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South Carolina Travel Itinerary: Columbia, Greenville & The Upstate

Top cities and small towns: Greenville, Columbia, Aiken and more!

Follow the itinerary our film crew followed in South Carolina, visiting Columbia, Aiken, Anderson, Greenville and Travelers Rest and combine food, art, outdoor adventures and fun.

Greenville's bike-friendly Swamp Rabbit Inn

Greenville’s bike-friendly Swamp Rabbit Inn

We recently filmed in the state where I grew up, South Carolina. With locals as our guides, we did everything from chowing down on awesome BBQ and artisanal ice cream in Columbia to biking from downtown Greenville to a brewery in Travelers Rest. If you’re allanning to discover any of the cities we visited or South Carolina’s Upcountry, check out these suggestions. We warn you up front that our film crew does a lot each day, so you may want to space out these adventures for a more leisurely trip.

Day 1 Columbia, South Carolina’s Capital

Start your day in Five Points, a historic neighborhood that’s a hub for restaurants and entertainment. Grab a brew at Drip Coffee (729 Saluda Ave Columbia, SC), where lavender hot chocolate and honey habanero lattes are served up alongside freshly ground pourover coffee.

Grabbing a latte at Drip Coffee in Five Points

Grabbing a latte at Drip Coffee in Five Points

Five Points’ roots date back to 1915 and is today one of the top places to shop, dine and be entertained. Named because of the five-pointed intersection of Harden and Devine Streets and Santee Avenue, Five Points is surrounded by residential communities and close to the University of South Carolina.

The area has been a haven for enterprising entrepreneurs since the 1920’s and played host to many Columbia firsts, including the first Chinese restaurant, the first supermarket and the first restaurant in S.C. to serve a cocktail after the Legislature’s approval of the sale of liquor by the drink in the 1970’s. Pop culture fans may note the presence of a monument to the band Hootie and the Blowfish, who met at nearby USC and played some of their first concerts a club called Rockafellas’ now Jake’s. You can walk by these sites and visit a few stores of note.

Stop by 2G’s Clothing to say hello to the resident pooch and shop for eclectic clothing and boots. The owner has an affinity for cowboy boots and equestrian themed vintage finds and stocks close-out inventory from catalogs and manufacturers at discounted prices.

Sweet pooch at 2G's

Sweet pooch at 2G’s

Lunch
Enjoy lunch at the Gourmet Shop, where an onsite restaurant serves up brie and bacon croissants and prosciutto paninis and the owner travels to France to source cheese. Cooking supplies and diverse wines are also on tap here.

Afternoon
Visit the Woodrow Wilson House & Gardens (1705 Hampton St, Columbia, SC), the boyhood home of the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, and South Carolina’s only presidential site. Inside this Tuscan Villa style building, visitors can get a sense of life for the Wilson family in the only home the family ever owned and delve into the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. The home also houses a museum that looks at reconstruction era in US.

Adluh Flour Mill in Columbia

Iconic Adluh Flour Mill in Columbia

Head to Sweet Cream Company (1627 Main Street Columbia, SC) on historic Main Street. Run by a husband and wife couple, Sweet Cream Company uses local ingredients to make a variety of unique, handcrafted flavors. Plum fennel, black sesame ginger, black currant and grapefruit rosemary were just a few available on our visit, but for something truly different try Secret Handshake flavor, which changes according to what’s freshest and in season.

Explore the Vista District, a neighborhood marked by iconic Adluh Flour Mill. In the 1970s, Vista was mostly comprised of abandoned warehouses, but artists like Tom Lockhart and Mark Woodham took notice of these inexpensive spaces, where large windows let in good light and there was lots of room to create. They were some of the first artists to move in and start studios that have lasted through the decades. This area is a haven for artists, their studios and galleries. At One Eared Cow (1001 Huger St, Columbia, SC) visitors can watch live glassblowing and explore the gallery.

Glass blowing demonstration at One Eared Cow Glass

Glass blowing demonstration at One Eared Cow Glass

Dinner
Leave room for dinner at Southern Belly BBQ (1332 Rosewood Drive Columbia, SC) where pulled pork sandwiches are complimented by sauces with a regional flair, including the popular area mustard based sauce. Those with a big appetite may want to order The Wookie, called the “Big Mac” of BBQ sandwiches. It’s big! The Wookie consists of a load of bacon, pit roasted BBQ, grilled onions, Swiss cheese, pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese. Of course, get some sweet tea to go with your meal, a Southern favorite. Owner Jimmy Phillips also collects antiques, so the restaurant is filled with kitschy and cool décor.

Attempting to bite into the "Wookie" at Southern Belly BBQ

Attempting to bite into the “Wookie” at Southern Belly BBQ

Stay
We stayed at the Marriott downtown (1200 Hampton Street Columbia, SC), whose location is also within walking distance to several restaurants and bars. If you’re too tired to go out to dinner, locals tell us that this Marriott does have a good restaurant. Specifically order their made from scratch shrimp and grits. They locally-source ingredients, as much as possible, and make their own ice cream in-house from scratch. They sell it by the pint for guests who want to take a sweet treat up to their room. They also partner with our farmers market to house a brick-and-mortar version of the market called Nest next to their lobby.

Day 2 Aiken

Drive about one hour to Aiken, a beautiful Southern city with interesting shops, architecture, history and lots of events and activities for the horsey set.

Pick up a horse from an area stable (Seahorse Stable rents horses) and saddle up on your own horse to ride through Aiken’s Horse District. You’ll see just how horse friendly this community is as you ride through streets of dirt, unpaved to accommodate riders.

If you can, find locals with whom to ride. I went out with two great locals who even provided me with a traditional Stirrup Toast (with iced tea!) prior to our departure. Now that’s Southern hospitality.

see more about equestrian activites in our 48 Hours in Aiken Equitrekking article 

Lunch
Eat at Betsy’s on the Corner, which has the feel of an old-fashioned soda fountain. The fried chicken is really good and Betsy and her staff make milkshakes. Don’t leave without one!

Get a milkshake at Betsy's on the Corner

Get a milkshake at Betsy’s on the Corner

Afternoon Aiken Fun
Take a walk through downtown Aiken, checking out shops and restaurants. Stop in Cyndi’s Sweet Shoppe for a sugar rush. This adorable candy store houses old-time candy that will bring you back, including pop rocks (for us 80’s kids)….


Top Candy Stores in the USA by TravelswithDarley
Go inside Cyndi’s Sweet Shoppe in this special video!
Enjoy other unique, independent stores on Laurens Street like Aiken Dry Goods, Plum Pudding, an upscale kitchen and gourmet food store, Lionel Smith, a gentleman’s shop, Nandina Home and Design, Equine Divine, all-things equine, Downtown Dog, the downtown store for dogs and people who love them; Re-fresh, Southern art and a jumble of art-full gifts and more.

Dinner
Check out Magnolia Café (210 York Street SE, Aiken, South Carolina), which uses local, organic ingredients. Pick up something to bring to friends back home here from their selection of specialty market items including, local honey, organic beer and wine and a few unique odds and ends you can’t find anywhere else. Or dine at The Willcox, where a diverse selection is on the menu.

Stay
Splurge to stay at The Willcox (100 Colleton Avenue SW, Aiken, SC), a historic inn where Count Bernadotte of Sweden, Winston Churchill and affluent equestrians have stayed throughout time. It’s beautiful and welcoming to riders, something we like!

Day 3 Moonshine & Southern Cuisine

Ironically located behind the courthouse in the small city of Anderson is South Carolina’s first legal moonshine distillery. Palmetto Moonshine (200 West Benson Street Anderson SC) was started by two brothers from Anderson, and it’s now exported around the world. Travelers can stop by the distillery to learn more about how this high proof spirit is made, including seeing the original copper moonshine stills, and enjoy a free tasting.


Unusual Spirits as Holiday Gifts- Drink Up! by TravelswithDarley
Join Darley for a moonshine tasting at Palmetto Distillery
Lunch
After this experience, you’ll definitely enjoy eating at Grits & Groceries (2440 Due West Highway, Belton, SC 29627), just twenty minutes down the road in Belton. Located in a rural area, this restaurant draws in foodies from across the state and beyond. Born and raised in the Carolinas, husband and wife team Heidi and Joe Trull serve up eclectic soul food, including classic fried chicken and catfish, influenced by their Cajun, Creole, Southern roots. I recommend the fried chicken. Desserts are homemade and tasty.

Fried Chicken at Grits & Groceries

Fried Chicken at Grits & Groceries

Stay
The Bleckey Inn (151 East Church Street Anderson, SC) is a locally owned inn built in old stables. Nice finishes and touches in each well appointed room include Krug coffee makers and warm cookies and milk in the evening.

Day 4 Greenville and Travelers Rest
Drive about forty minutes from Anderson to Greenville. You can rent a bike from the Swamp Rabbit Inn (1 Logan Street, Greenville, SC), a bicycle friendly B&B where we stayed, to ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a multi-use greenway system that runs along the Reedy River and connects Greenville to Travelers Rest or from Reedy Rides. (12 West McBee
Greenville, SC)

biking Swamp Rabbit Trail Greenville

Biking the Swamp Rabbit Trail Greenville by Reedy Falls

Spend the day to take on this nearly 20 mile ride. The trail is paved and relatively flat, starting you out by the picturesque Reedy Falls in downtown Greenville. It’s just a short ride out of downtown to the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery (205 Cedar Lane Rd, Greenville, SC), where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or get snacks for your ride. Farm fresh eggs, sandwiches and tempting homemade scones and muffins are all good options. I had a really good peach smoothie made with fresh peaches—great fuel for the ride.

Ride further to pass by Furman Lake and Furman University’s pretty campus. The final stretch of the trail takes you through pretty forests before you pop out alongside Travelers Rest, where there are funky shops and restaurants beckon travelers, especially cyclists.

Cycling through Furman University

Cycling through Furman University

There are a few cool choices for food and drinks here, including The Café at Williams Hardware (13 S. Main Street
Travelers Rest, SC), owned by sisters Joyce and Nancy McCarrell and housed in an old hardware store. Swamp Rabbit Brewery (26 S Main St, Travelers Rest, SC) crafts award-winning beers right on site and is popular with cyclists. We opted for beer and then lunch at Upcountry Provisions, a bakery and bistro where sandwiches are sizeable and good, made with organic and local produce.

Stay
Stay tonight in the Swamp Rabbit Inn, a bicycle friendly B&B close to downtown Greenville and with access to the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Owner Wendy Lynam, an expert on biking trails in the Greenville area and the author of Cycling Greenville, SC, has nicely renovated this homey, sleek B&B. This inn is a nice pick, especially if you’re in a group, as there are lovely common areas, including a big back porch.

Whatever you decide to do in South Carolina, enjoy!

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Travels with Darley is a travel TV series broadcast on PBS stations and on digital networks, including the AOL On Network. Host Darley Newman of "Equitrekking" fame joins locals to showcase the top food, culture and adventure attractions in the USA and around the globe.

TravelswithDarley.com is the companion site with travel guides, videos and information so viewers can recreate the adventures seen on the series and beyond.

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