Greenville, South Carolina
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- To protect the town’s trees in the 1830s, Greenville fined citizens who even tied their horses to the trees.
- Civil rights advocate Jesse Jackson was born in Greenville in 1941.
- Of the 11 medals awarded to Revolutionary War veterans, three were for the 1781 Battle of Cowpens.
- The city’s Woodside Cotton Mill, since shut down, was once the world’s largest textile plant.
- In the 1920s, Greenville had 16 cotton mills and two dye/bleaching mills within three miles of Main Street.
From textiles to tourism
Greenville is a small city in the Upcountry, i.e., the northwest corner of South Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The geography offers active travelers choices for outdoor pursuits in the mountains and on area lakes and rivers.
This terrain tested soldiers on both sides during the American Revolution. Guided by Major Gen. Nathanael Greene, the rebels won two key battles in the Greenville area, preventing Britain from succeeding at a late-in-the-game strategy to split the colonies. The two battle sites (Cowpens and Kings Mountain) are national parks and reasons for history buffs to visit.
Greenville was named for Greene (although the “e” in Greeneville fell away). Even without the history, the name dovetails with the city’s efforts to provide green spaces, pleasantly illustrated today by Falls Park on the Reedy, a relaxing 32-acre retreat in the heart of town that also functions as an open-air event site for a Shakespeare festival, among other things.
Greenville, once styled the textile capital of the world, was, by the 1960s, a declining mill town. City fathers stepped up with plans to revitalize the downtown district plus the West End, another center city commercial area. They attracted businesses to the downtown districts, fostered urban housing development, supported the arts — and boosted tourism in the bargain.
In 2003, the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded Greenville a Great American Main Street Award. Also, the West End was made one of the city’s officially designated historic districts. In its rejuvenated state, the West End has tourist appeal based on street art, shopping, dining and entertainment choices.
Revitalization also included a public/private project to create the Peace Center for the Performing Arts (opened 1990), which encompasses new builds plus restored structures such as a former textile plant and former mayonnaise factory. In addition, in a major makeover, the Heritage Green culture complex added museums in the first decade of this century.
As for the textile mills, 13 are still standing. Three are operating, and some of the others have been repurposed for offices and condos.
Things to do for Venturers
- Take a hot-air balloon ride during the Freedom Weekend Aloft hot-air balloon festival in nearby Simpsonville on Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy markets, carnival rides and fun competitions, and watch balloonists in competition overhead.
- Make use of the 15 miles of mountain biking trails in the Paris Mountain State Park. You can camp in the park, too.
- Greenville is home to several microbreweries. Sample the products of several, and judge them for yourself.
- Enter the axe-throwing competition, which is part of the heavy athletics events held during the Gallabrae Highland Games in Greenville each spring. And register early. Or, sign on for the Highland dance classes and competition; register before the day of the games. Or, if good, enter the bagpiping competition.
- Experience high speed, breaking, cornering and sliding when you attend a learning program at the BMW Performance Driving School. BMW says you will become a better, more confident driver. BMW’s only demand — you must have “a passion for spirited driving.”
- Do some whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River at the western border of South Carolina. Green River Gorge is another option.
Things to do for Centrics
- On a January weekend, attend reenactment events at Cowpens National Battlefield commemorating the key victory at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781 that helped turn the tide for the rebels in the American Revolution.
- Play tennis or volleyball in Cleveland Park on the Reedy River.
- Scope out the eateries in the revitalized West End district. Look for a bistro or a sweeter spot for some fine dining.
- Cycle the 17.5-mile multi-use Swamp Rabbit Trail that runs along the Reedy River. Or, hike in Caesars Head State Park, which is part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area.
- In summer, go for the highbrow culture at the evening Upstate Shakespeare Festival presented in an outdoor amphitheater in Falls Park on the Reedy.
- Plan ahead and book a guided tour of the BMW plant when tours are available (not offered when a new model is in production); also, spend time in the Zemtrum BMW museum.
Things to do for Authentics
- Walk onto the 355-foot cantilevered suspension footbridge in the downtown Falls Park on the Reedy for a view of Reedy River Falls. Picnic in the park, too.
- Attend a Minor League baseball game featuring, on one side, the local Greenville Drive, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
- Take the kids to a production at the Greenville Little Theatre.
- Make time for the contemporary art at the Greenville County Museum of Art (Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, et al) and the European Renaissance and Baroque religious art at Bob Jones University’s Museum and Gallery.
- There are several golf courses in town. Use at least one.
- Take a guided West End walking tour, or make that a culinary tour. Or, drive through some of the city’s other historic districts.
For more information, consult Visit Greenville SC at www.visitgreenvillesc.com