The Wilcox Hotel

Aiken‘s rich history dates to the 1830s when William Aiken, president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company and one of South Carolina’s leading cotton merchants, hired Horatio Allen, a distinguished engineer who would later build the Brooklyn Bridge, to construct a railroad from Charleston to Hamburg, South Carolina. Work began in 1830, and on October 2, 1833, the first train arrived in the newly established town of Aiken and named in honor of the first railroad president. 

Attracting visitors from other wealthy Southern towns, Aiken prospered and was quickly filled with stately mansions, regal churches, and a thriving social scene anchored by equestrian sports like polo and thoroughbred racing. Over the years, Aiken became known as “The Original Winter Colony,” where families such as the Whitneys, Vanderbilts, and Astors spent the colder months in the “place of retreat from the heat and malaria of unhealthier regions.” Today, the city’s current restorations keep past traditions alive and well, from cobble-stone parkways and oak-shaded streets to the double avenues, Gilded-Age mansions, and preserved natural forests.  

Horse drawn carriage


Located near the Southwest border of South Carolina, our hometown enjoys the best of both worlds with its private location centered amongst some of the region’s most coveted vacation spots. On top of the golf capital of Augusta less than 30 minutes away, Aiken is less than an hour away from South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia, as well as less than 3 hours from the beaches of Hilton Head and Charleston, the stunning peaks of the Appalachian and Blue-Ridge Mountains near Asheville and Charlotte, and the thriving cityscapes of Atlanta and Greenville. Take the trip of a lifetime and savor the joys of coming back home to the peaceful sophistication of Aiken’s welcoming atmosphere and tree-lined streets.   

Middle of Everywhere
Downtown Aiken
Polo player on horseback

“Aiken is a delightful town with great culture, restaurants, and amazing healthcare.”

– Don & Jennifer E.


Ranked #1 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 guide of “America’s Best Colleges,” the University of South Carolina in Aiken offers recreational learning opportunities, career services, activities and entertainment options, sporting events, and much more. Buy your tickets for the next area concert at the USC Aiken Convocation Center, catch a play at the Etherredge Center, drop by the college’s own DuPont Planetarium for an out-of-this-world experience, enroll in a business course, or pick up part-time tutoring. Whether your college pursuits are academic, artistic, or athletic, this convenient establishment preserves Aiken’s appreciation of the arts, education, entrepreneurship, and team spirit.  


As a historic gathering space of the Southeast’s local artisans and crafters, Aiken regularly hosts a variety of arts and cultural events that preserve the legacy and creative essence of families, traditions, and ideas all around our region. Be sure to mark your calendar for any of these annual events, including “Antiques in the Heart of Aiken,” Joye in Aiken, a partnership with the prestigious Juilliard School, Aiken’s Makin Craft and Art Festival, Southern City Film Festival, and many more!  




We appreciate fine dining and boutique shopping here in Aiken, South Carolina, and the world-class eateries and awesome shops and boutiques scattered throughout the town are the figurative “proof in the pudding.” For national chains like Outback Steakhouse and Red Lobster among others, check out the Whiskey Road side of town, just outside Woodside’s East Gate. You’ll also find most of the national retailers here, like Hobby Lobby, Fresh Market, Target, TJ Maxx, Old Navy and Bed Bath and Beyond, to name a few.


For the more eclectic locally-owned eateries and shops, check out downtown. For fine dining, stop by Prime Steakhouse, Malia’s or Casa Bella, though more casual options like the Aiken Brewing Co. and Grille and diner-inspired Betsy’s on the Corner are equally as charming for a night on the town. Though we don’t necessarily recommend shopping until you drop, the opportunity to do it is here as well in Aiken’s downtown. With antique shops, clothing boutiques, specialty stores, and a plethora of other home décor and miscellaneous shops, there are tons of charming and locally-inspired small businesses to support.

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101 Reasons We Love Aiken!