In the South, downtown is the place to be. They’re walkable, shoppable and full of great places to eat. You’ll find historic buildings and tree lined streets. Art walks, outdoor music and evening strolls await you. Here is a sampling of what you’ll find:
In Greenville, make sure you visit Falls Park on the Reedy: this downtown public garden features the only curved, cantilevered pedestrian suspension bridge in the United States. Catch the trolley or walk to one of over sixty restaurants and pubs centered around Main Street. Downtown is the arts and entertainment epicenter for the city with live entertainment ranging from ballet and symphony to hockey and indoor football. Local theater companies provide intimate settings for performances, while the Peace Center for the Performing Arts hosts major productions on three performance stages including an outdoor amphitheater.
In Spartanburg, Morgan Square is the heart of the city’s downtown and home to the statue of Revolutionary War hero Daniel Morgan. There you’ll enjoy free Wi-Fi and newly installed public art. Within the 15-minute walk or a 5-minute bike ride, you may visit three major cultural centers, three public parks, a recreational trail and over 20 sculptures and fountains. There are 5 art galleries downtown amid a variety of restaurants and you’ll discover creative energy blended with historic small-town charm.
You will find a wide variety in downtown Anderson, from traditional Southern cuisine to modern cafes, from antique shops to contemporary art galleries. Look for the statue of William Whitner, who brought electricity to textile mills from hydroelectric power in the 1800’s, giving Anderson its nickname of “the Electric City”, as it was the first city in the United States to have a continuous supply of electric power. Have your picture made with the “Old Reformer” Brass Cannon at the Anderson County Courthouse Plaza. This cannon was used by both sides during the American Revolution and was used to signal the secession of South Carolina in 1860.
While on Scenic Highway 11, make a stop in Chesnee. You’ll find some surprises there, like the Chesnee Hardware, an old time store that you’re sure to find things you need and more things you want. Grab a burger at the Bantam Chef and you’ll find a restored Studebaker, a three-wheeled BMW, a couple of old Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and 1950’s memorabilia on display.
Gaffney was founded on historic cross roads by Michael Gaffney, an Irish immigrant, in 1804. Visit his restored log cabin downtown and take in the events during “Shindig at the Cabin,” a series of community events. Gaffney’s history is not to be denied. This Bicentennial city (as of 2004), boasts three nationally certified historic districts. Learn more at the Cherokee History and Arts Museum. Stop by a local and nationally recognized eatery. Harold’s Restaurant has been featured on the Food Network and SC Educational Television.
Pendleton is one of the largest historic districts in the United States. The entire town plus an outlying acre is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains over fifty historic structures, most pre-1860 in origin. A walking tour brochure is available at the Pendleton District Commission in the Guardhouse on the Village Green. The Ashtabula and Woodburn Historic Houses are two of the largest Upcountry plantation houses and have been house museums since the 1970’s. Stop by 1826 on the Green restaurant in historic Farmers Hall Society building for a delightful bite then head over to The Mercantile and Mountain Made shops for unique gift ideas.
Located in the historic district of downtown Seneca, Ram Cat Alley is home to one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants where you’ll discover local artisans, fine antiques, unique clothing, personal services and special gifts. The name of this area deserves a little explanation. Ram Cat Alley, the original Main Street of Seneca, was established in 1873 and so named because of the throngs of cats lured to the flatbed carts that carried fish and meats on mounds of ice from the railroad depot to the grocers two blocks away. Locals at the time would say that there were so many felines, “you couldn’t ram another cat into the alley.” Both charmingly historic and elegantly sophisticated, this pedestrian-friendly area features locally owned stores and restaurants.
Historic downtown Greer, perhaps better known simply as Greer Station, covers approximately 12 square blocks with more than 40 buildings on the National Historic Register and the downtown area itself is designated as a National Historic District. These buildings are complemented by a unique street pattern that conveys an intimate scale and small village atmosphere. Greer was first established as Greer’s Station in 1873 as a flag station along the Atlanta Charlotte Air Line Railroad. Today you’ll find retail, dining, entertainment, and personal service establishments in quality turn-of-the-century buildings characterized by exposed brick, wood beams, ornate ceilings, and hardwood floors.
In downtown Pickens, you will want to spend some time in what’s been described as “a brick castle.” It’s the Pickens County Museum of Art & History with turn-of-the-century Gothic architecture featuring crenellated turrets, a copper-colored tin roof and constructed of hand-rolled bricks. Here you can learn, among other things, that Pickens County was once home to the lower towns of the Cherokee and that the name “Pickens” comes from General Andrew Pickens, a Revolutionary War hero. While you’re there, don’t forget to look down. The Native Plant Gardens and Interpretive Trail allows visitors to learn about the plants and habitats that are indigenous to the area. Close by is the Hagood-Mauldin House, full of period furnishings, art and a lovely rose garden. Antique shops and refreshments are available in downtown Pickens.
The fantastic weather in this area is conducive to spending time outdoors. Take some time to explore cities and towns, the large and the small, main streets and side streets. Enjoy these and other downtowns during your time in the Upcountry.