecology. 


Aiken is known for its rich equestrian heritage and events. Join the Back to School Horse Progressive Show Jumping on August 5 -7 and Highfields Just For Fun Show on August 20 at Highfields Event Center. The 2022 Summer/Fall Schooling Horse Trials and Combined Tests/Dressage Tests of Choice & Jumper Rounds will be held on August 7, Schooling Dressage Tests of Choice on August 20, and Recognized Horse Trials on August 21 at Fall Gallop Farm Schooling. Bring a picnic, and sit on the sidelines to watch the 2022 Summerfest Series at Aiken Horse Park on August 18-21 and 25-28. Stable View presents USEF/USDF “Too Hot To Trot II” Dressage on August 17-21. Aiken is shuttin' down the streets downtown for the first ever Roping Aiken, a dummy roping event on August 20.


Stranger things are happening in Aiken! Adam Murray is coming to Aiken to do standup comedy at AMENTUM Center for the Performing Arts on August 19. Murray is an Atlanta actor and comedian who appeared in an episode of Stranger Things wearing a vintage South Aiken High School shirt. The Aiken Community Theatre presents Roald Dahl’s Matilda from September 9 – 17, and Aiken Performing Arts presents the music of Carole King & James Taylor, Troubadours on September 29 & 30. 


Explore Aiken's high-end boutiques and shopping! Downtown shops each have their own theme and unique finds, such as equine goods, specialty-made jewelry, modern clothes, fine artwork, culinary items, and upscale furniture. A great time to shop is during the Labor Day sidewalk sale on September 1-3! 

Savor the final carefree weeks of summer by vacationing in The Sporting South. Check out our website for a full list of what to dowhere to eat, and where to stay.