Just about 20 miles from Augusta, Georgia, Aiken is the genuine article: It’s not a gimmicky horse-themed tourist attraction but an authentic South Carolina equestrian community rich in historic charm and tradition. This town is a picture postcard waiting to happen, from the iconic archway of live oaks along South Boundary Avenue and serene Hopelands Gardens to the strong Thoroughbreds you might see warming up in the early-morning light.
Because of its world-class training facilities and appealing climate, Aiken hosts equestrian events almost year-round, and the town is especially attractive to Thoroughbred owners from up North, all coming here to escape the chilly months back home.
Take a walk in Hitchcock Woods, Aiken’s 2,100-acre urban forest, and you will likely see riders on horseback, exploring 70 miles of trails. (Your group can book a ride with Sea Horse Aiken and saddle up to ramble the woods.) Hitchcock is also home to the venerable Aiken Horse Show, celebrating its 102nd anniversary this year.
Even if you never intend to ride, you’ll still enjoy a weekend here. Downtown Aiken, especially Laurens Street, is loaded with a variety of eclectic eateries, galleries, and shops, often tucked behind storefronts that have preserved their character. Just off Laurens Street, you’ll find the Alley, a popular gathering spot with a cluster of not-to-bemissed restaurants.
For complete story and photos go to Southern Living https://www.southernliving.com/souths-best/aiken-sc