As with seemingly all Southern communities, Aiken and Edgefield are steeped in tradition and outdoor life. For equine enthusiasts, Aiken County is one of the most popular horse-breeding areas in the United States; as a result of the area’s mild climate, both counties offer popular year-round riding excursions. Aiken is also home to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum, which pays homage to the region’s great horses and riders, including 1981 Kentucky Derby winner Pleasant Colony.
In March, Aiken hosts its own Triple Crown, beginning with the Aiken Trials, a series of flat races held at the Aiken Training Track. On the following weekend, horses and jockeys compete in the Aiken Steeplechase, and on the third and final weekend, teams from across the South square off in polo matches.
Just across the Savannah River, Augusta plays host to the most famous golf tournament in the world: the Masters, played at the near-mythical Augusta National course. Thousands of people make their yearly pilgrimage to this private course to walk the same fairways that Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and Tiger Woods walked.
For avid golfers, the area is also home to Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken; built in 1892, Palmetto is the oldest golf course in South Carolina and the fifth-oldest course in the United States. In addition, the course at Mount Vintage Plantation in Edgefield hosted a LPGA tour event in 2004.
Those looking for an idyllic Southern festival should visit Edgefield during its Johnston Peach Blossom Festival in April, as residents line the streets for parades, picnics, concerts, and dances over an entire weekend. When the world thinks of picturesque Southern town gatherings, the Johnston Peach Blossom Festival is what they think of.
Summer truly brings the area alive, with weekly programs consisting of all kinds of activities-from horseback riding and polo to concerts and festivals to auto shows and basketball tournaments-Aiken and Edgefield have something for everyone. Aiken County is home to Langley Pond, the world’s largest pond and a growing haven for water sports and fishing. Langley served as a training stop for Olympic rowing teams from Norway, Ukraine, and Lithuania before the 1996 Summer Olympics, and plays home to jet ski races, regattas, and other outdoor activities.
Edgefield residents have their own massive recreational lake in J.Strom Thurmond Lake, which borders Georgia with over 1200 miles of shoreline. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s, Thurmond Lake is one of the largest and most popular recreational lakes in the South, particularly for fishing.
Residents and visitors with refined taste find themselves at Montmorenci Vineyards, one of only two wineries in South Carolina. Opened in 1989 by the Scott family, this award-winning vineyard grows grapes suited to the climate of western South Carolina and produces wines with unique but traditional characteristics.
For equally refined tastes, Edgefield keeps time-honored forms of art alive: at Old Edgefield Pottery, visitors can examine, learn about, and even purchase specimens of centuries-old hybrid techniques that combine the English methods and Chinese technology that settlers brought to the New World. Here, potters, artisans, art collectors, and ordinary citizens alike can learn about the area’s rich history as a home for ceramics and pottery, and Edgefield’s role in Southern ceramics.
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