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Charming Historic Districts Make These Small Towns Must-See

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Get in a Bluffton "State of Mind" at the Bluffton Farmer's Market.

The quintessential Southern small town is making a comeback in South Carolina. Across the state, from the mountains to the coast, you’ll find historic downtowns with all the classic charms of old times— only now, the colorful vintage buildings that once housed the general store, neighborhood bank and soda shop have been transformed into trendy boutiques, upscale art galleries and foodie-centered restaurants.

Savvy travelers are discovering these hidden city gems—often just a short drive from more popular vacation destinations—are the perfect place to experience the culture, cuisine and famed hospitality so distinctive to the South. 

Here are nine must-see small towns in South Carolina:

 

Charming Mountain Towns

Landrum
With the Blue Ridge Mountains and picturesque horse farms as a backdrop, Landrum’s downtown offers an attractive setting to slow down, browse through antique stores and enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner at an outdoor cafe.

Where to Stay: The Red Horse Inn or Barking Fox Farm

Where to Eat: Southside Smokehouse, The Hare and Hound or Stone Soup Market & Cafe 

Must-see Attraction: Campbell’s Covered Bridge

 

Walhalla
It’s a pleasure to walk down Main Street in this little mountain town and pop into its many one-of-a-kind shops and friendly restaurants. The historic downtown district also includes a number of museums and historic churches.

Where to Stay: The Majestic Treehouse or Lofts Over Main

Where to Eat: Dakota GrillWalhalla Steak House or Mountain Mocha

Must-see Attraction: Stumphouse Park, including Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls

 

Pendleton
Small as it is at 3.8 square miles, Pendleton lays claim to one of the largest historic districts in the nation. The Village Green was laid out in 1790 and stands virtually unchanged today. Within the town are more than 50 buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Where to Stay: Liberty Hall 

Where to Eat: 1826 BistroBlue Heron Restaurant or The Village Bakery & Cafe 

Must-see Attraction: Ashtabula and Woodburn historic homes

 

Explore the Midlands

Edgefield
The village green in this “Home of 10 Governors” remains much as it was when the town was established 230 years ago. Lining the Courthouse Square are an array of restored historic buildings, among them the impressive Edgefield County Courthouse. The town is also known for a unique, 200-year-old style of stoneware still being produced today.

Where to Stay: Magnolia Shadows Bed and Breakfast

Where to Eat: Park Row MarketOld Edgefield Grille or Edgefield Pool Room

Must-see Attraction: Phoenix Factory’s Old Edgefield Pottery

 

Abbeville
The brick streets and “Rainbow Row” of colorful historic buildings in the town square are part of the appeal of Abbeville. Among the most notable structures in its National Historic District are the Abbeville Opera House and the Old Bank Building that now serves as the Visitor Center.

Where to Stay: The Belmont Inn or Veranda on Main

Where to Eat: The Village Grill, Rough House or Talk of the Town

Must-see Attractions: Abbeville Opera House 

 

Lake City
Home of the nationally renowned ArtFields festival, this little city has developed an exciting arts scene with art murals, art installations and galleries galore. You’ll find a rundown on all the artsy spots here

Where to Stay: The Inn at the Crossroads or Olive’s Bed & Breakfast

Where to Eat: Lake City Bistro, Baker’s Sweets Bistro & Bakery or Slabs

Must-see Attraction: Moore Farms Botanical Garden

 

Vibrant Coastal Towns

Georgetown
The third oldest city in South Carolina is as vibrant as ever with a scenic four-block-long boardwalk overlooking the Sampit River and a historic district boasting more than 50 homes, buildings and sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

Where to Stay: Mansfield Plantation or 620 Prince

Where to Eat: The River RoomRoot or Thomas Café 

Must-see Attraction: Hobcaw Barony

 

Summerville
Although its proximity to Charleston has led to dramatic growth of its suburbs in recent years, Summerville has preserved its charming historic district and the many beautiful gardens and woodlands that earned it the nickname “Flowertown.”

Where to Stay: The Inn at Woodlands Mansion or Flowertown Bed & Breakfast

Where to Eat: Eclectic ChefShuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar or Oscar’s

Must-See Attraction: Sweet Tea Trail

 

Bluffton
Across the Intracoastal Waterway from Hilton Head Island, Bluffton has come into its own with a growing number of acclaimed restaurants and shopping areas. But it’s Old Town Bluffton—the 1-square-mile National Historic District—and the funky, free-spirited attitude of the Bluffton “State of Mind” that makes this artsy riverside village a place you need to experience.

Where to Stay: Old Town Bluffton Inn or Montage Palmetto Bluff

Where to Eat: FARMBluffton Oyster Co. or The Cottage Café and Bakery

Must-See Attraction: Calhoun Street Arts District 

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.