Get Your Free 2024 Vacation Guide

Start planning your ultimate South Carolina adventure with a free copy of the 2024 Vacation Guide. Request your free copy, view the guide online or download a PDF version below.

Vacation Guide Cover
View Our Other Guides

13 Things for a Real South Carolina Experience

Kerry Egan Kerry Egan
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
More from "Kerry Egan"

Some think 13 is an unlucky number. We disagree. If you want to call yourself a real South Carolinian, you need to do and experience these 13 quintessentially South Carolina things. Some might be obvious, some might surprise you, but completing them all will mean you're a well-rounded South Carolinian who has explored and enjoyed every part of our beautiful state.

1. Eat Fiske fries at the State Fair

Every fall, the South Carolina State Fair rolls into Columbia for two weeks of rides, games and food. And not just any food. Fried food, to be exact. While it's fun to try the fried candy bars, fried cookies and fried porkchops on a stick, you also must try the fried food that started it all: Thin, salty, piping hot Fiske Fries, a tradition at the fair since 1938.

2. Shag in Myrtle Beach

The Myrtle Beach area is home of the shag, South Carolina's state dance. Similar to the swing but with far more complex steps and a gliding, rolling feel, the shag originated at open-air beach parties along the Grand Strand in the 1930s and 40s. Dance, watch or do both where it all began. The National Shag Dance Championships are held every year in Myrtle Beach in March.

3. Scream your way down the tallest and fastest giga-roller coaster in the world

Maybe it's just an optical illusion, but it sure seems like you can see the curve of the earth from the top of the first hill on the Fury 325 at Carowinds. Straddling the South and North Carolina, and furiously flinging riders between the two states, the Fury 325 is an exhilarating experience no South Carolinian should miss.

4. See a concert at Spoleto Festival USA

One of the best and most famous arts festivals in the entire world is held right in downtown Charleston. The Spoleto Festival USA brings musicians, dancers, actors and artists, as well as arts lovers, from around the world to the elegant, languid beauty of Charleston.

5. Marvel at Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens

This is not just your typical holiday light display. It's a work of art itself, set in a spectacular sculpture garden, which itself is set in spectacular Murrells Inlet. Every Christmas season, thousands of hand-lit candles twinkle among the millions of LED lights festooning the spectacular gardens. It will take your breath away.

6. Go back in time at a battle re-enactment

South Carolina played a pivotal role in both the Civil and Revolutionary wars. History buffs from all over the country celebrate our important military history by re-enacting battles all over the state. Check out gatherings and the well-preserved battlefields at Ninety Six National Historic Site, Cowpens National Battlefield, the Battle of Aiken and Historic Camden Battlefield to name just a few.

7. Pick peaches (and berries and grapes and more)

Know which state produces more peaches than any other in the South? The honor doesn't go to our neighbor to the west. No, it's South Carolina. We also think we produce the very best peaches in the South, too. But that's just the beginning. South Carolina is an agricultural state, and we produce some of the best fruit anywhere. The Happy Berry Farm and Chattooga Belle Farm are just two of the spectacular places to embrace South Carolina's agricultural heritage and present. So do yourself a favor and spend a day picking fruit at one of the many gorgeous farms in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

8. See and be seen at a steeplechase

There just seems to be something so quintessentially South Carolinian about dressing up in your finest seersucker suit or linen dress and big hat, packing an elaborate picnic, and spending the afternoon drinking with friends on the grass in the sunshine while waiting to see horses leap over hedges at a steeplechase. Oh, did you miss the horses? Too enthralled in your gossip and pimento cheese sandwich? No worry. It's all part of the experience. The Colonial and Carolina Cup in Camden and the Imperial Cup and Holiday Cup in Aiken are the most fun steeplechases in the world, we think. Don't miss them.

9. Hear your ears ring at Darlington Raceway

Darlington Raceway, in the little town of Darlington, is home of NASCAR's Bojangles' Southern 500, a classic and beloved NASCAR race on Labor Day weekend. It's also a South Carolina tradition. You'll hear your ears ring for days after the excitement ends.

10. Reel in the big one

South Carolina has great fishing, from deep sea fishing off the coast to fly fishing in the streams of the Upstate. But some of the very finest fishing of all, with some of the biggest stripers and catfish you've seen, is to be found at the Santee Cooper Lakes. Spend a day or a week catching the big one you always dreamed of.

11. Walk the course during the Heritage

If there's a sport that South Carolinians love almost as much as college football, it has to be golf. We're not only the home of the first golf game in America, (in Charleston, in 1786, on Harleston's Green), we also have some of the most celebrated golf courses in the world among our almost 400 courses across the state. And we have the RBC Heritage: one of the most important and most beloved tournaments, every year on Hilton Head Island. At least once in your life, make the pilgrimage to walk the course while the world's greats play just a few feet away.

12. Go to a Clemson/USC football game

The bitter in-state rivalry between the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson University Tigers is filled with passion, pageantry, parties and, of course, football. The big game is always Thanksgiving weekend and switches location between the schools. Some people haven't missed a game in decades, and you have to go at least once to get your true-native status. Go early, tailgate with friends and get in the spirit. It's a true South Carolina thing.

13. Stand under a waterfall at Jocassee Gorges

Widely lauded as one of the last best untouched glories of nature, the hundreds of waterfalls that cascade from the Blue Ridge Escarpment and into Lake Jocassee are a sight that must be seen. And not just seen, but felt. Standing under a cool waterfall on a hot South Carolina day is something everyone who loves the Palmetto State should do. It's perfectly native.

Kerry Egan
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.