There’s something intoxicating about being on the water. It’s that stupendous sunset you drink in as you’re putting up your tackle box for the day or that fly-like-a-bird feeling you get as your water skis leap off the lake for one magical second. But how many gaze out over the water and think electricity?
Aslo Known As "Electric City"
Well, thankfully William Church Whitner did or there might not be the Anderson, South Carolina we have today. In the late 19th century, Whitner, an Anderson native and engineer, brought hydro-power to the area and soon Anderson became the first city in America to have a constant supply of electricity. The city was literally lit up with electric streetcars, street lamps and the world’s first electrically-powered cotton gin, giving it the nickname of the Electric City. This innovative spirit and love of all things water continues in Anderson to this day, as evidenced by their reinvigorated downtown and their embrace of nearby aquatic playground, Lake Hartwell.
Nestled At The Base Of The Blue Ridge Mountains
Anderson is located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in an area referred to as the Upstate of South Carolina. Just off Interstate I-85 and with Atlanta or Charlotte a mere two hours away, Anderson is staking out its claim as a great place for businesses—large and small—and family-friendly fun. And it appears many agree—Airbnb recently declared the city among its top ten trending destinations.
Downtown Anderson is hailed as the brightest part of the Electric City. The events calendar is jam-packed with live theater, concerts and festivals. Downtown has added new parks to its repertoire, among them Carolina Wren Park, a greenspace amphitheater that—with a nod to Frozen fans—turns into an ice skating rink every winter as part of the annual Holiday Ice celebration. Pick your favorite pairings of local restaurants with local farms at autumn’s Fresh Taste festival. An annual performance of a Shakespeare play ushers in summertime and is just one of many plays sponsored by the city. At the height of summer, kids scurry to the water wall and spray plaza for a fun cool down. A new doggy park caters to the influx of folks moving downtown to be in the center of the action.
Of Course Great Food And Beer
If all that outdoor fun gave you a sunburn and you need to move indoors, downtown’s Anderson County Museum has an impressive 21,000 artifacts, 11 permanent exhibits, 99 programs and events each year, all with no admission fee.
If you’re lost and ask a local for directions, most will probably say something like “it’s two blocks north from the Beckley Inn.” Once a temporary home to the Budweiser Clydesdales, this up-scale boutique hotel is now the crown jewel of downtown and the go-to destination for your wedding reception, as well as your guests, and other any special events you can dream of. It’s just one of many places to dine in downtown like neighborhood deli Groucho’s and Earle Street Kitchen and Bar that is sure to quell that craving for chicken and waffles. More up-scale dining can be found at Sullivan’s Metropolitan Grill; a glowing Wall Street Journal review cemented their place in the South’s culinary world. Travel to the Old Country without leaving your backyard at the European Market; they carry products from 25 countries, but it’s worth going just for the German bread they bake daily. Sweet tooths will be satisfied at CocoBon Chocolatier.
What does Anderson have to offer for cuisine outside of downtown? If you’re willing to try a place recommended by Gourmet magazine, head to Skins’ for a hot dog—yes, hot dog—touted as one of the best in America. Carson’s Steak Warehouse has an in-house butcher who crafts your hand-cut steaks. If there’s room, try some ice cream from the Nutty Sweet Shop or head back in the morning for some breakfast.
Barbeque abounds in South Carolina, and there are many places in Anderson on the BBQ Trail. Complement your pork with sweet potato fries at The Smokin’ Pig, or try The Pompous Pig’s BBQ Nachos. When only international fare will do, try Nagoya Japanese Steak House, Red Tomato and Wine for excellent Italian and Greek dishes or El Arriero for Mexican meals.
Every self-respecting progressive city has its share of breweries and if they’re really ahead of the curve, distilleries as well. Carolina Bauernhaus Ales, a farmhouse brewery and winery, offers selections like peach and blackberry ale that highlight local produce. Descendants of moonshiners cook up award-winning craft whiskey at the Palmetto Distillery, in similar fashion as their forefathers but without fear of arrest; visitors can even tour the place.
The Lake Life
Just outside Anderson lies Lake Hartwell, the largest lake in South Carolina with a shoreline of 962 miles bordering 56,000 acres of water. This fresh water man-made reservoir is home to some of the best bass fishing in the country and hosts major fishing tournaments like B.A.S.S. Nation and Bassmaster Team Championships, but anglers can also catch catfish, bream, shellcracker and the occasional trout. The lake is suitable for swimming and you’ll see lots of folks tubing (in the many coves), jet-skiing and wake boarding. Landlubbers can opt for biking, hiking or the less-strenuous sunbathing. Keep an eye out for the 250 species of birds and 40 different animals that call the lake area home. With the lake’s proximity to the mountains, don’t be surprised to come across a waterfall like the one found at Issaqueena Dam.
There’s so much to do and see, you may want to stay overnight at one of the nine campgrounds. But be careful where you pitch your tent—one of the lake’s islands is full of gravestones! Home rentals and restaurants are available around the lake, and budget and luxury hotel options are nearby as well.
Boating is what brings most people to the lake and you can choose from five marinas and public boat ramps from where to shove off. If you’ve never tailgated on a boat, you may want to head to Lake Hartwell for a Clemson University football game. The stadium is actually visible from the lake and zealous fans secure their boat on the water and walk to the game.
Visit Anderson Mall for the latest fashions alongside big box retailers like Bath & Body Works and Books-A-Million. If antiquing is your thing, the Apple Dumplin’ Antique Mall should be your destination. Find just the right piece to adorn your walls at the Bay 3 Artisan Gallery, a co-op of local artists. Locally-owned Grady’s Great Outdoors has everything you need to make the most of your outdoor fun.
There’s a rich history of agriculture in the region and local farms are plentiful. Goat dairy Split Creek Farm is the proud owner of a gold medal from the World Championship Cheese Contest; an onsite store features products like goat milk fudge and their award-winning feta. Pick yummy strawberries at Berry Acres and grab a dozen farm-fresh eggs on your way out. The Anderson Farmers Market overwhelms the senses with their array of fruit and vegetables; the market offers handmade crafts as well.
Arts, Education, And Employment
Anderson shines a spotlight on their local art scene with public art displays throughout the city. Colorful murals and sculptures, including one of Whitner that pays tribute to his lasting contribution, beautify the city. Adorable sculptures of bronze wrens are hidden in plain sight; pick up a brochure with clues to their locations. Find just the right artwork to take home at one of the many art galleries like Bay 3 Artisan Gallery, a co-op of local artists.
There’s no need to ever leave Anderson if you’re a lifelong learner. Accredited Anderson University is a private university which offers its approximately 3,400 students a choice of 78 areas of study.
Large employers in the area include the medical center, local government (including the school system) and manufacturers like Electrolux and Michelin, but most employers are smaller businesses with less than 99 employees. Some residents commute to nearby Greenville and the regional airport makes business travel easy.