Last-Minute Romantic Getaway: Race Off to Thoroughbred Country South Carolina

The Willcox - Night - resize | Thoroughbred Country

Travel Media Press Room

THOROUGHBRED COUNTRY SOUTH CAROLINA — FEBRUARY 2021 — Need an “I Love You” getaway? Race off to Thoroughbred Country for a last-minute Valentine's retreat that will satisfy the fast-paced and those looking for leisure and luxury. Situated along I-20, between Atlanta and Charleston and just east of Augusta, Georgia, Thoroughbred Country's epicenter is Aiken, developed in the early 1900s as a "Winter Colony" for the rich and famous, who introduced the traditions of polo and thoroughbred racing. Thoroughbred Country's contiguous counties of Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell are full of scenic rolling countryside, parks, charming downtown squares and historic sites. Adventures range from historic sites and museums and outdoor exploration from rivers to woodland trails. 

When it comes to lodging, a love retreat must be perfect. Here, the many historic antebellum homes, cozy cottages and unique boutiques assure a getaway where the accommodations are all about romance. Here are three time-honored favorites.

The Willcox

Step back in time at The Willcox in historic downtown Aiken. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the last of the Winter Colony hotels, this white-columned temple of Southern hospitality offers elegant suites and rooms adorned with period antiques, cloud soft beds and deep soaking tubs. Get pampered inside a serene intimate spa warmed by fireplaces. Enjoy a full Southern breakfast buffet each morning, then step out and explore this treasured downtown. The Willcox has been named a Southern Living Best Hotel in the South and voted one of the best hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler readers. 

The Birdnest Inn

Do you have a desire to be close to all the action, yet feel like you’re hidden away from the world? Then The Birdnest Inn is what you need. Stay at this tranquil Bed & Breakfast located in an urban farm environment close to downtown Aiken, golf courses and equestrian competitions. This beautiful home is full of character and charm with original art each with its own story, upscale adornments and an impressive collection of hand-made pottery.
All rooms are named and designed after different songbirds and are equipped with private baths and device charging stations. Other amenities include free Wi-Fi, television-free rooms, pool with adorning pool house, a farmhouse breakfast, coffee bar and plenty of books to read.

Additional romantic B&Bs offer options for an easy getaway.


When designing a romantic getaway, impressive dining comes second only to accommodations. Here are five suggestions. Each also offers takeout and outdoor dining.

Casa Bella 

Enter the gates of this brick-walled, postcard-ready setting and delight in an old world Northern Italian menu. Casa Bella is a multi-year Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence winner; diners far and wide praise the food, service and ambiance as delicious, attentive and memorable.


An Aiken staple for the past 30 years, Malia's is the perfect mix of big-city dining and small-town charm with creative cuisine and excellent service. Chef Jason Tufts was chosen as one of only four South Carolina Chef Ambassadors for 2020, and again in 2021, due to his dedication to both quality and local ingredients. 

The Restaurant at The Willcox

Recognized by Wine Spectator, Best Chefs of America and Aiken residents alike, The Restaurant at The Willcox is known for its sustainable practices and made-from-scratch flavors. A stately yet comfortable setting, unparalleled menu and thoughtful service all add up to an unforgettable meal.

Whiskey Alley

Aiken’s only Whiskey Bar and Tapas Restaurant, Whiskey Alley serves delicious cocktails, wine, and beer along with small plates including daily specials. Chefs Chad and Katie Jajczyk create delicious multi-cultural cuisine options that range from tapas to large entrees, with notations for vegetarian, vegan and gluten free.

For more ideas on where to eat, go to

Fast-paced and leisurely itineraries

From walking to gliding by kayak, Thoroughbred Country offers plenty of active outdoor pursuits. Paddle the blackwater Edisto River Canoe Trail at Aiken State Park in Windsor. Near Blackville, drink from an artesian well at God's Acre Healing Springs and discover its ties to Native Americans and the Revolutionary War. Explore the 3,400-acre Silver Bluff Audubon Center & Sanctuary overlooking the Savannah River. Wander the 14-acre Hopelands Gardens and the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. Aiken is known throughout the world as an equestrian training center, producing 40 champion thoroughbreds that are commemorated here. The spring polo season at the historic Whitney Field runs from April-June and fall season is September-November but now, couples can learn this social sport by taking polo lessons with a pro at The Aiken Polo Club. Call 803.643.3611 for more details. For more ideas on things to do in Thoroughbred Country, please visit