A River Runs through it: Greenville SC

Downtown Greenville – Falls of Reedy Creek

Greenville, SC – hands down is one of my favorite cities to visit. It is the perfect blend of urban cool, natural beauty combined with a vibrant southern culture. I enjoy returning often and with each trip I discover something else I love about Greenville.

I featured Greenville’s coffee scene on American Nomad’s Destination Coffee feature, but wanted to return to highlight a few of my favorite spots in Greenville and Greenville County.

A bit of history:

If you follow this blog often you know I am a history buff and love to dig into the historical roots of every place I visit. Greenville is steeped in history – from the Cherokee who lived and hunted on the lands for centuries to the modern era of manufacturing and tourism.

The city website features a comprehensive history of Greenville via this link, but I wanted to provide an overview below:

  • Greenville was once prized hunting lands for the Cherokee…the first non-native to settle in the area was Richard Pearis (pronounced Paris), an Indian trader who was living with a chief’s daughter. Pearis received 100,000 acres of the land around Greenville as a gift from the Cherokee circa 1768.
  • Pearis built a plantation and also set up a grist mill and saw mill on the banks of the Reedy River right in the heart of present day downtown Greenville.
    • When we visited Minneapolis in September 2022, we learned that Minneapolis grew because of the Mississippi and the natural falls of St. Anthony, which were prime for powering a mill. I see a parallel here, as the falls of the Reedy and the Reedy River provided the power to ensure successful mills.
    • Random fact: I have a bit of a fascination with ‘mills’ as my great-grandfather CJ Lassiter owned many mills in Raleigh NC – including Lassiter Mill
  • Pearis also built a successful trading post between native and non-native setters.
  • When the Revolutionary War began, Pearis was courted by both the Tory and Patriot sides who valued his assets and connections in the region. Pearis unfortunately bet on the wrong party and decided to back the British. We learned a bit of about this during our trip to King’s Mountain (July 2022)…the Carolina’s became part of Cornwallis’s hope to win the war, by rallying ‘loyalists/tories’ in the Carolina Upcountry – but it failed after a series of missteps.
    • Pearis lost everything due to his allegiance to the British and eventually fled the area.
  • The area around Greenville passed through several owners before it took root s a community in the 1800s.
  • Furman University traces its collegiate roots in Greenville to circa 1851 – the school remains a top educational institution in the southeast and cultural foundation in Greenville.
  • It was originally known as Pleasantburg, before being renamed for Patriot Army Commander Nathanael Greene
  • In the early 1900s – Greenville was really high cotton – serving as the ‘Textile Capital of the World’
  • In 1925, the luxurious Poinsett Hotel opened to accommodate guests to the large textile trade show. The hotel cost 1.5 million dollars to build! It continues to serve as the finest in luxury in downtown Greenville – Book your stay at The Westin Poinsett here.
  • Greenville was the home of Shoeless Joe Jackson…you can visit his home and learn about his legacy
  • Duke’s Mayo has it’s legacy in Greenville as founder Eugenia Duke was a true citizen and innovator in the city.

If you really want to dig into the history of Greenville take time to visit Furman’s world class Upcountry History Museum.

Greenville is full of things to do~a few of my favorites:

  • Enjoy a stroll through the Falls of the Reedy Park, where you can enjoy the breathtaking falls of the Reedy Creek in the heart of downtown. Walk across the Liberty Suspension Bridge, or find a chair riverside…enjoy safely climbing the rocks nearby. This view rivals any other scenic spot in the upcountry and you don’t even have to hike to get there!
  • Speaking of the Falls of the Reedy – if you are hungry for a bite to eat and want a waterfall view I recommend French inspired open air cafe – Passerrelle Bistro. They have an excellent menu – including their wine list. I recommend the Steak Frites with one of their signature desserts.
  • When I visit Greenville, I like to start my morning off with a stroll through Falls Park and grab a coffee at Spill the Beans. It is next door to Passerrelle Bistro and brews up delicious roasts, lattes and ice cream treats.
  • Greenville Zoo: This small, but amazing ZOO in the heart of Greenville is the perfect place to spend a few hours…walk through the savanna to see giraffes or encounter anteaters and big cats. For more info click here.
  • Greenville Art Museum: one of the finest collections in the southeast and not to be missed for art lovers. They house one of the largest collections of Andrew Wyeth’s in the country. For more info click here.
  • Catch a game at Fluor Field…in the center of the city enjoy America’s game – as the Greenville Drive hit a home run at Fluor Field.
  • Catch a show at Peace Center

Greenville is a FOOD-LOVER’S DREAM:

With hundreds of restaurants in the city center ranging from Soul Food to Asian to Mexican and beyond every palette with find their favorite comfort foods here. It would take a 1000 days to enjoy all the food goodness in Greenville – so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t try everything. For a comprehensive foodie guide click here.

Nature lover’s getaway:

I posted earlier this month about Greenville’s proximity to the Blue Ridge foothills in the Upcountry. Greenville is the perfect jumping off point for day trips to sites like Table Rock State Park, Caesar’s Head and even Asheville NC.

But if you need a bit of mountain life without too much of a drive – Paris Mountain State Park is a wonderful getaway only about ten minutes from Greenville. It miles of hiking trails, swimming and perfect picnic tables for a quaint lunch by the lake.

I can’t wait to visit Greenville again soon – it is the type of place that keeps you coming back for more.

Getting there:

Conveniently located halfway between Charlotte NC and Atlanta GA off I-85; 90 minutes (roughly) from Columbia SC via 1-26

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