Greenville, SC has reinvented itself—and it’s starting to steal the spotlight from more established North and South Carolina hot spots. With nearly two dozen top-notch breweries, a smoking barbecue scene, plenty of local art on display, quick access to nature (the Blue Ridge Mountains are right there), and one of the most photogenic downtowns in the South, there’s a lot to love about this city.
Even so, Greenville is still flying under the radar. But considering several well-known restaurants (like Lewis Barbecue, Husk, Halls Chophouse, and Prince’s Chicken) and breweries (Yee-Haw Brewing and Carolina Bauernhaus) are opening locations within the city, it likely won’t be a secret much longer. Read on to learn why Greenville is on the rise—and why it deserves a spot at the top of your hit list.
Where to Stay
Aloft Greenville Downtown: One of the best choices if you’re traveling with a four-legged friend (or hoping to bring one home—the hotel has a pet adoption program), this downtown hotel is in the middle of all the action. It’s also home to the WXYZ Bar, a swanky cocktail lounge that often features live music.
Hyatt Regency Greenville: Anchoring the northern end of Main Street, this hotel offers more than 300 rooms (many of which are suites), a farm-to-table restaurant, an elevated bar, and a seasonal pool as well.
What to Do
Check out the local art: Greenville treats its streets like a canvas—there are more than 100 pieces of art currently featured in the city’s Arts in Public Places initiative. Some works to look out for are Octo 2, a kinetic, wind-powered stainless steel sculpture, and a photorealistic mural on Canvas Tower. The massive, eight-story mural (see below) depicts a local teacher and students and was inspired by the desegregation of the area’s schools.
Visit Greenville’s Most Recognizable Icon: Falls Park on the Reedy River is a 32-acre urban greenspace located right off Main Street. Take a walk through its serpentine pedestrian pathways, enjoy its riotously colorful flowers, or spread out a picnic blanket and relax, but don’t miss the marquee attraction: the waterfall for which the park was named. Wreathed by the crescent-shaped Liberty Bridge (it was constructed that way to provide the best view of the cascading water), the falls are easily the most Instagrammed part of town.
Shop on Main Street: Mast General Store has penny candy barrels and creaky wooden floors, Poppington’s Popcorn has more than 75 flavors of popcorn (including Bloody Mary, Buffalo wing, birthday cake, and dark chocolate sea salt caramel), and M. Judson Booksellers offers Southern literature and stellar coffee.
Catch a Show: The Peace Center is the epicenter for entertainment in downtown Greenville. With a 2,100-seat concert hall, a 400-seat theater, a riverfront amphitheater, and the open-air Wyche Pavilion, it offers a wide range of events, including concerts, plays, and more.
Bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail: No matter what time of year you visit Greenville, it’s always a great idea to rent a bicycle (grab some wheels at Reedy Rides, located downtown) and cruise the 22-mile-long Swamp Rabbit Trail. The shaded route goes through various city parks, skirts Furman University, and perhaps most importantly, passes multiple breweries for refueling (more on those below). Most cyclists turn around after lunch in Travelers Rest, a town near the end of the trail.
Watch a Game: While there aren’t any major sports teams in Greenville, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a bleacher to have a beer in. The Greenville Drive, the Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, plays at Fluor Field, which has its own three-foot-tall “Green Monster” (the entire field is a smaller-scale replica of Fenway). You can also watch the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, a minor league hockey team, and the Greenville Triumph, a soccer team that competes in the USL League One.
What to Eat
Foodhall Fare: Gather, Greenville’s first food hall, is made out of shipping containers and has 13 unique concepts, including The Lob Father (home to lobster rolls), Myami Bites (focusing on Miami street food like Cuban sandwiches and empanadas), HenDough (for fried chicken and donuts), and Juice Box Wine Bar, among others.
Inventive, Modern Cuisine: Passerelle Bistro overlooks Falls Park and is arguably the most scenic place to dine in town. The lunch and dinner menus marry French, Cajun, and Southern cooking, and there’s also an extensive wine list.
Located in the Village of West Greenville, The Anchorage is currently one of the buzziest restaurants in the area. The head chef, Greg McPhee, earned a James Beard Award nomination for this thoughtfully curated small plates menu.
Even though Urban Wren opened just days before the pandemic hit, it has made a name for itself as a spot to find beautifully plated, seasonally inspired dinners and small-batch wines. If you go, do yourself a favor and get the lobster-chorizo corn dogs.
Barbecue: You can’t visit the South and not get barbecue. What’s interesting about the ‘cue scene in Greenville is that it combines the best elements of other nearby barbecue destinations. Be sure to visit Mike & Jeff’s, a 21-year-old institution known for pulled pork, smoked chicken, and burgers. There’s also Henry’s Smokehouse, which has become a local favorite for all things pork-based—so much so that it has expanded to three locations and a food truck.
Another must-visit is Bobby’s BBQ & Seasoning, a newer establishment owned by a man who taught himself how to cook barbecue by watching YouTube videos. Don’t let that scare you off—and be sure to get the brisket and the sweet potato crunch.
Finally, check out Prince’s for hot chicken. A longtime Nashville favorite, this outpost (located inside Yee-Haw Brewing) is the first outside of Music City. It offers essentially the same menu as its Nashville counterpart with one key difference: The proprietary hot spice mix isn’t made on-site. Because it’s a closely guarded family secret, the mix is concocted at the original location and transported to Greenville.
Where to Drink
Hampton Station: Situated in Greenville’s Water Tower District, Hampton Station is one of the city’s hottest new gathering spots. What used to be a cotton warehouse is now a mixed-used space with studios, a taco shop, an axe-throwing range, a dog hotel, and more. But you’re here for a beverage, so make your way to Birds Fly South Ale Project, where the focus is on funky IPAs, sours, and saisons, or to Wandering Bard for a honey-tinged pint of mead.
Poe West: Like Hampton Station, Poe West started its life as something else. Originally, it was a hardware and supply company, but today the complex is home to various businesses. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, pop into Unlocked Coffee Roasters for a cup of joe, LaRue Fine Chocolate for a glass of rosé or a cocktail, Six & Twenty Distillery for a spirits flight, or Carolina Bauernhaus for a fun experimental beer.
Brewery Experience Beer Tour: On Wednesdays and Saturdays, a local cicerone (the beer version of a sommelier) leads public tours to area breweries. Each tour includes stops at a minimum of three breweries, and attendees meet the brewers, get a tour, and sample the beers on tap in guided tastings. As guests ride from place to place in a 16-passenger van, they can watch Gary Gose Gump, a beer-themed parody of Forrest Gump (“Mama said there’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by the beer that they drink”).
Downtown: There are myriad ways to wet your whistle in the heart of Greenville. If you’re looking for a brewery, consider Fireforge Brewery and Southernside Brewing Co. (both of which have fabulous beer gardens). The Eighth State Brewing Company arguably has the most off-the-wall offerings (like an imperial stout with wild Thai banana, toasted coconut, caramel, Madagascar and Ecuadorian vanilla, and raw coconut).
The Greenville Beer Exchange is an expansive bottle shop and taproom, and The Whale has some of the hardest-to-find beers in the country. For creative craft cocktails, check out Vault & Vator, UP on the Roof, and CAMP.