I often get asked what my favorite spots are to take guests to here in the Upstate, and while there is something to be said for a more tailored itinerary based on interests/season/ability, for first-timers I usually recommend some variety of the following tour.
On his first visit to the Greenville, my younger brother had only two days before he had to get back to work. To maximize his time, we opted to emphasize the awesome scenic vistas and natural beauty of the area on Day 1, while concentrating on downtown and all that it has to offer on Day 2.
DAY 1 – THE BLUE RIDGE ESCARPMENT
Our first stop is Wildcat Wayside. The roadside destination is the perfect introduction to the mountains, as Wildcat Branch tumbles down over three waterfalls in an environs typical of the Bue Ridge Escarpment. Have just 15 minutes? Take a photo at the lower falls and then buy a bag of boiled peanuts from the vendor who has usually set up in the parking lot before heading on. Have 1-2 hours? Hike the 1-mile loop path that leads up past the middle falls to the upper waterfall.
Stop 2 – Caesars Head State Park. In 30 minutes you can visit the overlook to take in one of the most familiar views of the Upstate, climb down through Devil’s Kitchen, and see the side-view of the cliff that earned the Park its name. Make sure to utilize the facilities, and if you need postcards or a keychain souvenir, stop in the Park Visitor Center. If it’s lunchtime, take advantage of the picnic tables before heading on.
(Optional stop – Pretty Place. This stop will add ~45 minutes drive time plus any time spent at Fred W. Symmes Chapel. Make sure to call ahead to verify the Chapel is open to visitors before you go.)
Stop 3 – Bald Rock Heritage Preserve. On your way down from Caesars Head pull off at this granite outcrop for more fantastic views. Pack a picnic lunch, or hike down to the base of the rock dome if you want some exercise.
(Optional stop – cool down. The boys needed some time to explore and splash around, so we took a short side trip to a creek that is a little off the beaten path.)
Stop 4 – Take the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway west. If you’re still hungry you can stop at Pumpkintown Mountain or Aunt Sue’s Country Corner before pulling into Table Rock State Park. We’ll stop at the Visitor Center, walk out on the pier on Lake Oolenoy, and soak in the view from the rocking chairs overlooking a meadow, the lake and Table Rock in the distance. Have more time? Drive over to the other side of the highway and drive Table Rock State Park Road all the way around, with stops at the Lodge, Pinnacle Lake and a scenic overlook as inspired. Note: the north portion of the Park has an entry fee.
(Optional stop – Long Shoals Wayside Park. Another great picnic spot, this roadside park is another ten miles down the road, but it’s a perfect last stop before hitting the road back to Greenville.)
Your route back to town will more than likely take you back through Travelers Rest, and if you didn’t already make a stop on the way up at Tandem Creperie and Coffehouse for breakfast on your way up, now is the time to pull in for ice cream at Pink Mama’s, a celebratory beer at Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom, or dinner at one of the many delicious restaurants. Then it’s home to rest, because coming up is….
DAY 2 – DOWNTOWN GREENVILLE
We start our tour on the West End, walking from Fluor Field towards downtown. For a more detailed itinerary, see my post Greenville’s West End Tour.
Stop 2 – Falls Park. If you cut through from Augusta Street across University Street, you can enter Falls Park at Pedrick’s Garden and pass by the Greenville Chihuly sculpture. Cross the bridge over the Reedy River and continue through the Furman Arboretum to the giant beech tree. Then cross into the heart of the park to the waterfall and Liberty Bridge. Plan on spending several hours in the Park, to allow for all the different views of the waterfall, the many gardens on the banks of the Reedy River, and a stop at Spill the Beans for coffee or ice cream.
(Optional stop – the Children’s Garden at Linky Stone Park. Follow the Swamp Rabbit Trail north along the Reedy, taking in the view of the Wyche Pavilion and TD Stage at the Peace Center before crossing under River Street to this garden oasis in the shade of Academy Street. On your way back let the kids cool off in the water feature near Papi’s Tacos.)
Stop 3 – Enjoy lunch at one of the many acclaimed restaurants that line Main Street. One of our favorites is Chicora Alley, however the brand-new Jianna comes a close second. Then head north up Main Street – you’ll soon see the Visit Greenville SC Visitor Center on your left, a great resource for maps, festival info and all the latest on the #yeahTHATgreenville scene.
Continue up Main Street, allowing for time to stop at the bookstores, coffee shops and other stores. Mast General Store and O.P. Taylor’s are favorite stops for our boys, but we also enjoy the fountains at ONE City Plaza, finding the Mice on Main, and descending to Coffee Underground for an after-lunch digestif. Starting to get tired? No problem, hop on the free trolley for a while!
(Optional stop – McPherson Park. Although College Street usually marks the northern border of our tour, just ¼ mile north is Greenville’s oldest public park. Anyone up for a round of putt-putt?)
Stop 4 – Heritage Green! In addition to Hughes Main Library and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, you’ll also find the Upcountry History Museum, the Sargent Wilson Museum & Gallery, the Greenville Little Theatre and Greenville County Museum of Art on this campus. Just a minute from Main Street, Heritage Green is easily accessible by trolley, foot and car. Spend as little or much time as you wish before returning to Main Street to find dinner - making a choice where to eat might be your hardest decision all day.