Travel Like a Local: Greenville, South Carolina

Travel Like a Local: Greenville, South Carolina
Words by Jennifer Kornegay

In just a few decades, Greenville, South Carolina, has grown from a small Southern enclave to quite the metropolis, and today, it has the diverse culinary, cultural and recreational options that come with that designation.

Hundreds of restaurants run the gamut from old-school comfort foods to simple yet elegant fare. Murals and other public art abound, particularly downtown (including the nine bronze mice sculptures scattered on Main Street who encourage scavenger hunts). And smack in the middle of downtown is Falls Park on the Reedy, a 32-acre greenspace with a series of stairstep, shimmering cascades as its focal point.

This park is just one facet of the natural beauty that fills and surrounds Greenville, but the city is also in close proximity to so much more of it. It’s less than an hour’s drive from the best of the Blue Ridge Mountains and only a few hours from Carolina beaches. It’s little wonder the city keeps drawing newcomers and holding its natives close.

But with all the expansion and the additions, the city has retained something key from its past, a charm and pervasive happiness often associated with small towns and sometimes lacking in “big cities.” Put it all together, and it equals a good place to live and a great place to visit. So, pack a bag and get yourself to Greenville.


Downtown Shopping: Greenville’s tree-lined downtown streets are fronted by a bevy of boutiques and shops. Pop in Beija-Flor Denim Salon for a bespoke jeans experience and cross the creaky old wood floors in Mast General Store for sundries with a side of nostalgia. Then, enter the imposing entrance to M. Judson Booksellers for a snack and reading break. Grab something sweet and something caffeinated at Camilla Kitchen, the bookstore’s cafe, and then peruse shelf after shelf of contemporary and classic titles. Not sure which way your literary tastes are currently leaning? Try the “Blind Date” section, where you take a chance on a book wrapped in brown paper with sharpie scribblings providing just a few hints to its identity.

Art Analyzing: Set beside the banks of the Reedy River’s gentle flow through the heart of downtown, Art Crossing features the combo studio-gallery-shops of more than a dozen local artists and craftspeople. Douglas Piper creates woodblock prints inspired by the outdoors. A few doors down, his wife, Meredith Piper fashions unique woven textile pieces and paints color-drenched landscapes. And find wearable art at Caro Designs, where handmade jewelry shines. Note the Eugenia Duke bridge here; it’s named after creator of Duke’s mayo who concocted her famous condiment in Greenville. 

River Rambling: Falls Park on the Reedy is an oasis in the city center. The star is the collection of waterfalls tumbling over massive rocks before sliding into the river below, but the trails following the bubbling stream and leading to woodlands and grassy patches are worth the walk too. Don’t miss the 345-foot, curved Liberty Bridge. Providing stellar views of the falls and lit up in neon glory at night, it’s held in the air by a single suspension cable and is the only one of its kind in the country.

Outdoor Adventuring: Hike, bike or run through the scenery of Greenville’s Upcountry forests and fields alongside the Reedy River on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which was built over an old railroad corridor and covers 22 miles, connecting multiple city parks. It’s almost always hopping on the weekends, as is the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery, just steps from one of the main trail access points. Stop in the café and fuel up with a cheddar and kale scone or cinnamon bun and a maple and cream coffee.

Eat & Drink

Stax’s Original: A hearty breakfast from longtime local favorite Stax will start any day right. Opened first as a pharmacy and soda fountain in the early 1950s, the diner-style eatery has been serving Southern standards for decades. Perch on one of the original soda fountain stools or scoot into a booth and enjoy a fluffy biscuit hugging aged country ham, a Belgian waffle studded with pecans or a Greek omelet stuffed with tangy feta.

The Anchorage: In this light, bright space that opened in West Greenville in 2018, chef Greg McPhee is turning out rustic but refined dishes rooted in local, seasonal ingredients that earned the spot a James Beard semi-finalist nod for best new restaurant. Think marinated peas with pickled shrimp, pear and charred poblano dressing and tender seared scallops with cilantro chutney and grilled okra and potato.

Soby's: With its warm, inviting atmosphere and menu of reimagined regional dishes, this downtown spot has kept the crowds coming and sent them away satisfied for more than 20 years. Don’t miss the short rib mac ‘n cheese and the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin sauced a fiery habanero cream. Insider’s tip: Ask for table 301; perched on a balcony, it affords a bird’s-eye view of action in the open kitchen below.

Wine House: This sophisticated wine bar and bottle shop is away from downtown’s hustle and bustle but more than worth the drive. You’re likely to find Nathan Luginbill behind the sleek u-shaped bar; the friendly and knowledgeable owner (and sommelier) is ready, willing and happy to help you select the perfect sip for you. Once you’ve had a glass (or two), buy a bottle of what you liked best to take home.


Homewood Suites Greenville Downtown: This property offers an important perk – excellent location. Across from Greenville Drive baseball stadium at one end of Main Street, it’s walking distance to all the activity and allure of downtown. It’s also a plus if you’re staying more than just a night or two. Its comfy, spacious rooms also feature either a full kitchen or a kitchenette.

Coming Soon! The Grand Bohemian Greenville: This luxe brand offers opulence without pretension all over the South, and soon Greenville will have one too. With 187 rooms, the hotel sits above Falls Park on the Reedy, promising stunning vistas of its scenery, and is set to open in early 2021.