How to Spend a Weekend in Greenville, SC... includes Kate's handmade fine jewelry!

Greenville is a wonderfully quirky South Carolina town that's packed with innovative arts, delicious eats, and plenty of outdoor adventure. Here's your guide to experiencing all this Southern gem has to offer over a long weekend.

May 26, 2022

Greenville, South Carolina, has many quirks. It has the famous Swamp Rabbit Trail and rabbit emblems everywhere. It hosts a yearly charity, “Duck Derby,” during which tens of thousands of cute rubber ducks race down the magnificent falls of the Reedy River that transects the city. A whimsical Greenville pastime is trying to spot all the hidden bronze mice on Main Street (Mice on Main). It’s the home of baseball enigma Shoeless Joe Jackson and the vibrant poinsettia plant. It has one of the South’s most talent-packed concentrations of visual artists you can find. Greenville feels at once big-city-important and small-town-cozy. Locals beam when they talk about Greenville. They’re proud of its peculiarities and ready to tell you about its hidden gems. I’m proud of it, too, having spent weeks and weeks of my childhood in Spartanburg, right next door. Let’s map out an insider’s weekend in Greenville and get you on your way there, too!

Wyche Pavillion on the Reedy River
In the early 1900s, Greenville was the center of the world’s textile industry. Many of the old mill structures have been repurposed for play and living. Image: Van Zeppelin Aerial / VisitGreenvilleSC

DAY 1: Exploring Downtown Greenville
I hopped on the new nonstop flight from Nashville to the Greenville/ Spartanburg Airport (GSP) on Contour Airlines (GSP is adding many other direct routes throughout the country). The 50-minute jaunt led to an immaculate airport that was surprisingly packed. It was Furman University’s graduation weekend, I would find out, as well as Artisphere, the arts festival I was there to experience along with everything the city has to offer. This South Carolina town was emblazoned with excitement, and it was clear I wasn’t the only one arriving from afar to take it all in.

Straight from the airport, I met up with my travel companion for the weekend — my mom — and ascended an unassuming dirt road to Oak Hill Café & Farm, a James Beard semi-finalist for 2020 Best New Restaurant, where chemist Lori Nelson and Chef David Porras serve up delectable science experiments. The quiet café, complete with a working farm, is just outside of the bustle of downtown and is a great place to begin your day. Everyone working in the café pushed the pancakes, and we both agreed they were the best stack we have ever cut into.

Oak Hill Cafe breakfast with pancakes and a side of grits
The pancakes come with an array of house-made syrups — and a side of cheesy grits is a must. Image: Zoe Yarborough

After the fuel up, we checked into Marriott’s SpringHill Suites right downtown. The lobby is lined with rope swinging chairs and smells like a posh Miami hotel foyer. There’s a pool and fire pit outside and a well-appointed breakfast each morning. After a dip and a nap, it was time to wander. Greenville’s downtown stretches only about a mile and a half, so we barely used the car at all.

The soon-t0-open Grand Bohemian Lodge site is underway and looks like it will undoubtedly be the next hot spot hotel in the South. We popped into a few fabulous shops, including Vintage Now Modern (a curio-filled interiors wonderland) and M. Judson Booksellers (a precious independent book store and coffee shop). We both felt called to the famous Reedy Creek Falls, so we walked over the stunning 345-foot suspension Liberty Bridge for the best view.
There is no better place for a pre-dinner cocktail and sunset view than Juniper. The brightly colored florals and greenery that adorn the space are as irresistibly photo-worthy as the gin-centric cocktails. For dinner, we pulled up some barstools around a corner of the chef’s bar at CAMP, a reservation you’ll want to lock down as soon as you’ve booked your Greenville trip. The pork belly steamed baos, chicken curry, and coconut torte dessert were hits. Getting to watch the young, swift, and meticulous chefs was the sweetest treat of all.

Flower decor in entrance to Juniper bar in Greenville SC
We went to Juniper on Cinco de Mayo, so I opted for the “Risk it for the Hibiscus” (silver tequila, hibiscus, lemon, blood orange olive oil, and aquafaba) instead of a gin cocktail. But, be sure to get something with gin — it’s what they’re known for! Image: Zoe Yarborough

DAY 2: Art! And LOTS of it!
We kicked off our first full day touring the new Unity Park, a soothing, natural wonderland for kids of all ages devoid of typical playground materials. The park bumps up against The Commons, a funky merchant hall with craft libations at Community Tap, fresh-baked goods at Bake Room, sinfully tasty concoctions from world-renowned Methodical Coffee, and local fare from Automatic Taco and GB&D. We also spoke with the local denim artisan behind Billiam Jeans in his studio.

Bake Shop in Commons Food Hall SC
Bake Room at The Commons is known for their AM Buns (they sell out almost every day), and people rave about the croissants, but I tried a delectable salted chocolate chip cookie. Image: The Commons / Facebook

Any town can slap on the moniker of “arts-supportive,” but few places embrace the arts more than Greenville. Visual artists flourish there … I heard the same refrain from every artist we met at Artisphere and beyond. We had the incredible opportunity to tour Oyé Studios, a collective of a dozen artists’ studios in an old church. As Oyé tenant and artist Michelle Jardines walked us through each room, I found myself fangirling every time I realized whose studio I had entered — including the studios of Dorothy Shain, Rey Alfonso, Patricia DeLeon, Glory Day Loflin, and Jessica Fields, to name a few.

Rey Alfonso's artist stuido at Oye Studios in Greenville SC
Outside the old church that houses Oyé Studios, old paintbrushes hang from tree branches like ornaments. A gravel patio is the reported stage for ritualistic evening jam sessions over cigars and beers. Inside, every space — like Rey Alfonso‘s paint collection — felt raw and inspiring. Image: Zoe Yarborough

There was so much to soak up back at the Artisphere festival in town. We grabbed a local beer at the Arts & Drafts tent to sip while we perused art by 130+ juried artists in every medium imaginable, from the precious jewelry of Kate Furman to the giant abstract steel sculptures of Dale Rogers.

Artisphere street performers
The festival streets were peppered with live music stages, street performers, and interactive artist demonstrations like glass blowing and weaving. Image: Allie Wall

Once you’ve thoroughly explored downtown, head to Gather GVL: one of the coolest places to congregate in town, where a spectacle of colorful stacked shipping containers houses a bevy of food vendors. We let the Greenville locals steer us to The Lob Father for melt-in-your-mouth lobster rolls and homemade blueberry lemonade that was the *chef’s kiss* on top of a day walking 20,000+ steps.

Lobster roll at Gather GVL
We ordered two lobster rolls at The Lob Father — Connecticut style (buttery and hot) and Maine style (cold, with lots of mayo). I honestly could not pick a favorite.

As we walked to dinner, we took advantage of “First Fridays,” where participating brick-and-mortar Greenville galleries stay open later and welcome visitors with refreshments and artist meet-and-greets. At dinner at Urban Wren, pick from an impressive wine list and share some standout dishes like Mouth Punch Noodles and their famous Chicken & Burnt Ends.

DAY 3: Veer Off the Beaten Path
We kicked off our final day with the inaugural Greenville Coffee Tour hosted by Greenville guru and tour guide extraordinaire John Nolan of Greenville History & Culinary Tours. John drove us in his comfy sprinter van to three completely distinct yet individually fantastic coffee shops: Coffee Underground, Unlocked, and Mountain Goat, where we tasted and learned all about their roasts.

Fall is a perfect time to visit Greenville. Attend Fall for Greenville Festival (pictured) and rent an e-bike to take the Swamp Rabbit Trail to the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Image: Vanzeppelin Aerial / VisitGreenvilleSC

Once John got us nice and caffeinated, we headed outside to Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 22-mile multi-use rail-to-trail that has received a multitude of awards, including #1 America’s Best Urban Bike Paths by Fodor’s Travel. More than 750,000 locals and visitors ride the trail each year, and it goes all the way to the Travelers Rest. An adorable nearby town, we discovered, is Greer. The European-style (and gutter-free) downtown, Greer Station, is covered in a ceiling of string lights and flanked by chic shops and eateries. Grab a coffee at trendy Barista Alley and a healthy pre-flight (or pre-drive) meal at Harvest Kitchen.

The town of Greer, SC, is right near the airport, so make it your final stop! 

Even as you leave Greenville, I guarantee that you’ll be planning your return. Whether you go for Artisphere in spring, Fall for Greenville in autumn, or any long weekend you can get away, Greenville and all of its quirks are ready to greet you.

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