Last Saturday Patrick and I truly had a “South Carolina Saturday”. It was relaxing and fun, and despite the intense heatwave we have been having lately – it was still fun to be outside!
He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, but he had a few ideas in mind. When he came to pick me up on Saturday, he said asked me to pick Charleston or Aiken. Well, I have a deep love for Charleston, so of course that’s what I said, but I also said “I don’t care where we go, as long as we are together.” So…off he goes towards the interstate and in my mind, we are going to Charleston. Nope – he takes a right turn and we are heading on 20-W towards Aiken. I had seen the quaint little downtown once when we were down there for a baseball tournament, but we did not have time to stop and look around.
Aiken is located west of Columbia, about halfway between Augusta and Columbia. I had heard in the past that Aiken had a good number of horse farms, but I didn’t realize how big the horse “culture” was down there until Saturday.
The downtown area is very pedestrian friendly, and has *FREE* parking! The sidewalks are nicely maintained and shaded, and the storefronts are well kept. There didn’t seem to be many places that were out of business or vacant. There is an abundance of antique stores, most of which I lead Patrick into (willingly or unwillingly..still not sure!). We found such neat things in every store, and I would love to go back when I have some more money. There was one store called Plum Pudding, which is a home chef’s dream store. So many wonderful cooking items, including a few I am going to go back for to use as Christmas gifts! I did find a few of my mothers china pattern in one store, but none of the items she needs/wants. I was excited to see a few items in an antique store that looked like items I had as a kid that belonged to my grandparents.
For lunch, we chose Aiken Speakeasy and Eats, which was not crowded at all (I believe we were the last folks in there for lunch). I loved the touch of a punch-lock on the door you had to enter a code into before coming in. Kept with the prohibition theme they had going on. The food was okay, nothing too spectacular on my end. I had a lobster roll with fries, and Patrick had a club sandwich and fries. I think it would be a great place for a dinner date, with some cocktails from the bar. There was a lounge room in the back with couches and comfy looking chairs. The bar was beautiful, and the cocktails list looked like it came straight out of Gatsby’s era. They also had several beers on tap.
After we left the downtown area, we went to Hopeland Gardens, which I had seen an advertisement for. Hopeland is a 14 acre equestrian estate belonging to the Iselin family. After the death of Mrs. Iselin, she bequeathed the property to the city. The 14 acres boast beautiful oak trees that shade the winding brick paths and beautiful ponds filled with fish and turtles. It would be a beautiful park setting for a wedding, and is adjacent to RyePatch, another estate with museums and rental facilities. We walked around for about 40 minutes before going back over to the stables area, which is home to the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame & Museum. It is a smaller museum, showcasing Aiken’s history in the equestrian world. It was a nice chance to cool off from the 100 degree temperatures outside.
In all, it was a nice little road trip for the day. After we left Aiken, we drove over to Augusta, which was less than 20 miles away. We drove thru the downtown area, drove past the entrance to Augusta National Golf Club (which was sort of disappointing in my opinion!) and then walked around the mall for a bit. Drove home the back way through the country, and saw lots of peach orchards and farms. Dinner at IHop finished our day out, and it was a nice chance to unwind and talk about the day. I give Aiken 2 thumbs up for its quaint downtown area, and the fun shops!