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Park the car and enjoy downtown Greenville

Megan Sexton Megan Sexton
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Falls Park on the Reedy is a breathtaking backdrop for a family picnic.

Before arriving in South Carolina's Upstate for a weekend earlier this year, I wondered if there would be enough to do to fill two days and nights on foot in Greenville.

I shouldn't have been concerned. Turns out, we had a weekend jam-packed with visits to museums, parks, a minor league baseball stadium, a downtown farmer's market and excellent restaurants.

We never got in the car -- although we did hop on a free trolley that circles around the downtown area, offering a great overview of the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Fountains enhance the look along Main Street in Greenville's Peace Center.

But mostly we walked -- along with lots of other people. One of the first things that struck us about downtown is the thriving street life of the business district. From the time we arrived Friday afternoon (when there was a concert going on outside the Hyatt, where we were staying) until we left on Sunday, the streets were alive with people walking, shopping, eating, listening to music and enjoying being downtown.

Greenville has gone through a transformation in the past decade or two, moving from a sedate Upstate town known for its textile mills to a bustling city with recreational and cultural opportunities, excellent restaurants and more of an international feel. It was more than enough to fill a weekend; when we left we were already planning another visit.

Here is what's at the top of our family's must-do list for a weekend trip:

Falls Park on the Reedy

With its iconic Liberty Bridge, Falls Park on the Reedy is the centerpiece of downtown Greenville.

This oasis in Greenville's Historic West End is a focal point of downtown. It's the perfect spot for a picnic, a chance to listen to music (or the roar of the waterfalls), toss a football, or marvel at the Liberty Bridge, the 345-foot long, 12-foot wide curved pedestrian bridge that is supported by a single suspension cable.

 

The Children's Museum of the Upstate

Children can shop in a miniature grocery store, aka the Baby Bi-Lo, at the Children's Museum of the Upstate.

Just a few blocks off Main Street, you'll find the seventh largest children's museum in the country (and one of the best).

The museum is geared toward kids ages 6 to 11, but there are specialized exhibits for a younger audience, and plenty of areas where teens can have fun, too.

While you're there, don't miss the kaleidoscope climber. (Well, you can't miss it. The multi-story structure in the center of the museum offers kids the chance to climb, crawl and slide -- and see the world from a different perspective). The TV studio also is popular, along with the BiLo Market for younger kids.

 

Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library

The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum is a favorite with baseball fans.

If you have a baseball fan in the family, it's worth a stop at the museum dedicated to Greenville native Joe Jackson, one of history's greatest ballplayers, who was banned from the game after the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal. Jackson and several of his Chicago White Sox teammates were accused of throwing the World Series, although Jackson always maintained his innocence.

The museum, which features some remarkable baseball memorabilia, is located in the house where Jackson lived and died. It's open every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., and other times by appointment.

 

Fluor Field

A perfect evening for Greenville Drive baseball at Fluor Field in the West End.

If your visit is in the summer, wander across the street from the museum to Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive minor league baseball team. The park, which is built to resemble Boston's Fenway, is a perfect spot for a family outing. Don't miss the children's play area down the left field line.

 

Eating and Shopping

Buy your favorite old-time candies at the Mast General Store on Main Street.

here are more than 75 restaurants in the Main Street area, along with plenty of shops to check out. A favorite eatery of ours was Smoke on the Water, a Southern themed restaurant that specializes in comfort food. Tops for our kids were the pulled pork, ribs and macaroni and cheese. The restaurant offers a variety of barbecue sauces, so you can choose your favorite.

Kids will also enjoy getting an ice cream at Marble Slab Creamery and a bag of old-time candy (sold by the pound) at Mast General Store. Also popular with kids is O.P. Taylor's Toy Store -- "the coolest toy store on the planet."

If your visit is in the fall, plan your trip around Euphoria, a four-day food, wine and music festival held downtown. The festival is for adults only, but if you have someone to watch the kids, it would be a nice break. 

 

Public Art

Paradigm Pathway graces the entrance to one of the bridges over the Reedy River.

There are pieces of public art throughout downtown. One that caught our attention is the statue depicting students from the old Sterling High School, Greenville's first black public high school. The bronze artwork is at Main and Washington streets, the site of the old Woolworth building where Sterling students held sit-in and protests during the Civil Rights era. It's a beautiful statue (by sculptor Maria Kirby-Smith) and also offers the chance to start an important conversation with your kids.

 

Mice on Main

Look for the cute bronze mice along a nine-block stretch of Main St. in Greenville.

This mouse hunt is perfect for kids. Nine bronze mice sculptures are located at spots along Main Street, and kids can use the "Mice on Main" book or a set of clues to find each of them.

 

Megan Sexton
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.