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Taking a trip across the border


July 10, 2018

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I love day trips and finding spots off the beaten path. It’s an added bonus when my children are provided with a journey through the Civil War, Mother Nature and our solar system!

 

We are fortunate to live close to our beautiful bordering state of South Carolina. Much like Georgia, it is filled with history, science, the beach and mountains. My son has a strong interest in astronomy and had been begging for a trip to an observatory. Knowing we wouldn’t be making a trip to Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona anytime soon, my search for an alternative solution began. After a small amount of research, I found a little gem in Aiken, South Carolina. Trip planning began with the end in mind!

 

Starting out one Saturday morning we headed north on Hwy 301. Just an hour and half from Statesboro is Rivers Bridge State Historic Site and home to the only Civil War battlefield within the South Carolina state park system. The site marks one of the Confederacy’s last stands against Gen. William T. Sherman during his advance from Savannah. After two days of battle and outflanked by Sherman’s troops, the Confederates were forced to withdraw. The battle is described with interpretive panels along a ¾-mile guided trail, so well preserved that earthen fortifications are still intact.

 

Rivers Bridge is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and admission is free. It’s located at 325 State Park Rd., Ehrhardt, South Carolina.

 

Looking for a picnic spot along the way to our final destination, our next stop was 50 miles to Aiken State Park. Nestled next to the serene South Edisto River, Aiken State Park is a picturesque haven for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. A 1.7-mile canoe trail follows the south fork of the river. The 1,067-acre park holds four ponds and 25 campsites. Although we didn’t have time that day to put our canoe in the water, we ate our lunch on one of the docks along the river.

 

The park is open Monday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. The cost is $2 for adults, and children 15 and under get in free.

 

From the state park, a quick 25 minute drive took us into the city of Aiken. Aiken is a quaint town outside of Augusta. A full day could be spent just in Aiken visiting the farmers market, the Citywide Arboretum and art galleries.

There are multitude of rare tree species outlining the parkways of Aiken. The Citywide Arboretum includes the downtown area and best explored on the Arboretum Trail. The trail begins at the Aiken County Public Library.  

The art scene is jumping with the Aiken Center for the Arts. There are art educational classes, fine art gallery sales including local artists and exhibition opportunities.

If your day trip is just a trip to Aiken, don’t miss Hopeland Gardens. It is a 14-acre estate connected by a network of paths throughout the gardens. Opened in 1969 as a public garden, you are taken back in time as you meandering under 100-yea- old live oaks.  It’s open from 10 a.m. to sunset.

If you’re an equestrian lover, you are in the right place! Located within the Hopelands Gardens  is the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum. Many horses trained in the Aiken area have become national champions and are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. There is a multitude of history on display with trophies and photographs from some of the best known equestrian riders. And best of all, admission is free!  The museum is located at 135 Dupree Place, and it’s open Tuesdays-Fridays, 2-5 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sundays, 2-5 p.m.

With show times at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. we were planning to finalize our day at the DuPont Planetarium. After some brick oven pizza at Apizza Di Napoli, we headed to our show.

The planetarium is part of the  Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at the University of South Carolina at Aiken. It seats 45 and is a 30-foot diameter tilted aluminum dome with a planetarium projection system. The planetarium conducts K-12 school programs, general-interest level programs for the public, specialized programs for university classes, and private shows for parties and other events.

The facilitators provided an excellent program and film projected on the planetarium dome. The presenter was very educated and did an excellent job providing information about our solar system. The kids loved it! They especially enjoyed being able to take turns looking through the telescope in the observatory after the show.

 

The planetarium costs $6.50 for adults, and $4.50 for students from 4 years old through 12th grade.  It’s located at 427 Scholar Loop in Aiken.

 

To check out what’s going on at the planetarium this month, go online at rpsec.usca.edu/planetarium/observatory.html.


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