There are thousands of good urban parks in America. And then there are a handful of great ones whose beauty makes them famous around the world, like Central Park or Golden Gate. Fall's Park in Greenville should absolutely be in that last category.
It's true that those other parks are much bigger, but what Fall's Park lacks in size, it more than makes up for in spectacle.
Let me explain: There is a huge waterfall -- waterfall! -- in the middle of this city park.
It's hard for me to say which is more spectacular: the Reedy River Falls that tumble down through the middle of the city, or the Liberty Bridge, a long, curving, pedestrian suspension bridge that floats over them. The bridge and falls are so mesmerizing that it took me a long time to even notice the park's wide sloping lawns and towering trees that lead down to a gentle river.
My children, as it always seems, were two steps ahead of me. While I was still staring openmouthed at the waterfall, they had discovered the little pools that form among the rocks at the base. They floated twig boats in the eddies and watched them crash, and cheered when they escaped. They had their socks off and their feet in the water before I could tell them not to.
When they bored of that game, they ran to the top of the grassy hill, where a dozen children were rolling down the lawn, screaming and laughing. None of them actually made it to the bottom before they tumbled in a heap to a stop. Then they ran back up to the top to try again. The children rolling by didn't seem to bother the dozens of groups of people picnicking on the grass.
The park is dotted with lovely old-fashioned porch swings. As soon as Mary Frances saw them, she wanted to swing in one, so we went off in search while Jimmy and his friend, Alex, found a grassy field open enough to play catch.
As we wandered along the paths that ramble through the park and along the river, we learned that the Liberty Bridge isn't the only way across the water in the park. There are several other lovely stone bridges. We loved walking on the big flat rocks on the riverbanks and looking at the huge tree whose roots are exposed on the sheered off hillside. We explored all the lovely little gardens and stone steps and sculpture in the park.
By the time we returned to the boys (never having found an open swing, but happily having forgotten about our mission in the first place, it seems) two other kids had joined in the game. It's a friendly little park.
And then we finally walked over Liberty Bridge itself. Because the bridge is cantilevered and curved, your instincts tell you it's an impossible structure. Mary Frances took three steps and didn't want to go any further. She waited until her brother proved the bridge would not collapse under us.
The view of the waterfall might be even more lovely from the bridge floating above it. I could have stood there all day, as the kids ran back and forth, trying to make the bridge bounce. You could do no better for a day in the park.
Fall's Park is located at 601 S. Main St., right in the heart of downtown Greenville.
Insider Tip: You can buy lunch to go from one of the wonderful restaurants on Main Street and make a picnic in the park.