Last-Minute Romantic Getaway: Race Off to Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina
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.
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.
Rose Hill Estate
Newly re-opened under new management, Rose Hill Estate is one of the few remaining Aiken Winter Colony homes and encompasses an entire city block in historic downtown Aiken. The circa 1898 Main House features an exquisite staircase, lead glass windows, fireplaces and other historic details in its rooms and suites. Have drinks or a nightcap at Sheffield's in the Main House, dine in The Stables Restaurant and explore expansive gardens with hidden delights, including a gazebo garden, chapel and more. The property offers plenty of places to pop the question.
Rosemary Inn B&B
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Rosemary Inn estate was built in 1902 on the hills of North Augusta, overlooking the town center, the Savannah River, and downtown Augusta. This multi-award-winning six-room suite B&B features twelve stately Corinthian columns, plantation windows, and a sweeping veranda in the classic Southern style of the antebellum era. The interiors reflect the fashionable Gilded Age in which the home was completed. It has been named a AAA Four Diamond property and one of iLoveInns.com's Top 10 Most Romantic Hotels, among other accolades.
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.
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.
Rose Hill Estate – Two Choices
The Stables Restaurant at Rose Hill Estate offers a modern twist on the traditional gastro pub with regional and international flavors in a casual atmosphere. Sheffield's Restaurant in the 1898 historic Main House opened February 2021. Executive Chef Jeff Hairston's classical approach to fine dining from around the world with seasonal menus has earned its anticipation.
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 www.tbredcountry.org/Where-to-Eat
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 www.tbredcountry.org/Things-to-Do
Note to Visitors: Given the rapidly evolving situation surrounding COVID-19, visitors are encouraged to directly contact the hospitality businesses to effectively plan a visit.