Rock Hill got its name from the rock that was cut through to complete the Charlotte-Columbia rail line. One of the area's biggest attractions is the Carowinds amusement park with its Fury 325 - a 30-story thrill ride that reaches speeds of 95 mph and boasts a nearly vertical (81 degrees) drop. The coaster's frenetic movements are designed to mimic a hornet in flight, paying homage to the region's past when a British general referred to it as a "hornet's nest" because of the tenacity of fighters here during the American Revolution.
About 30 minutes south of Charlotte and an hour north of the state capital, Rock Hill anchors what is known as the "Olde English District" in South Carolina. It is the site of several Revolutionary War battles and the Catawba Nation, South Carolina's only federally recognized Indian tribe.
Rock Hill also is home to Winthrop University and the state's only telephone museum, owned and operated by the independent company that still provides phone service to the city. Our tour of Rock Hill begins here.
Museums and Gardens
Comporium Telephone Museum highlights the changes in communications since Rock Hill Telephone began in 1894. Visitors will enjoy a brief video of the company's history and the opportunity to operate an old school switchboard. The free museum is open 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Next up is the Museum of York County, which showcases the natural history of the Carolina Piedmont and its place in the world. The Naturalist Center has more than 2,000 natural history specimens. Other attractions include the Settlemyre Planetarium and the Vernon Grant Gallery, featuring the work of the illustrator who gained fame as the creator of the "Snap, Crackle and Pop" cereal characters. Grant's influence in his second home of Rock Hill can be seen in the Main Street Children's Museum and Rock Hill's "ChristmasVille" festival.
During your visit, you'll also want to take a tour of the 1839 White Home. For five generations, the historic home served as the residence of the White family, who helped get Rock Hill its stop on the railroad line.
Be sure to take the time to stroll through the magnificent Glencairn Garden. A favorite photography location for locals, this 11-acre garden includes fountains and ponds, boardwalks and a performance area.
Dining and Lodging
A great place to stay is the East Main Guest House, a renovated turn-of-the-century B&B with three guest rooms (two of them with fireplaces) and a separate one-bedroom carriage house. The charming accommodations are walking distance from all downtown attractions and restaurants.
For lunch, try The Flipside Restaurant, located in Rock Hill's historic downtown. Run by former South Carolina Chef Ambassador Amy Fortes and her husband John, this hot little dining spot features burgers, sandwiches, charcuterie boards and the famed "Amy's Pimento Cheese," served as an appetizer with crispy fried pretzels.
Make a reservation for dinner at the The Pump House, overlooking the Catawba River. A favorite foodie destination, the former industrial pump house-turned refined tablecloth restaurant features a locally sourced Southern-inspired chophouse menu, hand-crafted signature cocktails and a Wine Spectator wine list. When you book your reservation, ask for seating on the patio where you can enjoy views of the picturesque river.
Other Things To Do
On your way out of town, stop at The Peach Tree Orchard where you can get the best of seasonal produce -- peaches and nectarines in the summer, pumpkins and apples in the fall, and Christmas trees in December.
For those with more time to spend in Rock Hill, a few places just outside the city are worth investigating.
Historic Brattonsville, with two house museums and other buildings from Colonial, Revolutionary and pre-Civil War eras, was the site of several key Revolutionary War battles and was a major shooting location for the film "The Patriot." Revolutionary War reenactors and other living history programs provide visitors with a glimpse into the area's past, including the stories of African-Americans living on the plantation in the mid-1800s.
The Catawba Nation reservation features walking trails along the scenic Catawba River, as well as a cultural center and store where you can buy distinctive Catawba pottery and other items.
For Thrill Seekers
For a big thrill, mount up for a run on the Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track. This BMX training facility is open to the general public with both an amateur and an elite supercross start hill as well as a pump track. Programs are offered for all ages and skill levels and events with professional riders are held regularly.
Or, for a gentler adventure, Eagles Wings hot air balloon rides gives you a bird's-eye view of the whole beautiful area. You can see the Charlotte skyline, Kings Mountain and the beautiful landscape of rural York County. Eagles Wings "flies" year-round.
Of course, the ultimate thrill in Rock Hill is Carowinds. Spread out over nearly 400 acres, it features shows, attractions and rides, including 13 major roller coasters like the Fury 325 and the Intimidator. Kids of all ages love Planet Snoopy, dedicated to Charles Schulz's beloved beagle. And on a hot day, you can't beat Carolina Harbor Waterpark with its wave pools and giant water slides, including Boogie Board Racer, the longest mat-racing slide in the Southeast.