Golfers, Nature Lovers Thrive in Thoroughbred Country

Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, SC
Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, SC

When it comes to spending time in the great outdoors, Aiken residents have plenty of places to play.

Since the area is in the heart of Thoroughbred Country, almost every equine sport is celebrated with a variety of outlets. The Aiken Polo Club hosts club polo matches as well as tournaments, but for the less competitive, head over to Almost Heaven Stables. Lessons, trail rides and children’s horse camps are just a few of their offerings.

Golf enthusiasts can tee off on an array of greens around Aiken. The Aiken Golf Club underwent major renovations and rebuilding in 1999, and The Golf Club at Cedar Creek features an over-seeded course, so players can enjoy their sport right through winter and early spring.

Not a golfer or equine-inclined? Aiken provides other workout places, too. Smith Hazel Recreation Center allows visitors a spot to swim, play tennis or run laps around the track. And at H.O. Weeks Activity Center, people can break a sweat with racquetball, karate, aerobics and more.

Want to simply take in the beautiful scenery? Meander through the picturesque Aiken State Natural Area, where you’ll be surrounded by natural wonders, such as iridescent dragonflies, and you can even set up camp at one of 25 sites. Those looking for a little more action can canoe on the South Edisto River or hike the Jungle Trail, which is less formidable than it sounds – just don’t forget your insect repellent.

More than a dozen parks are located within city limits, some just a short distance from downtown. At the picturesque Hopelands Gardens, visitors can walk under a canopy of oaks and magnolias before enjoying a summer concert under the stars. All you need is a picnic basket, a cozy blanket and some good company. The public gardens illuminate the winter nights as well, during its impressive Christmas lights display.

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