Aiken is located in South Carolina and it is the county's seat. The history and culture of this city revolve around horses. It gained its fame as the wealthy American's winter getaway and the best equestrian destination for the nation long ago. The Aiken Winter Colony was established between 1882 and 1948 and consists of over thirty grand properties with private stables. Aiken is one of the nation's greatest training grounds for thoroughbreds. It is home to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame which was established in 1977. The city also boasts of being America's fifth oldest golf course, and it is also home to the first course that offered women's golf. Downtown Aiken, there are historic buildings, a range of shops, restaurants, and cafes. The natural landscape and weather make it a perfect destination for people of all ages.
Why should people visit during the winter?
Winter in Aiken has always been ideal for snowbirds that are looking for warm weather, and good recreational opportunities. The temperature is mild and the ambiance is relaxed. The cultural interest in horse riding and the activities revolving around it also makes Aiken an ideal location. Aiken is also home to a variety of golf courses and the weather during winter makes golfing enjoyable. Winter camping is also a great pastime during this period. The winter season comes with a lot of festivity and celebration like Christmas, and in the downtown area, the Hope Lands Garden displays beautiful Christmas lights every year.
The weather is mild during the winter, the temperature doesn't usually fall below 34°F (1°C). It rains a little in Aiken and the surrounding regions, especially the areas on high ground. During the day, the temperature is pleasant but at night it can be quite cold, so pack accordingly.
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Things to see in Aiken, South Carolina
Aiken offers its visitors excellent places to explore and enjoy. Some of them include:
- Hope Lands Gardens has ponds, huge trees, walking trails, the Doll House, and the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. This used to be a private home of the wealthy family of Hope Goddard Iselin but it is now open to the public to enjoy without a fee. Plays and performances are held in the garden and its annual Christmas Light display is a sight to behold.
- Aiken County Historical Museum: This has many exhibits about the history of Aiken and the surrounding area. A lot of pictures and artifacts from the past are displayed. The museum also does special exhibits and decorations for Christmas, which can serve as a treat for visitors during the winter season.
- Hitchcock Woods: A 2100 Acre forest in the middle of the city, this urban forest is filled with miles of trails for hiking, horse riding, biking, and enjoying nature's beauty. Horses are available for rent from local stables.
- DuPont Planetarium: The University of South Carolina hosts public shows every Saturday. The programs focus on astronomy and it also encourages exploration of the night sky. Some of the shows focus on history and other areas of science.
- Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum: This is a museum dedicated to the train on rails that had served the Aiken area for decades. You will find this museum very interesting, and informative.
- Aiken State Park is a fairly large park with camping facilities, picnic areas, small lakes, and a nice river to canoe, fish, or kayak in. It has a beautiful view and walking trails as well.
- Aiken Center for the Arts focuses on local artists and it also has galleries that display paintings, photography, ceramics, and mixed media pieces. They also offer music and art courses for all ages.
Things to see not far from Aiken, South Carolina
There are many options for visitors who want to explore South Carolina beyond Aiken itself. Some of these are listed below:
- Graniteville, SC is a small community in Aiken County just 5.9 Miles (9 km) from Aiken. It is a historic district dating as far back as 1845 where the community got its name from. Most of the original buildings were constructed with blue granite.
- Trenton, SC is a small town in Edgefield County located almost 17.2 Miles (28 km) from Aiken and is mainly known for its peaches.
- Beech Island, SC is the oldest settlement in Aiken County located around 18 Miles (29 km) from Aiken. It is named after the beech trees growing in the wetlands of the nearby Savannah River swamp.
- Salley, SC is a historic town in Aiken County around 25.6 Miles (41 km) away. It still has some Victorian properties preserved from the early 1900s and it is famous for its Chitlin' Strut Festival held in November annually.
- North Augusta, SC is a city located in the Aiken and Edgefield counties around 19.7 Miles (32 km) away from Aiken. It is home to the historic Augusta Canal and other historical landmarks that make it an interesting place to visit.
Activities in Aiken, South Carolina in the winter
There is a lot to do during winter. Some of the activities include:
- Fishing, boating, and canoeing in the rivers and ponds of the city.
- An electric bike tour through the historic downtown is also a fun and exciting way to explore the city.
- Walking and hiking at the various forest trails in and around Alamogordo.
- Horse riding is a part of Aiken and there are many equestrian facilities for renting horses. There are also well-maintained trails for the horse riding experience.
- Sign up for art and music classes at the Aiken Center for Arts.
- Art classes: Join an art class and learn how to paint, draw, or start with pottery.
- Cooking: Always wanted to improve your cooking? Join a cooking class and learn how to cook something special.
- Golfing at the public and private golf courses in the region.
Shops & Restaurants. Are they Open in winters?
The city is famous for The Aiken County Farmers Market which is held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 8 am till noon. The market sells fresh produce, baked foods, local meats, and cheese. It is a place where the locals meet and socialize. This has been the tradition for a long time, and it is one of the oldest markets in South Carolina. The busy and historic downtown of Aiken is filled with shops, boutiques, galleries, and antique stores for a great shopping experience. There are many stores stocked with equestrian supplies.
The gastronomy of this region is a unique and exciting experience. The interest of the community in horses can be seen through the upscaling and conversion of old stables into restaurants such as The Stables at Rose Hill and General Elliot. The menu also uses names of some local Southern dishes that emphasize their love for horses. Aiken Brewing Company is well known for its variety of beer and the laid back charm that enables the visitors and locals to experience the true spirit of the community. There are also various options for international cuisines like Italian, German, Spanish, and Pan Asian.
- The nearest airport to Aiken is Augusta Airport (AGS) which is 19.6 Miles (32 km) from Aiken. Columbia Airport (CAE) also serves the city and it is around 43.6 Miles (70 km) away. Airport shuttles are readily available.
- Greyhound USA and Southeastern Stages operate the intercity bus service in Aiken. For more information about the routes and rates, visit https://www.checkmybus.com/aiken-sc
In Aiken, there are good medical and dental services for both residents and visitors. Aiken Regional Medical Center (https://www.aikenregional.com/) is a fully equipped facility and it has a 24 hours emergency department.
- Visitors can look out for affordable apartments or condos for rent on www.airbnb.com/, the most well-known online marketplace that connects people who want to rent out their homes with people who are looking for accommodations in that locality.
- Visitors looking for long term accommodation in the city can also visit websites like https://www.apartmentguide.com/ or www.apartmentlist.com/sc/aiken.You will find apartments at reasonable rates and good deals during the winter months if you book early. A studio apartment for a single or two guests can cost around $800 (approx. €687, £628, $1069 CAD, $1137 AUD) per month.
There are equipped campsites for RV campers in this South Carolina town. Some of them include:
- Aiken State Park https://southcarolinaparks.com/aiken/camping
- Aiken RV Park https://www.roverpass.com/f/south-carolina/aiken-campgrounds
- Pine Acres Campground https://www.roverpass.com/f/south-carolina/aiken-campgrounds