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South Carolina Travel Guide

You’re Going to the Wrong City in the Carolinas

Move over, Charleston.

When in the Carolinas, visitors usually gravitate toward the more touristy cities like Charleston or Asheville. But a new Southern belle is rapidly catching travelers’ attention. In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville, South Carolina, thrives.

With the warmth of a small town and the urban planning of the future, Greenville’s intentionality stands out. The downtown feels intimate thanks to building height restrictions as well as the clusters of gathering spaces all over. Here, a swing; there, a picnic table. Perhaps it’s the not-so-distant memories of state-wide lockdowns, but these spaces feel intimate and necessary.

While there are plenty of reasons you’ll be captivated by Greenville, here are a few to get you started.

Get Casually Athletic in the Downtown Area

Being outdoors is good for our mental health, but not everyone was born with a desire for movement. In Greenville, the broad sidewalks and wheelchair-accessible paths tracing the Reedy River make it almost too easy to enjoy a mile-long stroll. Lush greenery softens the urban downtown. As you walk through Main Street, don’t just admire the storefronts. Sharpen your gaze for a classic Greenville scavenger hunt, the Mice on Main. These nine bronze mice are hidden in different corners of the street, inspired by the mice hidden in the children’s book Good Night Moon.

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Save Room for the Food Scene

In Greenville, trudging up and down streets for food is another way to get in some physical activity. Though you may lose count after the first 10-15, downtown Greenville has 150 restaurants. These aren’t just any old restaurants either, Greenville chefs come from backgrounds like French Laundry and NOMA, with multiple restaurants nominated as semifinalists for James Beard awards.

Notable places to visit are trendy spots like Juniper, where you’ll be tempted to pull out your phone to capture the dreamy aesthetic of draping vines and dancing fairies. Classic Italian spot Jianna holds its own, overlooking Reedy Park with fresh pasta and oysters, and seafood. Meanwhile, the newly-opened CAMP cranks up the heat with seasonal fusion dishes using locally-sourced ingredients.

The Habitap

Take a Stroll (or Bike) Through Swamp Rabbit Trail

And then there’s Swamp Rabbit Trail, the 22-mile trail that people bike, walk, and run on the daily. This is not one of those intense trails just for cycling enthusiasts in tight spandex(though there’s plenty of spandex on the trail). However, there are also parents pushing strollers, toddlers on scooters, and families simply taking a leisurely stroll with their children. Rental bike stations around the city make an impromptu trip on the Swamp Rabbit Trail less than daunting, as does the Reedy Rides bike rental company.

Once you’re on the trail, it’s not hard to make it an all-day event, with pit stops on the way like The Commons and Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocer. Here, you’re encouraged to sit and enjoy a bite. Even on the segments of the trail where nature takes over, cloaking the sides with greenery and growth, little benches beckon you to sit down, slow down, and simply be.

Firewater Photography/Kris Decker

Get out of the City Limits

Outside the downtown hub, you can listen to the strums of bluegrass as the sun dips behind the mountains at Paris Mountain State Park. Fancy some moonshine? Chattooga Belle Farm was once owned by Grouch Marx and now claims the world’s only pure muscadine moonshine.

Those looking to shift their vacation into high gear may want to stop by the BMW Zentrum, the only BMW museum in North America. Looking for something a little more experiential? The BMW Performance Center gives you a NASCAR-esque experience behind the wheel with a trained professional.

INSIDER TIPSit at the bar by the chef’s corner at CAMP to watch the chefs create magic; then order an “Iona Flower Shop,” the author’s favorite drink.

Greenville has the edge of a city dedicated to innovation, but not at the expense of those who make up the city. Community is at the core of this city, and it’s also welcoming to families. You can catch a glimpse of it at bagel sandwich shop Sully’s Steamers. Here, owner Robert “Sully” Sullivan can be seen behind the counter or chatting up regulars. Whether you visit for a few days or a week, don’t be surprised if you can imagine yourself putting down roots in Greenville.