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Driving with Darius: A South Carolina Road Trip

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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“Well, I ain’t gonna work today / Just wanna sit around and play / GONNA HIT balls off the dock / Kick back in my flip-flops” - Beers and Sunshine

When singer-songwriter Darius Rucker pays homage to a perfect day in his new song, “Beers and Sunshine,” he’s got South Carolina on his mind. But the music superstar also sees his home state as something more than just inspiration for his hit songs. It’s his ultimate happy place, and he wants it to be yours, too. From the mountains to the Midlands to the ocean, Rucker’s South Carolina is waiting to be explored and reveled in. So, put on your flip-flops (or hiking boots, riding boots, golf shoes, water shoes, tennis shoes…) and follow Rucker’s lead with these must-stop destinations across the Palmetto State.

“Beers and sunshine / Bonfires and summertime / Back porch nights in / South Carolina”

GREENVILLE: Outdoor adventures, an artsy vibe and creative culinary sojourns await you in this burgeoning city in the Blue Ridge foothills.

Stay in classic luxury at The Westin Poinsett, a AAA Four Diamond hotel. For impressive eats, dig into some tender barbecue at Smoke on the Water, or take it to the top—al fresco-style—with craft cocktails, small plates and sweeping city views at UP on the Roof. In September, celebrate the city’s culinary flair at the crowd-pleasing food, wine and music festival, euphoria.

Bask in the serenity of Falls Park on the Reedy River, a downtown treasure brimming with waterfalls, gardens, public art and the stunning Liberty Bridge—the only one of its kind in the nation. The craft beer scene is hot in Greenville, so a tour of its many award-winning breweries is a must for enthusiasts. Bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail and, on weekends, catch the TD Saturday Market, a downtown street party and farmers market with local produce, vendors and live entertainment.

Take a side trip to Travelers Rest to see Campbell’s Covered Bridge and walk MacGregor Orchard for autumn apples, fresh-pressed cider, local honey and, in summer, South Carolina peaches. Go early and have breakfast at Topsoil Kitchen & Market or lunch at Farmhouse Tacos, both featuring a farm-to-table concept and innovative dishes.

AIKEN & GREENWOOD: This historic equestrian town doesn’t horse around when it comes to natural beauty and good times.

Reserve a room at The Willcox, a grand hotel where history and modern luxury meet. Get settled, and then satisfy your hunger and thirst at the award-winning Aiken Brewing Company.

Meander the dreamy trails of Hitchcock Woods, one of the largest urban forests in the country. Hit the greens at The Aiken Golf Club, an award-winning course that’s been family owned for a century. In the spring, don your best hats or bowties for the annual Aiken Steeplechase—a tradition since 1930.

Explore nearby Greenwood County, where you can have a retro family outing at The 25 Drive In Movie Theater, featuring three screens and famous hand-pattied burgers. Boat, fish, swim, hike and see examples of classic Civilian Conservation Corps architecture at Lake Greenwood State Park. Visit the Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historic Preservation Site to learn about the legendary Morehouse College president who mentored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

COLUMBIA: Home to Darius Rucker’s alma mater, the University of South Carolina, the capital city is a high-energy hub of historical and cultural attractions, to-die-for dining, fine arts and entertainment.

Downtown digs don’t get any hipper than Hotel Trundle and its distinctly urban feel. Fill up on locally sourced provisions at Terra. Another culinary icon is Motor Supply Co. Bistro, a farm-to-fork favorite. For fresh, inventive Southern food—think tomato pie mac ‘n’ cheese and deviled eggs with fanciful toppings—stop by Spotted Salamander Cafe and Catering, helmed by 2019 South Carolina Chef Ambassador Jessica Shillato.

Delve deep into the city’s roots with an African American history tour from Historic Columbia. Experience the Main Street District, the locale of boutique bowling alley The Grand and the Columbia Museum of Art. On Saturdays, the street transforms into the Soda City Market with food vendors, live music, local produce and crafts. For outdoor adventure, kayak or tube the Broad, Saluda or Congaree rivers, or put in at nearby Lake Murray.

Take a short drive to Congaree National Park to view its towering champion trees and annual springtime synchronous firefly display. Head to Newberry and visit the Enoree River Vineyards & Winery for tastings and live music, or hike part of The Palmetto Trail, a 500-mile foot and bike trail through swamps, forests and small towns. Antique and specialty shops abound in the quaint downtown.

CHARLESTON: A scenic waterfront, historic preservation, world-class food scene, arts and culture, Lowcountry hospitality and romantic ambience are some of the reasons Darius Rucker’s home ranks as one of the top destinations in the country. 

For luxury in the European tradition, reserve a room at Hotel Bennett. Meanwhile, mid-century modern aficionados will fall hard for The Dewberry. Dine at nationally acclaimed restaurants like The Grocery and Husk Restaurant, leaders in the country’s farm-to-table movement. Lowcountry elegance is always on the menu at S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad), and get your fill of fresh oysters at Delaney Oyster House.

Take the wheel for an exciting tour of Charleston Harbor via speedboat, see the oldest landscaped gardens in the nation at Middleton Place, taste American-grown tea at Charleston Tea Garden—the nation’s only major tea farm—and let expert guides from Gullah Tours teach you about the rich culture and contributions of black Charlestonians.

Drive across the majestic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to the town of Mount Pleasant. Go to Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum to see the World War II aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown. Golfers will gravitate toward Charleston National Golf Club, one of the best non-resort, public golf courses around. Take the kids crabbing at Pickett Park or stroll the boardwalk at Shem Creek Park with its soothing marsh views and bevy of fresh-from-the-dock seafood restaurants.

MYRTLE BEACH: Sand, sun, surf and the annual Carolina Country Music Festival—these are a few of Darius Rucker’s favorite things about this legendary South Carolina beach town.

Relive the glory of the city’s early days with a stay at the Waikiki Village: A Retro Motel. For upscale resort-style accommodations, reserve an oceanfront room at the Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes. Campers will love the easy beach access at Myrtle Beach State Park. For fresh, flavorful seafood dishes, let 2018 SC Chef Ambassador, Heidi Vukov, reel you in at Hook & Barrel, or join the party at Margaritaville, a Jimmy Buffett-themed eatery at Broadway at the Beach.

No matter the time of year, fun is in season at Myrtle Beach. Stroll the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk & Promenade, brimming with arcades and gift shops like the Gay Dolphin—said to be the largest gift shop in the nation. Look out over the Atlantic Ocean from the 187-foot tall SkyWheel Myrtle Beach observation wheel. Take the kids to Family Kingdom Amusement Park, an old-fashioned park with a wooden coaster and oceanfront water park across the street. You’ll find prime shopping, dining and entertainment at The Market Common. Or simply soak up the sun to the sound of the waves for the ultimate beach day.

Drive to Murrells Inlet to shop fresh seafood markets, go crabbing or secure a spot on a deep-sea fishing excursion. Walk the halls of Atalaya, a Moorish Revival castle, and observe alligators at Huntington Beach State Park. Pencil in a few hours at Brookgreen Gardens, the widely acclaimed sculpture garden and wildlife preserve.

End your day at the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk, where the restaurants serve up the world’s freshest seafood, the music is live and the boat-watching, sublime. In fact, boating South Carolina’s waterways is one of Rucker’s ideas of a perfect day, so don’t be surprised if you see a familiar face cruising those marsh waters.

 

Featuring a variety of great stories and exciting trip ideas, the 2021 South Carolina Vacation Guide makes planning your next getaway to the Palmetto State easy. Request your free copy or download the guide today.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.