A stay in Downtown Greenville, SC, a city nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is reminiscent of a visit to your favorite little European town, with rambling, wide sidewalks, outdoor cafés and dining on every corner, city parks for people-watching, and unique, locally-owned shops and galleries that beg for exploration as you wander the tree-lined city streets.
The city center has undergone a 30-year revitalization plan and it just keeps getting better and better.
Best yet, Main Street has been honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recognizing the area’s successful ability to grow while preserving its small town charm and lovely architecture.
While Greenville’s charms are vast, locals agree that you could spend your entire visit on Main Street and never tire of your surroundings.
Plus, your visit might even coincide with one of the many festivals that inhabit downtown throughout the year.
For the perfect central location that’s oozing with historic Southern charm and elegance, stay at the Westin Poinsett Hotel, located at 120 South Main Street. Originally built in 1925, you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time when you walk into the lobby, but as a guest will enjoy all the amenities of a modern four-diamond hotel (the only four- or five-star hotel in town). Request a room with a view of Main Street, and you can sit and watch the hustle and bustle for hours.
If you prefer a B&B, Park House Bed & Breakfast is a wonderful option. Within walking distance of downtown, the 100-year-old home was completely renovated by innkeepers Rick and Jessica Landerer. Visitors rave about the food, surroundings and general ambiance.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’s still morning, and it’s time to get out and moving. Put on some comfortable (but chic!) walking shoes, and start exploring.
Note: If you want to gather a few maps and guides before starting out, the local Visitor Center is located two doors down from The Westin in the bottom of City Hall at 206 South Main Street.
DOWNTOWN SATURDAY MARKET
If you are in town on a Saturday morning, begin your strolling on Main Street, right in front of the hotel, at the weekly TD Saturday Market (Saturdays, May thru October, beginning at 8 am). Several blocks are roped off to traffic, and in their place local niche farmers and craftsmen line the streets, sharing their homespun wares, flowers and offering tastes of some of the best local seasonal fare. Don’t miss the live music performances and cooking demonstrations, too.
DOWNTOWN SHOPPING & SIGHTSEEING
With those mid-morning hunger pangs subdued, and perhaps a few gourmet goodies pocketed for souvenirs, commence your tour of downtown in any direction you choose – it’s all good. Just start strolling, and meander into the numerous local shops as their colorful storefronts strike your fancy. There is truly something for everyone and, best yet, most are unique, locally-owned establishments. Here is a sampling:
Women’s apparel and accessories, intimates, home furniture and décor, beauty and gifts. The look caters to the company’s five muses – soft & delicate, boho chic, easy cool, elegant classic and modern sporty.
1 North Main St.
An American icon, since 1818. To be the oldest – and still wildly popular – says so much. You can’t miss with the clothes for men, women and children. And the home décor (and bedding) are simply exquisite and ultimately appealingly useful.
1 North Main St.
They’re known for outdoor clothing and products for the sports-minded, but these folks are also very savvy about what feels good – the bedding, those ultra-soft sweaters, and even Fido gets a nod. Need a showstopper for your cousin’s wedding? Brackish bow ties – worth every penny.
1 North Main Street
Have children in tow (or want to bring out that inner child within)? It’s time to play Mice on Main. Go on a mouse hunt for nine unique mice sculptures hidden along Greenville's Main Street between the Hyatt Regency and Westin Poinsett hotels. (Need some help? Check out these few hints). Or visit the Visitor Center at 206 S. Main Street.
LET'S DO LUNCH
Lunchtime will be here before you know it. While downtown, you are always only a few steps away from a great little place to dine, but here are a few suggestions:
For a more memorable luncheon (Saturdays, only) consider an "At the Chef's Table" culinary tour. Your guide, historian John Nolan, peppers visits to five downtown restaurants with tidbits of Greenville’s history, while introducing you to the restaurants’ top chefs and their signature dishes, complete with cooking demonstrations and delightful tastings. (In town on Tuesday? Consider booking the tour for dinner!) Learn more.
FREE DOWNTOWN TROLLEY RIDES
If your feet tire, or you want to take a tour of downtown before setting your sights on a particular section, then it’s trolley time. To catch a downtown trolley, (download the trolley tracker app) simply wait at an intersection and give the driver a hearty wave as your chariot approaches – you’ll then be welcomed aboard for a free ride. That’s what we call Southern hospitality here in the Carolinas.
ENTERTAINMENT – SPORTS, SHOWS & MUSEUMS
Trolleys are particularly popular for folks en route to Fluor Field, the home of the Greenville Drive, the local Single A league baseball team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox, in the West End. You can catch a game in-season, or simply stop by to check out the childhood home of native Shoeless Joe Jackson, which now houses the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library.
There are other great museums to enjoy, too, towards the other end of Main Street. Visit the Upcountry History Museum, which brings three centuries of life in the SC Upstate and foothills region to life via state-of-the art interactive multimedia exhibits. Almost next door you will find the Greenville County Museum of Art, which has a wonderful permanent “Southern Collection,” and, just minutes from downtown, consider visiting the Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University which has a prized collection of Italian paintings.
Or, if you are up for a short drive, automobile enthusiasts must visit the BMW Zentrum, the only BMW museum in North America, located just outside Greenville on I-85. Be sure to make a reservation to tour the adjacent BMW plant – the only one in North America – too. (For reservations, call: 1.888.Tour.BMW)
DINING & NIGHTLIFE
Back downtown, it’s nearly evening, and there is more fun in store. A block from your hotel you will find The Peace Center, which has been delighting audiences with special events since 1990. Take in a Broadway show or Greenville Symphony performance to add to an already memorable visit.
For dinner, prepare for a challenge, because choosing just one restaurant to dine is not easy task. Perhaps a progressive dinner is in order …
APÉRITIFS & APPETIZERS
The following are all excellent choices for dinner as well.
If you can successfully pull yourself away from all the delectable courses at one of the above-mentioned eateries, consider one of the following for dinner:
It’s that rare destination that is at once relaxing and entertaining…intimate and open…romantic and engaging. And perfectly situated near the Peace Center for the Performing Arts. All things from the sea (plus a little more), include all your favorites, with a twist.
40 West Broad Street
It’s a steakhouse, offering wet and dry-aged USDA Prime and Choice Beef but there’s more. Locally-sourced fish, poultry, vegetarian and gluten-free options keep everyone happy.
550 S. Main St.
Dessert & After-Dinner Drinks
Feel like a nightcap closer to home? Settle into a club chair in the lobby of the Westin. Perhaps there will even be someone tickling the ivories, making it he perfect, low-key end to a wonderful day … but don’t stay up too late! There’s another full day of walking and dining tomorrow.
After a full first day in Greenville, you are thankful for a second chance to see and do everything on your list, but perhaps at a slower pace.
Begin your day with a fantastic cup of coffee from Methodical Coffee at 101 North Main St, Suite D. You will be so happy you did! Afterwards, wander over to Tupelo Honey Café for a wonderful brunch, beginning at 10am, weekdays and 8am on weekends. Try the Tupelo shrimp and grits with their made-from-scratch Bloody Mary.
For an elegant dining experience close to “home,” you may dine downstairs, in Spoonbread, a charming restaurant that opens into The Westin Poinsett lobby. Or, if you have not dined with them already, you can also brunch at Mary’s at Falls Cottage, High Cotton or Soby's.
Since you shopped til you dropped yesterday, how about touring downtown with an eye for its historical architecture today? Consider booking a Greenville Historic Walking Tour of South Main Street or the West End, led by local historian John Nolan (who also leads the culinary tours we previously mentioned).
REEDY RIVER FALLS PARK
In the afternoon, you will also want to take some time to explore one of the most unique features of Downtown Greenville – Falls Park on the Reedy. The centerpiece of this beautiful urban oasis is Liberty Bridge, a towering suspension bridge – 355 feet long – that seems to float amid the trees above a 40-foot natural waterfall.
Below the marvel of modern invention, and along the Reedy River, are winding walkways, grassy knolls and tucked-away park benches that beg for you to sit and stay a while. Pick up a frosty creation or flavored coffee from Spill the Beans (they blend custom ice creams and a variety of coffees), located at the park entrance, and find a spot to people-watch. On any given day you may find a Shakespearean play or impromptu concert, and always games of catch and Frisbee-fetching pups. Perched in the sunshine, you are certain not to ever want to leave.
However, when you do finally tear yourself away from the golden sunshine and people-watching downtown, there are still Greenville sights you can explore on your way out of town. Take a walk on the wild side at the Greenville Zoo, which covers 14-acres just off of East Washington Street, or a leisurely hike in Paris Mountain State Park just 10 minutes from Main Street, for scenic vistas of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.
Needless to say, in a mere 36 hours, you probably did not cover everything on your “Must See” list, so plan a trip back again soon. Bustling Downtown Greenville always offers something new for the happy traveler.
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