You’ve signed up for the 2022 IABC Southern Region Conference, but now you’re wondering, “What the heck is there to do in Greenville, SC?”
If you’ve never been to Greenville – or if has been a while since you have – you are in for a real treat.
First, a disclosure
As a long-time Greenville resident, I will tell you that Greenville is special. But don’t just take my word for it; many travel industry experts back up my claim of Greenville’s specialness. Conde Nast Traveler named Greenville “the #1 Friendliest City in the U.S.” (move over, Charleston). Southern Living calls Greenville one of “The South’s Tastiest Towns.” And Travel and Leisure recently labeled Greenville “one of the South’s best-kept secrets.”
Small city charm with a big city feel
With the friendliness and strong sense of community that smaller cities often have (and bigger cities often lack), Greenville is unpretentious and approachable, with just the right amount of Southern charm.
But Greenville has big city offerings, like a vibrant, energetic downtown, thriving arts community, an impressive restaurant scene, and award-winning public parks and green spaces, to name a few.
So what should I do while I’m in Greenville?
With so many attractions to consider, it’s hard to recommend just a few things to do or see in Greenville. Here are my top five, all of which you can fit into a 72-hour stay.
1. Take a Main Street Stroll
Downtown Greenville’s tree-lined sidewalks will beckon you to discover all that the bustling city center has to offer. I suggest that you start at NOMA Square (in front of the Hyatt Regency on the north end of Main Street) and make your way to the West End. Along the way, you’ll encounter a unique collection of boutiques and galleries, not to mention some pretty amazing coffee shops and chef-driven restaurants. Make it down the hill, around the bend, and all the way to Greenville’s West End and you’ll be rewarded with Gather GVL, a trendy, family-friendly shipping container “food court” with an amazing assortment of restaurants offering food or libations.
2. Explore Falls Park on the Reedy River
Every time I return to Greenville, I head to Falls Park. This beautiful, 32-acre park has been ranked one of the “Top 10 U.S. Parks,” along with New York City’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. A popular gathering spot for locals, it’s a must-see destination for visitors.
The park’s centerpiece is Liberty Bridge – the 345-foot-long pedestrian suspension bridge that spans the Reedy River. Stand in the center of the bridge and take in the spectacular Reedy Falls below. Before you leave, don’t forget to ask a passerby to snap your picture on the bridge for your Instagram feed.
3. Show some art appreciation
The Greenville County Museum of Art (GCMA), one of the South’s premiere art museums, is a small but mighty museum. Boasting an impressive collection of works ranging from colonial portraits to modern abstracts, the GCMA invites viewers “to survey American art history through works with ties to the South.”
Currently, the GCMA is highlighting works by two of the nation’s renowned artists. “Jasper Johns + Andrew Wyeth: Repeat Until Empty” features eight original works by Jasper Johns and eleven seldom-seen paintings by Andrew Wyeth. Admission to the museum is free.
4. Be epicurious.
Greenville’s ever-growing reputation as a foodie destination has earned it glowing accolades like “Top New Cities for Foodies” (People magazine) and “Next Big Food City of the South” (Esquire), to name a few. With over 110 restaurants to choose from downtown, where does a foodie begin?
I recommend starting with some tried-and-true Greenville standards that delight visitors and keep locals coming back. My favorite in this category is Soby’s New South. A local favorite for over 20 years, Soby’s serves regional food classics in a casually elegant environment. The upscale Larkin’s on the River is known for its excellent steak, seafood, and extensive wine menu, not to mention its impeccable service. If an underground restaurant with an Old World vibe and a Belgian-inspired menu (not to mention a huge beer menu) appeals to you, then The Trappe Door is the place for you.
Of the newer restaurants getting rave reviews, try Camp for its comfort food with a touch of global flair. Camp’s Executive Chef, Drew Erickson, is a Greenville native who honed his culinary skills at the renowned French Laundry. Another highly popular newcomer, Coral, boasts fresh seafood in a lively, upscale (but not stuffy) atmosphere. If casual food and atmosphere are more your style, head to Society Sandwich Bar and Social Club, whose 2-story space offers gourmet sandwiches, ramen, and specialty crafted cocktails, not to mention some creative appetizers (think huevos rancheros or Hawaiian jerk chicken fries).
5. Take a Brewery Tour
It’s no secret that Greenville’s neighbor to the north – Asheville, North Carolina – is a Southern mecca for craft brews. But Greenville has a brew scene that is vibrant and ever growing.
See what the buzz is about by checking out Greenville’s original brewery tour, The Brewery Experience. This tour company has received both Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence and the Traveler’s Choice Award and is the only brew tour in South Carolina led by a Level 2 Certified Cicerone (that’s like a wine sommelier…for beer). Public tours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Don’t have several hours to spend on a full-fledged tour? You can check out Greenville’s downtown breweries on foot in the time you have.
If you prefer to get your liquid buzz from java instead of beer, downtown has some excellent shops to satisfy your coffee cravings. My favorites are the iconic and somewhat funky Coffee Underground for good coffee and fabulous desserts; if you want just an amazing cup of locally roasted coffee in a bright, modern space, it’s the oh-so-hip Methodical Coffee.
Have a good time exploring the downtown Greenville attractions – but be warned: once you have tasted what Greenville has to offer, you’ll definitely be back for more!
Colleen Deas is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who enjoys telling the stories of the people, places, and brands she represents. She has been actively involved with IABC for 9 years and received a Palmetto Award in 2016 for her writing expertise.