Even just twenty years ago, Greenville was far from cool. Many described it as a decaying town with few job prospects and a waning population due in large part to the mass exodus of the textile industry in the 60s. Fast-forward to today and Greenville is on fire! It is not only a hot destination but also a vibrant and bustling city boasting a fast-growing population of almost 70,000. CNN Money has ranked Greenville as one of the Top 10 Fastest Growing Cities in the U.S. while in 2017 Condé Nast Traveler ranked it as one of the best small cities in America. The secret is out, making it a great time to plan a visit to Greenville now.
Only an hour and a half drive from Cashiers and a little more from Highlands, Greenville makes an exciting day trip (or overnight) to experience all that this vivid city has to offer. Between their array of live music, historic sites, over one hundred restaurants, festivals, and outdoor fun, this is a small city with a fast pulse.
If you arrive early enough for breakfast, make your way to Biscuit Head for one of their specialty biscuits, like their decadent pulled pork, jalapeno pimento, bacon, poached egg, and maple syrup option. In keeping with southern tradition, their biscuits are the size of a cat’s head. This small breakfast/lunch chain based in Asheville makes you break any diet in a snap, but then again Greenville is not a place to go on a diet. It’s a foodie town.
Before even thinking about your next meal, work off that biscuit by walking or biking the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 19.9-mile scenic path created on a historic rail bed. This well-maintained, paved trail offers gentle walks or easy rides along the Reedy River and through Falls Park, a 32-acre park that runs through downtown. One of the most photographed parks in all of South Carolina, Falls Park should not be missed with its abundant lush green spaces, scenic overlooks, botanicals, waterfalls, and the architecturally renowned suspension Liberty Bridge. For bike rentals, Reedy Rides, or Sunrift can set you up for just about any outdoor sport. For more active cyclists take the Swamp Rabbit all the way to Traveler’s Rest, a tiny town nine miles away, which was once a “resting spot for weary travelers” and home to several Indian tribes.
For guided excursions, there are tours for history buffs, food lovers, and adventurers. Greenville Glides offers a popular guided Segway tour, a refreshing way to see the sites. For baseball enthusiasts, the Greenville Drive, the Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, plays competitively at a downtown minor league ballpark resembling Boston’s Fenway Park where spectators lounge on picnic blankets. Greenville was home to legendary baseball player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson whose one-time residence is now a memorial library and small museum.
Greenville’s very walkable downtown has a charming Main Street area chock full of outdoor cafes, specialty stores, a historic district, museums, and even a zoo. Looking for a nostalgic place to shop with kids of all sizes, look no further than Mast General Store, which is a step back in time. For trendy home décor, Vintage Now Modern on South Main is a definite stop for one-of-kind items. A few miles off of Main, West Greenville Village is an area getting a total makeover with many eclectic boutiques, coffee houses, and artisan pop-ups.
Greenville’s devotion to food is abundant with choices to fit all tastes, budgets, and occasions. When you are ready to break for food, a favorite eatery for a relaxing wine lunch is Le Passerelle, a casual French bistro located at the base of Liberty Bridge overlooking the Falls. For a lively culinary experience try J Rz, a family-style farm-to-table Greek restaurant. Craving a burger and a draft from one of the local breweries? Stop by the gastropub called Nose Dive. If a picnic is more your style or you want to pick up some culinary specialties for home, stop at Caviar & Bananas just off Main on North Laurens Street. Post lunch, and to settle your food coma, stroll to Methodical Coffee at 101 North Main or CR Tea off of South Main for an afternoon “pick me up.”
If you can stay into the night or overnight, catch a show at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre which hosts everything from ballet to plays to comedic and musical acts. Theater is nothing unless paired with dinner on the town, but with the culinary mega show going on in Greenville, the decision is a difficult one. A favorite among foodies is Husk, from the James Beard Award winner Chef Sean Brock (dinner only, closed Mondays), specializing in melt-in-your-mouth southern cuisine using local ingredients. Pre- or post-theater drinks are a must-do at either the rooftop bar of SIP Whiskey and Wine or go where the locals go for craft cocktails at Ink N Ivy.
With so many enjoyable things to see and do in Greenville, if you should need trip planning advice for bigger groups or longer stays, professional companies like Tick Tock Concierge at ticktockconcierge.com will plan everything for you from soup to nuts. For day-tripping-made-easy, check out visitgreenvillesc.com for information on current events, festivals, retail and restaurant hours, and suggested itineraries. With moderate temperatures, Greenville is a year-round destination for playtime anytime with friends or family. •