Once a summer retreat for Charlestonians escaping the threat of malaria and a winter retreat for Northerners escaping the harsh weather, Aiken became a Winter Colony during the late 1800’s. The “grand health resort” had the perfect climate and a healing combination of warm dry air scented with pine and spring water.
Aiken gained a reputation during its first 100 years as “a place for a splendid time to be had”. Those words reign true today.
Aiken Began as a Love Story
Captain William Williams, wealthy cotton merchant from Charleston, wanted the railroad to come near his cotton fields instead of 20 miles west in Hamburg (N. Augusta). Williams contracted Alfred Dexter to develop and design a rail that would scale the 500 ft grade incline to the fields, located near present day Aiken.
Dexter, who was in love with, and intended to marry Williams daughter was told: “No railroad for me, young man, no wife for you!” by elder Williams.
Dexter and his assistant C.O Pascalis plotted a geometric street map and plotted the streets of what would be come Aiken, which was chartered in 1834.
Downtown Aiken is uniquely southern, it also has a metropolitan flair that invites diversity. At the quaint outdoor dining tables, you may find yourself seated next to an actress, a Governor, a carpenter, horse trainer, billionaire, a jockey or French national.
Open 365 days from dawn till dusk.
Aiken’s Hitchcock Woods is a 2,100 acre natural forest located in the heart of the city. Annually, thousands of equestrians and nature enthusiasts enjoy 65 miles of trails featuring unique plants and animals. The Hitchcock Foundation encourages passive recreation to preserve the integrity and tranquility of the forest. There are seven entrances along the perimeter. Motorized vehicles or bicycles are not allowed. Easiest access to locate is at the corner of Laurens St. and South Boundary.
Hours:10 am – sunset
Features: Touch & Scent Trail, wetlands, a labyrinth, performing arts stage, and the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame.
Former 14 acre estate of the Oliver Iselin family hosts great magnolias and oaks, cool waterways and ponds, an outdoor preformance stage, a brick maze, and winding paved garden pathways.
Hopelands Gardens also hosts the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, The Islen’s Dollhouse cottage, and the Carriage Museum.
Thoroughbred Hall of Fame
Hours: Sept-May: Tues-Fri, Sun: 10-5 June-Aug: Sat: 10-5, Sun: 2-5
Hopelands Summer Concerts
Outdoor Concert series
May – August, 7pm
2nd full weekend in September
Display and sale of juried arts and crafts.
Christmas in Hopelands
December, Hopelands Gardens
Walking tours, Concerts
Beautifully decorated and lit gardens during the holiday season. Make for a special Christmas treat. Hot chocolate, apple cider and cookies.