Explore the History and Beauty of Aiken

By:Page Ivey


This is the perfect time to see what drew wealthy Northerners to the small town of Aiken each year.

As the temperatures cool off, it’s the perfect time to take a trolley tour of Aiken’s historic homes, churches, equestrian sites and Civil War battlefield as well as stroll through Hopelands Gardens and the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.

The two-hour tours are given every Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Tickets are $15 and are sold at Weeks Center, 1700 Whiskey Road, but advance reservations are recommended as this popular tour frequently sells out. You can make reservations by calling the Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum at (803) 293-7846. It’s best to arrive 15 minutes before your tour starts.

And, you might as well stay in a historic bed and breakfast while you are visiting Aiken.

Rose Hill Estate (803) 648-1181, 211 Greenville St. NW, is a classic winter getaway from a bygone era. With seven bedrooms and two suites, Rose Hill also has a guesthouse with two kings, a queen, three sleeper sofas, three bathrooms and a full-service kitchen. A chapel on the property seats 60 for weddings. Packages start at $180, and rooms include breakfast.

You can live – if only for a weekend – like the Phelps family who owned the property for nearly a century as a winter home.

The property takes up an entire city block right off Aiken’s main drag (Laurens Street). It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the original home of the Garden Club of South Carolina.

In addition to breakfast, the inn offers evening dining in the Stables Restaurant with live music every Friday night. Entrees range from $14-30 and the menu offers a wide range of options from oysters and seafood to beef, veal and pasta dishes.

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