Explore small towns with top-notch places to stay and eat while searching for hidden treasures in antique stores across the region. For this small-town antiquing adventure, make Seneca your home base and work your way out from there.
For your stay, try the Lowry House Inn, a craftsman-style home built by one of the former mayors of the town and walking distance to the great shopping and dining district in downtown. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designed by Rudolph Lee of Clemson University, which has a building in its architecture school named for him. The inn offers a full breakfast in the morning and for a break from antiquing, there is a lovely garden and lawn space for a croquet game.
Another nice place to stay is the Magnolia Manor Bed & Breakfast. This Greek Revival-style mansion specializes in weddings, so you might want to call early to be sure they have availability.
If you get to Seneca early enough on Thursday, you must check out Jazz on the Alley, held from 6:30-9 p.m. every Thursday on Ram Cat Alley (the main shopping and dining drag). For dinner, check out The Spot on the Alley, a laid-back restaurant offering pub fare and nightly entertainment, just minutes from the Lowry Inn.
Start your Friday with breakfast at the inn and get to the business of shopping with Arts off the Alley, an artist co-op offering unique works from local artists working in a wide range of media. When you turn the corner onto Ram Cat Alley, you will see a half-dozen shops, including Sensibly Chic, a florist shop with lots of knick-knacks, and the Red Door, filled with unique gifts and decorations. But the prize is M. Tannery & Sons, a huge store of antiques and oddities. You will find loads of furniture, china, housewares and things that are just plain odd. You can literally spend hours here.
You will probably get hungry inside M. Tannery & Sons as the smells waft from Circa 1930, a coffee house and restaurant that you can access from inside the store. Circa 1930 offers large sandwiches, including a homemade meatloaf sandwich, with a full selection of salads and soups.
After lunch, check out some fantastic antiques in their natural setting at the Lunney House Museum. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the home of Dr. W.J. and Lilian Mason Lunney. Museum director John Martin is a fantastic guide through his painstaking renovations of the Queen Anne-style bungalow and the story of the family who lived there.
For dinner, I suggest heading back to the town center to J Peters Grill & Bar, a locally owned chain of five restaurants along the Interstate 85 corridor created by Jonathan P. Angell. The menu includes his famous she-crab soup and prime rib dishes, as well as some new and fresh flavors. You honestly won't believe you are in a small town when you eat here. And since you are walking distance from your inn, you can enjoy Angell's signature cocktails and wine with dinner.
On Saturday, you will want to head east to the town of Easley. Starving Artist Café has been voted the best cafe and art gallery in the Upstate by readers of the Greenville News. Patch readers deemed it the best breakfast in Easley. Try the veggie quiche with fresh fruit, coffee and blueberry coffee cake.
Start your shopping in the artist portion of the café with wonderful stained glass pieces, then stroll over to the Easley Farmers Market next door, where more than a dozen vendors come out selling everything from peaches to handmade cane chairs. After the farmers market, antique stores, specialty shops and restaurants line the streets of this quaint town while the railroad travels down the center of the business district.
Mountain View Antiques is a huge old house filled - and I mean filled - with antiques from a variety of eras. It's so packed with goodies that they ask you to leave your bags (including your purse) in your car or make use of their free lockers at the front of the store to help minimize accidental breakage. Other shopping on Main Street includes consignment shop That's Karma, Poor Richard's Books and For What It's Worth.
For lunch, head to Rainbow Billiards, which claims the best burgers in Easley. The longtime pool hall offers a dozen professional-sized tables in the back and great food in the front. While you're there, play a game or two.
If you have had enough shopping, now would be the time to see the area's great outdoors at the Saluda River Yacht Club. You can go tubing or kayaking on the river with a free ride to the input area and a snack bar at the takeout area. If that's too much activity for you, simply enjoy some time outdoors and take in river views.
Either way, I recommend returning to your inn afterward and refreshing for dinner at Lighthouse Keowee Restaurant, with a healthy offering of seafood dishes as well as beef and a few unique touches (for example, Korean beef riblets for an appetizer). Reservations are recommended.
If you're not wiped out by Sunday, you have one more small town to visit. Walhalla, which translates to garden of the gods, was founded by German immigrants in the 1850s. I would recommend breakfast at the inn, because there are few locally owned places open in Walhalla on Sunday.
Walhalla is an antiquer's paradise. Warther's Originals gets so full of consignment pieces that they hold weekly auctions. The first weekend of each month is the Saturday night "quality antiques" auction. On the fourth weekend of the month is a Sunday afternoon general merchandise auction. Check out a more detailed schedule here. If auctions are not your thing, you can always simply browse the merchandise.
For lunch on Sunday, there really is only one option: The Steak House Cafeteria, which has been an institution here since the 1940s and owned by the same family since the 1970s. Fried chicken and coconut cream pie are the specialties.
If you still have time and energy after lunch, there is plenty more shopping on Main Street before heading home.