Ten Ways to Go Local in Greenville

As Katie Knorovsky pointed out in a feature she wrote for Traveler magazine, the citizens of Greenville, in the northwest corner of South Carolina, are working hard to make Greenville “the most beautiful and livable city in America.”

Here are ten ways to do like the locals do in this Southern belle: 

1. Greenville History Tours

Explore downtown on foot with local guidebook author John Nolan. The West End walking tour begins at Falls Park; Nolan recounts how the Cherokee and Catawba once hunted buffalo in this area, before it emerged as a leader in the textile industry.

2. Swamp Rabbit Trail

Hop on this paved trail at Falls Park and gradually climb to Travelers Rest, a nearby town. In downtown Greenville, Pedal Chic and Reedy Rides offer bike rentals.

3. Greenville County Museum of Art

Check out this free museum, which mounts a digestible collection of Jasper Johns prints, Andrew Wyeth watercolors, and a survey of notable southern works. Old-master Christian paintings more to your liking? The labyrinthine treasury at the Museum and Gallery at Bob Jones University rivals the Vatican.

4. Zentrum 

Famous Isetta "bubble car" from the B<W Museum (Photograph by Jessica Sample)
The Isetta “bubble car” at BMW’s Zentrum Museum (Photograph by Jessica Sample)

North America’s only BMW museum provides a free look at the German automotive giant’s heritage and the chance to admire rare rides, such as the famous Isetta “bubble car.” Note: Renovations are underway; call ahead to confirm opening hours.

5. Pomegranate on Main

Ask for a seat in the restaurant’s courtyard, where a blue-tile fountain bubbles next to diners sharing savory mezze (small plates) while slurping Persian black tea the traditional way: through sugar cubes.

6. Hotel Domestique

Geared toward bike lovers, Hotel Domestique carves out a piece of Tuscany in the rolling Blue Ridge foothills about 20 miles north of Greenville. The high-end hotel also attracts local cyclists, who refuel on French pastries and recovery shakes at its Restaurant 17. Front desk clerks print out cue sheets that break down area rides.

7. Artisphere

One of the country’s top juried annual arts fairs takes place May 13-15 in 2016. The show, which experienced record-breaking attendance numbers last year, highlights national and international talent in an open-air “Artist Row” in Greenville’s historic West End neighborhood, as well as provides local performing arts groups and galleries a prominent place.

Custom-made belts at Billiam (Photograph by Jessica Sample)
Custom-made belts at Billiam (Photograph by Jessica Sample)

8. Passerelle Bistro

Take in the sights while grabbing a bite at local favorite Passerelle Bistro. From the patio, enjoy the vista over Falls Park along with Niçoise salads and mussels.

9. Cocktails at American Grocery Restaurant 

Try the Manhattan made with “beer jam,” a sudsy syrup boiled with bourbon and cherry juice. A mite too strong for your palette? Sip on one of AGR’s housemate fountain sodas or shrubs.

10. Billiam Jeans

Owner Bill Mitchell crafts leather belts and custom jeans made from raw denim, donating 20 percent of profits to fight sex trafficking.

This piece appeared in the December/January 2015-16 issue of National Geographic Traveler to accompany a feature story, also by Katie Knorovsky, entitled “Going Greenville.”