Expect to be charmed by Greenville, S.C.
Whether it happens when you’re taking a stroll down its tree-lined Main Street, stopping for a bite at one of its creative restaurants, popping in to a riverside art gallery, or sipping a craft cocktail on a rooftop patio, Greenville will inevitably win you over. After all, there’s a reason the small South Carolina city has garnered accolades from the likes of the New York Times and Esquire in recent years—it offers all the big-city culture any traveler might need, with all the charm of a Southern small town you want.
For those looking for rural retreat, book a room at the Hotel Domestique in nearby Traveler’s Rest.
The 13-room hotel was established by a Tour de France cyclist and is perfect for biking enthusiasts. At the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the property feels more northern Italy than South Carolina with European-inspired dining, Tuscan-style architecture, and a chic saltwater pool.
But to be in the center of the scene of Greenville, you’ll want to reserve a room in its inviting West End. Just across the Reedy River from downtown, the growing neighborhood is home to the gorgeous Falls Park and is full of new shops, restaurants, and art galleries. The Hampton Inn and Suites offers spacious rooms with balconies overlooking the water and town beyond, and its location means it’s just a quick walk to the theater, concerts, and all of Main Street’s offerings.
In recent years, Greenville’s fast-growing, chef-driven restaurant scene has made the food world take notice. From its Euphoria Food, Wine and Music Festival to its imports from foodie Mecca Charleston (even Husk has plans to open a location soon), Greenville has quickly become a city known for its innovative dining and drinks.
One of the newest on the scene is The Anchorage, a bright and airy restaurant in the Village of West Greenville from owner and chef Greg McPhee. The menu features locally-sourced ingredients in creative dishes, like the decadent lamb shoulder canelones made with hand-rolled pasta and served with a perfectly poached egg on top. And while it’s easy to fill up on the tasty shareable plates, don’t skip dessert—order the churros. The fried traditional Mexican pastries are served warm and drizzled in a creamy sweet chocolate sauce.
Plan at least one meal at Larkin’s on the River, a more traditional white tablecloth restaurant where dishes like bacon-wrapped scallops and veal osso bucco are served alongside Reedy River views. And for a lighter bite, stop in to the new Caviar & Bananas, a gourmet coffee shop-meets-market where you can indulge in dishes like quinoa veggie cakes or lemon oatmeal pancakes.
To get a true taste of historic Greenville, book a seat on the Greenville BBQ Trail Tour. Guide John Nolan has been offering historic tours of the town for years and recently added this culinary tour to his repertoire. The 2.5-hour tour stops at three local barbecue restaurants and offers a look behind the scenes at one of the region’s most famous foods. (Warning: Wear loose pants. This tour includes more barbecue and sides than anyone could possibly eat—no matter how badly you’ll want to.)
One of the most mouth-watering stops on the Greenville BBQ Trail Tour is at Henry’s Smokehouse. The barbecue joint slow cooks their tender meats over hickory logs. But the sides like sweet potato casserole, hash and rice, and house cut French fries almost steal the show.
Greenville’s brewery scene is growing fast and there’s no better way to taste what’s on tap that with The Brewery Experience Tour. The boozy, but informative tour—it’s led by a certified cicerone—includes tastes and behind-the-scenes looks (as well as a designated driver) at three different area breweries.
With all those restaurants, it’s convenient that Greenville also offers the perfect way to work up an appetite. In recent years, the city has become a favorite for cyclists, who especially enjoy its Swamp Rabbit Trail. This scenic path, which was once a bumpy railroad line, got its name for the way its cars hopped along the tracks. Now, outdoor enthusiasts can cruise its almost 20 miles of gorgeous greenway. Rent a bike at Reedy Rides in downtown and take off on the trail, which winds along the Reedy River.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to play around Greenville. Spend an afternoon perusing the city’s many art galleries and venture to the Greenville Center for Creative Arts. This impressive arts center is housed in an old mill and offers classes, exhibits, as well as the chance to meet studio artists as they work during the monthly First Friday evenings.
Greenville’s performing arts offer lots of after-dark options as well. From the ballet to the symphony, the town’s world-class arts offerings belie its size. Before you go, grab a pre-theater drink at the brand new Up on the Roof, a sleek rooftop bar on top of the Embassy Suites offering views of the entire city. Or, for a later night, enjoy a post-show drink at Crafted at Nose Drive Gastropub. This speakeasy-esque upstairs cocktail bar offers potent handcrafted elixirs often with playful names. Indulge in one like the S.C. Shandy, made with Southern Comfort and citrus. It’s the ultimate sweet and Southern end to your Greenville evening.
Just an hour and 40 minutes straight down I-85, Greenville is an easy escape for a weekend getaway or even a fun day trip.
A version of this story originally appeared in SouthPark Magazine.
Photos courtesy of vendors