Distance: 100 miles | Approx. driving time: 2 hours | Population: 67,453
Located midway between Charlotte and Atlanta in South Carolina’s Appalachian foothills, the riverside city of Greenville, SC has seen a booming downtown revival that’s landed it among the most desirable travel destinations in the world in recent years.
The New York Times called it “the next Charleston” in its guide to 52 Places to Go in 2017 and Travel + Leisure lists it among The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2018 where it shares the accolade with destinations like Fiji, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Bangkok and New Orleans.
The former textile town has a lot to offer — from downtown’s thriving arts scene and robust food and drink offerings to outdoor adventure along an extensive bike-friendly greenway system. Greenville’s proximity to Charlotte and manageable size make it a perfect city to explore on a quick weekend getaway.
Here’s how we’d do it.
Downtown near Falls Park. While it’s all very walkable, much of the action in downtown Greenville is located near Falls Park, a 32-acre manicured park with a stunning one-sided suspension bridge overlooking Reedy River’s natural falls.
A handful of hotel properties located on or near the river offer central access to all there is to explore nearby. We stayed at The Westin Poinsett, a historic 1925-era 4-star hotel located just two blocks from Falls Park.
Downtown Greenville, SC Hotels
The Westin Poinsett – 120 S. Main Street – starting around $215/night
Hampton Inn & Suites RiverPlace – 171 RiverPlace – starting around $200/night
Courtyard by Marriott Greenville Downtown – 50 W. Broad Street – starting around $205/night
Embassy Suites Downtown Greenville RiverPlace – 250 RiverPlace – starting around $250/night
If local bed & breakfasts are more your speed, two quaint downtown properties — Pettigru Place and the guest cottage at Park House — offer an appealing albeit slightly less central alternative to a hotel stay. There’s also the Swamp Rabbit Inn, a 6-room European-inspired “upscale hostel” located close to Main Street and the greenway.
What about Travelers Rest?
The tiny town of Travelers Rest (pop. 4,576), located 10 miles north of Greenville, is generating its own share of buzz lately and you’re likely to hear about it online and from locals. If you’re dying to see it, it’s a quick drive from downtown. Or you can make an adventure activity of it by renting a bike in downtown Greenville and riding the Swamp Rabbit Trail directly up to TR. Fuel up with wine and charcuterie at The Tasting Room of Travelers Rest and tacos and tableside s’mores at Farmhouse Tacos.
Eat & Drink
The food scene is buzzing. Relative to its size, Greenville is home to an unexpectedly robust food and drink scene. Downtown nightlife features everything from Vault & Vator, a Prohibition-inspired basement speakeasy, to UP on the ROOF, a slick rooftop cocktail lounge overlooking the river. Charlotte favorite Foxcroft Wine will be opening a location here in May and its sister concept Dot Dot Dot, a craft cocktail lounge, may follow suit.
On the food front, noteworthy new openings — like James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock’s wildly popular southern restaurant Husk and Greg McPhee’s farm-to-table small plates concept The Anchorage — are drawing attention to Greenville as a burgeoning dining destination.
But great food isn’t new to the city. Soby’s, a classic Greenville restaurant in an old shoe mart, for example, has been holding down Main Street for more than 20 years, long before the city was on anyone’s travel radar.
Here are some must-hit food and drink stops. Hope you came hungry.
Greenville Restaurants and Bars
Methodical Coffee – 101 N. Main Street – Hip urban coffee shop
Coffee Underground – 1 E. Coffee Street – Basement-level cafe, restaurant and performance venue with regular improv shows, open mic nights and comedy performances. The strawberry cake is legendary.
Southern Pressed Juicery – 2 W. Washington Street – Cold-pressed juices, smoothies, energy bowls and salads
Golden Brown & Delicious / The Village Grind – 1269 Pendleton Street – Fast-casual counter-service restaurant with an always-changing menu featuring things like burgers, ramen, chicken & waffles and more. GB&D doughnuts are available next door at The Village Grind coffee shop every Sunday.
Husk – 722 S. Main Street – Chef Sean Brock’s cult favorite southern restaurant with locations in Charleston, Nashville and Savannah. Reservations strongly recommended.
Swamp Rabbit Cafe – 205 Cedar Lane Road – Greenway-adjacent food hub with a cafe, grocery store, bakery and outdoor pizza kitchen. Stop by Thursday – Sunday for brick oven Swamp Pizza cooked out front in a shipping container kitchen.
Jianna – 600 S. Main Street – Second-story Italian eatery known for its handmade pasta and fresh oysters. Hit up the balcony bistro seating if weather permits.
Soby’s – 207 S. Main Street – A Greenville classic 20 years strong. The crab cakes, shrimp & grits, fried green tomatoes and white chocolate banana cream pie are runaway hits, and the $19 all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch is another big draw.
Brick Street Cafe – 315 Augusta Street – It’s all about the cake in here. Brick Street is located at the end of a row of boutiques — including Augusta Twenty, Kudzu, Monkees and Lilly Pulitzer Pink Bee — so you can refuel after shopping with a slice of sweet potato cake.
UP on the Roof – 250 RiverPlace – The best view in town is in an unexpected location atop the Embassy Suites hotel. Stop by the swanky spot for small town skyline views and craft cocktails, including a line of housemade bottled cocktails prepared with fresh squeezed juices.
Vault and Vator – 655 S. Main Street – Underground upscale cocktail lounge with a no cellphone rule and mandatory seating, which means no standing around or ordering directly from the bar; you’re served where you sit
Walk or cycle around town. Greenville is located on Reedy River at the foot of Paris Mountain, an isolated peak that rises 2,000 feet above the otherwise flat or rolling land.
A walkable Main Street, manicured urban park and 20-mile greenway system connecting Greenville to Travelers Rest allow ample opportunities to explore on foot or bike.
Things to do in Greenville, SC
Bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail – The 20-mile greenway system runs along the Reedy River from Greenville to Traveler’s Rest. Bike rentals are available downtown at Reedy Rides ($30 for 8 hours; hotel delivery available) and at the Swamp Rabbit Inn ($25 for 8 hours). Plan your ride around a stop at Swamp Rabbit Cafe (2.5 miles from downtown) for wood-fired pizza cooked in a shipping container kitchen out front.
Catch artists in action at Art Crossing – The “art colony” features more than a dozen studios converted from parking garages where local artists create and sell their pieces.
Hunt for mice on Main – Nine small bronze mouse sculptures are hidden along Main Street and locating all of them has become a tradition for travelers and residents alike. Not sure where to start? These mouse hunt tips will point you in the right direction.
Stroll Liberty Bridge at Falls Park – The award-winning curved suspension bridge is supported by cables only on the south side to allow for unobstructed views of the falls below. It’s the only one of its kind in the country.
Hike Paris Mountain – Just 7 miles from downtown Greenville is Paris Mountain ($5 admission fee), a 1,540-acre state park with four lakes and 15 miles of hiking and biking trails. Canoe, kayak and pedal boat rentals are available during summer months.
Ready to hit the road? Follow us on Instagram for your chance to win a two-night stay at the historic Westin Poinsett Hotel in downtown Greenville.
Contest closes at 9 p.m. EST Wednesday, January 31. See official rules.