Because of its surrounding greenery, there’s no wonder this quaint and thriving city is called “Greenville.” What used to be a quiet, little southern town is now booming with tourists and gaining national and international recognition. Downtown Greenville has made the Forbes list of “America’s Best Downtowns” because of its southern hospitality, beautiful landscapes, countless shops, boutiques, and outdoor activities for locals and visitors to enjoy.
A Brief History
Until 1777, colonists were not allowed on the Cherokee’s land because the Greenville area was their hunting ground. A colonizer named Richard Pearis arrived in the mid-18th century and traded with the Cherokees, had a child with a Cherokee woman, and gained 100,000 acres of Cherokee land. Once the American Revolution occurred, South Carolina was divided between Loyalists and Patriots, and the Patriots jailed Pearis for his loyalty to the crown. His home, Paris Mountain, was named after the Loyalist fled his plantation. In 1777, the whole Greenville territory fell under the authority of South Carolina. After the construction of the Rail Road, the town’s advanced agricultural sector began to thrive from cotton manufacturing and the establishment of higher education with Furman University. It wasn’t until later in its history that Greenville became a global player in the technology and financial service industries. Starting in 1986 Michelin established its headquarters in Greenville, and BMW arrived in the 1990s, which set up more than 30 suppliers.
Although Greenville has made itself known as a small international player, most of the population speaks English. Only a small percentage speaks a second language like Spanish, French or German at home.
Whether you are relocating or simply enjoying a weekend get-away, Greenville will not disappoint you!
Things to Do in Greenville
From urban tours to outdoor adventures, Greenville embraces the wilderness surrounding it. The city supports its artistic side, with art pieces around every corner enhancing the city’s beauty. There are also weekly performances to keep locals and tourists entertained. Whatever you decide, there are many things to do in Greenville, South Carolina!
Downtown Greenville is not incredibly big, so it makes walking, biking and even using a Segway super easy! Almost everything happens in NOMA Square, the largest plaza in downtown Greenville. Outdoor festivals like St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, and Swine and Dine are a few “international type” festivals that occur each year in the plaza. Other festivals include Biscuit Mashup Beer Dinner, Comedy Festivals, Improv Festivals, Candle Making Experience, Wine Tastings, Swing Dancing and more! They also offer “Yappy Hour” once a month so your furry friend can enjoy the city too! Free community classes are open to the public throughout the year and live music events run March to late Fall every Thursday and Friday.
The Peace Center
Want some live entertainment? Catch a show at the Peace Center! The Carolina Ballet, the Greenville Chorale, Greenville Symphony, the International Ballet and the South Carolina Children’s Theatre perform here throughout the year. Some upcoming shows include “The Unknown Soldier,” “Mozart’s Magic Flute and Harp,” and “Need to Breathe.” Of course, “The Nutcracker” is also a must for the upcoming holidays!
City Scape Winery
Didn’t think you could find a winery in the middle of South Carolina, did you? Well, you’re in luck! City Scape Winery is a family-owned business that carries the most wine-making and wine-tasting supplies in the Greenville area. This kind of activity can be hard to find, especially since South Carolina doesn’t have a lot of vineyards. Here you can take a 1-on-1 wine making class and create custom labels for the wine you just made! This place is family-friendly as well, so you can bring the kids. Grab some local cheese from the “Happy Cow Creamery” and other snacks from the “Yum-Yum Shop” that will go perfectly with your wine!
Gaffney Premium Outlets
Shop ‘til you drop at the Gaffney Premium Outlets and explore any of the high-fashioned stores, typically for a lower price. All of the stores are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 1:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. These hours change during the holidays, especially for major ones like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas and New Year’s, so keep a look out for those awesome sales!
Hagood Mill and Hagood Creek Petroglyph Site
Hagood Mill values the Greenville countryside’s cultural past. Here you can explore historic homes, plantations, botanical gardens and the home of Vice President John Calhoun. See locals demonstrate skills in milling, blacksmithing, cotton ginning and more! The Mill is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. year-round. Every third Thursday of the month there is a mini-festival! The Hagood Creek Petroglyph Site is free to visitors.
You’d be surprised that one thing Greenville locals get super excited about is football season! Right down the road is the one and only Clemson University, home to the 2016 National Championship winners, the Clemson Tigers. You are more than likely to come across some “die-hard” Clemson fans. If you’re travelling on a weekend when they have a home game, be prepared to see cars on the road sporting Clemson Paw magnets, Tiger Tails hanging from the back of the car, and Orange and Purple everywhere you look!
Blue Ridge Mountains
There are many beautiful peaks throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Table Rock, Chimney Rock, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic and Sassafras Mountain, which is the highest point in South Carolina. Hiking to these points typically takes hours, but it is worth it! You will get a breath-taking view of blue hills and multi-colored leaves.
The Gorge Zipline Canopy Tour
If you’re an adrenaline junky, then speed down a zipline with The Gorge Zipline Canopy Adventure! Here you can fly through the trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are many platforms spread throughout the forest’s canopies and well-trained staff members to ensure your safety so that you, your friends, and family have the best time!
Cedar Falls Park
For more fun activities in the wilderness, Cedar Falls Park is a great place for hiking mountain trails along the Reedy River. Like the other mountain trails in the area, it is open from 9 a.m. to dusk every day. This trail is on the easier side compared to the other trails, which is perfect for leisurely strolls to take in the mountains’ scenery.
Liberty Bridge & Poinsett Bridge
For a little bit of history, go check out the 120-acre Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve. This bridge was constructed in 1820 and is one of the oldest in the state of South Carolina. It played a role in connecting Charleston and Columbia to the North Carolina mountains and into Tennessee. The Liberty Bridge is located on S. Main Street and overlooks beautiful gardens and waterfalls at Falls Park on the Reedy.
Pretty Place Chapel
Also known as the Fred W. Symmes Chapel, this chapel is seated on YMCA Camp Greenville’s property. It is open to the public, except for when it is in use by faculty members and campers. The view is definitely worth the trip. Look at any of the pictures online and see for yourself!
Places to Eat
Some of these restaurants are in downtown Greenville and some you may have to take a little drive to get there. But Greenville has a mix of everything in the area, so you won’t go hungry from all that hiking and adventuring.
“Passerelle” is French for “Footbridge,” which is perfect considering it is located next to the Liberty Bridge. At Passerelle Bistro you can enjoy Lunch, Brunch, and Dinner with anything from soups and salads to burgers, shrimps and scallops. Everything is French influenced, including their wine and beer menu!
The Lazy Goat
The Lazy Goat is known for its international food selections! They serve lunch, “intermezzo” and dinner with a dashing selection of wines and spirits. They have specialty dishes based on Moroccan, Spanish, Italian and Greek foods. Anything from Moroccan chicken salad wraps, Italian heroes (sandwiches), kebobs, southern Italian salami, and paella.
Mary’s at Falls Cottage
Mary’s at Falls Cottage is literally a quaint little cottage that is also a buffet styled restaurant, serving breakfast, dinner and hors d’oeuvres. They also cater for special events! You can eat at the cottage or they will set up for your special event. They are open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Soby’s specializes in southern cuisine and supports local food sources. What can be more southern than a buffet-styled meal for Brunch on a Sunday? They have seasonal meals for the holidays each year. They say to guarantee a spot for Brunch, make a reservation early!
Stax Omega Diner and Bakery
Stax Omega Diner and Bakery is said to be a Greenville favorite because of its restaurant, bakery and catering services. The restaurant has a variety of comfort foods to keep your taste buds satisfied. The bakery designs cakes and has everything from freshly made bread and muffins to cookies and pies. Their catering services offer menus that you can create to make your event perfect!
A City in the Foothills…
Greenville sits comfortably at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and embodies the wilderness around it. This small metropolis is truly up-and-coming and never ceases to impress visitors passing through. Although it is situated in the always hot and humid South Carolina, Greenville tends to be cooler throughout the year because of its higher elevation. If anything, you should go to Greenville to explore its gorgeous landscapes, take a trip back in time to historic mountain-life culture, and maybe sport some purple and orange at a Clemson game! Swing through the trees on a zipline or snuggle up next to a fire in a log cabin while you take in the fresh, crisp Greenville air.