Looking for a hidden gem in the South to escape the summer heat and vacation? We’ve got just the place! Aiken, SC, is a charming and historic South Carolina city famous for its rich equestrian culture. But that’s not all – Aiken also boasts incredible dining, scenic trails and stunning views, cozy bed and breakfasts, unique shops and art galleries, golfing opportunities, and equine activities. The reasons to visit Aiken are endless, and we’ve compiled ten things to check out that make it the ultimate chill-out destination.
1. Hotels and Bed and Breakfast Inns
Experience Southern hospitality at its finest in the quaint community of Aiken at one of these Hotels, Bed and Breakfast Inns, or Vacation Rentals. There’s no better place than to wake up than in the heart of Aiken’s downtown. Although, the Hotels and Bed and Breakfast Inns offer over-the-top breakfasts and brunches, there are great café and breakfast options downtown.
2. The Shops
There’s many unique locally owned shops and boutiques in downtown Aiken. You will find shops such as equine-inspired boutiques with collections for the horse-lover, locally owned pet stores that you can bring your furry love to, stylish and one-of-kind clothes for kids, women and men, and an Aiken-themed shop for souvenirs. Warning! It’s addictive for the indulgent window shopper!
3. The Tours
Stop by the Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum to learn about self-guided tours, many with an easy walk; and also trolley tours. Based on the trolley tours popularity, make sure you make reservations in advance!
4. Aiken has a Creative Side
Aiken is lined with distinctive galleries and antique shops. There are also unique art studios available for those who wish explore their artistic ability; painting classes of all kinds, oil, acrylic, watercolor – decoupage and floral arranging are offered. The possibilities are endless!
5. The food
Whether it’s a tapas-style meal, French cuisine, blue pate specials, international foods, street food… Aiken is the place to be for good eats! And, it’s not just about the cuisine, it’s the atmosphere as well.
It is no secret that charming Aiken is the best travel location for families with furry ones. Aiken has been recognized as a Pet Friendly City, so don’t leave Fido behind!
7. Aiken is adventurous for leisurely walkers
Explore everything from Aiken’s historic winter colony mansions to beautiful parkways and breath-taking gardens. Stroll some of the most whimsical paths and gardens at Hopelands Gardens, or touch base with nature and soak up the lovely views of Carolina Bay and hike the scenic trails of the 2100 acre Hitchcock Woods.
8. Pools, Swimming holes, Outdoor Adventure
The Southern summertime heat is sizzling and these pools and swimming holes are a sure way to help cool you down on a hot day. Langley Pond, known as the world’s largest pond has amenities that include a boat ramp and dock, a bath house with restrooms, a covered picnic area with grills, and swimming area with a sand beach. The Aiken State Park is a popular destination with underground springs that fill the area’s with fishing and swimming lakes, while the river’s South Fork offers calm water for canoeing and kayaking. Enjoy the white sandy beaches, water-slides, beach volleyball and concessions at Richardson’s Lake. Enjoy many of the or many of Aiken’s public pools or cool off at Sprayground at Citizens Park.
9. Aiken is horse riding paradise
Experience the heart of the horse district through the dirt roads, surrounded by beautiful polo fields and private equestrian facilities. Horse riding enthusiasts can experience the heart of polo country by exploring the trails at the Aiken State Park, tranquil forests, the historic scenic downtown, or one of the private equestrian facilities. Or, just spend the day taking photos and enjoy the stunning views of the horses with trainers at the track.
10. Watering Holes
July is hot, hot, hot, but a trip to Aiken offers plenty of opportunities to cool off. If you can’t make it to Aiken anytime soon, be sure you add on to your bucket list!