For almost two centuries, Aiken, SC has been a welcoming refuge for couples and families seeking a mild climate, affordable cost of living, and true sense of Southern charm. In the 19th Century, wealthy industrialists including the Hitchcocks, Astors and Vanderbilts escaped the harsh Northern winters with their horses in tow to create a “home away from home.” The local soil and almost insect-free environment made Aiken comfortable for the horses and their owners. The seasonal migration gave the Aiken area a strong equestrian component that continues to this day and features frequent steeplechase events, polo matches and horse races. The 21st Century Aiken is a magnet for discriminating retirees who not only feel comfortable in the company of horses, but also are attracted by the fairways and greens of the area’s select group of golf communities that include Woodside, Cedar Creek and Mount Vintage. With Augusta National only 17 miles away, and current professional golfers like Kevin Kisner produced in the area, golf is embedded in Aiken as both hobby and tradition. Although Aiken might seem right out of central casting for charming Southern town, the area is ripe with sophistication. This college town features a thriving downtown with a host of eclectic locally-owned eateries, boutiques, antique shops and more. Get outdoors in Hitchcock Woods, one of the largest urban nature preserves in the country, or catch a Juilliard performance during the annual Joye in Aiken festival, a partnership with the prestigious school. Thanks to the University of South Carolina Aiken, even more theatrical performances, continuing education opportunities, and cultural events are available to Aiken locals.