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|Activities & Adventure|
People here enjoy just about every outdoor kind of fun short of mountain climbing. And you have to start with horses. For more than 100 years, Aiken has been the training ground for all the great equestrian sports. Steeplechasing and harness racing are also regular attractions here, as is high-goal polo, fox hunting, three-day eventing, dressage, show jumping, even barrel racing and cutting horses. The Willcox itself was voted Best Racehorse Name in honor of our favorite mascot, Willcox Inn, that shares the same name. The thoroughbred has won several stakes races including the Grade II American Derby in Chicago in record time. There are high hopes for horse, whose pedigree includes Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Affirmed plus the great horses Storm Cat, Mr. Prospector and Bold Ruler.
But if your sport doesn’t require a bucket of oats, the golf courses are world class. And for those who enjoy nature and walking, the area offers plenty of public parks, and tranquil gardens. For true outdoor junkies, hunting, fishing boating and water sports abound at nearby lakes and state parks, and numerous paths provide endless hours of hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Feel free to tour our downtown, too. It’s home to historic landmarks, mom-and-pop shops, a mix of restaurants, art galleries, museums, boutiques, specialty shops and antiques. If you’re interested in the performing arts, there’s a theatre in the heart of downtown. Complementing it is the local university’s Etherredge Center that attracts national-level entertainment to its proscenium theater and the Convocation Center, which hosts acts like Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the National Orchestra of Washington, D.C. And there's tons of activities to keep the kids occupied — inside an out. Believe us, bored isn't a word often used in Aiken's vocabulary.
Hiking, Parks and Natural Features »
Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary
Aiken State Park
Boredom is not a word in Aiken’s dictionary. In fact, with so much to do and see, there is simply no time to even look up the word. Outdoor activities abound year round in Aiken and surrounding towns. The area has an outstanding series of parks, hiking trails and nature features including:
Golf is not just a pastime in Aiken; it’s part of the city’s soul. The Masters Tournament is held just 30 minutes from The Willcox at the Augusta National in Georgia. And though the famous course, with its fabled fairways and gem-like greens is private, just being nearby imparts headiness for golfers and fans alike. There is an array of world-class courses down the road from Aiken, open to the public. Anyone who has swung a club in competition or just for pleasure’s sake will feel the thrill of golf at its finest.
Local courses include:
High-stepping horses prance the old roads of Aiken, which are sometimes paved for cars but just as often left Carolina clay for tender treatment of hooves. Hitchcock Woods, with its soft tawny floor of pines needles is a step away from The Willcox. It is the largest urban forest in America, more sizeable than Central Park and wilder by far, with a blond river of sand curling through it. Park trails lead to hidden wildflower glens and riding rings. This is true horse country: polo, steeplechase, fox hunting and thoroughbred racing are enthusiastically enjoyed winter and spring, with the Triple Crown taking place here in March.
Progressive Show Jumping: Through making safety a priority and awarding accomplishments, the shows give you and your horse the opportunity to gain the confidence to compete in this exhilarating sport.
Aiken Steeplechase: Influential horseman including Thomas Hitchcock, Temple Gwathmey and Harry Worchester Smith founded the Aiken Steeplechase Association in Aiken in 1930. The first official race was run in Hitchcock Woods, and more than 1,000 people gathered to watch. Aiken has been home to many steeplechase greats and exceptional trainers. Whether it is fact or fiction, the universal truth is that horses will always reign supreme in Aiken's history and in her future.
Eventing: January, February and March are months in which Aiken becomes the center of eventing on the East Coast. Aiken's eventing snowbirds include some of the top names in the sport, including Phillip Dutton, Sally Cousins and Corinne Ashton.
Aiken Trials: Begun in 1942 as a way to give young horses in training the enlightening opportunity to experience every aspect of live racing, the Aiken Trials has become a time honored tradition as the first leg of Aiken's Triple Crown events, held annually for three consecutive Saturdays in March. The jockeys are local exercise riders who have an afternoon in the spotlight after paying their dues exercising horses each morning (in all weather) throughout the year.
The Aiken Driving Club: Founded in 1985 by the late Clifford S. Gerde, The Aiken Driving Club has grown from a handful of drivers to a membership of more than 200 individuals and families. Drives are in the Hitchcock Woods, Hopeland Farms, the Winter Colony District and other private facilities in Aiken and surrounding counties.
Hunting, particularly dove, quail, turkey and deer are a large part of Aiken’s culture. Many Willcox guests enjoy excellent seasonal hunting in beautiful green fields and natural southern pine forests.
There are eight boat landings in Aiken County. Three are on the South Fork Edisto River. The Edisto is the largest free-flowing black water river in the United States. Three are also along the Savannah River, meandering all the way to the ocean at Savannah, Ga. The terrain varies from rapids to wide flowing areas, to narrow trails intertwined with cypress trees and offers an abundance of fishing holes. Fishing from the banks of Langley Pond is yet another way to pass the time.
Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary
If you've come to escape, we've got the solution to help tune out the the distractions. Ask The Willcox staff to arrange yoga, Pilates, Tai chi, Qigong and Chiogalates classes through Just Breathe Studio, the perfect place to relieve stress, decompress and drown out life's clutter.
For those just discovering the heart of Aiken, it’s one of those special experiences Southerners call a “sercie,” a pleasant surprise that seems planned with them in mind. Such a remarkable collection of hip and trendy shops and eateries might be expected in large cities, but less likely in a quiet Southern town that invites strolling amid colorful flowers and towering trees. Yet here they are.
In Aiken, one-of-a-kind shops continue to open. Its complex demographics make it a desirable relocation destination in the Southeast, and by extension, a good place to do business.
Aiken Dry Goods
The Bone-i-fied Bakery
Birds & Butterflies of Aiken
York Cottage Antiques
Aiken County Historical Museum
Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame
The Aiken Convocation Center is home to The Pacers and venue for many of the Southeast’s best concerts, shows and conferences.
Aiken Community Playhouse
Summer Concert Series at Hopelands Gardens
Aiken becomes a regional fine art and antiques destination when the Aiken Center For the Arts hosts its annual Antique Show and Sale. This event brings antique hunters from all over the Southeast. Local dealers include:
Enjoy a guided historic tour of Aiken sponsored by the Aiken Chamber of Commerce that can be customized to suit specific needs. Reservations are recommended. Tours are Saturdays at 10 a.m.
So you’re thinking about bringing the entire family to Aiken, and you’re trying to figure out how to please everyone, right? No problem. Even the kids will be entertained. Boredom is not a word in Aiken’s dictionary. In fact, with so much to do and see, there is simply no time to even look up the word.
Aiken County Library
EdVenture – Children’s Museum
EdVenture is appeals to families and children around the state as well as visitors to the Midlands. Permanent exhibits and programs, along with a vibrant schedule of changing exhibits, will entice return visitors and new arrivals. EdVenture is the largest children’s museum in the Southeast. With award-winning exhibits and programming, there is something for every child to discover, experience and understand. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
From elephants and koalas to penguins and sharks, formal gardens to natural woodlands, Riverbank Zoo and Gardens promises new discoveries around every corner.
Ruth Patrick Science Education Center
University of South Carolina Aiken
Science looms large at USC Aiken, and the centerpiece of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center is the DuPont Planetarium. Housing four state-of-the-art telescopes, a graphics projector and an automated special-effects system, the planetarium offers programs for students of all ages and the community. Its hands-on approach to teaching is designed to help people experience the power of science and mathematics, as well as the interest and fun of discovery.
Membership has benefits ...
Join our E-mail club to receive exclusive benefits that include:
• Invitations to VIP events and promotions at The Willcox
• A gift certificate to be redeemed the month of your birthday for a free two-course dinner when another two-course dinner is purchased
• The discounted Friends and Family room rate at The Willcox during summer months
Terms and conditions apply.