In 1830, William Aiken, president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, began work on a railroad from Charleston to Hamburg, SC, which was a site along the Savannah River at that time. In 1833, the first train arrived in the newly established town of Aiken, named in honor of the first railroad president. The town became a “Winter Colony” for wealthy northerners who were lured to the area by the opportunities for equestrian sports. Besides the beautiful homes they built, those early visitors left a thoroughbred country legacy. We’re home to many horse farms, polo clubs, and polo fields. For more than 100 years, equestrian sports have found a welcoming home.
Palace Malice, winner of 2013 Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, was trained at Dogwood Stable in Aiken. His prestigious victory in the Triple Crown even adds to the amazing equestrian heritage in Aiken. The city is home to the two-story Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum. Whether it is world-class polo matches or champion thoroughbred training, steeplechase, fox hunting or just a quiet carriage ride along a lane lined with live oaks, Aiken has options for anyone with a little hay in their blood.
The visual and performing arts thrive here, too. The Aiken Center for the Arts offers year-round activities at no or low cost through its exhibition galleries, art classes and workshops for all ages. The Aiken Community Playhouse was founded in 1952, and performances are held in the Amentum Center for Performing Arts. These venues complement the Etherredge Center and the Convocation Center, two venues at the University of South Carolina Aiken. The Etherredge center houses two theatres, a 687-seat proscenium theatre and a 110-seat thrust theatre. The Convocation Center is home to the Pacer Athletics with seating for 4,000 people.