On a whim and prompted by an enticing Jetsetter promotion, I booked a one night stay at The Willcox in Aiken, South Carolina for me and my husband to enjoy. The Jetsetter promotion caught my attention for a couple of reasons (in addition to the great rate at a notable hotel).
I knew my husband would enjoy the surprise. Several years ago he participated in a tennis tournament that took place in Aiken. While there he and his teammates experienced a wonderful dinner at The Restaurant at The Willcox (he raved and raved about the restaurant and the hotel).
Aiken is only a couple of hours drive from our home in Beaufort County, SC, and is often the destination of choice for our area when it has been necessary to make plans to evacuate to higher ground. We’ve not had to make the trip (thank goodness) and I wanted to visit this charming town. It has a storied reputation as the “winter colony” for the rich and famous and is noted for it’s polo fields and equestrian, horse country leanings.
Celebrity is always a tourist draw. Legend has it that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would arrive in Aiken by train (tracks are just behind the hotel) and sneak through the back door into the hotel for a night’s stay.
Downtown Aiken is walkable and has a lot to offer. We saw a Performing Arts Center (sadly we were a day early for the beginning of the theatre season), lots of “local” restaurants and interesting shops. Public art work (like the horse) below were on display.
The town has beautiful trees. Canopied avenues compliments of mature live oak trees are everywhere and offer a cool respite in the summer heat. Wide roads with lovely center medians make travelling through the neighborhoods a breeze. If you visit, travel down the side streets to see the polo fields, dirt roads (for the horses) and horse barns.
The Hotel did not disappoint! The lobby was spacious and beautifully appointed, complete with a baby grand piano and comfy sofas and chairs to while the time away. We were told that a continental buffet was included in our reservation. Well, when they say continental breakfast what they mean is the best continental breakfast I’ve ever seen! It included homemade Greek yogurt with preserves in cute canning jars, homemade cranberry and walnut bread, giant homemade cinnamon rolls, English muffins, fresh fruit, cereal, granola bars, hard boiled eggs and an egg maker. All of this was accompanied by fruit juice and Starbucks coffee with fresh cream.
After checking in and hanging out in our lovely room, we ventured downstairs to get a refreshment from the lobby bar. The lobby was in full swing. We were there on a Tuesday evening and learned that the restaurant offers free hors d’oeuvres on this day each week. It appeared that most of the revelers were locals and if their boots were an indicator, horse men and women. We found a seat near the piano and enjoyed a glass a wine and listened to classical music played by a young man that looked more horse wrestler than piano aficionado.
We decided to “dine in” at The Restaurant at The Willcox. The dining room is beautiful and serene. The service was impeccable. My husband and I decided to split a meal (we do this often to save money and avoid over eating) – we shared a pasta dish, beet salad and amazing dessert. Oh, and we enjoyed the wine – this is not something we share!
Our room was well appointed, spacious and very comfortable. It was one of the smaller rooms the hotel has to offer. This was not unexpected given our promotional rate. Nevertheless, we experienced the quality of service The Willcox is known to offer. I have a discerning eye for detail. The result of my tenure as the General Manager of an historic boutique hotel. Our room had a writing desk, two wing back chairs, a flat screen TV with the full complement of channels, bathrobes, an honor basket of snacks, and a clean and bright bathroom with high end amenities. I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from guest services for turn-down service, complete with a chocolate late night treat.
We had lunch in town and from all of the options we chose to eat at Trio a new restaurant located on Alley Street. We would pick this restaurant again. This area was undergoing renovation and it is certain the improvements will be a terrific addition to the downtown scene. Right about the time our meal was served the jackhammers were right outside the restaurant. The management was very accommodating and helped us move to a seat farther from the dat-dat-dat of the jackhammer. And without prompting the owner covered the cost of our drinks! Great food, excellent service and good location –Trio has a winning combination!