Greenville, South Carolina, is a sweet Southern secret that is no longer a secret. In 2020, was named the “#1 Friendliest City in the U.S.” by Conde Nast Traveler, and the accolades keep rolling in.
Located in South Carolina’s Upcountry, less than an hour from the North Carolina state line, Greenville has become a hot destination for both tourists and people wanting to relocate. Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport offers direct flights to seventeen U.S. destinations. This, along with its proximity to I85, ensures easy access to a fun-packed family vacation or weekend getaway in Greenville.
Why is Greenville such an irresistible draw? Perhaps it’s her combination of Southern charm and smooth sophistication. Or maybe it’s because spending time in Greenville is a sure-fire antidote to boredom, dreariness, and negativity. Here is a small sample of the city’s best attractions and activities.
1. Begin With A Tour
There are many ways to tour Greenville: self-guided walking tour, guided walking tour, driving tour, Segway tour, culinary tour. Take one or more in order to sample Greenville’s many offerings. Then decide where and how you want to spend the rest of your time in the city. One popular company is Greenville History & Culinary Tours, offering a number of excellent tours that range in length and price.
2. Falls Park On The Reedy River
Greenville is a city of many wonders. But perhaps the shiniest jewel in its crown is Falls Park, a 36-acre urban oasis of colorful gardens and lush green spaces. Stand on the 345-foot Liberty Bridge, the only single-suspension bridge of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, and allow yourself to be mesmerized by the Reedy River waterfall tumbling along its way.
Visit the ruins of mills that once were the lifeblood of Greenville’s economy. Bring a picnic and soak up the joyous atmosphere of the park. Admire some of Greenville’s public art displays. Take a leisurely stroll along smooth, even paths. In other words, make your Falls Park experience your own.
3. Bike, Walk, Or Run The Swamp Rabbit Trail
The Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail is another jewel in Greenville’s crown. This urban trail stretches for 22 miles from Lake Conestee Nature Preserve to the city of Travelers Rest. The terrain is fully paved and runs through tranquil parks, alongside bustling city streets, and through picturesque college campuses. You can get on or off via many access points, so you’re not committed to tackling the entire trail in one shot. Parking, restrooms, and food options are available at some entrances.
Pro Tip: Don’t have a bike? Rental stands are conveniently located along the trail.
4. Savor The Charms Of Main Street
Greenville’s main downtown thoroughfare is a pleasant, tree-lined street tailor made for strolling. Between popping in out of shops and lunching at a locally owned eatery, you can participate in the Mice on Main Scavenger Hunt. See how many of the tiny bronze mice hidden along a section of Main Street you can spot.
Many free events take place in Greenville spring through early fall, and Main Street’s NOMA Square is a popular venue. You can find out what will be happening during your visit on the VisitGreenville SC website.
If you’re tired, you can ride the free trolley that runs up and down Main with several convenient stops along the way.
5. Bring Your Best Four-Legged Friend Along
Greenville is not only people friendly, it’s a paradise for pooches. This dog-loving town makes dogs welcome with pet-friendly accommodations, water bowls in front of businesses, and lots of outdoor dining options. The proof is in all the dogs you’ll see walking their owners everywhere you go.
6. Art In Abundance
Amazing public art is everywhere in Greenville. Sculptures and murals by local artists adorn the city’s many parks and streets. You can download an Arts in Public Places self-guided tour, which includes a map of public art located throughout the city.
7. Get Back To Nature At Lake Conestee Nature Preserve
Lake Conestee Nature Preserve is a remarkable 406-acre wildlife sanctuary located seven miles from downtown Greenville. There you can spend blissful hours walking, hiking, or simply enjoying sunshine, fresh air, and birdsong. You might even spot creatures such as deer, raccoons, beavers, and foxes.
Along with easy hiking trails, the preserve contains over five miles of paved paths, making it wheelchair accessible.
8. Go Back In Time At The Upcountry History Museum
Located in Greenville’s downtown area, the Upcountry History Museum is an ideal venue for spending an hour or two delving into the history of Greenville and South Carolina’s Upcountry. Stationary and interactive exhibits take visitors through the centuries, from before the arrival of the earliest settlers to the present. You’ll witness the positive events of the past, as well as the negative, and you’ll be fascinated by what you can learn from both.
Begin your tour with the 15-minute video before you start your journey through the exhibits. It will give you an excellent introduction to the rest of your experience.
Museum exhibits are located on two levels and are wheelchair accessible.
9. Take In A Show At The Peace Center
There’s no shortage of theater options in Greenville. The largest of these is the Peace Center. From Broadway productions to chamber music, and everything in between, you never know what might be playing during your visit.
Pro Tip: The Peace Center is wheelchair accessible. If you have a hearing or mobility challenge, or if you are with a certified service dog, contact the Peace Center in advance to ensure appropriate seating and access to services.
10. Commune With The Critters At The Zoo
The Greenville Zoo may not be among the largest in the nation, but it makes an ideal treat for children and adults alike. It’s easy to spend a leisurely hour-and-a-half enjoying the antics of the primates, cooing at baby animals, and watching how creatures and kids react to each other.
A playground, picnic area, gift shop, and concession stand increase the possibilities for extending your visit. The zoo is wheelchair accessible, and paths are smooth and easy to navigate.
11. Savor The City’s Ever-Expanding Food Scene
When visiting Greenville, you’ll long run out of time before you run out of places to eat. So forget the national chains and treat yourself to some of Greenville’s mouth-watering local food options.
From Southern cooking to international fare, the choices are endless, but be sure to sample some Upcountry barbecue. Who makes the best? It depends on who you ask. One name that frequently comes up is Mike and Jeff’s Barbecue, a family-owned restaurant that smokes its meats over a wood fire for 16 hours.
12. Then Wash It All Down At One Or More Of Greenville’s Craft Breweries
Greenville is home to an impressive assortment of watering holes: bars, wine bars, pubs, and, for those who don’t imbibe, coffee shops. It is also home to 20 craft breweries, with more on the horizon. One to try is 13 Stripes. Located in a former textile mill, this brewery not only brews a variety of refreshing offerings, it, like many Greenville establishments, has a fun and fascinating backstory.
13. Join The Baseball Fans At Fluor Field
The Greenville Drive may be a Boston Red Sox Class A team, but the hometown crowd cheers as if they were watching a World Series game. Fluor Field is a miniature Fenway Park, which seats just over 5,000 fans. This means there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
14. Delight Your Taste Buds At Gather Greenville
Perhaps the best way to think of Gather Greenville is to imagine a food court on steroids. This open-air venue currently houses 13 container restaurants serving food and beverages to suit any palate and budget. It has an impressive variety of offerings, such as doughnut sandwiches, lobster rolls, sushi, craft beer, and what may well be the best Cuban sandwich this side of Miami.
Gather Greenville is wheelchair accessible, dog friendly, and presents live music on weekends.
Pro Tip: Gather Greenville is within walking distance of Fluor Field, and is the perfect location for a pre-game feast.
National chains abound in Greenville, but if you want to take home some unique gifts and reminders of your delightful experience, you’re in luck. The shops on Main Street offer a slew of hats, T-shirts, and other assorted souvenir items. You’ll also find local originals, such as a Greenville Drive Slugger Mini Bat and a Mice on Main Bronze Mouse.
Don’t shop till you drop, though, because you’ll want to save some energy and cash to explore the Village of West Greenville. There you’ll find exquisite hand-crafted items and galleries filled with local art.
Check out some of the top vacation rentals in the area:
Pro Tips: Greenville is stunning in spring and fall. But, unless you can’t tolerate summer humidity, any time of year is a good time to visit. And while you’re in the state, consider: