South Carolina gets a bad rap. It doesn’t make the rankingsfor a good travel destination, and it seems like the only thing people know about it is Charleston. In a list of best states to live in, it only makes it to#41. Better than the state I grew up in, Mississippi, which hit the bottom at number 50. Still, South Carolina isn’t looking too good.
I want to change that.
So I set out to tell you why I love my home state and ten reasons why you should too.
- Lizard’s Thicket
Several Locations Throughout SC
Photo credit: lizardsthicket.com
Country cooking is the best. And no one does it better than Lizard’s Thicket. Big hearty breakfasts feature farm fresh eggs, a homemade biscuit or slice of toast with a side of grits, hashbrowns, country skillet apples or sliced tomatoes. For lunch and dinner, you can expect all kinds of fried meats, like pork chops, fried chicken, country fried steak, and fried flounder or catfish, along with veggie sides like collards, green beans, cabbage, yams, or macaroni and cheese (yes: this is the South and therefore, mac and cheese is a vegetable).
Their tagline “Y’all come!” embodies the Southern charm and hospitality you can expect when walking in its doors. The atmosphere of a Lizard’s Thicket restaurant is laid-back, comfortable, and undeniably country. If you want a place that feels like a home away from home, look no further than Lizard’s Thicket.
- Pawley’s Island
Along the coast south of Myrtle Beach and north of Charleston
Pawley’s Island is a lesser known gem along South Carolina’s coast. I’ve yet to meet someone outside of South Carolina who has heard of it, and even many people in my current town, Columbia, have not. You know what that means? It doesn’t have flocks of people. Sure, in the summer, there is traffic. It is a beach after all. But as long as you’re not going up to Myrtle Beach, you won’t have a problem. Take a walk through Brookgreen Gardens, wander about The Hammock Shops of Pawleys Island, and of course, relax on the sandy, sunny beach. When you get hungry, stop by Bisqit for a quick bite and ask a local about the story of the Grey Man.
- Spartanburg’s Light Bulbs Public Art
Photo credit: Spartanburgchamber.com
Lighten Up Spartanburg, a public art project in Spartanburg, SC, gives a unique and quirky sense of fun to an already delightful South Carolina town. As you drive around the city, you’ll see lightbulbs placed about: by houses, in front of buildings, and in the middle of walkways. Every light bulb has an intriguing design, and each a talking piece in their own right. One is covered in shocking blue geometric squares, another designed to resemble a hot air balloon, and a simple white one with nerdy glasses. Take a trip around and see if you can find all of them. When you’re done, get out and stretch your legs at one of their parks, before stopping by the Art Museum to learn all there is to know about the light bulb project.
- Riverbanks Zoo
Photo credit: Rebekah Olson
Riverbanks Zoo is home to over 2,000 animals, ranging from otters and sea lions to Komodo dragons and wallabies. Riverbanks also has a birdhouse (and a place where you can feed the lorikeets), a reptile room, and miniature farm. The Endangered Species Carousel, Scale the Wild Adventures Rock Wall, and zip lines are just a few of their other attractions. Not a fan of looking at animals? Don’t worry, there’s also a botanical garden (and if you’re worried about the animals, Riverbanks has a large emphasis on animal care).
- Joe Riley Waterfront Park
This was one of my favorite places to go as a kid. Whenever we went on vacation to the beach, Charleston was one of the stops. There is a lot to do in Charleston, but this is not one you’ll see on most travel guides. Yes, the Battery is beautiful; the City Market is fun and entertaining (there are also a couple of great candy shops nearby); Rainbow Row is nice. But if you haven’t been on a Charleston swing, have you even been to Charleston?
Joking aside, the swings at Joe Riley Waterfront Park are a pleasant, relaxing destination next time you head here. The boardwalk features several swings, and you can walk to the end and watch the boats sail by in the harbor. If you look out over the water, you can even catch a glimpse of Fort Sumter on a clear day. You might have to wait a bit for a swing to be available, but there are benches, and a fountain for your kids to play in. Stop by the Pineapple Fountain just nearby before you head to your next Charleston destination.
Photo credit: visitsummerville.com “The birthplace of sweet tea and Southern hospitality.” That’s the tagline of Summerville, the cutest little Southern town you can get. Less than forty minutes from Charleston, Summerville boasts over a hundred dining options, a vibrant town square, and a giant sweet tea mason jar. I’m not even kidding. Summerville is a wonderful place to wander, especially along the Walking Trail of Homes and Flowers. Explore the sites like the Summerville Farmer’s Market and Colonial Dorchester. So come and experience Southern charm like nowhere else, in Summerville, South Carolina.
- Historic, Downtown Georgetown
Photo credit: Rebekah Olson “A Character City.” Those are the words presented on Georgetown’s water tower. And it’s definitely nothing short of that. There’s the Rice Museum, where you can learn about the history of Georgetown. And also the Kaminski House Museum, where you can find a rich collection of history. Walk along the Georgetown Boardwalk and you can see boats in the waterway, and the steel mill across it. When you get hungry, there are several restaurants along the walk or drive a few minutes to get to Ball and Que for some good eats.
- Disc Golf Courses
Chapin, Columbia, and other places in SC
Disc golf: the only sport my family loved to play (and was actually good at). This is the perfect group game, so bring your family and friends. Any age can play: it’s easy to learn and improve in. If you want a challenge, check out the Winthrop Gold course, where the United States Disc Golf Championship was held last year. The disc golf course at Crooked Creek Park in Chapin is a great option, as well as Earlewood in downtown Columbia; its course pars are achievable even for a beginner.
- Saluda Dam
Lexington county, SC
Photo credit: wikipedia.com
Bring a camera and your sweetheart: Saluda Dam (aka Dreher Shoals Dam) has beautiful, romantic sunsets and a nice walkway lining the side. It’s one of the biggest earthen dams in the world, next to the world’s largest man-made lake, Lake Murray. It’s almost 8,000 feet long, and a breathtaking specimen to behold. When you’re done admiring the view, take a trip down to Lake Murray’s Public Park, where there are picnic tables, swimming areas, and bathrooms. Bring your pets too!
- Rock Hill ChristmasVille
Rock Hill, SC
Photo credit: christmasvillerockhill.com
Rock Hill is a growing South Carolina city, and it’s no wonder. There’s plenty to do here, and one of the best ways to spend your time is the ChristmasVille event. Come spend your holidays in Old Town Rock Hill, which you’ll get to see transformed into a holiday village like it just fell out of a storybook. The Festival has over 70 events featured and lasts for about a week. You won’t be bored between the carolers, art, and contests (including a gingerbread house contest!), and with plenty of food and gift market vendors, there will be lots to see, hear, taste as well as gifts to buy to remember the fun.South Carolina is my home. It’s where a lot of my family is, where I have a lot of memories and the place that I’ve met the best of friends. I know I probably won’t live in it forever, but these are ten reasons I will always come back.Special thanks to Rebekah Olson for providing some of the photos in this post. Check out her website and Facebook page!