Greenville, South Carolina, and its surrounding areas enjoy a wide variety of attractions for families, from parks and a zoo to one of the nation's top children's museums. Of course, other cities have fun family-oriented things to see, too.
But no other city has "Mice On Main," which combines local sculptures, an illustrated children's book and a popular scavenger hunt for all ages in downtown Greenville.
Nine bronze mice, created by Greenville sculptor Zan Wells and based on a popular children's book, "Goodnight Moon," are located along Main Street. The website offers a printable list of "hints" to find them, and the hunt begins with a bronzed sculpture of the book and the first mouse mounted on the Hyatt Regency hotel's outdoor fountain on North Main.
The idea of Mice On Main began in 2000 when Jim Ryan, a student at Greenville's Christ Church Episcopal School who had read "Goodnight Moon" with his mother as a youngster, proposed as a senior project installing the nine mice in "surprising places" along a stretch from the Hyatt Regency Hotel to the Westin Poinsett Hotel.
Then one day in 2007, a local woman, Linda Kelly, and her granddaughter, Sara, were hunting for the mice. Sara asked if there was a book about Greenville's mice and encouraged her grandmother to write it. Kelly, Wells and Ryan collaborated on "Mice On Main," and Wells illustrated the book. Copies are available at Mast General Store and other downtown outlets.
For families looking for relaxation after a "mice hunt," Falls Park on the Reedy River is an in-city garden spot, part of a $13.4 million project that almost single-handedly made downtown a center of tourism. The primary attractions are the Reedy River, which spills over rock formations as it flows through the park, and the Liberty Bridge, a 355-foot, cantilevered pedestrian bridge overlooking a 62-foot waterfall and landscaped gardens. The park has guided tours and two on-site restaurants, and is close to the West End District's shopping and dining.
Another kids-specific site is The Children's Museum of the Upstate, at 300 College St. on the downtown Heritage Green campus. With three floors and more than 80,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, the museum is the seventh-largest children's museum in the U.S. and 10th-largest in the world - a treat for the entire family.
If the kids and/or the parents are baseball fans, Fluor Field in the West End is home to Class A minor league baseball's Greenville Drive. Even if it's not baseball season, the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum is located near the ballpark in the former home of the legendary Greenville native, who was part of the Black Sox Scandal in the early 1900s. Exhibits focus on Jackson's career, and admission is free.
The Greenville Zoo, built in 1960, is a short walk from Main Street in Cleveland Park and has 25 exhibit areas with more than 80 species of animals - from bears, deer and bobcats to monkeys, giraffes, lions, orangutans and even red pandas - spread over the 14-acre site. The zoo includes a reptile house and a farm exhibit, and it is open seven days a week.
If families are tired of walking, there's Downtown Trolley, which offers free transportation on 35-seat, wheelchair-accessible trolleys built to look like old-fashioned trains, complete with cowcatchers. Trolleys operate Thursday-Sunday, with special routes to the Children's Museum of the Upstate, and also shuttle fans to Fluor Field during baseball season. For the more adventurous, there's Greenville Glides Segway Tours, covering the downtown district, nearby parks and even Falls Park.
Some sights require leaving downtown, such as the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 17.5-mile, multi-use trail system running along the Reedy River and connecting downtown with the nearby Travelers Rest community. And the nearby Roper Mountain Science Center contains the largest planetarium in South Carolina and the U.S.'s eighth-largest refractor telescope.
Other attractions include the Happy Cow Creamery in Pelzer, a working dairy farm offering tours and dairy products (including most excellent chocolate milk), and the Miniature World of Trains in Taylors, with one of the nation's largest displays of HO-scale train models. In the summer, three city-run water parks - Discovery Island, Otter Creek and 7th Inning Splash - help families beat the heat.