Spartanburg, South Carolina

If Greenville isn’t enough for the wannabe Carolinian in you, Spartanburg offers a grittier addendum to your Palmetto State getaway. While not as refined or tourist-friendly as Greenville, Sparkle City offers some rewarding attractions…just don’t find yourself on the wrong side of town. The clock tower at Morgan Square is a good starting point for any trekker looking to explore Spartanburg from the inside out.

Population: 40k in the city limits, 260k in the surround metropolitan area

Climate: Comfortable. Four seasons are distinct, but weather extremes are rare.

Business: Milliken, Denny’s, Advance America, and Extended Stay Hotels all have headquarters in Spartanburg. BMW and its suppliers also play a major role in the local economy. Colleges are major employers with the University of South Carolina-Upstate, Wofford College, and Converse College all having campuses in Spartanburg.

How to Get There: Only 30 minutes by car from Greenville, Spartanburg lies between Charlotte and Atlanta, with I-85 connecting. It is also accessible from I-26 from Columbia or Asheville. By plane, GSP International is the closest airport.

Where to Stay:

  • Marriott Spartanburg at Renaissance Park – Although not the flashiest, the Spartanburg Marriott on Church St. is in the heart of the blossoming downtown area and only a stones throw from Morgan Square and all its happenings.  Rates start at $115. Take a photo tour and check out the highlights.
  • Inn on Main of Spartanburg – A grand home built in 1904, the Inn on Main offers six unique rooms and a full, hot, Southern breakfast each morning. Right on Main, trekkers are only a short walk from bars, restaurants and shopping. Rates start at $95 per night.

Cheap accommodations are definitely available–they just might not have the character or location that the downtown Marriott or Inn on Main might have. Unless you’re planning to visit during a special event, however, you might want to just forgo an overnight stay and just make it a day trek.

What to Do:

  • Music on Main – Every Thursday from April to August, Main St. and Denny’s Plaza transform into an outdoor concert venue for a variety of genres. A great way to spend a pleasant summer evening with friends or new acquaintances.
  • Carolina Panthers Training Camp – Every August, the Panthers take up residence at Wofford College, and it’s open to the public. Whether you’re a fan of the team or not, sometimes a football fix is necessary.
  • Lake Bowen – On a warm day, Lake Bowen is a great oasis for fishing, swimming, boating and picnicking. Spartanburg Water sponsors classes, tours, and other organized activities to acquaint you with the lake.
  • Walnut Grove Plantation This 1700s-era plantation is a worthwhile historical excursion for you trek crew. Located in Roebuck (just a few miles away) and situated on 550 acres of land, touring Walnut Grove allows Trekkers to step back in time and get a glimpse of life in the Revolutionary South.
  • Westgate Mall If you need to stock up on supplies, Westgate Mall probably has what you need. As one of the largest shopping centers in South Carolina, the shopper in you will enjoy strolling among the 120+ stores. I personally avoid malls at all cost (but somehow I always end up at one on Christmas Eve…), but sometimes you just need stuff.
  • Hollywild Animal Park – Located in Wellford, Hollywild is a fun time for the whole family. Guided safari rides and feeding areas let visitors get up close and personal with the critters. In December, the Holiday Lights Safari combines millions of lights with a driving tour of the park. Santa has even been known to make an appearance from time to time.
  • Miscellaneous – There are various activities throughout the year at the different outdoor locations (Red White and Boom at Barnet Park, concerts and family fun  Cleveland Park, etc.) You just have to check around before you hit the road.

Where to Dine:

  • The Beacon Every visitor to Spartanburg must eat at the Beacon. Beware–this deep fried drive-in is not for the faint of heart. Study the menu before getting in line, be prepared for shouting, and dont skimp on the sweet tea..or the Tums. I recommend the Chili Cheese A-Plenty.
  • Lime Leaf – This very reasonably priced, stylish Thai restaurant might come as a surprise to people visiting Spartanburg for the first time. All of your favorites, including some with a spicy kick are available in a very comfortable, relaxed setting. Located right downtown and perfect before a night out on the town.
  • Wade’s – Open since 1947, Wade’s is a Spartanburg favorite specializing in “Southern cooked meats and vegetables.” Definitely a good value for the hungry trekker.
  • The Tap Room at RJ Rockers – OK, so this isn’t a restaurant, but RJ Rockers is worth mentioning. As Spartanburg’s only brewery of note, this quirky establishment offers a variety of craft brews that can’t get much fresher. If you’re staying downtown, drink up and stumble back to the hotel with no worries.

Sparkle city doesn’t always sparkle, but if you time it right, a little expedition off the beaten trail can be rewarding. Go with a good attitude and relaxed expectations, and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

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