Aiken Links & Info

Here are some links to some interesting sites, videos and articles about Aiken.

Explore: Things to Do in Aiken, South Carolina

Downtown is known for its many independently owned boutiques and stores, some of which capitalize on the horse scene. Shop for all things equestrian, including clothing, coffee mugs and hand-made jewelry, at Epona, owned by Gina Greer and Sharon Marosek. They got the store’s name from the Celtic protectress of horses and their foals and riders. Greer’s clothing line, Equi Style, is made at her factory in Indonesia and features batik prints with equine designs. Equine Divine features male and female fashion in everything from accessories and boots to flasks, all with an equine flare. Shoppers there also can find equine gifts and sporting art. Fits Riding Ltd. features show shirts, stock ties, belts and other clothing for eventing riders.

Plenty of other shops, including menswear retailer Lionel Smith Ltd., jewelry store Beyond Bijoux, women’s clothier Fox and Lady and gift store The Paisley Peacock offer more shopping options. For even more places to shop for just about anything you can think of, check out the list from the Aiken Downtown Develpment Association.

Palace Malice leads in the home stretch at Belmont. (©Diana Robinson/Flickr Creative Commons)

Hopelands Gardens, the site of many area weddings and picnics and home of theThoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame & Museum, was opened as a public park in 1969. The museum’s mission is “to collect, present and preserve the significant achievements of the Aiken’s contribution to the thoroughbred racing industry from 1900 to the present through aesthetic and educational experiences for visitors of all ages.” Inside, visitors will find racing silks, photographs and historic memorabilia of the city’s equestrian heritage. Each year, an Aiken-trained Horse of the Year is inducted. For 2014, it was Palace Malice, of Dogwood Stable, who also was inducted in 2013.

Perhaps the best way, however, to experience the history of Aiken and see historic homes and churches, including the horse district, and take a guided walk through Hopelands Gardens (weather permitting) is during a two-hour city bus tour. Tours leave from the Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum, and reservations are recommended because the tours fill up fast (406 Park Ave. E., Aiken, 803.644.1907).

Aiken, of course, has much more to offer, including a popular community theater (Aiken Community Playhouse), plenty of antiques retailers, an arts center (The Aiken Center for the Arts) and a beer brewery (Aiken Brewing Company). Golfers have many options, as well, with the area becoming an overflow destination during the Augusta National Golf Club’s annual Masters Golf Tournament.

Though today it is large industrial business that pumps money into Aiken’s economy, it is still a city literally built on—and sustained by—horsepower.

The Willcox Hotel, which has had many famous guests throughout its long history, including Winston Churchill. (Courtesy The Willcox)

Where to Stay: Aiken Hotels and Lodging

  • The Willcox Hotel: Small statues of jockeys greet guests at the historic Willcox Hotel, which includes artwork of horses and Aiken throughout. Famous guests have included Winston Churchill, Harold Vanderbilt, Elizabeth Arden and Count Bernadotte of Sweden. It is even well-documented that the Prince of Wales once had to be turned away during the week of The Masters golf tournament in nearby Augusta because the hotel was full.
  • Rose Hill Estate: Many visitors in town for events or just to take in the equestrian charm of the area stay at Rose Hill Estate and the estate’s Greenville Cottage. Rose Hill was built as a winter colony residence for the Phelps family in 1898 and retains its original layout and buildings. Owner Steven Mueller says it was the first property in Aiken to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Where to Eat: Aiken Restaurants and Dining

Most dining options in Aiken offer more of an experience than just eating. Here are a few:

  • The Stables Bar & Restaurant: Located at the aforementioned Rose Hill Estate, The Stables Bar & Restaurant is just that—a stable-turned-restaurant serving classic Southern dishes. Try the fried green tomatoes before chowing down on a steak or some shrimp and grits. The restaurant includes original wood and beams from when it was a stable, Mueller says.
  • Malia’s: The restaurant, which advertises “Real. Amazing. Cuisine.”, likes to use local farmers for its ingredients whenever possible. Then there lamb from Australia and Salmon from Scotland.
  • Prime: For steak a lobster, there’s no better stop than Prime. The restaurant’s atmosphere is one of low light and modern artwork on brick walls. Chef Randy Stamm has worked in New York steakhouses since he was 16, and now brings his talents to Aiken.
  • Aiken Speakeasy & Eats: Travel back into the roarin’ 20’s for some great food and drinks!Aiken Speakeasy & Eats serves luch and dinner with a twist: Enjoy a meal while listening to live jazz on special nights. Don’t forget the password to get into the entrance! Check theFacebook page for all the details.
  • TakoSushi: East meets West at TakoSushi. Where else can you get green chili queso dip and nachos to go with your sushi rolls? And the dirty martinis are definitely worth a try.
  • Betsy’s on the Corner: This diner harkens back to a Woolworth’s cafeteria of the 1950s and ’60s. With lots of good diner fare and plenty of ice cream and soda choices, this is definitey a family-friendly place to stop.