Greenville is known for it’s idyllic city center, it’s charming yet bustling downtown. But let’s say you have a hankerin’ to experience that gracious Southern style, a lazy day meandering down a country road. If you travel south down Highway 25 you’ll find just that – Some history, some horses, lots of nature, and blissful stretches of nuthin’ but fields and daydreams. On this day trip from Greenville, you’ll want to stop off at that fruit stand, browse aimlessly in the curio shop and take a selfie with that beautiful horse by the fence.
First stop on the 25 is Greenwood, a good hub to go to interests both east and west from the home of little Lander University. Greenwood boasts the South Carolina Festival of Flowers featuring elaborate topiaries on display every June.
Go east from Greenwood and you come to the town of Ninety Six (not even kidding). There is a running debate as to how the place was named but the popular explanation is that it was 96 miles to the nearest Cherokee settlement of Keowee. Established in July of 1769, Ninety Six has featured prominently in American history. At one time it was known as “Jews Land” because some prominent Sephardic Jewish families from London bought extensive property there and helped other Sephardic families relocate from Europe to the “New World”. It was a pivotal site in the Anglo Cherokee War (1758-1761) but is best known as the site of the first land battle of the American Revolutionary War south of New England, fought there in 1775. Ninety Six has four sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places including Star Fort.
A few miles west of Greenwood sits Abbeville. Another history maker, on November 22, 1860, a meeting was held at Abbeville, at a site since dubbed “Secession Hill“, to launch South Carolina’s secession from the Union. One month later, the state of South Carolina became the first state to secede. A quaint downtown as quaint can be is currently known for its Opera House, designated the Official Rural Drama State Theatre of South Carolina, and Spring Festival held in early May.
I don’t even have to say it, do I? You read “Augusta” and the first thought in your head was “golf”, right? One can’t deny so let’s start there! A little further south on hwy 25 and and you will come to Augusta Georgia, known the world over for hosting The Masters Tournament every year. It is also the historic boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson. Other celebrity natives include: opera singer Jesse Norman, soul singer/songwriter James Brown, baseball legend Ty Cobb, and currently, actor Laurence Fishburn. Home also to Augusta University and Paine College this is also solidly a ‘college town’ with all the energy of academia adding to the mix. Known as the Garden City and located on the banks of the Savannah River, there are endless outdoor activities in which to indulge. Phinizy Swamp Nature Park has woodlands and wetlands to romp (hike, bike, learn) in all day long. With a beautiful downtown and many historic districts to explore, sophisticated cultural diversions and a thriving nightlife that favors jazz, Augusta will satisfy all the senses and everyone in your group.
Your ‘kingdom for a horse’, you say!? You’ll find plenty in Aiken, it’s an equestrian wonderland. With steeplechase and other competitive events throughout the year and every amenity the horsey set might require it’s hard not to saddle up. While Augusta dips just below the GA state line, if you turn east on on hwy 78 and blink a couple times you’ll be in Aiken SC! Aiken is an oasis of misty mornings and golden afternoons, the sound of hooves on soft earth – an invitation to set a spell and just exhale. Check out the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, or the Canopy of Oaks on South Boundary, or hit one of the many festivals and you will know you’re living Southern style! Plenty of nice places to eat in town, too, when it’s time for the feed bag.
Turn north from Aiken on hwy 1 to hwy 20 and you will come to our state capital and the largest city in South Carolina. It’s where we make our laws and such. You may remember a flap about a flag recently… history-making is a nonstop sort of thing here! It lies at the confluence of the Saluda River and the Broad River which merge at Columbia to form the Congaree River. Hootie and the Blowfish hail from Columbia, as does actress Andie MacDowell. Delve into Columbia’s rich Civil War history with a tour of Fort Jackson, the First Baptist Church, and the State House. Historic districts near the University of South Carolina campus will provide a lively and pleasant stroll. The Five Points is newly revitalized and throws down a legendary St Patrick’s Day fest while Congaree Vista, on the banks of the river, is known for Artista Vista SC’s oldest gallery crawl. Columbia is also home to the largest and longest-running Pride event in South Carolina: Famously Hot SC Pride, so come down in September and let your rainbow flag fly!
Just want to be in nature all day, you say? I have just the place! Now, you may notice, I’m taking you in a big circle back to Greenville… From Columbia head north on hwy 26 and you will pass (or stop off at for all water related activities) Lake Murray, and in about an hour ( 45 minutes from Greenville) you will come to Sumter National Forest. Steeped in Cherokee heritage, Sumter is large, 370,442 acres, and activities accommodated here include: hiking, backpacking, canoeing, horse back riding, mountain biking, motorcycle and ATV riding, target shooting, camping and fishing. From boating on the “Wild and Scenic” Chattooga River to simply viewing wildlife from its many trails it is guaranteed to be a revitalizing experience.
So, go on, get lost! And then come back, to the cozy Swamp Rabbit Inn… so you can plan your next day trip from Greenville! Have a beautiful time!