Public Parks in Aiken, SC
Here at Aiken Vacation Rentals, we love to share what we love about our fair city! These are some of our favorite public parks in Aiken, South Carolina, voted the South’s Best Small Town by Southern Living Magazine in 2018.
Hopelands Gardens is a must see for Aiken. It's a truly magical park, and one of my favorites to take a picnic lunch and sit or just walk through and drink in the beauty of the gardens. The historic exhibits, Rye Patch, the Thoroughbred Museum, and the Doll House are sure to interest first time visitors. In the spring there is a free outdoor concert series on Monday evenings, and around Christmas they have a free lights display you can walk through.
If one park is synonymous with Aiken, SC… it’s Hitchcock Woods!
2,100 acre Hitchcock Woods is one of the largest urban forests in the country, and it's located right in the middle of Aiken. It's a lovely shady and peaceful place to walk, jog, bird watch, or ride horses on the 70+ miles of sandy trails. No bikes or motorized vehicles are allowed, and all dogs must be leased. During fall and winter fox hunting seasons, there are hours when the Woods is closed to dogs.
Seasonally there are controlled burns to maintain the health of the pine forest, so it’s not uncommon (or bad!) to see or smell smoke when near the woods, and some areas of the park may be closed when the burns are happening.
Aiken’s status as an Equestrian “Mecca” is partly due to the unique sandy soil and temperate winter climate that makes it ideal for year-round horse activity. The sand is gentle on unshod horse hooves, provides traction in all weather conditions, and has excellent drainage, and most of the park has this footing.
In the Spring (usually the first weekend in April), the historic Aiken Horse Show is held in the same beautiful grass show ring in the Woods where it has been held for over 100 years.
On Thanksgiving, the Blessing of the Hounds is held in the Woods at Memorial Gate. Free and open to spectator's, this quaint ceremony marks the opening day of The Aiken Hounds fox hunting meet. A priest in full regalia blesses the hounds and riders for safety for the upcoming winter hunt season. (And if you are concerned about the safety of the foxes... in Hitchcock Woods the only hunts allowed are "drag hunts," where a scent trail is pre-laid for the hounds to follow. No foxes are harmed on these hunts.)
There are multiple entrances. Parking is free. It's highly advised to download a free map as it's easy to get lost.
Also, if you love the Woods, consider making a donation to support The Hitchcock Woods Foundation . Their website is a comprehensive guide to the park's fascinating history, natural ecosystems, and legacy.
Odell Weeks / Virginia Acres
Odell Weeks aka Virginia Acres is Aiken's hub of recreation activities and low-cost or free community programs. Centrally located, generally busy, and safe, it's a great place to bring kids year-round. with play structures, shaded picnic structures & grills, fields, a walking/skating track, tennis and pickle ball courts, disc golf, and a recreation center with indoor activities as well.
Carolina Bay Nature Preserve
Carolina Bay Nature Preserve is one of the best-kept little secrets in Aiken (in my mind!) Right across the street from the park everyone knows… Odell Weeks… is a humble little swampy pond with a lovely little woods trail that wraps around it and an observation deck.
There’s even a rock climbing wall, and they run occasional Nature Walk programs to educate the public about the history and what it means that this is a "bay" ecosystem.
Citizens Park is on the corner of Pine Log Road and Banks Mill. You’ve probably noticed it during kids’ baseball season… lit up with floodlights at nights and tons of cars and kids!
It’s usually quieter during the mornings and days… open fields with a partly shaded walking track that’s usually less crowded than Odell Weeks. They also have a splash park in the summer.
Perry is on the North side of downtown Aiken, a few blocks up from Richland, which has traditionally seen less investment and growth than downtown or the South side. It’s a lovely open field with a nice picnic shelter and a pretty little pond, a nice neighborhood pond for gathering with the family, kicking a ball around with the kids, or dog walking.
Generations is a relatively new park on the North side of Aiken, an area that until recently has seen less investment and growth than downtown Aiken or the South side. It’s a family-friendly park with a paved walking trail and grass fields.
** The rest of the parks on this list are 15 - 30 minutes out from downtown Aiken.
Boyd Pond Park is one of my favorites for a quiet place to walk my dog on a peaceful wooded trail along the water. It's about 15 minutes out Silver Bluff from the heart of downtown Aiken, a little more out of the way and less busy than the parks closer to downtown.
There's also a boat launch for small watercraft (rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and the like), a disc golf course, kids' playground, big soccer fields and picnic arenas.
Langley Pond Park
Langley Pond Park is another nice one that has both quiet wooded walking trails along the water and a vibrant and often very busy kids' playground and swim park. It's located maybe 15 minutes from downtown Aiken off of highway 1.
Aiken State Park
Aiken State Park is about 25 minutes east of Aiken, and charges a small admission fee. There are sometimes canoe rentals and you can canoe/kayak the slow black water on the Edisto river.