While Aiken may not be the travel destination for my city-lovers and girl-gang, for the 3-day eventer, AIken is a hotspot in the weeks between January and April. Now that I’m in Atlanta, it’s actually not a bad three and a half hour drive to Aiken, so we usually attend competitions outside of just the busy spring season when the Winter Birds fly down to stay warm. (Winter Birds::Northern Eventers) What I love about Aiken is that during the Spring season it’s not out of character to see other riders in their breeches and tall boots making their way down the grocery aisle or the post-office.
The go-to for signature AIken cuisine: Takosushi I’ll admit I’m not the largest sushi fan, but if you want to catch up on the best Eventing Gossip this is your place. My go-to is the Firecracker shrimp, but it’s not for the faint who don’t love spicy with a Sweet Chili and Siracha sauce smothered on top. You’re not complete without an order of Tempura Asparagas and their potstickers. If you go in the warm months, sit outside and you never know what Olympic rider you’ll see.
Cheap, working-student approved margs and Mexican goes to Maria’s Mexican Restaurant. Any time I spend a weekend in Aiken, I always end up here. I have no shame in placing Maria’s at the top of my list of go-to’s as I feel every groom, working-student, and rider has arrived here after a long day of riding horses and ordered Maria’s dip which is a mixture of cheese and ground beef with a Marg and realized all is well.
I horse-show on a budget. I usually trailer-in to my events to budget a few extra lessons, and I think it’s essential we support our local horse-trials where feasible. But, if I’m not stabling on sight or at my coach’s farm I’m stabling at Full Gallop Farm At $25/night (check website for current pricing) it’s a steal for a roomey, well-bedded stall for Pony-kins. The farm owners are lovely and accomodating as are most of the barn owners who live in Aiken all year.
If you’re staying for an extended period take your horse to Hitchcock Woods This is a free park riders can trail ride and condition on. Whether you’re taking a young horse or a seasoned event horse, it’s a great opportunity to get conditioning work in. You may see some Timber riders and fellow event riders conditioning as well. Just make sure to schedule accordingly around the Aiken Hounds hunt season!
I love AirBnB. The more boujie, the better. Give me a home with hardwood floors, a kitchen, and a quaint bedroom with a quilt, and I’ll pay high-dollar. That being said, Air BnB is convenient and can offer much more than a Hotel. I adore this precious AirBnB that’s right in Downtown Aiken. My parents are also Hilton rewards members, so I usually stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. It’s within the city limits and a short drive to the major chains and civilization. But if you’re looking for something in the middle or upscale I’d suggest the Wilcox Hotel and Restaurant as well as the Carriage House Inn. The Carriage House is the perfect amount of charm you desire in a Southern Bed & Breakfast.
There are so many incredible places to school, compete, and trainers to work with during the winter months in Aiken. I’ve just touched the service, but I wanted to only include the places I’ve been and enjoy. I’m usually working around a budget, but there’s plenty to do and places to save. It is important to note, that gas prices are cheaper in South Carolina than they are in Georgia! So if you are making the trip from the Georgia line don’t run out of gas but make sure to fill up your truck before heading home!
I’d highly suggest planning a week or two to pack some lessons and fun in Aiken. On your first trip, try to get plugged in with a coach to navigate the best courses to school and where to go. There are plenty of schooling shows as well as events during the Spring season.