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Aiken South Carolina


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Center for Carolina Living White-pillared glory.
This old-fashioned Southern hotel in Aiken has been called “as lovely and genteel as a rose on a lapel.” A retreat for those who value impeccable service amidst elegant surroundings, The Willcox has welcomed its share of American aristocrats, including FDR. Consider it for your next romantic getaway.

Courtesy of the The Willcox, member of the Southern Living Hotel Collection
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Aiken
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Center for Carolina Living Recent retirees are attracted to Aiken because of the many golf communities, a mild, four-season climate, equestrian pursuits, good medical care, cultural activities and a diverse, educated population base.

Photo courtesy Woodside Plantation
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Aiken
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Center for Carolina Living Newcomers are moving here from cities all over the country and abroad. They are attracted by the mild climate, reasonable cost of living and the gracious, slightly quirky town.

Photo courtesy Woodside Plantation
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Aiken
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Center for Carolina Living If you’re ready to stroll, go downtown. There are lots more shops to visit, including many antique shops with treasures from the bygone days when Aiken was a Winter colony for the Rich and Famous.

Photo courtesy Woodside Plantation
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Aiken
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Center for Carolina Living Charmed, I’m sure. Aiken’s easy-going sophistication captivates. From its beginnings as a respite for the ill to its status as winter colony destination, this western South Carolina town exudes unexpected pleasure. Gourmet restaurants, exquisite gardens and world-class polo, too!

Polo Photo by Denise Jane, courtesy City of Aiken Parks, Recreation & Tourism • visit.aiken.net
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Center for Carolina Living A no-brainer. When Aiken aimed for a fund-raising "critter project," there was no question horses would be chosen. The town's spring Triple Crown draws hundreds for equine revelry, while award-winning stables provide serious winter training.
Photo by Barbara Gassman, courtesy City of Aiken Parks, Recreation & Tourism • VisitAikenSC.com
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Center for Carolina Living Aiken City Population: 29,880

Aiken County Population: 162,750

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Center for Carolina Living City of Aiken Tourism: 803.293.7846 / VisitAikenSC.com

Aiken Chamber: 888.245.3672
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Aiken, South Carolina

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
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aiken - road trip
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Woodside Plantation

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elcome to Aiken. It is the kind of town people write books about. In fact, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Steven Naifeh and the late Gregory White Smith chronicled their restoration of a mansion in On a Street Called Easy, In a Cottage Called Joye.

The book examines the lives of the sometimes tragic, wealthy people who built and inhabited Joye Cottage during Aiken’s heyday as a winter colony in the late 1800s. It also describes the town as they found it a century later – filled with friendly people who cherish Aiken.
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Aiken South Carolina
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Capital City Lake Murray Country
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Mike and Heather Pisano lived in Clinton, in western New Jersey, before moving to Aiken. “I am retired, but my wife is still working and when we decided we wanted to move south, she found a transfer to the Savannah River Site and we quickly chose Aiken as the perfect new hometown,” he explained. Western New Jersey also is equestrian country, and although they don’t own any horses, they enjoy watching these beauties at steeplechase events, polo games and sauntering around town.

“We fell in love with Woodside Plantation,” he said. “It’s the only gated community in town and every section is beautiful. We knew we wanted to build on the golf course and now we have a wonderful stone and brick home – surprisingly affordable in the South.” Both play golf, and they enjoy the amenities, including the club, pool and really friendly people. Woodside was recently named Southern Living’s newest “Inspired Community,” strong praise indeed.

Aiken is another plus with its charming downtown. They dine at Malia’s and TakoSushi often, and love The Alley, with its shops and ambience. The presence of USC-Aiken is another plus. “There is a great energy in Aiken and we love that.” And there’s so much to love. The Aiken Center for the Arts currently has different galleries that rotate shows often. Classes abound for all ages, and unique shops feature local, regional and national artists.

Betsy Wilson-Mahoney is an artist who was born and raised in Aiken and loves the community. “I think Aiken is very supportive of all kinds of art,” she says. “When I attended college, I didn’t find another art student who wanted to return to their home town after graduating. They didn’t feel the support that I have always seen here – for visual as well as performing arts.”

As the Pisanos discovered, Aiken is quite an equestrian center. Polo is enjoying a renaissance here, with a number of polo clubs, training tracks and playing fields. The Aiken Polo Festival takes place in the fall. More than 50 amateur and professional polo players call Aiken home. As a result, the area has become the spring and fall center of polo on the East Coast.

And even though there’s much to engage them, sometimes, they enjoy heading for Hilton Head Island and the coast, only 2½ hours by car. That, and the weather (less humidity than New Jersey because of the elevation, Mr. Pisano says), add extra positives to their decision.

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What to do & What to see

The Aiken County Historical Museum
An extensive collection of county memorabilia is housed in what had been called Banksia, a 1930s Winter Colony mansion.
803.642.2015 · www.aikencountysc.gov/tourism/museum.htm

Aiken State Natural Area
Four spring-fed lakes and the Edisto River make the park a popular destination for kayakers, canoeists, bird-watchers and campers.
803.649.2857 · www.aikenstatenaturalarea.com

Hopelands Gardens
This 14-acre estate was bequeathed to the city and opened in 1969 as a public garden. Located within the Gardens is the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum and the Roland H. Windham Performing Arts Stage where free concerts are held on Monday evenings during the months of May – August.
803.642.7631 · Hopelands Gardens
 

Food, Glorious Food

Casabella
Serves elegant Italian dishes in the many rooms and on the porch of what had been a lovely turn-of-the-century home.
803.641.3107

Betsy’s On the Corner
An old-time soda-shop with classic hot off the grill food, a daily blue-plate special, and milkshakes that are to die for!
803.226.0078

Linda’s Bistro
An intimate feel in a refurbished home. Continental fare.
803.648.4853

Magnolia Natural Market
Serves lunches that are totally healthy, mostly vegetarian. They also carry vitamin supplements and locally-grown organic groceries.
803.649.3339

Malia’s
The grande dame of downtown with a Continental menu and excellent wine list.
803.643.3086

New Moon Café
This wonderfully funky coffee house serves great breakfasts and lunches; the only thing
open on Sunday mornings. Sit inside or out and read the newspaper.
803.643.7088

The Alley
Home to many of Aiken’s downtown restaurants, except for on Thanksgiving Day, when it is transformed into one big outdoor dining room. As a new tradition, the One Table restaurant also offers up delicious, home-cooked Thanksgiving meals, free to rich and poor alike.



 Spend the Night

Carriage House B&B
An 1870s house with 16 luxurious guest rooms in the heart of downtown. Pets accepted.
803.644.5888
www.aikencarriagehouse.com
 
Rose Hill Estate
This elegant historic home has lovingly been renovated and turned into THE place to be in Aiken, with Full Moon Nights, concerts, gourmet meals, vast array of wines and guest rooms.
803.648.1181
www.rosehillestate.com
 
The Willcox
A stately and genteel guest house in the Historic District at the edge of town that oozes Southern charm. FDR stayed here on his trips to see Miss Lucy. 803.648.1898 · www.thewillcox.com
 

Recent History
In the 1950s and 60s, DuPont engineers and their families moved to the area to work at the Savannah River Site. The nuclear research facility is still a major employer in the region.

The most recent newcomers are those who are moving here from cities all over the country and abroad who are attracted by the mild climate, reasonable cost of living and the gracious, slightly quirky town. Young professionals are attracted to Aiken because of the expansion of several national and international companies. In fact, out of 117 cities listed, Aiken was named the Number One small city for a company to locate to in the Spring 2008 Southern Business & Development magazine.

Recent retirees are attracted to Aiken because of the many golf communities, a mild, four-season climate, equestrian pursuits, good medical care, cultural activities and a diverse, educated population base.

One can’t talk about Aiken, however, without talking about horses. It was the foresight of the wealthy folks from more Northern climates who loaded their families, stables of horses and help onto the trains that took them to winter in Aiken that has had the most impact on what Aiken is today. The 2,100-acre Hitchcock Woods, the largest privately owned urban woods in the country, forms the centerpiece of the town. The land was donated by the Hitchcock family and set aside for horse and human use only – no bicycles or motorized vehicles (also notably, Mrs. Louise Eustis Hitchcock founded the Aiken Preparatory School in 1916). Equestrian enthusiasts also appreciate that today, 126 years after opening, Whitney Field – in the middle of the downtown historic district – still hosts regular season polo.

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