Top 10 things to do in Rock Hill, from breakfast to riverside adventures

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Sometimes you just need to get out of the heart of the city and explore. Rock Hill, South Carolina, is just across the state border from Charlotte and got its name in 1852 during construction of the Charlotte/Columbia/Augusta Railroad line. Rail workers came across “a small, flinty hill” and named the location “Rock Hill.”

Here are the top 10 things to do when you arrive:

(1) Dine at The Pump House

575 Herrons Ferry Road, Rock Hill, SC

Towering over the Catawba River, The Pump House is the latest iteration of a building that once operated as an industrial pump house. The plant used to pump about five million gallons of water each day to supply the Celanese textile and chemical plant. Now, visitors come here to enjoy a fine dining experience from the comfort of inside or from the exciting rooftop bar. The menu features beers, cocktails and wines, as well as small bites, salads and “entrees from the land and free, river and sea.”

Tip: You must have at least one drink on the rooftop deck.

(2) Adventure along the Riverwalk

River Park is located at 1782 Quality Circle, Rock Hill, SC

The Piedmont Medical Center Trail is linked to River Park by a connector and stretches 3.35 miles from the park entrance. While the trail does not loop, it is dotted with benches, garbage cans and pet stations, with terrain ranging from paved surfaces to bridges. Restrooms can be found in the parking lot.

Tip: Bring your dog! Pets are allowed on the paths with a 3-foot leash. (More on the park’s pet policy here.)

(3) Drift down the Catawba River

Canoe, kayak or tube on the Catawba River. Bring your own equipment or rent from Twisted Beaver River Adventures or Rocking River Adventures. Our recommendation: Start at the Fort Mill Dam (2541 New Gray Rock Road, Fort Mill, SC) and travel 3.5 miles to Riverwalk with two small Class I rapids. You’ll get out of the water near the Pump House.

Tip: Pack a small cooler for the optimal floating experience.

(4) Grab breakfast at The Yolk

1912 Mt Gallant Road, Rock Hill, SC

Venture inside The Yolk for a warm, hospitable and hipster vibe and some fresh, breakfast-focused dishes by chef Gregory Collier. Think sweet potato waffles, eggs with cheesy grits and toast, and eggs benedict varieties. (We’re absurdly excited to see this place open Uptown later this year.)

Pro tip: Don’t overlook the board of daily specials around the kitchen entrance.

Tennessee Fries at The Yolk in Rock Hill. Photo by Jess Bentley

(5) Pick your adventure at Rock Hill Outdoor Center

1000 Riverwalk Parkway, Rock Hill, SC

The Rock Hill Outdoor Center offers a collection of recreation amenities across about 250 acres. Dust off your bike for a whirl around the Center, which includes bike facilities and trails like Giordano Veladrome, the Rock Hill Criterium Course and the Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track. You can also check out the Rock Hill Outdoor Center Greens, an open green space intended for recreational activities. The Piedmont Medical Center Trail is part of the Center as well.

Pro tip: Be on the lookout for special events at the bike facilities.

(6) Explore Fountain Park 

300 East Main St., Rock Hill, SC

This small park that opened in 2014 is worth checking out for the 100-foot fountain that is its centerpiece. The park is the site for many of the city’s festivals, as well as Food Truck Fridays with live music and drinks, and the seasonal Old Town Farmers Market.

Tip: Check out the fountain’s interactive water jets.

(7) Stroll through Glencairn Garden

725 Crest St., Rock Hill, SC

The 11-acre manicured garden features a creek, pond, walkways, a multitude of flowers and a veteran’s memorial. The garden was once the backyard garden of residents David and Hazel Bigger in 1928 — they were believed to have 12,000 azaleas and camellias on their property at one point. Today, garden features include the Founders Federal Relaxation Garden, the Vernon Grant Wall of Whimsy and walking trails. The garden has free entry.

Tip: While plants are blooming year-round, peak blooming season is generally late March and early April.

(8) Tour Catawba Indian Nation & Cultural Center

1536 Tom Steven Road, Rock Hill, SC

Did you know the Catawba Nation is the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina? Learn about the history and culture of the Catawba Indian Nation while checking out exhibits, following walking trails (features include a Catawba dwelling, bark house and dugout trees) and browsing the craft store filled with crafts by native artisans.

Tip: Here, the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project offers demonstrations like drumming, dancing, pottery and beading.

(9) Experience the White Home

258 East White St., Rock Hill, SC.

The restored White Home was built in 1839 in the historic East Town District and was one of the first homes in the city. Today, it sits on three acres and offers guided tours, self-guided tours and walking tours that head into downtown. Prices vary depending on the activity.

Tip: The White Home After Dark is offered Oct. 30-31 for a spookier historical evening, specifically the experience of “death and dying in the Victorian Age,” according to the event information.

(10) Relax with a drink at Grapevine

829 Terrace Park, Suite 104, Rock Hill, SC

Enjoy coffee, wine by the glass and craft beer on draft at one of the patio tables at this bar and cafe. Add artisan cheese or a charcuterie plate, or choose a cigar from over 15 types in the cabinet.

Pro tip: This spot is only a short walk from the Riverwalk trailhead, if you find yourself needing a rest after your outdoor trek.

Reporting contributed by Jody Mace, Vanessa Infanzon and Katie Toussaint

Photos: Katie Toussaint, Riverwalk Carolinas, Jody Mace

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