Named the “Best Small Town in the South” by Southern Living Magazine, Aiken, South Carolina has been drawing people in since the wealthy Astors, Vanderbilts, and Fields began building their summer “cottages” along Millionaire’s Row in the late 1800’s.
But Aiken is just one of many towns in Thoroughbred Country that are worth exploring. Windsor, Blackville, Beech Island, Denmark, and North Augusta contain historical sites, art galleries, nature parks, and dining experiences for a weekend of fun.
Whether you have a weekend or a week, there are tons of fun things to do in Thoroughbred Country SC!
1. Hopelands Gardens, Aiken
Hopeland Gardens is arguably the prettiest place for a stroll in Thoroughbred Country. The lush, 14-acre public garden encompasses two glistening ponds, fountains, winding walking paths shaded by 100-year old oaks, and a plethora of colorful flowers such as azaleas, wisteria, and crepe myrtle. Open-air concerts are held in the gardens in the summertime, and there are areas for picnicking.
2. Aiken State Park
One of the most visited spots in the county, Aiken State Park offers natural beauty and many outdoor pursuits. The park was built during the Great Depression by an African American detachment of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Edisto River is framed with thick, towering trees, creating a scenic, winding 1.7-mile blackwater route for kayaking and canoeing. There are also hiking and biking trails, a spring-fed lake to fish, and campsites.
3. Green Jackets Baseball, North Augusta
The Augusta Green Jackets, a minor league baseball affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, were originally situated in Georgia but have recently moved to their brand new stadium across the river in South Carolina. The stadium is part of SRP Park which includes a hotel, restaurant, offices, apartments, and a senior living facility. And an air-conditioned area with rocking chairs – what better way to watch the game?
4. The Greeneway, North Augusta
The Greeneway is a seven-mile paved recreational trail that follows an abandoned railroad right of way purchased by the city in 1988. The Greeneway winds through the city, residential neighborhoods, the beautifully landscaped banks of Savannah River, a shaded canopy section of hardwoods, over bridges and under tunnels. It’s a popular path with joggers, bikers, and skaters.
5. Healing Springs, Blackville
Also known as “God’s Acre,” Healing Springs earned its reputation during the Revolutionary War where four mortally wounded British soldiers were allegedly healed by drinking the spring water. There are now spigots installed which pump out the fresh, cold water. People come from all over the United States to fill their jugs, in the hopes of curing what ails them.
6. Living History Park, North Augusta
Visitors can witness history firsthand through living exhibits and demonstrations of colonial life throughout the 7.5-acre park. The grounds contain numerous buildings that have been constructed in the methods that would have been used in colonial times. Living History Park intermittently puts on festivals and authentic dinners. Don’t miss the chance to chat with Lynn Thompson, Chairman of the Olde Town Preservation Association decked out in period costume.
7. Redcliffe Plantation, Beech Island
Completed in 1959, Redcliffe is a Greek Revival plantation house that was home to wealthy and powerful James Henry Hammond, a successful cotton farmer, congressman, governor, and senator. The plantation also housed generations of enslaved African-American families who later became free men and women. Hammond’sdescendantt, John Billings, editor of Life, Time, and Fortune magazines, donated the estate to the people of South Carolina in 1973.
8. Rye Patch Stables, Aiken
The stables and barns were once the home of famous racing entrepreneurs and stand as a testimonial that can be explored.
9. Aiken County Historical Museum, Aiken
Housed in a mansion in the heart of the Winter Colony district, the Museum depicts over 300 years of history, heritage, and culture. The exhibits and artifacts run the gamut from early settlers, the renowned equine industry, railroad, farming, pottery, art, and inventions.
10. Heritage Center, North Augusta
The Arts and Heritage Center is located in the North Augusta Municipal Center. The center has an extensive permanent history exhibit, two galleries of rotating exhibits, and a display of local artists.
11. Harrison Gallery, Denmark
Tucked away on a downtown corner of rural Denmark, 35 years of original works from renowned American artist Jim Harrison are displayed alongside exhibits from a rotating number of local featured artists in the Harrison Gallery.
Jim Harrison was known for producing the Coca-Cola Calendars and first painted the company’s trademark on the side of an old barn.
12. Antiques, Denmark
Downtown Denmark hosts many antique shops – from tiny boutique storefronts to 3-story brick buildings crammed with all sorts of treasures. This is not your yard-sale sort of pick-through. The findings here tend to be classic and high-end.
13. Hardware, Denmark
The quirky find in downtown is Brookers True Value Hardware, where next to the ubiquitous hammer and nails are exquisite clothing, unique pottery, jewelry, and housewares. Rumor has it this is where brides go to register for wedding gifts. It’s a fun place to roam around, and I confess that I did buy a few inimitable things.
14. Carriage House Inn, Aiken
Casual elegance abounds in the meticulously restored mansion in the heart of downtown Aiken. Carriage House has 37 spacious rooms with private baths and French doors leading out to balconies. The included breakfast is made-to-order and consists of such delights as quiche Lorraine and fluffy Belgian waffles and accompanied by just-out-of-the-oven muffins.
15. The Willcox, Aiken
The elegant Wilcox was voted one of the best hotels in the world. The well-appointed hotel has a rich history, including an alleged secret passage that Franklin D. Roosevelt used to access the hotel to conduct his trysts with “Miss Lucy” Mercer. Locals and guests alike flock to the hotel for a fine dining experience.
16. Rosemary Inn, North Augusta
Dripping with the charm of the turn-of-the-century antebellum era, the painstakingly renovated Rosemary Inn Bed & Breakfast stands sentry over the North Augusta. The Inn has just six guest rooms reached via a grand central staircase. The owners live on site and are always eager to supply information about what to do or chat about the history of the inn.
17. The Alley, Aiken
Downtown Aiken has a vibrant pedestrian section called “The Alley.” It’s filled with bistros, cafes, shops, and a weekly farmers market in June. During the spring and summer, there are live music performances to add to the festive atmosphere.
18. Miller’s Bread Basket, Blackville
Have you tried Shoofly Pie? It was a first for me, but not the last. An Amish/Mennonite specialty of Miller’s, it’s an irresistible concoction derived from molasses with a sweet, crumbly top. Going to Miller’s is like going to your grandma’s for comfort home cooking like crispy fried chicken, gooey-good macaroni and cheese, and thick sliced, generously laden with butter homemade bread.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO PIN:
Click here for more fun things to do in South Carolina
Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Thoroughbred Country Tourism during her stay, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.