Wed, February 21, 2024

southern living

Aiken is one of the South’s top towns according to Southern Living

Whether you were born and raised in Aiken or you’re a transplant, Southern Living magazine has just put a big feather in your cap. In the March issue, Aiken was named as one of the Top 10 Best Small Towns in the South.

This is Southern Living editors’ description of Aiken: This equestrian town looks like something from a postcard. Home to the Aiken Horse Show, which has been running for over a century, it’s a place where you can saddle up and go for a trail ride, get cozy in gracious inns and bed-and-breakfasts, and enjoy the general splendor of the landscape. There’s also the Aiken Art Annex; Boyd Pond; Aiken Arboretum Trail; Center for African American History, Arts, and Culture; Hitchcock Woods; Henderson Heritage Preserve; DuPont Planetarium—we could go on and on. Hop aboard an electric bike rental or take your seat on an Aiken trolley tour for an introduction to the town.

What does the Southern Living accolade mean for the local economy? Chamber President, David Jameson says it sure doesn’t hurt.


“Any Aiken mention either plants a seed or reinforces the thought that Aiken is a good place to live and invest,” he said.

The shops of downtown Aiken and events at the Alley are thriving.

The economic numbers appear to support the investment in this “best small town.” The average income of an Aiken resident is $30,773 a year, above the U.S. average of $28,555. The unemployment rate is lower than the national average of 6.0 percent. The job market has increased by 1.6 percent over the last year but future growth is estimated to be 32.9 percent. That forecast is being driven by high percentages of health care services, retail trade, and manufacturing.

The lifestyle magazine has been around for more than 50 years and one of the readers’ favorites is the annual “Best Of” articles.

Jameson believes Aiken is a natural to be recognized as one of the South’s best small towns.

“We’re the total package – history, heritage, and charm combined with a vibrant economy. Locals often say, ‘If you’re lucky enough to live in Aiken … you’re lucky enough.’”

Whether it’s steeplechase, foxhunts, or polo matches, horse events are always a big draw.

Thanks to Aiken Local for letting us post the question on their Facebook page: What do you like best about living in Aiken? Many of the comments mirrored Southern Living opinions:

  • Hopelands Gardens
  • Aiken looks like something out of a Hallmark movie
  • Just moved here from Texas and there are endless restaurant opportunities
  • Willcox and Rose Hill Inn are both magical
  • The small-town ambiance
  • The Downtown area
  • Great place to raise a family
  • Outstanding musical talent including the Aiken Symphony
  • The Alley and downtown shops
  • Foxhunting
  • A lifestyle like no other

Editor’s Note:
Mitzi Oxford is a veteran broadcaster and features writer who also worked at the same television station in Columbus, Georgia as Augusta’s Brad Means! 

If you have a South Carolina story idea for Mitzi, please email her at

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