Waterfalls in the middle of the city. An impressive culinary scene. Excellent walkability. These are just a few of the things that earned Greenville, South Carolina the hashtag #yeahthatgreenville. Food and travel writer Anna Lanfreschi recently took a day trip to this charming Southern town to see if it lives up the hype.
The short answer is yes, it does. There’s a reason Greenville made Southern Living’s list of the South’s Best Cities 2018 list, Condé Nast’s Best Small Cities in the U.S. list in 2017 and Livability’s 2016 Top 10 Downtowns list. One of the fastest growing cities in the South, and the country as a whole, Greenville has quickly become a coveted travel destination due to its downtown redevelopment efforts.
If you’d like to see what all the buzz is about for yourself, here is a handy guide to visiting Greenville for a one-day or weekend getaway.
Start your day right
Before you head out for your day of adventure, fuel up with some delicious, expertly crafted caffeine. I was really impressed with the quality of the coffee at Methodical Coffee downtown, both for their pour-over and their espresso drinks. If you are more into the latter, try a seasonal latte or cappuccino. Mine was sweetened with condensed milk! Oh, and do order a scone to go with your beverage — there are sweet and savory options available.
I also loved the gorgeous blue-and-white cups in which the coffees are served, as well as Methodical's overall décor and vibe. On Friday and Saturday nights, this spot turns into a pretty happening bar scene — but you'll need to get your fill by 10 p.m.
Since you’re already in the heart of downtown, it only makes sense to stroll its gorgeous streets, which are lined with European-style café tables and specialty shops. I was drawn to the more food-centric store fronts, such as Poppington’s Gourmet Popcorn, Caviar & Bananas and The Cook’s Station. The former offers a variety of unique popcorn flavors — pixie unicorn, spicy bacon and lemon chocolate, to name a few. Caviar & Bananas is similar to a mini food hall that serves prepared food, in addition to harder to find ingredients like caviar, as the name suggests. And if you need a gift for a foodie in your life, The Cook’s Station is where you’ll find it. This shop has everything from Greenville-themed kitchen towels and homemade spreads to the latest Le Creuset collection.
As you’re making your way down to the Reedy River and are pondering lunch spots, consider The Lazy Goat. This restaurant has a lovely waterfront patio with views of the historic Wyche Pavilion and the TD Stage at the Peace Center. The food here is excellent; expect Mediterranean-inspired dishes, plenty of seafood options and great drinks.
The Lazy Goat is also perfect for people watching. If you want to get to know the spirit of Greenville, grab a cocktail and some fried goat cheese and watch the city’s residents and visitors run, bike and push strollers down the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a paved pedestrian path that the restaurant overlooks. On the weekend, perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of an afternoon wedding at the Wyche Pavilion, like I did while waiting for my garlic shrimp. I could have spent hours on the shaded stone patio of The Lazy Goat, but the waterfalls were beckoning.
Waterfalls, downtown? Yes!
Potentially the biggest initial attractions for Greenville visitors are the waterfalls located at the edge of downtown. Just a few steps from The Lazy Goat, these waterfalls are pretty spectacular. I mean, don’t expect Niagara Falls or anything — after all, you are in the middle of the city — but there is a decent drop off, and absolutely no hiking is required to see these beauties.
There are a couple of ways to ogle the waterfalls: Head over to the Liberty Bridge above the Reedy River, which you can get to from the main entrance to Falls Park on the Reedy (at the intersection of Main Street and Falls Park Drive), or wander into the park via the pedestrian walking path.
The Falls Park is also worth mentioning. Beautiful, colorful and waterfall-filled, don’t leave Greenville without exploring it. The park is a great place for a walk with a friend, a family picnic or a fun photoshoot.
By this point, you’ve done a lot of walking and sightseeing, so you’re probably hungry for dinner. The good news is that dinner options are plentiful downtown Greenville. The bad news is that you most likely need an advanced reservation if you don’t want to wait for a table.
I learned that lesson the hard way. In the spirit of spontaneity, I chose not to make any dinner reservations ahead of time and instead go wherever my cravings might have taken me. On a Saturday night, I would not recommend this strategy. The fact that it was also prom night when I was in Greenville didn’t help my case, so you may have better luck, but why risk it?
I ended up at Basil Thai restaurant, which turned out to be a fantastic choice. The restaurant is fairly new to the downtown food scene, and it features classic Thai dishes — think pad prik, pad woon sen, and, of course, pad Thai — in a modern setting. The recipes are heavier on the seasonings and lighter on the heat than you might expect, but the table is set with various ways to add spices to your meal. Plus, you can always ask the chef to make your food to your preferred spice level.
If you’re in the mood to treat yourself, do yourself a favor and head straight to Hall’s Chophouse. The multi-level steak house boasts beautiful views of the Reedy River, outstanding service and quality ingredients. It’s a great place to indulge in a meal that's slower-paced than your day may have been by savoring a delicious glass of wine and bitinig into a juicy steak. Hall’s is also great for brunch — and yes, you can get a steak for breakfast here. You may also choose to try your hand at getting a table at the Greenville outpost of Sean Brock's Husk restaurant for inspired takes on heirloom Southern ingredients and cooking.
When the sun goes down, Greenville becomes a magical place full of string lights and mingling residents and tourists alike. One of the best ways to take it all in is on a rooftop; indulging in a classic cocktail while you’re a few floors up only adds to the experience.
I loved the drinks and atmosphere of Up on the Roof. Located on top of Embassy Suites, this indoor-outdoor bar not only has fantastic views of downtown Greenville and the Reedy River, but also ample seating, glassed-in fire pits and a friendly crowd. The cocktail list is well-priced and features classic, elevated classic and bottled cocktails. A plush couch, a negroni and views of city lights? Sounds like a lovely way to end the night, if you ask me.
If you prefer a more refined way to spend the evening, see what’s playing at the Peace Center. The performing arts center is nestled between downtown and Falls Park, and it often draws crowds with Broadway shows, renowned musician concerts and ballet performances.
However you choose to spend your day in Greenville, one thing is certain: You’ll want to come back again soon. I know I do!