Aiken, located in the Lower Savannah region of South Carolina, bills itself as “a place like no other.” They deserve the mantra!
[Our cover picture is “The Willcox”]
HORSES FOR SURE …
Those who are familiar with Aiken already know that it’s horse country. Although Kentucky is renown for horses, Aiken is right up there with the Bluegrass State in a lot of ways. It has strong connections with many horse farms and breeders in Kentucky and around the world. And lots of races and other wonderful, horse events take place in Aiken too.
So it comes as no surprise that people know Aiken for the horses. But there’s more to Aiken than the horses!
MORE THAN HORSES …
To start with, Aiken is a Southern Living Magazine winner, being rated as one of the South’s very best small towns in both 2018 and 2019!
Aiken has made a wholesale commitment to the arts. The streets are alive with “horse art” and other creations. There are numerous galleries and shops too. And of course, the Aiken Community Theater, a first class theater for the arts, is conveniently located in the downtown area!
GREAT ATTRACTIONS …
If that were not enough, the Aiken Farmers Market is within walking distance of the downtown area. This is a great spot for those who follow the “farm to table” movement. Local farmers bring their meats and produce to share with the public. It’s always a joy when you get to know the people who actually grew or raised food you eat.
And then there’s the Heritage Museum and Gardens; the Aiken County Historical Museum; the Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum; the SRS (Savannah River Site) Museum; the Center for African American History, Art and Culture; Hopelands Gardens; and the Rye Patch. Aiken has a lot to see and do. Most of these attractions are either in or near the downtown area!
PLACES TO STAY AND EAT …
Development of the downtown area has included lofts (over the shops and stores), cottages, and other private lodging for visitors who really appreciate a one-of-a-kind lodging experiences. It also appears as if the Marriott Courtyard group has purchased the old Aiken Hotel too. That old hotel was undergoing renovation at the time we visited (August 2019) and ought to be a grand experience for visitors in the not-too-distant future.
We didn’t even speak about the great eating spots in Aiken yet! Downtown Aiken has some really good restaurants too! While we weren’t in town long enough to try them all, some of the great spots we did visit include Betsy’s Round The Corner (it was literally around the corner from the loft where we stayed), What’s Cookin’ Downtown, Malia’s, Takosushi, and the New Moon Cafe. “Foodies” will love Aiken!
“The Alley” downtown has other great looking restaurants that we wish we could have had time to try. Perhaps we’ll do that on a future visit (we definitely plan to return).
SPECIAL THANKS …
A special thanks goes out to Janice and Russell Johnson, our hosts at The Loft on Laurens Street in downtown Aiken. It has all the charm you would expect to find in horse country here in the Deep South — and then some! We particularly loved the balcony overlooking Laurens Street and the tasteful appointments (antique furniture and “homey” decorations) throughout the loft.
If you’re not sure where to stay, be sure to The Loft on Laurens Street. You’re not likely to be disappointed!
CATHOLIC COOLNESS …
Even if you think you know Aiken, if you haven’t visited lately, you’re going to discover that it deserves to be ranked as one of our “Secret Places.” Aiken truly is a cool place! And while you’re in town, why not get a few extra steps by walking up the street to visit St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church. It’s convenient to the downtown area, and it is a very cool parish!