There are many Greenvilles in the United States, though some stand out more than others. Voted one of the best small cities in the U.S. in 2017 by Condé Nast Traveler readers, Greenville, South Carolina is one of the more noteworthy. The onetime industrial town has transformed into a beautiful mecca of fine eateries, upscale hotels, hip breweries and a destination for the arts and cultural activities.
Greenville has its roots in the textile industry, dating back to the late 1800s when several cotton mills were erected in the area. During that time, the city saw a rise in railroads, telephone lines and the city’s first daily newspaper, setting the stage for the commercial center that it was to become. By 1915 Greenville was known as the “Textile Center of the South,” until the Great Depression destroyed the economy and forced many of the cotton mills to lay off workers. After the Second World War, however, Greenville’s main street was converted to a central two-lane road that housed impressive contemporary restaurants, shops and museums, resulting in a thriving economy that attracted new residents.
Modern day Greenville aptly represents its name, with a handful of beautiful parks interspersed between tall buildings, as well as gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Though the city is rapidly growing, its core Southern hospitality remains intact, with an atmosphere that’s welcoming to visitors from near and far. So, sure, there are a lot of Greenvilles in the U.S. to choose from, but this Greenville is the one everyone’s talking about.
A favorite among residents with a prime location downtown, Sidewell offers signature pies like the Roasted Mushroom and Meatball and the Bacon Bliss. Don’t pass up Sidewell’s homemade ice cream, including white chocolate banana pudding and malted chocolate chip cookie dough flavors.
Partly credited for the revival of downtown Greenville, Soby’s is the premiere destination for upscale Southern-inspired cuisine. Comforting classics feature locally grown, seasonal ingredients. Try the Country Ham & Brussels Sprouts, Antebellum Shrimp & Grits and White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie.
This modern cantina boasts an eclectic menu featuring Carolina-inspired tacos with pulled pork and Southern slaw, fried green tomatoes topped with queso fresco and guacamole, and a Mexi-dip sandwich overflowing with Dos Equis braised Black Angus brisket, pimento cheese, spicy house pickles and chipotle BBQ sauce.
Set in a beautiful open space with a wood-topped wraparound bar, outdoor patio and plants, nature is integrated into the indoors. While the brewed coffee—sourced from all over the world—is certainly delicious, picturesque drinks like cold brew horchata, affogato and Les Fleurs, an iced cappuccino with a housemade lavender chamomile syrup, make for divine Instagram posts.
After winning a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 2016, Quest Brewing has become an icon. The brewery specializes in six legendary brews available year-round, including a signature Ellida IPA, a Viking ale attributed to a historical magic dragon ship, with five varieties of malts and loads of hops. Bring your drink out to the lively beer garden, which typically features live music and food trucks.
Find the “World’s Best Moonshine” at Dark Corner Distillery, once a home to Celtic immigrants who brought with them an ancient knowledge of distilling grains. The distillery specializes in unique flavors of whiskey, including butterscotch and honeysuckle, gin and, of course, moonshine crafted from a blend of corn, red wheat and barley. Stop in to sample six spirits of your choice for $7, and leave with your favorite bottle and a complimentary shot glass.
Paris Mountain State Park features nine trails ranging in difficulty and length that incorporate views of North Lake, the dam at Lake Placid, mountain scenes and a variety of wildlife. The park also offers picnic shelters, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, paddle boating, swimming and camping.
Get wild at the Greenville Zoo with an array of both common and rare animal species. You’ll encounter a rheas, a flightless bird related to the ostrich, an adorable cat called the ocelot, and a rather interesting looking red-tailed guenon, among others.
Discover the South’s history through art with the GCMA’s permanent Southern Collection, a renowned gallery featuring works from colonial times to the present. Highlighted South Carolina artists include David Drake, William H. Johnson and Jasper Johns, the prominent painter and sculptor. An inspiring rotation of additional exhibits are also featured throughout the year.
For a sophisticated stay, check in to The Westin, a luxury hotel in the heart of downtown. Opulent chandeliers and lavish gold draperies fill the lobby, while spacious rooms are affixed with plush couches and grand beds.
The Swamp Rabbit Inn is a beloved bed and breakfast on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, popular with cyclists for its “Bed and Bike” concept which includes bike stands in the rooms. The hip B&B is decorated using modern furnishings in funky colors, with mismatched chairs in the kitchen and bold patterned rugs and duvets in the rooms.
Charming gardens, splendid guest rooms and a welcoming innkeeper are all part of the Southern experience at this historic home, a short walk from Greenville’s main street. A full gourmet breakfast is served every morning along with wine, cheese and crackers in the evening.