The City of Aiken, founded in 1835, is Aiken County’s largest city and the county seat. Known primarily as a former Winter Colony visited by wealthy Notherners, Aiken boasts dozens of beautiful homes dating back to that era. Other legacies of the winter colonists included Hitchcock Woods, a 2,100-acre urban pine forest, and Hopelands Gardens, a 14-acre public garden that remains a favorite local attraction. The Winter colonists also brought horses to Aiken, and equestrian sports remain a vital part of life. In 2018, Aiken was named the "Best Small Town in the South" by Southern Living magazine. Over the years, many visitors have turned into residents, and Aiken is now known as a premier retirement community. Retirees bring their passions from other parts of the country and contribute to a vibrant cultural life that includes ballet, theater, music and art.