The beautiful Midlands of South Carolina is known for horse racing and the thoroughbred horses our ancestors started raising after the Revolutionary War. The area is made up of small, charming Southern towns with plenty to see. It’s the perfect destination to enjoy a relaxing weekend with good food.
We recommend making your base in Aiken. It’s right in the middle of Thoroughbred Country, close to everything you’ll want to see. You can stay The Willcox or Hotel Aiken. The Wilcox is a gorgeous building with white pillars, built in 1900. Hotel Aiken is located downtown. It was built in 1898 and forms part of the historic district.
Wherever you stay, make sure you visit The Bradley downtown for dinner. It’s an American restaurant with everything made from scratch.
If you’re staying at The Willcox, you’ll enjoy their breakfast menu. You can eat in the “grand living room” or poolside to enjoy the view of the ground’s flowers.
Otherwise, try Auten’s. It’s a family restaurant that serves breakfast all day. Locals love the omelets and grits, and chances are you will too.
When you’re ready, drive down US-78 to Denmark. You’ll know you’re there when you see the town’s water tower painted with dogwood blossoms. Native painter Jim Harrison designed it. He’s an award-winning painter happy to call Thoroughbred Country his home.
You can stop in at The Caroline Collection, one of the largest antique stores in the region. You’ll see three floors of fine art pieces, collectibles, and curios not only from the local area but around the world. Treat it as a simple museum with a variety of interesting and historic pieces to look at or take something home with you. If you don’t find something you like, you can visit their other three buildings down the street!
For lunch, head back out on the road to Blackville, only eight miles away, and eat at the Miller’s Bread-Basket lunch bar, featuring Amish-Mennonite cooking. The mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and meatloaf are all excellent. You’ll also enjoy their selection of homemade pies.
For the afternoon, drive another 10 miles to Barnwell and peruse The Little Red Barn Pottery & Art Gallery. Local artists keep working studios here, including Elizabeth Ringus, the Master Potter, and Larry Prince, known for his exquisite nature photography. You can even watch clay being molded on the wheel.
When you’re finished sightseeing for the day, head back to Aiken and dine at the Red Pepper. They serve an amazing prime rib and a very tasty Mahi Mahi risotto. Enjoy the food while being entertained with live music.
For breakfast, try Crêpes Café or La Dolce for coffee, tea, and a variety of freshly baked or freshly made foods.
Then, it’s your choice to see the Aiken Trials or Aiken Steeplechase horse races or visit the Hopelands Gardens. It was a private property until 1969. If you do visit, you can still enjoy the racing spirit as the estate also houses the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.
For lunch, grab a sandwich at What’s Cookin’ Downtown or a calzone at The Pizza Joint.
Then, you can walk Laurens Street and visit the many art galleries and antique stores, including the Aiken Antique Mall.
Your dinner choices should include the swinging 1920’s style Aiken Speakeasy & Eats with entertainment or the Aiken Brewing Company for tasty food and handcrafted beer.
Before you start for home, have brunch at The New Moon Café in Aiken and try a breakfast quesadilla.
You’ll end your visit to Thoroughbred Country relaxed, intrigued by the artwork, and well fed!
Rico Figliolini has published and owns blog sites related to travel and leisure, casting and entertainment news, parks and recreation and social media marketing. Traveling a weekend at a time with family and friends.