Underneath a beautiful canopy of oak trees just northwest of Augusta, Georgia is where you will find the quaint little town of Aiken, South Carolina. With a rich history and a focus on the equestrian lifestyle, this is the type of place that truly defines southern living in the Carolinas.
The town of Aiken was established in 1835 and named after William Aiken, who was the president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. This was shortly after Aiken built a railroad that connected the town to Charleston. The new town almost instantly became a popular retreat destination for wealthy southerners.
Following the Civil War, Aiken was one of the fastest towns to get back on its feet. It was during this time that the famous Aiken Winter Colony was formed as a warm escape destination for wealthy northerners.
Aiken also played a key role in the Cold War as the location of one of the government’s most advanced facilities for the development of fuel for nuclear weapons.
Like many popular towns, Aiken has seen a steady population growth persist throughout its long history. The 2010 census reported a population of 29,494, and it was estimated that that population had grown by about 1,100 people in 2015.
While Aiken has long had a reputation as a destination for the wealthy, the median income for a household here is $49,100.
Horses are a way of life here in Aiken. So if thoroughbreds are a passion you share, you will likely fit right in here. That’s because this is the type of town where the street signs have horse heads on them and there are designated crosswalks for horseback riders.
Horse lovers will certainly be impressed by the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum, and active participants can get down to business at the famous Aiken Training Track, which has trained an astounding 39 thoroughbred champions.
If you are looking for arts and culture in Aiken, your first stop should probably be the Aiken Center for the Arts, located right in the middle of downtown Aiken. This is where you will find everything from traveling and year-round exhibits to classes and competitions for local artists.
When it comes to shopping, Aiken’s historic downtown district is the place that you want to be. Thanks to the rich history of the community and its deep ties to the equestrian lifestyle, you will find an astounding selection of antique shops and boutiques offering unique equestrian apparel.
Whether you are in search of antiques, clothing, or other unique products, Laurens Street is the best place to start your shopping adventure. The blocks that lie southwest of Richland Ave are where you will find the biggest collection of shoppes, but there are plenty more on the northern side running all the way up to Bethany Cemetery.
When you are looking for a romantic Italian meal in Aiken, Casa Bella is the first option to consider. This adorable little house-turned-restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, and the menu contains everything you would expect from a first-class Italian restaurant.
For something a little more exciting, you might also want to try Malia’s on Laurens Street right in downtown Aiken. Then menu here changes daily, so you never know exactly what you are going to get, but you can rest assured that everything is going to be delicious.
An even more casual option that is also located right on Laurens Street is the Aiken Brewing Company. In addition to brewing their own beer, they also have a full menu of excellent American style pub fare that is perfect for a relaxing evening out for whatever big game you might be interested in.
Situated beside a beautiful nature preserve, with parks, trails, lush rolling hills, pristine meadows, and stunning water views, rests Woodside. Now part of the Southern Living Inspired Communities program, Woodside offers a warm, welcoming atmosphere, where social events and club amenities are never in short supply – and new neighbors become old friends in a matter of minutes.
With more than 60 member-created clubs and social groups, The Reserve Club is the social hub of the community and assures you will be connected with friends who share your interests. Live your life like you’re on vacation! With a new resort pool, thriving racquet program, miles of walking trails, award-winning golf courses and much more, you never have to worry about living your life on a schedule again.
Between the excellent food, fantastic shopping, and all of the cultural and equestrian things to do, you definitely won’t find yourself wanting for something to occupy your time here in Aiken. You also won’t ever get over the stunning beauty of the amazing little town in South Carolina!