Don’t call Greenville the next Charleston. History might be the torch for Charleston, but in Greenville, the culinary and visual arts are the must-see city’s calling card. The Upstate city is on all the right lists. The city is on the New York Times list for best place to live and work. And, is ranked at number 12 on the publication’s “52 Places to Visit.” Greenville was among heady company with locations in Europe and larger U.S. cities.
The rapidly growing city is the “IT” destination for visitors who flock to Greenville for concerts, special events and live performances at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Peace Center (and its Gunther Theatre), and other venues. Retirees relocate for Greenville’s many amenities and young professionals gravitate to the city for tech jobs, engineering jobs in renewable energy at companies such as General Electric, the automotive sector (brought to the region by BMW) and other industries.
Foodies count the city as one of the best in South with diverse restaurants to choose from; hundreds of establishments line Main Street. Accolades and foodie “high fives” are in abundance with national recognition. In 2019, People magazine ranked Greenville on its “The 10 Hottest Foodie Cities in America—and Everything to Eat When You Get There.”
The city’s walkable downtown is where much of the city’s special events, concerts and festivals that attracts thousands, gather. Main Street is the heartbeat and where much of the city’s restaurants, shops and galleries are found. A part of the downtown that has been gaining traction for five years as a place to shop, eat and live is the West End district.
New businesses such as Foxcroft Wine Company, Whale craft brewing and other new businesses are cropping up as well as some of the city’s favorite outdoor gathering places. In 2018, the Topside Pool Club, Greenville’s first, opened on the rooftop of a new West End building. Falls Park is a favorite gathering spot for locals and visitors as well as family friendly Fluor Field. Several new hotels are slated to be built in the growing district in the next two years. The hotels will join Homewood Suites by Hilton.
Exterior facades and building reflect the creativity of the city with textile mill revitalizations continuing throughout Greenville. The Woodside Cotton Mill – once the largest in the world – has plans for a brewery, general store, restaurant and apartments. Judson Mill will feature outdoor experiences like fountains, dog parks, grilling areas and acres of green space. Poe Mill will become a multi-generational skate park, certified by the Street League Skating Fountain. The Plush Mill is working with the Greenville Center for Creative Arts to transform into creative space for artists and art classes.
Located in the former Poe West Hardware & Supply Co. in the Village of West Greenville, Poe West will be home to retail shops and restaurants like LaRue Fine Chocolates and Carolina Bauernhaus Brewery & Winery (try the Feral Barrel Blackberry brew that looks dark but tastes light), and Six & Twenty Distillery.
Apartment home communities are popping up across Greenville as all ages are choosing urban living including Baby Boomers who prefer renting instead of owning property. The Greene is a new urban living community with sustainable features. The apartment community is a walk or bike ride away from Fluor Field, restaurants, and bars. Coffee and pastries on-site are sourced from West End Coffee Roasters, right across the street.
The Greene is certified Bronze NGBS (National Green Building Standard) built with reclaimed materials. It will soon have a craft beer bar and bottle shop on the bottom floor of the building. The rooftop terrace is a favorite amenity with a roof top putting green, salt water pool and lounge, outdoor TVs, grilling station and more. A bocce courtyard, yoga classes, dog run and a pet spa make everyday a pampering experience. The best feature is the sweeping views of downtown and surrounding mountains.
Festival-Event Town Of The South
No event is more elevated or loved than Euphoria, the food and wine festival that brings in world class chefs, sommeliers, mixologists and those ready to sip, indulge and mingle for four fun-filled days every September. During Euphoria, food and drink experts are spread out over the city in bars, restaurants, and tents like a food revival at Fluor Field. Events around town center on chefs and artisans showing off their talents with new spins on Southern cuisine (from pimento cheese to barbecue), shrimp and oysters from the coast, ramen noodles and more.
Distilleries like Six and 20 showcase cocktails, and Dark Corner’s Distillery (moonshine), local breweries and wineries show what they do best. Festival goers might see one of the co-founders of Euphoria, restaurateur, Carl Sobocinski, who had the Euphoria vision 14 years ago with musician Edwin McCain.
Lexus SUVs are the official transportation for the festival and shuttle event goers around the city in style until the wee hours. Celebrity sightings are not unusual – Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel is a regular festival goer.
The rest of the year, the food scene stays on a high note with restaurants serving pizza, sushi, pub fare and Mexican to New Southern cuisine at fine dining establishments. With more than two dozen new restaurants on the horizon, one of the most exciting addition to Greenville’s culinary offerings in 2019 will be GATHER GVL, a food hall collective featuring 13 tenants including a wine bar, coffee shop, German, Mexican and Japanese offerings, plant-based smoothies, burgers, and pizza.
Tried and true restaurants of all varieties like Trattoria Gorgio (Main Street) keep repeat customers coming back year-after-year. Though not as flashy as newer eateries, the Italian eatery has been dishing up fine Italian food for years with excellent service in its intimate 14-seat diner. Try the veal chop and famous Pasta Bolognese. Outside downtown, head to Chophouse ’47 (Pelham Road) for a Chicago style steak, considered by locals as the best in the city. For a meat-and-three experience, head to Greek owned Pete’s Restaurants for a cheeseburger and fries.
Wine And Beer
Vino lovers head to the established Northampton Wine and Dine for dinner and what locals consider the best wine store in the city. The shop has a constant changing selection of domestic and imported wines and expert recommendations for pairing them with exceptional cuisine made to match the quality of the food. Newcomer Foxcroft Wine Company features wines from France, South Africa and across the globe. Start with an appetizer of grilled Spanish octopus or steamed mussels. Finish with a sweet, house made doughnut.
While at the West End, try a beer at The Whale, a craft beer collective. The new beer establishment (first location is in Asheville) is already making its mark by doing its own thing, evident by the massive plaster and metal replica sculpture of a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. Whale in the beer world means “rare beer not found anywhere else.” The space is designed with something for everyone – baseball fans (Fluor Field is in walking distance), upstairs apartment dwellers, and the downtown after-dinner crowd.
Greenville Gets Outdoors
Parks for relaxing or recreation are found throughout Greenville County but are equally prolific in the city surrounded by mountains. Unity Park is set to change the landscape of downtown Greenville when it opens in 2021. The 60-acre gathering spot downtown will be surrounded by the Swamp Rabbit Trail with a pedestrian bridge over the Reedy River. Unity Park will have playground areas, water features, designated greenspace, a memorial, and an 80 foot high observation tower. The park will be situated on land that used to be home to two parks- one for blacks, one of whites. It will recognize Greenville’s past and embrace inclusiveness, and the future.
Along Greenville’s Reedy River and Swamp Rabbit Trail, art is on display at the Art Crossing galleries. Nestled in the lower level of Riverplace, more than a dozen respected local artists create and sell art in many forms from jewelry to paintings. Dudars Designs Art Gallery is the team effort of Shannon and Steve Dudar. Shannon’s motto, “share the beauty,” shows up in her designs with semi-precious gemstones, freshwater pearls, metal, leather and other materials. Nautical themed earrings and necklaces speak to those who love the water.
Don’t leave town without going to Falls Park on the Reedy – the nationally acclaimed 32-acre green space with a spectacular bridge allowing unobstructed views of the Reedy River. The Liberty Bridge – a 345-foot, curved bridge held in the air by a single suspension cable – is the only one of its kind in the U.S. The bridge is considered the catalyst for Greenville’s renaissance in the 90s. The space is the perfect setting to enjoy a festival, special event or taking in the picturesque scene that is a favorite with shutter fly fans.
Watch a game at Fluor Field – The class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox is the scene of more than 70 home games annually at the 5,700-seat field. The field is modeled on the famed Fenway Park and built using bricks salvaged from nearby mills. Across the street is the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum.
Take a ride on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a mixed-use, 22-mile ride. Built on an abandoned stretch of Greenville & Northern Railway track, the paved pathway links downtown Greenville neighborhoods and winds through wetlands, woodlands and gardens, on the way to Travelers Rest. Take at “rest” at laid back Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery where local, fresh foods are served up to hungry peddlers.
Arts And Crafts
Art lovers have more than 95 works of public art featured as part of Greenville’s Arts in Public Places initiative. Some to see are: an “Orbital Trio” which serves as the anchor of North Main Street downtown at NOMA Square; “Nexus of Light” anchoring the corner of South Main Street and Augusta Street, and “Octo 2” a kinetic, wind-powered stainless-steel sculpture made up of linked stainless shapes rotating around a circular axis. The red steel “Untitled 2002-2003” sculpture (referred to by many residents as Gumby) is often seen in the background of photos taken as it sits at one end of The Liberty Bridge in Falls Park. The newest Dale Chihuly “Rose Crystal Tower” sits at the other end of Falls Park (a walking tour map to see these pieces can be found via a mobile app).
In May of each year, art lovers gather for Artisphere, one of the country’s top art festivals where mixed media artists showcase art in all forms from canvas to metals and oils, along with culinary artisans and the performing arts. Artisphere has art for every palate.
For a new way to get in some “girl time” and have an artistic moment, head to Magnolia Scents by Design for a candle making class. Pick from a multitude of scents with edgy names like “Poker and Politics,” “Dude,” and “Absinthe at Midnight.” The shop that channels your inner “Chandler,” or one who makes candles, is known for its artisanal handcrafted soy-based products, and hand poured candles.