There are so many things to love about Greenwood, South Carolina. You will experience all the warmth and charm of a southern small town with a thriving, vibrant feel of a larger city. It is the perfect road trip destination, just a few hours’ drive from both the mountains and the coast as well as several major metropolitan cities.
The area’s mild climate along with its backdrop of rolling green, rural landscape draws visitors year round. In the center of the Old 96 District, Greenwood has an abundance of history, culture, arts, and recreational opportunities. Named one of the “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association, Greenwood, South Carolina, is waiting for you to discover it.
Getting to Greenwood is easy. Located in South Carolina’s upstate Piedmont region, it’s less than 1.5 hours from Columbia and Greenville; just over 2 hours from Charlotte, North Carolina; and a mere 1.5 hours from Augusta, Georgia.
Note: Old 96 District Tourism provided hosted experiences during our visit. All opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Greenwood
Greenwood’s vibrant Uptown is a cornucopia of unique shops, galleries, museums, local and chef-owned restaurants, places to have a drink, spas, and boutiques — plus enough green space to relax and watch the world go by.
Outdoor adventure in Greenwood is abundant — on trails, at parks and professionally designed golf courses, and Lake Greenwood. Visit Revolutionary War sites and the boyhood home of one of our nation’s most influential Civil Rights leaders. Time your visit with one of the many year-round festivals and events — you’ll be glad you did.
The “World’s Widest Main Street” is very walkable and has a charming blend of the old and the new. Walk along cobblestone side streets. Admire the old architecture as it blends with the new facades. Shop or browse one of the many unique shops on the Square. Stop for a bite to eat. Sip wine or beer at a wine bar or craft brewhouse. The Inn on the Square is an elegant yet comfortable boutique hotel offering exquisite accommodations, an on-site restaurant, and a bar and lounge.
Be sure to peruse the art galleries, theaters, and museums. A few notable stops are The Arts Center in the Federal Building, the Military Museum, and Main & Maxwell, a retail gallery space that supports the work of local artists and craftspeople.
At The Museum, explore early life and culture in upstate South Carolina, from Pre-Columbian Native American cultures through the Industrial Revolution. The Museum houses three wonderful floors of fun-filled, interactive permanent and rotating exhibits. With over 50,000 items in their collection, there is always something for everyone on display. Go back in time as you stroll down The Museum’s own 1900s Main Street. “Shop” in the general store, try on hats in the dress shop, and take a break in the cinema to watch short films.
Railroad Historical Center
Journey back in time to the golden age of railroad travel. The Railroad Historical Center houses 50 years of South Carolina railway history. Ring the bell on the 1906 Rockton & Rion steam engine. Imagine having a meal on the rails inside a 1930s dining car. Get a glimpse of the swanky lifestyle of the “upper crust” in the private and luxurious Piedmont & Northern “executive” car (which is a cocktail lounge).
“This hidden jewel of railway history is unique to Greenwood,” Nickie Murphy, the program director, told us on our recent visit. “We love to show people our trains!”
Since the Railroad Center is currently only open on Saturdays, Murphy encourages visitors to call to make arrangements for a private tour.
Pro Tip: Train car access requires climbing stairs. Lifts are available for guests with physical limitations. Wheelchairs can be lifted to the viewing area but cannot fit inside the cars. The grounds and facilities are accessible.
Get Wet At Lake Greenwood
If you love the water, you’ll enjoy the 11,400 acres of sparkling crisp, clean water of Lake Greenwood. The 26-mile-long lake offers boating, watersports, and is one of South Carolina’s top 10 fishing spots.
On the lake’s southern end lies Lake Greenwood State Park. For a small entrance fee, visitors will find a nature trail, fishing, camping, and swimming, as well as picnic areas, a playground, and restrooms. The CCC Museum has an interactive exhibit commemorating the South Carolina state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.
Pro Tip: The natural surface of the “easy” nature trail begins in the forest, then descends down to the lake’s edge and back up to a vantage point where the lake is visible in three directions.
Discover American History
Did you know that South Carolina saw more Revolutionary War battles than any other state? The Ninety Six National Historic Site, also known as Old Ninety Six (Old 96) and Star Fort, is the site of the very first land battle of that war during the summer of 1775. It is one of the few intact Revolutionary War fortifications.
Cherokee Native American trails and roads used by early traders and colonists are still visible and serve as walking trails today. There are several different trails with interpretive signage, a partial fort (1781) reconstruction, and a visitor center that includes a theater, museum, and bookstore.
Pro Tip: The main trail (one-mile loop) is paved and takes about an hour to walk. Wear sturdy shoes, a hat, and bring water.
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historic Preservation Site
When you think of the Civil Rights movement in America, who do you think of? Probably Martin Luther King, Jr., right? Many historians believe that if it weren’t for Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, the world might not have known MLK.
This historical site is the preservation of the life and legacy of Dr. Benjamin Mays, from his humble beginnings as a son of slaves to his roles as a Baptist minister, Morehouse College president, author, and civil rights pioneer. On site is Dr. Mays’ childhood home, schoolhouse, and extensive museum which preserves and showcases his extraordinary life. This is a must stop along the United States Civil Rights Trail.
Pro Tip: I’m not sure how long an ordinary tour lasts. We spent several hours (and could have stayed longer) touring with the site’s executive director, Mr. Chris Thomas, and I have to say that time was some of the best I’ve ever spent learning American history.
Visit Emerald Farm
Emerald Farm is a 75-acre working dairy farm set in rolling green pastures dotted with large oaks and fruit trees. The Goat Milk Soap Store and Gift Shop offers soap and other health and beauty products, handmade from the pure Saanen goat milk produced on the farm.
Peruse the antiques, train, and hobby shops. Stroll around the grounds to see the goats, sheep, peacocks, and other animals, or take a scenic ride through the farm on the Emerald Farm Express (runs on Saturdays only).
Hit The Links
Did I mention that Greenwood is located in the backyard of August, Georgia? If you are a golfer, you know what that means. The Greenwood area is home to over 15 public and private, top-quality, and affordable golf courses and accommodations. The Patriot at Grand Harbor was designed by PGA’s own Davis Love III. The 18-hole championship course The Links at Stony Point, designed by Tom Jackson, is now home to the premier event on the LPGA Symetra Tour. Golf vacation packages are also available.
Visit At Festival Time
Each June, Greenwood is decked out for the South Carolina Festival of Flowers, including the stars of the show, 40+ Disney-esque living topiaries. Lovingly cared for all year in a greenhouse, the topiaries are brought out and displayed around town for the entire month of June. The main festival weekend (the second weekend in June) is full of fun-filled activities and events for the whole family.
The Festival of Discovery takes place the second weekend in July. This award-winning festival is a celebration of Greenwood’s history, heritage, and culture. Uptown is closed off for fun, music, arts and crafts, amusement rides, and food. Over 80 barbecue teams from around the country converge for the weekend of fun and one of the biggest Kansas City Barbeque Society–sanctioned competitive cook-offs in the country.
Best Restaurants In Greenwood
You’ll find many tasty culinary choices in the area to release your inner foodie, but my favorite is the array of eateries in and around Uptown. Here are just a few of the fun food and drink places we discovered.
Break On The Lake
Situated on the shores of Lake Greenwood, Break on the Lake Bar & Grill is the perfect location for a relaxing lunch, a cozy dinner date while watching the sun set on the water, or just hanging out at one of the bars and throwing back a cold one.
The Mill House And Good Times Brewing
Housed in a renovated textile mill on Maxwell Street, just off Main Street, The Mill House is famous for its brick-oven pizza, while Good Times Brewing offers gastropub food along with its fine craft beer brewed in house.
Walking into Montague’s is like a step back in time. It is warm and friendly — a place the locals go. Dinner is a higher-end experience, but with selections like fried brie, crispy duck wings, and veal ravioli, the prices are worth it.
Tucked in among the shops on Main Street, you’ll find Buenavista Latin Cafe, and you’ll be glad you did. Authentic Cuban empanadas, papas rellenas, and the best Cubano sandwich in Atlanta (with bread sourced from a Cuban bakery).
Pro Tip: If you are in town for the weekend, may I suggest a fun, old-fashioned dinner and a movie at Drive-In 25? They show current movies — always a double feature — on three screens and have the best burgers and BBQ. Things have changed just a tad, so be sure to check the website for ticket information.
One weekend is just not enough time to see and do everything Greenwood has to offer. After visiting once, you’ll want to visit time and again.