City Portrait

Greenville: What to Do

Indoors and out, by foot or by bike, Greenville is full of surprises

photo: Andrew Stephen Cebulka

Biking at Falls Park.

Where to Sleep

Hampton Inn & Suites at RiverPlace
The boutique hotel craze has yet to hit Greenville, but the Hampton Inn makes a more-than-adequate substitute, with comfortably appointed rooms and a friendly staff, and it’s an easy walk from downtown attractions. Request a studio suite with a balcony for killer views of the Reedy River. 171 RiverPlace;

Westin Poinsett
For years, the Upstate’s only four-diamond hotel sat vacant. But it reopened in 2000 following a multimillion-dollar face-lift that restored it to its 1920s grandeur, right down to the ornate ballrooms and marbled lobby. Years later, it played host to then-candidate Barack Obama. 120 S. Main St.;


Where to Shop

The Community Tap
Greenville transplants Ed Buffington and Mike Okupinski were just a couple of enthusiastic beer drinkers before chucking their nine-to-fives to open this boutique beer and wine emporium. Although their initial focus was American craft beer (they carry more than 300 labels), after a visit from California vintner Dan Donahoe, the duo became unlikely national trendsetters with the first retail space in the country to offer wine by the growler. 205 Wade Hampton Blvd.;

photo: Andrew Stephen Cebulka

Horizon Records keeps it old-school.

Horizon Records
Say you’re looking for “Cissy Strut” by the iconic New Orleans funk band the Meters on vinyl. Chances are Gene Berger has it. Berger opened his independent record shop in 1975, and even in the era of digital music he has managed to thrive, thanks to a carefully curated inventory and the kind of personal attention you don’t find on iTunes. There’s even a classical room, and for serious crate diggers, the Vinyl Vault (housed in unused office space) is the place to uncover all kinds of obscure gems.
2A W. Stone Ave.;

Littered with paint cans, sanding blocks, brushes, bits of hardware, and colorful furniture in various stages of completion, Barb Blair’s design studio has orders pouring in from across the country. Blair rescues furniture destined for the trash heap and gives the vintage pieces sleek modern makeovers. Schedule an appointment to commission a custom creation, or browse her inventory locally at Antiques on Augusta. 1288 Pendleton St.;

Pedal Chic
Greenville is known as a bicycling town (it’s home to the USA Cycling Pro Championships), so no surprise it has more than a few great bike shops. But Pedal Chic is the only female-focused bike boutique in the Southeast. Owner Robin Bylenga stocks athletic apparel you won’t find in big-box stores and high-end bicycle brands like the Britain-based Pashley—the Bentley of bikes. And yes, she’s got models for guys, too. 651B S. Main St.;

Pendleton Street Arts District
A relic from the city’s textile past, this four-block district in West Greenville was once a crumbling mill village. It’s now home to more than thirty local artists and a slew of galleries. Sculptors, painters, photographers, and potters fill formerly vacant storefronts, where you can pick up everything from wearable works of art from Lily Pottery (think one-of-a-kind ceramic rings, pendants, and earrings) to vivid acrylics by painter Dabney Mahanes.

Rush Wilson Ltd.
This family-run menswear shop has outfitted four generations of well-dressed Greenville businessmen, and its old-school customer service hasn’t changed a lick. The shop still does in-home and in-office fittings for custom suits and shirts, and stocks local brands like Southern Tide and F. A. MacCluer, the 155-year-old shirt company headquartered in nearby Belton. 23 W. North St.;

photo: Andrew Stephen Cebulka

The Saturday Market.

Saturday Market
From May through October, neat rows of white tents overflowing with seasonal bounty line Main Street on Saturday mornings. Devotees arrive early to ensure their favorite vendors don’t sell out. But the market is more than a one-stop shop for farm-fresh fruits and veggies. Shoppers swap recipes, exchange gardening tips, and take in cooking demos by local chefs.

What to See & Do

BMW Performance Driving School
This isn’t some glorified car lot. At BMW’s North American manufacturing headquarters, just outside Greenville, you can channel your inner NASCAR driver and hit the track. Learn to slalom, drift, and brake from racing pros, and you don’t even have to own a BMW to sign up. Did we mention you get to drive really fast? 1155 Hwy. 101 S., Greer;

Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery
A small fundamentalist Christian university in the foothills of South Carolina may not exactly be where you’d expect to find one of the country’s preeminent collections of European Old Master paintings. But from the late 1940s to the early ’80s, the museum’s founder, Bob Jones, Jr., traveled the globe amassing a collection of more than 400 works by artists such as Rubens, Botticelli, and Tintoretto. 1700 Wade Hampton Blvd.;

Falls Park on the Reedy River
Not many cities can claim a natural fifty-foot waterfall smack in the middle of downtown, but less than a decade ago many residents didn’t even know it existed. A push to remove the eyesore of a bridge that obscured the falls and clean up the surrounding green space became a symbol for downtown Greenville’s revival. Today, the resulting park is an outdoor gym, a picnic spot, an open-air performance venue, an art studio, and a point of pride for locals. Stroll the new Liberty Bridge, the only single-suspension bridge in the United States, for unbeatable views of the falls. 601 S. Main St.;

photo: Andrew Stephen Cebulka

Live music is always on tap at the Handlebar.

The Handlebar
Musically, Greenville has a way to go before rivaling nearby meccas Athens and Asheville, but you wouldn’t know it at the Handlebar. Housed in a revamped auto-body shop on the edge of downtown, the intimate venue has developed a reputation as an incubator for bands on the brink. National acts such as Sugarland and the Zac Brown Band played here just before making it big. 304 E. Stone Ave.;

photo: Andrew Stephen Cebulka

Inside the Peace Center.

The Peace Center
Since its first curtain call in 1990, the Peace Center has anchored downtown’s revitalization. The theater regularly pulls in first-run Broadway shows, and as a testament to Greenville’s dynamic arts community, programmers aren’t afraid to take a few risks. Last year, the controversial coming-of-age musical Spring Awakening debuted to a packed house. 300 S. Main St.;

Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail
Get outside and experience Greenville like a native—on a bike. The Swamp Rabbit is a brand-new 13.5-mile biking/walking trail that follows the Reedy River from downtown to Travelers Rest. The terrain is fairly mild, but newbies can check out Reedy Rides for guided tours. At the end of the trail, refuel and talk shop with other bikers on the deck at the Café @ Williams Hardware Store.