The Willcox Hotel in Aiken, South Carolina is the perfect place to stay when visiting Thoroughbred Country. The Willcox has everything a visitor could want and Aiken is the ideal hub from which to spoke out and explore the area.
The stunning Colonial Revival landmark is as beloved by guests today as it was when it first opened in 1900 and has been voted “Best Hotel in the South” and one of the “Best Hotels in the World”.
I stayed as a guest of Thoroughbred Country Regional Tourism.
A Little History
In the 1800s Aiken became known as a health resort for wealthy folks as they looked to escape northern weather and disease in favor of the pine-scented air and fresh spring water of Aiken. The visitors became known as the “winter colony”.
Several grand wooden hotels were built as playgrounds for the winter colonists and as was so often the case, they eventually burned down. It was after the legendary Highland Park Hotel burned that Frederick Willcox, a local caterer, built the Willcox with hopes of accommodating the elite guests himself, and the hotel quickly gained favor with the rich and famous.
The Willcox has since been reopened and completely renovated and has never lost its majestic elegance and status. It’s the place to stay when visiting Aiken and is often referred to as the “living room of the community” with its clubhouse-style lobby being quite the cozy, gathering place.
Willcox Hotel Guest Rooms
There are 23 guest rooms and suites on three floors. Each room is beautifully appointed with sumptuous, soft linens atop four-poster beds, a working fireplace, a sitting area, executive desk and chair, in-room safe, refrigerator, complimentary internet, soaking tub and shower, high-end bath amenities and plush robes.
The double windows are framed by white plantation shutters so I enjoyed an abundance of natural light. The decor was luxurious, the room was extremely spacious and the bed was soft and heavenly.
The Willcox does have a nightly turn-down service but we opted to pass on both this and maid service during our stay as a Covid precaution.
Our room faced Colleton Avenue, the front of the hotel, so the hotel’s exterior lighting seeped through the shutters until about 10’ish pm when the hotel turned it off for the night. This wasn’t a problem for us, but for those traveling with children, a room facing the rear of the hotel overlooking the railroad cut may be a better option.
The Roosevelt Suite
One of the Willcox Hotel’s most notable guests was Franklin D. Roosevelt and the hotel’s largest suite is named after him.
The president’s train would stop directly behind the Willcox, and legend has it that he would enter discreetly through the rear and take a secret elevator from the basement to his third-floor suite where he’d rendezvous with Ms. Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd.
On my final morning, I popped up to the third floor to take a peek. Although I couldn’t go inside, I noticed a ramp and a grand double door entrance to the suite—no doubt for FDR’s wheelchair.
Dining at the Willcox
Although a continental breakfast is complimentary with a stay at the Willcox, we took the opportunity to dine in the restaurant and order off the menu before exploring Thoroughbred Country.
We ordered the challah bread French toast with lemon blueberry compote and a yogurt and fruit compote parfait. Outstanding — every bite, and the service was superb.
The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner daily.
Other Willcox Hotel Amenities
- Complimentary continental breakfast
- Lobby bar
- Live piano music on Sunday evenings
- Complimentary use of pool, bicycles and fitness room
- Spa and salon
- Concierge services (including horse boarding)
- Complimentary wellness classes
- Free self-parking (valet option is available)
- Convenient, quiet downtown location (within walking distance to several area restaurants and Hopelands Gardens)
100 Colleton Avenue, SW
Aiken, SC 29801
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