The city of Aiken is a charming town, with historic roots and a healthy dose of southern hospitality. The wide, oak-lined streets add to the appeal, as does the historic architecture, beautiful downtown area, and pleasant weather.
Another one of Aiken’s greatest attributes is its prime location near major cities, enchanting towns, historic relics, and tons of nature. No matter what brings you to Aiken, you should definitely consider getting out and exploring some of the nearby attractions.
If you can get yourself to leave the postcard-perfect setting of this beautiful city, here are some of the best day trips from Aiken.
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1. Augusta, Georgia
One of the best day trips from Aiken can actually be found across state lines. Augusta is the second oldest city in Georgia, and it boasts lots of historic architecture and tons of museums if you’d like to learn about this area’s past.
Today, Augusta is a vibrant city that combines the perfect mix of old and new. The streets are lined with eclectic bars and restaurants serving up southern soul food, and the music scene is the best way to experience the local culture.
The downtown river district is a picturesque place to take a stroll and get some great views of the Savannah River, and you could easily spend the whole day popping in and out of the shops and art galleries that line the streets.
One of the best things about a day trip to Augusta is that it’ll only take you 30 minutes to get there from Aiken!
South Carolina’s capital can be reached from Aiken in about 1 hour, making the sprawling metropolis an amazing day trip. You’ll find plenty to keep you busy in this booming city.
Whether you’re a history buff looking to frequent the museums or an art enthusiast looking for some inspiration, you’ll find endless entertainment options in Columbia.
Families can spend their day at the zoo or catch a puppet show at the Columbia Marionette Theatre. Outdoor lovers can head to the edge of the city limits and explore the many state and national parks that lie on the border.
Foodies looking for a relaxing day trip will find a large swath of al fresco dining options, breweries, cafes, and lots of pimento cheese.
Greenville is located about 2 hours north of Aiken, and if you have the time, you should definitely consider spending a day here.
This river town is bursting with historical undertones, but the culture is at the forefront with a wide range of excellent restaurants, funky bars, and local store fronts located in the trendy downtown area. One of the best ways to discover Greenville is by taking a tour on the Downtown Trolley, and one of the best things about it is that it’s free!
You could also see the city by foot or make your way down the Swamp Rabbit Trail for a more scenic route through town. Make sure you walk over the floating suspension bridge for epic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.
4. ACE Basin Land Conservation
Those who are interested in spending a day in nature should head straight to the ACE Basin. This massive land conservation is comprised of over 250,000 acres of marshland, hardwood forests, and wetlands.
The name is an abbreviation of the three basins that make up the protected area: the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto areas. The basin is home to various species of native flora and fauna, and if you’d like to get up close to nature you can take a hike or kayak along the rivers.
Even if you just stay in the car, you’ll have a scenic drive with wonderful views that will have you feeling rejuvenated in no time.
The town of Camden is located about 1.5 hours from Aiken, and is a must-see for history buffs or anyone interested in architecture.
Camden is one of the oldest towns in South Carolina, founded in 1735 by the order of King George II, and 60 of the buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll see cottages and mansions dating back to 1865, along with antebellum residences from the 1900s.
In Camden’s historic district you’ll also find a large outdoor museum that offers a perspective about what life was like during the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods.
6. Saluda Shoals Park
Saluda Shoals Park is the perfect day trip from Aiken for those looking to spend some time in nature. It’s a lot closer than the ACE Basin, and you can spend your day here learning all about the wildlife that call this area home.
The 480-acre park and boasts miles of trails for hiking and biking, an observation deck, and even a few picnic shelters.
After you’re done exploring the park, head into the massive Environmental Education Center and walk through exhibits that’ll teach you about everything you’ve seen.
The quaint town of Orangeburg is a great place for a day trip. It’s located about 60 miles to the east and has everything you’ll need for a relaxing getaway.
Although orange in name, the city is extremely green – so much so, that it’s often referred to as the “garden city”. Start your day by taking a stroll through the lovely Edisto Memorial Gardens, and then head to the charming downtown area for a bite to eat or a bit of shopping.
Hunting, fishing, and golfing are popular pastimes in Orangeburg, and the IP Stanback Museum is also a great place to spend a few hours.
A trip down to the coast makes for a fun day trip from Aiken, and one of the best cities to visit is Beaufort. It’s also one of the oldest cities in the state, and the historical importance in this city is hard to match.
Much of the ancient architecture has remained intact and the town has maintained its historical character over centuries. There are also a few military establishments and museums around town that are worth visiting.
To take in some of the beautiful scenery that this area is known for, take a walk through Waterfront Park, or catch a boat out to one of the many surrounding islands. There’s a lot to do in Beaufort, so you might want to consider turning your day trip into a weekend getaway.