Downtown Greenville is an award-winning charmer. It’s bright and bustling yet cozy, hip and modern yet classic and colonial, with great entertainments of all kinds. But let’s say you’ve got more time to explore and need a big hit of BIG CITY. I feel another day trip coming on! As we’ve mentioned previously, Greenville is conveniently situated two hours from two BIG southeastern hubs: Atlanta GA and… Charlotte NC! This blogpost we head east toward the rising sun to stroll in the shadow of skyscrapers and follow in historic footsteps with a couple of regional highlights along the way.
“Sparkleburg”! That’s what we call it in these parts, less than 40 minutes up the road on hwy 85, practically Greenville’s fraternal twin. Perhaps you’ve noticed we share an airport. It was named for the local Spartan Regiment after the Revolutionary War which participated in the decisive Battle of Cowpens. Another half hour up the 221 through Cherokee Springs and you can tour the Cowpens National Battlefield or attend the Revolutionary War Weekend held there in October. Like Greenville, Spartanburg was a hub of textile mills, and converging rail lines gave it another nickname, “Hub City”. The historic Magnolia Street Station is home to the Hub City Railroad Museum and Caboose, and the Hub City Farmer’s Market.
For cyclists Spartanburg is famed as the start line for The Assaults on Mt Mitchell and Mt Marion, Mt Mitchell being the highest peak in the East. Every May a thousand cyclists gather to test themselves on these ascents. If you plan to join in, act lively because those spots sell out fast!
Nearby Walnut Grove Plantation has an intriguing Revolutionary War history and is rumored to be haunted… for good reason! Built in 1765 on a land grant from King George III, tours are available most of the week in the warmer months with reduced hours in the winter.
Located just east of town, The Cottonwood Trail is a walking/cycling/running trail situated along the Lawson’s Fork area of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve that features a raised path over an extensive wetlands area and access to sporadic sandbars. Wildlife viewing opportunities abound.
Sparkleburg is also a college town being home to historic (1854) Wofford College (where the Carolina Panthers hold training camp) and the University of South Carolina Upstate. Signature festivals include Dickens of a Christmas, a Victorian holiday extravaganza, and the Hub City Hog Fest competition that draws over 40 barbecue teams. Lots of ways to be entertained for a day in and around Spartanburg!
Calling all climbers! Heading up interstate 85 from Spartanburg you will come to Crowders Mountain. The towering sheer cliffs at Crowders Mountain State Park, will keep busy and offer stunning views to those who ‘make the grade’.
Heading east from Crowders you will come to Lake Wylie. Straddling the North Carolina/South Carolina border, Lake Wylie is a manmade lake formed by the Catawba Dam in 1904 and has six public boat access areas and water recreation options aplenty. The Catawba River below the lake offers interesting kayaking opportunities.
The Catawba Indian Nation, the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina, inhabited the area known today as Rock Hill when European settlers arrived. Rock Hill is distinguished in modern history by pivotal events of the Civil Rights Movement which took place here in the early 60s. In 1961 the Friendship Nine staged a sit in at the segrated Mc Crory’s Five and Dime lunch counter. Later that same year Rock Hill was the first stop in the Deep South for a group of 13 Freedom Riders, who boarded buses in Washington, DC, and headed south to test the 1960 ruling by the US Supreme Court outlawing racial segregation in all interstate public facilities.
Cyclists know Rock Hill as the home of the Giordana Velodrome. Many track cycling events are hosted here throughout the year. The city also boasts many famous NFL players in residence there. Glencairn Garden is a delight for the senses. Begun as a backyard garden in 1928, it now covers 11 acres with a paradise of landscaped beauty.
Nicknamed the “Queen City” for Charlotte, wife of King George III, Charlotte NC is the second largest banking center in the US after New York City. It is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Carolina Panthers NFL team, and the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA. It’s a great big city with skyscrapers, lots of big malls like South Park Mall to shop in, and diverse and distinctive neighborhoods full of character and charm.
Charlotte is also BIG on the ARTS! The city offers theaters, museums and public art galore. If that doesn’t float your boat, perhaps a roller coaster ride will. Carowinds Amusement Park boasts the Fury 325, the fifth tallest coaster in the world. For a more pastoral respite Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens is a 380-acre wonderland. Look over your options carefully as there is so much to see and do, dull moments are virtually impossible to come by.
These little rambles from the Swamp Rabbit Inn are proving to provide a few surprises here and there, no? Stay hydrated out there, pack the sunscreen and remember to hashtag us now and then. Happy trails!