Greenville is a friendly southern town teeming with activities to suit every interest and age group. Whether you’re visiting as a family, couple, or solo traveler, this vibrant town can keep you busy for days or weeks. If you’re enjoying a leisurely stay, you’ll want to take advantage of the many opportunities to acquaint yourself with the charming town’s and spectacular outdoor venues surrounding Greenville.
Here are nine options for day trips that introduce visitors to upstate South Carolina and the western North Carolina mountains. Each jaunt can be accomplished in 2 hours or less. Some shorter trips are easily combined for a full day’s excursion, or you can elect to divide your day between Greenville and a nearby destination. Times and distances are calculated from Greenville City Hall, so they may vary slightly depending on your location.
1. Travelers Rest
Approximately 30 minutes north of Greenville, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Travelers Rest is an ideal spot to spend a few hours, or an entire day. A well-known destination for avid golfers, Cherokee Valley Golf Club offers the kind of fast greens and stunning views that can quickly become addictive.
Pro Tip: For runners, cyclists, and walkers, Travelers Rest is where the 26-mile-long Swamp Rabbit Trail begins or ends.
Greenville has everything anyone could possibly want, without the congestion of a large metropolis. But if you need a big city fix, Charlotte, North Carolina, is approximately 2 hours away. There are enough museums, restaurants, and attractions to make your head spin. Here are two unique attractions well worth spending an hour and a half to 2 hours exploring.
You don’t have to be a racing fan to lose yourself for a couple of hours at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The 150,000-square-foot museum tells NASCAR’s story through interactive exhibits, racing simulators, authentic artifacts, and much more.
History buffs will find the Levine Museum of the New South, a post-Civil War history museum, both fascinating and disturbing. Exhibits include “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” tracing Charlotte-area history, and Good Samaritan Hospital chapel, one of the first Black hospitals in the South. A Civil Rights-era segregated lunch counter presents personal accounts from local protesters.
Pro Tip: Plan your visit to avoid morning and afternoon rush hours.
It takes just over 2 hours to reach the charming western North Carolina mountain town of Sylva. The scenic drive that brings you there is a sweet promise of remarkable things to come.
Upon arrival, your eyes will immediately zoom in on the much-photographed historic courthouse-turned-Jackson County Library on the hill above the town. And it only gets better.
Whether you plan to hike, fly fish, shop, or simply drink in the natural beauty all around you, Sylva and the surrounding area offer a peaceful, picturesque place to play or simply chill.
The quaint, friendly town of Pendleton is a 30-minute drive from Greenville. It lies 4 miles from the college town of Clemson, but it might as well exist in another time and place. The entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Featuring a charming town square, Pendleton is a treasure trove of historic buildings where businesses thrive, and homes open their doors for guided tours. Immersing yourself in the rich history of Pendleton is as easy as walking down the main street.
Stroll the town, enjoying the architecture and shop for unique handmade items. Pendleton has an impressive selection of eateries and watering holes: some first-rate barbecue, a craft brewery, a rum distillery serving up creative cocktails at happy hour, and more.
Located just west of Interstate 26 between Spartanburg and Asheville — and a 50-minute drive from Greenville — Landrum, South Carolina, combines stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a generous dose of retail therapy. If antiquing is your pleasure, you’ve come to the right place.
Hunt for treasures among Landrum’s charming antique and specialty shops. Then take a break for a snack or meal at one of the town’s popular eateries. You can spend a half or full day in Landrum, depending on the comfort of your shoes and your budget.
Pro Tip: Do make time on your way to or from Landrum to stop at the 1820 Poinsett Bridge, the oldest in South Carolina. The 130-foot stone structure sports a striking 14-foot gothic arch at it’s center. And the entire bridge is alleged to be haunted. Also worth a slight detour is Campbell’s Covered Bridge, the only one of its kind in the state.
6. Lake Jocassee
If you’re longing for a day on or near the water, surrounded by mountains, wildlife, and peaceful places to relax, Lake Jocassee has it all. A 1 hour and 45 minute drive will bring you to the most crystal clear man-made lake in South Carolina. There you can swim, canoe, kayak, or take a boat tour. If you’re a certified diver, explore the remains of the once-populated town at the bottom. Lake Jocassee Dive Shop, in nearby Salem, supplies information, equipment rentals, and dive tours.
The lake has few public access points. The best way to get there is via Devils Fork State Park. You’ll find the experience well worth the small entrance fee.
7. Table Rock State Park
One of South Carolina’s most awe-inspiring sights is located along scenic Highway 11, only 26 miles from Greenville. Table Rock is the centerpiece of Table Rock State Park located in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills. According to Cherokee legend, this giant rock was the “dining table of the Gods.”
It’s a 3.5-mile steady uphill hike to the top of Table Rock, where you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view. Not up for a long vertical trek? You can still derive much enjoyment from the rock’s base, or from your car several miles away.
For a small park entrance fee, you can enjoy an entire day. Hike, picnic, or cool off in one of two lakes or an old fashioned swimming hole.
Pro Tip: If your timing is right, you can take in some live bluegrass music performed monthly at the Table Rock Lodge.
8. Do Go Chasing Waterfalls
Upstate South Carolina is endowed with incomparable natural beauty, and the abundance of shimmering, thundering waterfalls adds yet another dimension to nature’s rich palette and soundscape. Some require a strenuous hike, while others reside at the end of an easy walk. Here are a few of the more accessible, yet equally stunning examples of the waterfall wonders that await you. Even better, they are located within, or on the way to, some of the destinations mentioned above.
Begin at Falls Park on the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. The 60-foot urban waterfall located in a peaceful, expansive green space invites you to admire its cascading waters from a bench along one of the paved walking paths, or from the center of Liberty Bridge.
Carrick Creek Falls may be 15 feet tall, but height isn’t everything. See for yourself when you encounter the scenic view near the beginning of a moderate 1.9-mile loop trail at Table Rock State Park.
The lower part of Wildcat Branch Falls is visible from the road. If you pull into the parking area, you can walk a short distance to admire the three waterfalls in the roadside park.
Twin Falls is located in Pickens County, 34 miles from Greenville. An easy quarter-mile-trek will lead you to an overlook of these stunning falls, or you can hike to the top for an even more spectacular view.
9. Your Rainy Day Option At BMW Manufacturing
Rain or shine, a visit to BMW Manufacturing, a 24-minute drive from Greenville, is an adventure not to be missed. Whether you are a high performance luxury car enthusiast or simply curious, an hour or two at the BMW campus will give you a close-up look at how some of the finest vehicles in the world are assembled.
Begin your visit at the Zentrum Museum. Delve into BMW’s past, present, and future through displays, an informative video on a continuous loop, and cars galore. Feast your eyes on the shiny number Pierce Brosnan drove as James Bond in Golden Eye, as well as many other famous and not-so-famous rides.
The museum is free and open to the public, but if you want to see the inner workings of BMW’s assembly, there is a charge for the hour-long guided tour.
Pro Tips: Reservations are needed for the tour and, you will walk approximately 1 mile, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. The entire facility is wheelchair accessible.
About 5 minutes from BMW Manufacturing, you can find the BMW Car Club of America Foundation, which holds annual BMW-related exhibits.
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