Aiken County is home to an abundance of history, culture and tourist attractions. Often times, residents never get chances to take in all of what the area has to offer. By choosing to vacation in Aiken, residents can consume all of the activities in the county that cater to their specific hobbies.
A good first stop is the Aiken County Visitors Center, located at 113 Laurens St., Suite 107. The center features a gift shop full of Aiken County souvenirs, local artisan gifts and information on the area. For more information on the Visitors Center, call 803-642-7557.
The Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary, located at 4542 Silver Bluff Road in Jackson, offers a variety of outdoor opportunities. The center and sanctuary covers 3,000 acres and is home to more than 200 species of birds, and several walking trails. The number to the center is 803-471-0291.
“We support a lot of different wildlife for people to see, and, if folks want to see a lot of endangered species, this is the place to come,” said Director Paul Koehler.
Hitchcock Woods is among the largest urban forests in the nation at 2,100 acres and is a popular stop for outdoor enthusiasts. It is located at 444 S. Boundary Ave. For more information, call 803-642-0528.
“Today, visitors can enjoy more than 70 miles of trails through a variety of ecosystems. Our visitors can tour on foot, horseback or carriage,” said Doug Rabold, executive director of Hitchcock Woods.
Aiken County is known for its equestrian pursuits, including the annual Fall Steeplechase, which is scheduled for Oct. 26.
Finally, people can enjoy the outdoors by visiting any of Aiken County's parks, including Citizens Park, Aiken State Park, Langley Pond and Hopelands Gardens. The latter hosts several events throughout the year.
History buffs can discover a large part Aiken's history by taking a trolley bus tour of Aiken. The tour is sponsored by the Visitors Center and is scheduled for every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. The tour takes participants by homes and churches and touches on the Civil War battle in Aiken. Tickets for tours can be ordered at 803-293-7846.
“It's a fun way to learn more about Aiken for tourists and for people who have lived here their whole life and want to learn more about the area,” said Nicole Przybylowicz, a member of the Visitors Center.
After the tour, people can continue their history lesson by visiting the Aiken County Historical Museum and Aiken's Visitors Center and Train Museum. Located at 433 Newberry St. and 406 Park Ave., respectively, the museums feature exhibits that add to the history of the area. The historical museum can be reached at 803-642-2015, and the Train Museum at 803-642-7557.
“With so much exhibit space, we really have something for everybody,” said Mary White, assistant director of the Historical Museum. “We have changing and recurring exhibits, lecture series and concerts for our visitors.”
People can also venture over to the Wagener Museum. The museum contains artifacts that cover the life and times of residents since 1887. It's located on Short Street in Wagener, and its number is 803-564-3412.
“We are dedicated to the past, present and future of Wagener,” said Cynthia Hardy, director of the museum. “So we display the history of our community from its beginning to the present.”
At the center of Aiken's artistry is the Aiken Community Playhouse, located at 126 Newberry St. The Playhouse is a staple in the community, with many scheduled productions throughout the year.
An original play, “Here on the Flight Path,” will be performed on Aug. 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m., and on Aug. 18 at 3 p.m. The Playhouse's number is 803-648-1438.
“It's a wonderful facility right in the heart of downtown Aiken,” said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Playhouse. “We have an amazing pool of talent here in town, and we always encourage our local residents to come out and support us.”
Of course, the arts are not just limited to theatrics. At 122 Laurens St., the Aiken Center for the Arts offers a variety of artistic experiences. The Center is also home to several cultured events, including A Taste of Wine and Art. The perennial event is scheduled for Oct. 17 this year, beginning at 7 p.m. Various concerts are scheduled at the Center throughout the year. The center can be reached at 803-641-9094.
The Aiken Perfoming Arts Group (APAG) is another organization for art lovers. The group encompasses a variety of genres, including classical, jazz, brass, chamber, bluegrass, big band, Broadway and ethnic music. Production dates can be found by calling the office at 803-643-4774.
The Etherredge Center, located on USC Aiken campus at 471 University Parkway, is also home to art and theater, including an upcoming culture series this school year. The box office number is 803-641-3305.
“For 28 years, the Etherredge Center has presented events for the citizens of Aiken in an effort to promote an appreciation of creativity and innovation.” said Jack Benjamin, executive director of the Etherredge Center.
Finally, visiting Aiken's Makin' is a must. The event is a two-day arts and crafts festival in downtown Aiken that includes activities for all ages. It will be celebrating its 37th anniversary this year on Sept. 6-7.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June.