Left: A California couple in water at Indian Canyons Middle: California Uptown District Above: Aiken State Park
PHOTOS: VISITPALMSPRINGS.COM, VISITAIKENSC.COM
and family activities draws a huge crowd to Aiken. The city also offers the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum, with popular exhibits documenting the long and illustrious tradition of horse racing in South Carolina. Having been a destination for snowbirds from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Aiken is ripe with beautiful antebellum-style homes in its burgeoning historic district. Downtown Aiken is the quintessential southern Small Town, USA. Quaint and quiet, it invites you to stroll down Main Street window shopping and tasting the local fare. The shops offer an eclectic choice of local artisans’ goods, antiques, and savory foods. The Aiken Center for the Arts promotes arts in the community with five galleries, varied cultural activities, films, and musical performances. A local theatre group holds year-round performances ranging from drama to musicals. For those with interest in astrology, the DuPont Planetarium and RPSEC Observatory offers a chance to gaze at the stars. In the huge dome, live presentations explain the constellations and vis-
ible planets. What an incredible opportunity to see the big sky in such a small town! Outdoor enthusiasts can spend their days off exploring the Aiken State Park encompassing 1,000 acres of pristine pinelands and offering camping, canoeing, and fishing opportunities. The famed Hitchcock Woods is a land preserve unparalleled in beauty. Equestrians, dog walkers, and joggers may enjoy the over 70 miles of sandy trails and a stunning variety of ecosystems. If golf is your passion, and you have some serious connections, Augusta National is the home of the Masters Tournament and is just a 30-minute journey. Doze by the pool or dip in the sea, go racing or rapelling, Worth Avenue or Main Street, museums or historic houses, pine forest or painted desert the winter equestrian destinations offer something for everyone. Let the horses rest as you check in with the world outside of the barn. Each of these towns stands alone as a great place to visit. The horse connection is a big bonus, but not the only game in town.
■ Cissy Hamilton