Ready to dip your toes in the post-pandemic travel pool, while balancing safety with some serious fun factor? Greenville’s got your back.
This Deep South comeback kid has been on my radar for quite sometime now. Free trolley access, low-cost extras and a killer food scene have long made this place a great-value getaway choice. In the past few years, however, the eastern South Carolina city has seriously upped its game. With a unique vibe that blends a high-end art scene with local authenticity, it manages to feel like the quintessential American hometown.
With a significant outdoor art collection, riverfront park access, the popular multi-use Swamp Rabbit Trail and open-air music activities, it’s a getaway that fits in nicely with the newly released health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For those who prefer the comfort of full amenities, the city’s outdoor urban living focus also means you can easily enjoy an elevated open-air vacation without jumping headlong into the rugged outdoors.
Music lovers will appreciate the weekly Wednesday night concerts held outdoors at the Peace Center Amphitheater. Various bands are in the summer lineup and, as any local will tell you, it’s a toe-tapping good time. General admission is free, with four-person private pods available for $10 each for those wishing to take extra precautions.
Adult beverage fans have a fun way to experience Greenville’s brew scene without having to get behind the wheel: beer tours! The Brewery Experience picks you and others up in passenger van comfort for guided tastings at multiple brewery stops for a little less than 60 bucks. The meet-up point is an easy walk from Aloft hotel, and tours include beer samples at all locations, hearty snacks, bottled water and a take-home gift. One of their tour guides is even a level two certified cicerone.
In addition to the regular Saturday offerings, The Brewery Experience has a Wednesday afternoon Hump Day tour, which works out nicely for those who want their trip to coincide with the free outdoor concerts. If you have roughly 20 more bucks to spend, they offer private door-to-door pickup tours seven days a week with additional perks included in the price.
Incorporating an art walk or two during your visit to Greenville is a must. With more than 90 works positioned at various points in the walkable downtown area, this feature essentially makes this entire portion of the city a free outdoor museum complete with plenty of stop-and-go access to parks, restaurants and other venues. To be clear, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill art walk with a handful of statues and a mural or two. This is a serious public collection featuring pieces by prominent artists. They even have a Chihuly. A. Mother. Freaking. Chihuly. Interested? An interactive map with the locations of each work is available on the city’s website.
Also on exhibit through October is Mexican artist Jorge Marin’s Wings of the City, a group of nine incredible bronze sculptures at various points visitors can also access on foot.
If you want to cross off your outdoor art stroll during the earlier hours of the day or take advantage of the downtown Saturday morning market, Port City Java is a great spot for a quick cup of joe and a hand-held morning meal. Their build-your-own breakfast sandwich option is perfect if you want to sip, snack and stroll while knocking out an early morning itinerary item. The vibe there is pretty cool, though, if you want to kill a little time with your sketchbook or journal.
Looking for a luxe dinner splurge? Limoncello offers chic sophistication, a sexy cocktail list and fab food. They also have a decent amount of outside seating, which works well in these times. While there’s lots to love on the appetizer list, my attention was caught by the mixology efforts behind their drink menu. Their Limoncello 75 blends Prosecco with their house-made limoncello, which is produced from organic lemons. It tastes like a gourmet lollipop — I kid you not. In the mood for something less sweet? Consider The Last Crusade. Additionally, their customizable Alfredo entree doesn’t disappoint, and the chocolate zabaglione cake may very well be worth the trip in its own right.
While you can definitely drop a fair bit of change here for a special occasion, a large number of the individual menu items hover around the mid-range price point, making it easy to plug and play according to where you want indulge. Making a midweek visit? They offer $2 Prosecco pours every Tuesday.
Another fun food choice is Farm Fresh Fast. Featuring locally sourced produce and proteins from area farms, it boasts healthy ingredient combinations that will still stick to your ribs. In addition to elevated meatloaf plates and bison burgers, you’ll also see options like Korean barbecue quesadillas and farm fusion lo mein. With most menu items priced at less than $15, it’s a solid mid-range option that also offers a bit of outside seating.
When it comes to blending relaxation with activities, nothing can throw a great getaway off the rails faster than having to walk inconvenient distances to parts unknown just to access a single venue or experience. If you’re looking to keep annoying logistics to a minimum and still maintain an artsy theme for your trip, an excellent accommodation option exists at the Aloft hotel. Located steps away from the action with on-site parking and easy access to dining, the venue boasts mod art in the rooms and common areas, along with a hip, urban vibe. Room rates start as low as $118 per night.
Not only are many of Greenville's amenities easily reached on foot, the town’s free trolley system also lets you hop on and off at any point along the route, speeding up your vacation itinerary considerably. Additionally, the city is relatively easy to get to from farther afield. Located off Interstate 85 between Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, and less than a four-hour drive from Knoxville, Tennessee, the destination makes a manageable road trip for many. If you’re comfortable flying, the Greenville-Spartanburg airport offers nonstop flights from cities around the country, including Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago and others.
Bonus perk? Greenville is also in close proximity to a number of impressive state parks, providing soft adventure vacation add-ons for travelers with a little extra time to kill on either end of their visit. Highlights include numerous waterfalls, scenic vistas and even a fresh-water scuba diving opportunity featuring a set of submerged cemetery ruins. Throw in spectacular spring weather, enhanced-value extras, and elevated outdoor art and entertainment options, and putting this South Carolina destination at the top of your revenge travel short list is basically a no brainer.