There are so many facets of the Blue Ridge that make it one of the most desirable places on earth: incredible lake and mountain scenery, gorgeous weather year round and the tangible feeling of peace and serenity that bless this wonderful place. Yet another advantage is how close it lies to other fantastic destinations, such as Aiken and Charleston. The Preservation Society of Charleston’s “Fall Tours of Homes and Gardens” is a much anticipated event on the Charleston calendar. Every year the Society offers an enticing lineup of tours featuring different areas within the city, with eight or nine properties selected for each tour. Funds raised go directly to The Preservation Society, an organization formed in 1920 that quite literally saved “The Holy City” when a movement to raze the old homes of Charleston gained momentum with those eager for progress. Fortunately, Miss Susan Pringle Frost had the foresight to understand what a loss the destruction of these homes would be, and through her efforts the homes were saved and the first preservation society in America was founded.
Unfortunately, The Preservation Society’s work is never done. A recent trend towards modern development unsympathetic to the historic landscape has once again endangered Charleston’s unique character. The “Falls Tours of Homes and Gardens” celebrates this unique character by allowing the public access to the most exquisite of Charleston’s private homes (www.preservationsociety.org). An unforgettable experience that benefits a great cause - what more could you ask for in a weekend? Perhaps sumptuous fine dining and luxurious accommodations? When escaping to Charleston for a weekend getaway, go for best. And in Charleston, the best means Two Meeting Street Inn. This sublimely beautiful inn is regularly voted as the most romantic inn in the South (www.twomeetingstreet.com). Be sure to book reservations in advance at The Charleston Grill, a fine dining establishment that defines the term with its succulent cuisine courtesy of Chef Bob Waggoner’s new menu, hailed by The New York Times, Southern Living and everyone in between (www.charlestongrill.com). But
above all else, soak in the essence of this grand “Kingdom by the Sea” as Edgar Allan Poe called it in his immortal poem, “Annabel Lee.” Charleston is like no other place on earth; the past lives and breathes here in a most remarkable way. This romantic city has inspired the greatest of American artists. Allow it to inspire
you during a memorable weekend away From its beginning as a winter playground for the Northern elite, Aiken has been a place to relax and enjoy the best that life has to offer. It also holds the distinction of being the foremost equestrian community in South Carolina, and perhaps in the entire Southeast. Ocala may have more horses, but when it comes to atmosphere, Aiken stands alone. This genteel town, bedecked in giant oaks and stately homes, is peaceful and refined, yet hosts one of the most thrilling sports in the world every fall with the Aiken Polo Festival (www.aikenpolofestival.com). This dangerous sport, first played 2,500 years ago by the
Persians, requires plenty of derring-do and tremendous skill. The canvas of this ancient, fast paced sport is a ten acre field of play, which creates an emerald green backdrop for an already colorful game. A match consists of six seven minute chukkers, with riders switching to a fresh horse for each chukker. Polo players train for years to
advance through the ranks, achieving ever higher ratings, with the highest rating being “10 Goal” player status. These elite players are capable of scoring 10 goals in a match. Yet even 1 Goal players are proficient, and the rating system goes down to -2 Goals. Polo at a variety of levels is played from September 14th to October 28th, with the highlight of the meet being the USPA Silver Cup. No matter the skill level, it is a most enjoyable sport to watch. While in Aiken, make sure to set aside time to visit the Hopeland Gardens, which is an unforgettable park filled with magnificent oak-lined paths, gardens, and wildlife. For overnight accommodations, check into The Willcox, which was the favorite hotel of Gilded Age regulars and FDR. It is a living monument to Aiken’s gracious past (www.thewillcox.com). While there, be sure to take advantage of The Spa at The Willcox for a relaxing massage or aromatherapy treatment. For horse lovers, no visit is complete without a trip to the famous Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum, which features the many great thoroughbreds trained in Aiken - horses like Swale, Kelso, and Pleasant Colony (www.aikenracinghalloffame.com). With a whole host of things to do and see, Aiken never disappoints as a weekend getaway destination.