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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.