Lying between the coastal Lowcountry and the mountains, South Carolina's varied Midlands region holds swamps and rivers, fertile farmland—perfect for horse-raising—and hardwood and pine forests. Lakes have wonderful fishing, and the many state parks are popular for hiking, swimming, and camping. Small towns with bed-and-breakfasts in former mansions are common, and the many public and private gardens provide bursts of color throughout the year.
At the center of the region is the state capital, Columbia, an engaging contemporary city enveloping cherished historic elements. Just outside town, Congaree National Park has the largest intact tract of old-growth floodplain forest in North America. Aiken, the center of South Carolina's Thoroughbred country, is where the champions Sea Hero and Pleasant Colony were trained. Towns such as Abbeville and Camden preserve and interpret the past, with old house museums, history re-creations, and museum exhibits.
The Upstate of South Carolina is a land of waterfalls and wide vistas, cool pine forests, and fast rapids. Camping, hiking, white-water rafting, and kayaking are less than an hour from downtown Greenville and a paddle's throw from the small hamlets that are scattered about. Greenville itself, artsy and refined, is a modern Southern city with a thriving downtown full of trendy restaurants, boutiques, and galleries.