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An A-to-Z Tour of Greenville's Hidden Gem Attractions

So, here's a story from A to Z, you wanna play in Greenville, you gotta listen carefully...


Hundreds of national media mentions in recent years have put Greenville, SC in the esteemed company of the Southeast's top destinations, and many of those mentions highlight our greatest hits, like Falls Park on the Reedy River, the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, our award-winning Main Street or our abundance of outdoor adventure. Greenville is packed with lesser-known, perhaps overlooked things to see, do, and experience that deserve mention alongside our popular attractions, so come along as we bring some gems out of hiding and sometimes get a little weird, wacky, and wild along our alphabetical tour. Follow along on Instagram at @VisitGreenvilleSC, catch up below, and see #yeahTHATgreenville in a whole new way during your next stay!

                                                                                                                             
 

Jump to:    B - D       |      E-G      |      H-J      |      K-M      |      N-P      |      Q-S      |      T-V      |      W-Z


                                                                                                                             
 

A is for "Axe Throwing at Craft in Hampton Station"

The doors of Craft Axe Throwing were closed for some time during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now that they're back open, we'll sell you on a stop with the only thing you really need to know about spending time here: You get to throw axes!

No axe-throwing experience is required to play this game. Points are scored by — you guessed it — throwing axes at a giant target, similar to darts. Located in Hampton Station with neighbors worth stopping to visit while you're in the neighborhood, you can create quite the memorable afternoon or evening that includes this unique form of entertainment.

Celebrating its second anniversary in Greenville earlier this year, think of an outing with friends at Craft Axe Throwing like going bowling — if bowling was into LARPing on the weekends, exclusively listened to the aggressive subgenre of Viking heavy metal, and made a lot of random grunting noises for no apparent reason. What we're trying to say is, it's a bit different, perhaps intimidating, but strangely appealing all the same. Toss in offerings like brew from their avian neighbors at Birds Fly South, along with a stocked bar, and it's no wonder that a whirl around Internet review sites give the experience at Craft Axe Throwing more stars than Norse constellations. So, round up your friends, reserve a lane, and enjoy a few hours of legally throwing around sharp objects in a safe environment.


                                                                                                                             

 

B is for "Burning Rubber at BMW Performance Center"

If a stroll around Falls Park isn’t your speed and confronting mortality is your idea of a relaxing vacation plan, please abide by all highway speed limits as you make your way to the BMW Performance Center in nearby Spartanburg, where limits are laughable.

A visit here offers a variety of experiences, all with top-notch safety and training, speed, and the ever-present potential for motion sickness only German engineering can produce in common (more in a moment). This massive outdoor track complex is a motorhead’s Mecca, especially if Bimmers are your brand of choice.

For speed demons, go from zero-to-curse-words in the tap of a pedal on the back straight. Performance driving enthusiasts can go for a spin — literally — on the wet concrete skid pad. Head off-road and negotiate tumultuous terrain at a slower pace but with no lack of potential to grip fingerprints into the steering wheel. All experiences are done under the tutelage of BMW’s professional racing instructors — a title one does not earn by simply filling out a job app. These are legitimate motor-melting madmen and women who exhibit a one-ness with machine that’ll push the vehicle, and your stomach, to the limits.

A word on that: if you’ve never been sure if you’re vulnerable to motion sickness, you can find certainty here. Jump in the passenger seat and let a pro take you for a one-minute equilibrium-extinguishing experience known as a “Hot Lap.” Witness the peak of BMW performance as your instructor goes from dead-stop to an odometer-crushing velocity that leaves your soul standing at the starting line looking around like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

Through twists, turns, and spins, the Hot Lap puts a thrill into those with eustachian stability while a sense of irony replaces lunch for those without as the term “hot lap” takes on new meaning.

No matter why you go, or whether you’re wearing your most recent meal on the walk out, you’ll find this visit is anything but a walk in the park.

                                                                                                                             

 

C is for "Chihuly's Crystal Tower"

Renowned glass sculptor and artist Dale Chihuly has created works that live all over the world in permanent collections, and Greenville, SC is on that esteemed list of places to boast the claim to owning one. But unlike the sculptures, murals, and plaques that partially make up more than 95 individual pieces of public art in Greenville that you'll pass as you walk up and down Main Street, Chihuly's "Rose Crystal Tower" requires just a bit of seeking to locate if you'd like to admire it with a close-up view.

Before we get to the "where," let's have a look at some of the other important W's to this unique piece. Chihuly was commissioned by the Wyche Sculpture Committee to sculpt a piece that would honor Harriet Wyche, who played a pivotal role in the creation of Falls Park. Harriet passed away in 2011, and the sculpture, which was unveiled in 2015, sits in what is known as Harriet's Garden, a small area of flowers that surrounds the 12-foot-tall tower of art.

The tower is made of a material Chihuly created himself while installing a chandelier at the Sydney Opera House in Australia when he needed something lighter than glass, but also somehow stronger. The final product was something he termed Polyvitro, which many of his sculptures would be made of following its conception.

Some of the pieces that make up the tower were used in a sculpture he did in Jerusalem and had brought to Greenville.

Now to the where of this hidden gem: You'll find the Rose Crystal Tower at a secondary entrance to Falls Park on the Reedy River, which is located behind the West End Market. Make your way to Warehouse Theater, the Eggs Up Grill, Mellow Mushroom or The Velo Fellow and you'll find Rose Crystal Tower right behind any of them, off a parking lot.

Many have noted the tower's resemblance to rock candy, so "Rock Candy Sculpture" or "Rock Candy Tower" have lovingly become unofficial names for the piece, but please, we'd encourage you to not lick the artwork and instead marvel at its beauty, especially if you stop by around sunset or after dark.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

D is for "Doggy Days at the Waterparks"

If you've never wondered what could possibly make a day at a waterpark even more fun, don't worry, we did the thinking for you. The answer is obvious: dogs.

That's exactly the combination you'll find if you head to Greenville, SC for one of Greenville Rec's "Waggin' at the Waterpark" events that are always a popular ticket in town. Because of the pandemic, we'll remind you that all events are subject to change, but as of early July, "Waggin' at the Waterpark" is scheduled for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Discovery Island and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 19 at Otter Creek.

Dogs tipping the scales over 25 pounds get the run of each park from 9-10:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Small dogs and senior dogs get their chance to tippy-tap through the park from 12:30-2 p.m.

Because these doggy days are such a hit, we highly recommend registering ahead of time to ensure you've got this tail-waggin' ticket. In order to keep the event as safe as possible for attendees with two feet, four paws, and anything in between, the total number of humans and their owners must be capped. Walk-ups are certainly allowed on the day-of the event, but only if tickets haven't previously sold out.

All attending dogs must be older than three months and be up-to-date on all vaccines with documentation verified during the registration process or by bringing paperwork to the gate as a walk-up, but we'll let you get all the details on the Discovery Island event and the Otter Creek event on Greenville Rec's website while we dream of petting all the doggos at the waterparks in September!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

E is for "Elevation at Sassafras Mountain"

If you've got an attitude for altitude, we've got just the place for you. Take an easy hour's drive from downtown Greenville, SC into Pickens County and you'll find yourself at Sassafras Mountain.

This local leviathan is officially the highest point in the state of South Carolina. Not only that, but the border between South Carolina and North Carolina runs smack dab through the peak of this craggy colossus, which means you can get one of those really cool Instagram-able photos of yourself straddling a state line with a witty caption about being in two states at once — always good for a handful of internet points.

Since Sassafras is shared between the two Carolinas, it isn't considered the "tallest mountain" in the state. That distinction goes to Pinnacle Mountain, which is also close to Greenville in neighboring Pickens County.

The highest point of Sassafras comes in at 3,553-feet (or 3,554, depending on how many rocks are piled up at a given time, but we're not here to debate; let's just agree that it's very tall). That means a clear day affords you a view of four different state at a whopping 30-50 miles at just shy of 360 degrees from the recently completed, absolutely beautiful observation tower, which measures 44 feet in diameter and features a compass rose bisected by the state line. 

Getting here gives you options, too. Drive on up, park the car, and walk a mere 300 feet to the observation tower with nary a drop of sweat; or earn your overachiever's badge by hiking your way up. A popular option is picking up part of the Foothills Trail for a steady, yet not-too-steep nine-mile roundtrip walk, although many hiking websites note several options for elevating by foot.

No matter how you choose to get there, we're certain you'll enjoy this acclivity activity during your visit!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

F is for "Free Mini Golf at McPherson Park"

"There's no such thing as a free lunch."

This is unfortunate yet true. But we've got the next best thing in Greenville, SC: FREE mini-golf.

No catch, no strings, no money down, no APR, nothing, zip, zilch, nada, leave your wallets and purses at home because this is as free as free gets. At historic McPherson Park in downtown is where you'll find this magical space of land where the traditional monetary exchange for goods and services ceases to be. McPherson Park had an existing 9-hole mini-golf course for years, but when it became clear that the previous links could use some sprucing up, City of Greenville Parks & Rec renovated the course with some major upgrades.

The biggest change from its predecessor? There are 18 holes now — if you're keeping score, that's twice the number of holes for no additional cost!

The renovations turned this mini-golf course into one of Greenville, SC's truly unique gems. To try your skill on this pro bono putt-putt, simply bring a putter and some golf balls. These items aren't available at the course, so make sure to load them up in the car for your Greenville trip.

Hey, it's a small price to pay for no-cost fun in Greenville's oldest city park.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

G is for "Gliding Through Greenville on a Segway Tour"

Greenville Glides is one of our Signature Experiences and, once you hop aboard, you'll easily see why. Offering a variety of tours, your experience starts by spending some time getting acquainted with a Segway and how to ride it safely. Then, it's all about gliding around Greenville as you're guided through some of our favorite parts.

Take the West End & Falls Park tour, which will glide you to some gorgeous views of Falls Park and the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail. Or do some noshing on the Taste & Glide tour that stops along the way to sample some of Greenville's greatest bites.

Prefer a little spooky with your Segway escapade? Wait for fall to come when the Haunted Segway Tour is running, which combines ghostly tales with visits to Springwood Cemetery and other eerie locations along the Reedy River.

No matter what you choose, the whole family can experience the history of Greenville with a fun, "glided" tour.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

H is for "Hello Kitty Drummer Cole Dockter"

Can a person be considered a tourist attraction? Say hello to Cole Dockter — better known around Greenville, SC as the "Hello Kitty Drummer" — who attracts a crowd no matter where he sets his kit up. A drummer since sixth grade, Dockter bought a Hello Kitty drum set on eBay a few years ago, according to a story written by the @gvljournal, and has been putting on must-see sidewalk shows of percussion prowess ever since.

When walking around downtown Greenville, SC, on any given day or night, street performers can be found all around as the city provides permits for musicians, actors, dancers, live statues and so much more. Dockter, however, will attract your attention for a couple of reasons:

1. You don't often see a grown man playing a child's pink drum set;

2. You don't often see a grown man playing a child's pink drum set with such skill;

3. You don't often see a grown man playing a child's pink drum set, performing beats created by, say, heavy metal bands like Meshuggah, complete with stick flips and twirls meant to mesmerize passers-by.

So, if you're visiting and happen by Dockter and his kiddy kit, ask yourself if a person can be a tourist attraction. Something tells us he'll have you at "Hello."

 

                                                                                                                             

 

I is for "Immersion Therapy at Drift Float and Spa"

Sure, you could go lie in a hammock in the summer heat in an attempt to relax your body, soothe your soul, and shut down your mind. Or, you could float off to zen in a unique, science-backed, far-less-sunburny way at Drift - Float and Spa. Float or immersion therapy is growing in popularity as it boasts benefits like reduced anxiety and depression, improved focus and concentration, greater creativity, pain management, a more effective immune system, and much more. And if it sounds too good to be true, we're about to metaphorically wag a scientific finger at you. Study after study backs up the benefits of floating. We'll let you do your own Googling on that while we get to what, exactly, the experience is like.

Making an appointment is as easy as visiting Drift's website or giving them a call. You'll arrive, be greeted by friendly staff, and then shown to a beautiful, private, sound-proof room with a large pod as the centerpiece. Staff will walk you through preparations and then you'll be left on your own. After a brief wash in a shower, you'll turn off the room light, get into the tank's perfectly-tempered water mixed with a half-ton of epsom salt in your birthday suit (worry not: Drift empties tanks and cleans and filters water twice between every appointment and has many COVID precautions in place), and you'll close the lid. Soothing music and lights set the mood for about 10 minutes as you get yourself settled. Then slowly, the music and lights fade and it's just you. In a large tank. In the soundless dark. Alone with your thoughts.

OK, we made that sound more scary than soothing, but just trust us and Dr. Science: one hour floating in sensory deprivation will have you feeling brand-new. Take advantage of Drift's infrared sauna, oxygen bar, or give Lucia Light a shot (that's a whoooole different post on its own). Sure, we love being pampered in a traditional spa, but it's good to mix relaxation up by confronting your existence in the silent dark once in a while.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

J is for "Jazz at Blues Boulevard Jazz"

Greenville, SC's local music scene is robust yet it flies under the radar. Those in the know just know where to scratch their live music itch, but those who haven't learned yet have plenty of stages to receive an intimate education. Few spots are better to get schooled than Blues Boulevard Jazz. Situated right on the Reedy River in the heart of downtown Greenville, the environment is perfect for a night of jazz — or blues, or R&B, or any other genre that will surely fulfill that need for live music. It's important to note that Blues Boulevard Jazz is temporarily closed as of the publish of this post due to COVID-19, but a Facebook post in August provided an update that owners are working on a re-opening plan they'll announce once finalized.

When those doors do open back up, get ready for the combination of a perfectly-lit jazz club environment, local and national artists and groups, and a wide selection of beverages to sip on to make beautiful music together once again. There's a reason review after review touts Blues Boulevard Jazz's vibe, environment, atmosphere and intimacy, so when things open back up, we'll be some of the first in line to lose ourselves in a music scene that visitors and residents alike are continually discovering.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

K is for "Kayaking on Lake Jocassee"

Our outdoors scene is known for a multitude of mountainous options, but looking past our lake scene would be a massive mistake. Procuring a kayak and taking to the waters of Lake Jocassee is just... well, look for yourself! Spending hours in the serene space Lake Jocassee offers is just so good for the soul, and making this happen in a kayak might be the best vehicle for this experience.

Paddle around and explore, or get directions and head right for Lake Jocassee's waterfalls that can only be seen or accessed by boat. 

No kayak? No problem. Head on over to Jocassee Lake Tours or Jocassee Outdoor Center and wrangle up some rentals for a day. If you're looking for a little something more, Jocassee Lake Tours offers a six-hour guided kayak tour that includes approximately three hours of paddle time. Jocassee Outdoor Center has guided lake waterfall tours coming soon.

No matter if you're exploring solo or paddling with a crew, kayaking on Lake Jocassee is one of those activities that makes lifetime memories during a trip to Greenville, SC!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

L is for "Lengthy, Lively Laps at LeMans Karting"

Whether you have a need for speed or a need to just safely get away from the walls that have closed in on you, we like to consider LeMans Karting the E-S-T of G-S-P for both of these fixes — as in fast-EST and larg-EST. These supercharged superlatives are on display at the location in Duncan, which is home to a half-mile-long, 70,000-square-foot behemoth known as the MEGATRACK — the largest indoor karting track in the entire Southeast United States! This long, lappable labyrinth also layers in 22 titillating twists and turns that'll totally tighten your tochus.

If that's not enough to get you racing to pole position, let's talk speed. LeMans' gas karts are performance-tuned, meaning these compact yet quick karts can deliver powerful punches of pace, up to 51 miles-per-hour for the adult karts and 25 mph for kids karts. But don't worry: safety is of utmost concern at LeMans. From comprehensive safety videos to training to helmets, neck braces, and seat belts, LeMans superbly synthesizes speed and safety.

Speaking of safety, LeMans is committed to the most stringent of precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with all equipment you may borrow deeply sanitized before it gets to your hands, social distancing, and controlling the number of people inside at any one time. That means, for the time being, you need a reservation to race, so be sure not to just drop in.

But planning is never a bad thing. It'll give you and your pit crew the chance to coordinate like, say, dressing as your favorite Mario Kart characters (yep, it's happened before at LeMans and it'll surely happen again; just don't bring banana peels and turtle shells to the track, k?). One thing you can definitely plan on is a fast, fun, and safe respite from the outside world, so fuel up, make a reservation and we'll see you at LeMans — but FYI, we're calling dibs right now on dressing as Yoshi. 🥚

 

                                                                                                                             

 

M is for "Make Meaningful Mark on a Dog's Day at Greenville Animal Shelter"

Greenville, SC has made its mark as a Mecca for our favorite four-legged furballs. If peregrinating with your pooch is part of your perennial pilgrimage, Greenville, SC is as Fido-friendly a destination as you'll find. Walk up and down Main Street in downtown and you'll see the sidewalk spotted with water bowls and signs welcoming well-behaved doggos inside to shop around or join you for a beer and a bite.

But for those who love dogs but can't have permanent possession of a pup for a plethora of reasons — apartment restrictions, allergic bipedal housemates, etc. — Greenville County Animal Cares' "Doggy's Day Out" is for you!

If you're visiting Greenville and conclude that a quadrupedal companion could complement your stay, call 864-467-3950 to book an appointment — a simple process in place for the time being. Show up at your appointment time and you'll be paired with a peppy program pup. You'll get a backpack kit with everything you'll need to have an awesome adventure and off you'll go into unlimited possibilities!

Head for a hike at Paris Mountain or Caesars Head. Go downtown to Falls Park or walk up and down Main Street. Have a sit at a dog-friendly restaurant or brewery. The day is yours to make meaningful memories. When your day is up, return to the shelter and give your new pal a hearty hug as thanks for the companionship.

Orrr (🙏), if you fall head-over-heels for your happy, hopeful handful, make your day out permanent by adopting when you return to Greenville County Animal Care!

If you can't, provide a full report on your pup's personality. Many dogs suddenly shine with a sense of self outside the shelter that adoption coordinators may not see inside. This goes a long way in finding a future family.

No matter how your day ends, you'll head home with a souvenir you hadn't expected — maybe with a new bff, but definitely with a paw-print on your heart. 🐾💚

 

                                                                                                                             

 

N is for "Nature, Nestlings, and New Bridges at Lake Conestee Nature Preserve"

With distance from others a focus as we fight the spread of COVID-19, getting outside is optimal to also fight off the mental, emotional, and physical woes that come from being stuck inside. A trip to Lake Conestee Nature Preserve could have your wits wigglin', your soul singin', and your body boppin'.⁠

Owned and operated by the Conestee Foundation, a private non-profit, Lake Conestee Nature Preserve offers 400+ acres of water, wetlands, and wildlife to wander and watch. Bring those bi'nocks because between its borders is THE best bet for birding in Upstate SC. Known as an Important Bird Area of Global Significance, online birders at e-Bird report 220+ different species sightings here!⁠

If hiking is your hobby, Lake Conestee Nature Preserve offers six miles of natural surface trails, six miles of paved surface trails, and about 4,000 linear feet of boardwalk and bog-walk. Bring the kids and hike the two Learning Loops, each with 10 learning stations for a fun, interactive experience.⁠

The Preserve celebrated a long-awaited day just this week when the River Otter Way Footbridge was placed in its permanent spot by — get this — the South Carolina National Guard and a Chinook helicopter! Watch the video here. Strong waters washed the previous bridge away in November 2018, so placement of the 18,000-pound, 84-foot Corten steel footbridge was a wonderful way to start July.⁠

The Preserve is just six miles from downtown Greenville and it's open from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free, but please consider a donation to the extremely worthy cause of preserving this wild and historic place. With more than 100,000 visitors annually, rules and restrictions protect the area and its wildlife so you should familiarize yourself with them before you visit at lakeconesteenaturepark.com.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

O is for "Opulent Chicken Coop at Artifacts Greenville"

If our goal is to highlight some of Greenville's weird, wacky and wild along our alphabetical attractions tour, we're achieving it today because this gem hits all three W's in the best way possible.

Artifacts Greenville is in area just outside downtown known as Sans Souci and is one of several businesses that set up shop in this up-and-coming neighborhood in recent years, along with Velo Valets — a bike shop with one of Greenville's beautiful murals on the side of its building. Artifacts, which also boasts three artist studios on property, is among a crowd of antiques shops dotting the Greenville County landscape, but their eccentric approach makes them a standout.

Why do we say that? Well, their website lists an executive staff of three chickens — Camilla, the Director of Human Resources; Chequers, their Chief Spokesperson; and Omelette, who oversees buildings and grounds. So devoted to their roles are these birds of a feather that they live on property and do so in utter opulence.

The back garden is where you'll find this fowl faculty overseeing their human help, likely from the loud-looking Greek Revival chicken coop they call home. Recently featured in AtHome Magazine and on @atlasobscura's Instagram page — THE source for rare-bird attractions around the world — the term "masterpiece" is used to describe this purple poultry palace.

According to AtHome, this banty shanty is constructed from thrifted items, including 300 golf clubs, two baseball bats, porcelain birds, trains, two hubcaps off a 1940s Cadillac, and much more you'll just have to spot for yourself. The coop has become interactive folk art as visitors discover it by stopping at this eclectic antiques shop, so don't miss out on a chance to go off the beaten path and include this eggs-travagant, eggs-traordinary eggs-ample of eggs-entricity on your egg-tinerary.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

P is for "Pinot the Pig at City Scape Winery"

Greenville has built a bit of a brewery background in recent years with more than a handful operating at any given time, and while we love our brewery brethren, wine gets to shine today.

While City Scape's wine offerings stand on their own as a reason to stop by, we're presenting another reason to pick a pilgrimage to Pelzer during your visit to Greenville: Pinot the Pig.

City Scape Winery owners Josh and Deb Jones grew up near the touted Finger Lakes wine region of New York State and developed a love of wine before eventually making Greenville — and its much milder winters — home. A little something we all might be experiencing these days took the couple from casual consumers to vinification hobbyists: boredom.

Long story short: They got bored, decided to make wine together, bought supplies, made 125 bottles for their wedding, guests gushed over the homemade handiwork, and when City Scape went up for sale in 2015, Josh and Deb took a chance and bought the winery. It's been nothing but happiness (or hap-pig-ness) ever since.

Pinot The Pig plays the part in the previous parentheses. Pinot is Josh and Deb's personal pet, family member, and official City Scape mascot. His popularity at City Scape is obvious as a glance through popular online review sites laud the winery's intimate atmosphere, the wide-open outdoor space, and, of course, the wine, but Pinot always seems to root his way into the reasons reviewers rave about the experience.

Speaking of: City Scape could be expanding that experience with a newly-announced plans, including a 10,000-square-foot production facility and tasting room, and, of course, a dedicated place for Pinot and pals. If all goes to plan, Pinot the Pig could be welcoming you to the new City Scape Winery in 2022. But until then, pack a picnic and head to Pelzer for some Pinot — oh, and try the wine, too.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

Q is for "Quiet Time in Falls Park's Seldom-Seen Spots"

Falls Park on the Reedy River is anything but a hidden gem — it's a crown jewel. But inconspicuous installations await your discovery.

When most visitors come to Greenville, SC, they'll stop by the Liberty Bridge and its breathtaking view of Reedy River Falls with backdrop of downtown — a must for any guest. Once checked off the list, an explorer's spirit will guide you to pockets of peacefulness in the park away from its main attractions.

Weave your way below and behind the Liberty Bridge toward the river's pooling area, where the quackers spend the bulk of their lazy days. You'll find a rocky gully that intersects with a footbridge. This is where your quest for quiet begins. (View the City of Greenville's Falls Park interactive map)

Choose your adventure: Continue further and follow the gully to a large, lush landscape with a circular stage. This is the TD Amphitheater, a landmark that lets you know you're on the scent of serenity. Following this path further will take you to a shady, soothing spot known as The Carolina Foothills Garden Club Sanctuary. Oft-unseen, its beautiful stone walls, small waterfall, and sense of seclusion make this nook perfect for lunch and a book.

Back at the footbridge, find another quaint, quiet spot by crossing. Turn left and head down the steps. This part of the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail leads past several swinging benches with perfect views of the Reedy River Falls. Stop and sit for a moment, but continue on for greater zen.

Under shady trees, you'll land at Old Mill Garden, home to the remaining foundation of the old Vardry Mill. A tranquil location down-river, this spot is just out of earshot of the Reedy River Falls but offers a soothing soundtrack few visitors are audience to, so explore Falls Park to find more to quench your quest for quiet!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

R is for "Refractor Telescope at Roper Mountain Science Center"

Under a large dome among 62 acres of Greenville County Schools learning space sits a piece of glass so historic it might make you view #yeahTHATgreenville as out-of-this-world.

Roper Mountain Science Center is home to the eighth largest refractor telescope in the US, and its story will blast both history hounds and astronomy aficionados into orbit.

Roper Mountain might be the coolest place for kids to learn about sciences. The multi-building complex touts a planetarium, full aquarium, and much more for students to immerse themselves in. Because Roper Mountain is a learning facility, it's only open to the general public for certain events, so check its website before showing up.

Finished in 1882, the telescope's first home was Princeton's Halsted Observatory. At 23 inches in diameter, it was the 2nd-largest telescope in the country then, behind only the 26-inch US Naval Observatory telescope, which was used to discover the moons of Mars. Halsted was razed in 1932 to make way for a dorm, and the telescope was rebuilt and relocated to a new observatory on campus.

Around that time, Albert Einstein moved to Princeton. While there's no documented evidence, it's a safe bet that Einstein had, at the very least, taken a peek through the very same glass now in Greenville.

The telescope was dubbed "The 'War of the Worlds' Telescope" because of its use by "Professor Richard Pierson, famous astronomer" to keep an eye on Mars while being interviewed in the infamous 1938 "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast that felt so real to some, they believed Martians were really attacking Earth.

After a stop at the US Naval Observatory from 1964-1978, it was offered to Greenville County Schools.

Your best bet to see it is to keep watch for Roper Mountain's Starry Nights laser light shows, one of a few times the campus is open to the public. Once darkness falls, the telescope is open to those who would like to see the heavens through the same lens Einstein likely peered through.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

S is for "Shoeless Joe Jackson"

Baseball fans know the significance of the 1919 Chicago White Sox. Ask them about the team and they'll mention the infamous scandal that earned the team the moniker "Black Sox." The name "Shoeless" Joe Jackson won't be far behind.

The scandal is a tangled web that's too much to unravel here. Even 100 years later, much is still in dispute. Perhaps most contested is Jackson's involvement. The infraction involved eight players on the team who were tried yet found not guilty of accepting bribes from a gambling syndicate to "fix" the 1919 World Series. Jackson was one of those eight — all were banned from baseball for life despite the verdict.

He's synonymous with the Black Sox for the same reason it was with the White Sox: his on-field prowess. A star player, his rookie batting average of .408 in 1911 is still a rookie record today, but his popularity, some argue, forever tangled him in the scandal. Much has been done to redeem Jackson's reputation, and Greenville plays a significant role in that with several landmarks to visit.

Born in Pickens County, Jackson and his family moved to Greenville, where, by age 7, he was working in one of its many textile mills. He got his start on the diamond playing for one of the mill teams and that very same diamond can be visited behind the Brandon Mill on Draper St.

A stop at the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum that sits inside his old residence and bears his name is a must, but you'll have to wait. The museum — bricks, mortar, artifacts and all — is relocating just 100 yards from its current site for a luxury apartment complex being named .408 Jackson. While there, visit his statue outside the entrance of Fluor Field.

Lastly, pay your respects where Jackson was laid to rest in Woodlawn Memorial Park upon his death in 1951. Instead of flowers, bring a baseball to leave at his headstone with the others brought by visitors to his gravesite.

While history may debate the accepted story of Jackson's baseball career, none can dispute his significance to Greenville.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

T is for "Tuberculosis Hospital Ruins at Herdklotz Park"

Today's post is for the curious who long to understand the unexplained, and few travel guides will direct you here for the story we're about to tell. Greenville County has more than 55 parks and, on first glance, this one isn't likely to look any different — but it is.

Herdklotz Park spans a beautiful 17 acres in the shadow of Paris Mountain. It's a popular playground pick and its multi-purpose fields provide lots of greenspace.

The scene here on any given day belies very little about its past, unless you know what to look for. This was once the site of the Hopewell Sanatorium, a nationally acclaimed tuberculosis hospital open from the 1930s until the '50s. Hundreds of tuberculosis patients were treated and cured here.

The number is unknown, but many lost their lives here, too. The hospital spent time as an asylum for "the criminally insane," as the term was used then, and a prison work-release site before sitting vacant and decaying for decades. It was badly damaged in a fire in the early 2000s and much of what was left was torn down to make way for Herdklotz Park, except for one area.

Amid the laughing children and walkers on the trail, you'll find the remains of the hospital's root cellar with a plaque detailing Hopewell's past. The stones are all original and they surround a large sealed-off door.

Popular among locals looking for a thrill when still standing, rumors quickly spread of something otherworldly going on as disembodied footsteps would break into a run, screams were heard, things would move on their own, and shadowy figures would roam the halls. Some report still having similar experiences today.

(Please, DO NOT go to the park after it closes nightly at 8 p.m.! This is for your safety, and you'd be doing us a real solid as we take a chance in sharing the story with you.)

 

                                                                                                                             

 

U is for "Unlikely Place for a Star Wars Shrine"

A long time ago, in a galaxy (not terribly) far, far away, the posting of a single image would set in motion a chain reaction that would create unrest within the Galactic Senate!

OK, maybe the Galactic Senate unrest part is a bit embellished, but it was more than 20 years ago when a poster tacked to a wall took on a Force all its own and began the unlikeliest of Star Wars shrines in the unlikeliest of places — a random nook at Furman University, which has no ties to the movie we're aware of other than, well, having an unlikely Star Wars shrine.

Before "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" hit theaters in 1999, Furman theater manager Danielle Hernandez honored one of her theatrical heroes — Yoda — by pinning the poster to a wall on The Dark Side (buckle up and get used to this) of McAlister Auditorium. Little did she suspect when she hung it that more than 20 years later, not only would the poster still be on the backstage wall she affixed it to, but surrounding it would be a display of offerings from members of the Furman community to the Jedi Master.

And so began the saga of Furman's Star Wars shrine. Hernandez, still the theater manager, spoke to Furman's website about the shrine's 20-year anniversary and provided an epic list of some of the items left as tribute to the wise, green one: "Luke, Leia, and Solo figures, X-Wing fighter and Millennium Falcon models, Darth Vader heads, a Boba Fett, storm troopers, photos, postcards, puzzles, an R2D2 dreidel, toys and lots and lots of Yoda."

There have been so many items left here, in fact, that Hernandez has an overflow box in her office of items that just won't fit in the shrine's space. Touring artists that have played the auditorium often take photos of and with the shrine. Even Furman alumni send items in by mail to add to collection.

Next time you're in Greenville and catching a show at McAlister Auditorium is back on the itinerary, maybe pull a Jedi mindtrick to leave this fabulous Furman feretory an offering yourself.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

V is for "Vivify at ReCraft Creative Reuse Center"

If anyone embodied words like vibrant, vigorous, voluble — it'd be Grant Cothran. Owner of ReCraft Creative Reuse Center, a little time spent with Grant reveals a venturesome personality packed with passion for vivification — that is, the act of giving vitality or animation to something.

In this specific case, Grant breathes new life into old stuff with his knack for bric-a-brac.

ReCraft is South Carolina's first creative reuse center, with its closest cousin residing in Greensboro. What is a creative reuse center, you may ask? In simple terms, ReCraft gathers up quality, reusable materials from manufacturers, retailers, institutions, and households that were destined for the landfill and creates craft projects for children with them. Think of it as Build-a-Bear, but with way cooler materials and projects, and the idea that you can turn anything into a robot if you just imagine it.

Run entirely on donations, ReCraft is always on the lookout for bulk items to claim and craft, so if you visit and can pay in a donation of some sort, Grant and his crew of volunteers may gladly take it. Got a bunch of old thread, fabric, pipe cleaners, or buttons? ReCraft wants them.

Grandpa's old stamp collection? Decor for a custom-crafted guitar. Got a bunch of corks? No, you've got a bunch of robot arms (see?). What you may see as a pile of googly eyes... well, ReCraft would definitely see a pile of googly eyes, too — but all of this material comes together to spark the imaginations of kids, foster creativity, and teach skills like building, sewing, resourcefulness, and problem-solving.

Maybe the best thing about Grant's creative reuse center is its impact so far. One guy with a vehement dream and a variety of volunteers turned 7 Dumpsters' worth of material into treasure for imaginative children to build, create, and innovate with in 2019. That alone is a reason to get your vivify on at ReCraft!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

W is for "Wandering One Wild Bridge in Mountain Bridge Wilderness"

This is for the adventure-addicts, the challenge-chasers, those after adventure and hiking heroics. We're going to tell you a story about a bridge (and if you get this Buzz Killington "Family Guy" reference, major points to you!; If not, moving on...) that is a bit tougher to reach than Greenville, SC's other iconic bridges.

Caesars Head and Jones Gap state parks are popular must-see outside offerings, but they belong to the same 11,000-acre swath of undisturbed land called the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, which contain lots of hiking trails to test your mettle. One, in particular, will lead you to the Raven Cliff Falls suspension bridge, a site and sight that is more earned than simply visited.

Reaching it requires preparation — proper footwear; WATER, and lots of it; snacks; sun and rain protection; an innate, strict adherence to rules and signs; a sense of direction; patience; and time. Depending on which trail you take, you're looking at 8-12 miles roundtrip and 4-6 hours from stepping out of the car with a hopeful bounce to regretfully, yet satisfyingly dragging your way back in it.

Experienced hikers rarely raise an eyebrow when reviewing trails online, but one look at notable sites reveals a mild reaction from the accomplished ambler — the trail is "very strenuous but worth every minute" and "great if you need a walkabout and want to examine your entire life," with an elevation gain that'll "work ya some," per reviewers — which should signal to the rest of us that this trek is terribly tricky. But if you know your limits, take your time, rest, and remain careful in the treacherous spots, the suspension bridge over Raven Cliff Falls is, indeed, worth every step to reach.

Pro tips: get a trail map at the Caesars Head Visitor's Center, watch for slippery rocks, and prepare for a hike that'll give you a story about a bridge that'll be anything but a buzzkill.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

X is for "XLR8 at Piney Mountain Bike Lounge's Pump Track"

Piney Mountain Bike Lounge is a passion project with a purpose. And while Greenville, SC gets a lot of attention for its road cycling, Piney Mountain exists to share its love for mountain biking. That's not to say there's any division between the two cycling styles — on the contrary, Piney Mountain Bike Lounge has become a hangout of road cyclists, mountain bikers, and everyone in between.

A full-service bike shop, a craft beer taproom, and a laidback environment are the main elements that make up Piney Mountain, but it's what's out back that is the big draw.

Kids and adults alike swarm outside to the pump track — a continuous loop of dirt featuring mounds, bumps, and jumps to test your mountain biking prowess. A pump track's purpose is to challenge you to use your whole body to get around the track without using pedals (but if you do, that's OK, too).

For the novice mountain biker, or avid ones just looking to stay tuned up, pump tracks teach the skill of using momentum to maintain balance and speed through bumps, twists and turns. For those just looking for a fun afternoon adventure, pump tracks are just good, clean fun in the dirt. At Piney Mountain, the pump track is open when the shop is open, but will close during and after heavy rains that may affect the track.

If you're looking for something active, fun, and a bit different than anything else, XLR8-ing around Piney Mountain Bike Lounge's track will definitely pump your day up!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

Y is for "Yearly Leaf-Peeping in Autumn"

Fall is a favorite for many for a cornucopia of reasons: cooler weather, campfires producing that cold, smoky scent of an autumn evening, fall fashion, pumpkin-spice everything — as polarizing as that may be. But without the many colors of the occasion, it just wouldn't feel like fall.

At a time when keeping our distance is imperative, the outdoors scene in and around Greenville, SC makes the upcoming autumn season so much more worth seeing. Once the trees start to change here, the popping of reds, yellows and oranges can be enjoyed from a multitude of vantage points.

For the more popular spots, where you'll surely see fellow leaf-peepers yet still be able to maintain a semblance of solitude within your circle of six-or-more feet, you won't want to miss the overlook at Caesars Head. The miles and miles of foliage beneath your feet will have you floating above a seasonal sepia sea. Down the road, you'll find the most quaint of views at an outdoor chapel that's the most Pretty Place to view an autumn sunrise, or a wide open expanse at Bald Rock to welcome that same dawning of a fall day. Take a peek around Paris Mountain State Park and awe at the array of festive bursts of the season.

If it's frond-fixation in isolation you seek, choosing one of Upstate South Carolina's many hiking trails will likely satisfy your search for solitude. Greenville is surrounded by South Carolina State Parks, all with their own lesser-known, lightly-to-moderately trafficked paths. At Caesars Head, try the Frank Coggins Trail for an easy stroll, or challenge yourself with the 11.9-mile Rim of the Gap Trail. Try Table Rock's Pinnacle Lake Trail Loop for an easy trot around the lake with beautiful mountain views set against an amber and gold backdrop.

For more trail options to enjoy this fall at nearby State Parks, including more from Caesars Head, Table Rock, and Paris Mountain, as well as Jones Gap, Devil's Fork, Keowee-Toxaway and others, see our friends at South Carolina State Parks.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

Z is for "Ziplining The Gorge"

We've traveled a wide range of hidden gems to get to our final letter, from the serene to the spirited, so as we wrap up our tour, let's settle in for a nice, relaxing guided tour... THROUGH THE TREETOPS! *Cue Mountain Dew-fueled guitar riff*

That's right, we're tethering you by the waist to a cable above your head with nothing but the air and treetops of the Green River Gorge beneath you.

Just across the border in North Carolina, an easy drive from downtown Greenville, SC, The Gorge Zipline is packing a couple of adrenaline-pumping superlatives into one rad ride — America's steepest and fastest zipline canopy tour.

When you were a kid, if you ever dreamed of swinging through the trees, this place is the answer to your pre-adolescent prayers. If you're thinking this is a tourist trap that has one zipline, you ride it, maybe scream a little, get the photo and the T-shirt and that's it, hang onto your britches because The Gorge features 11 ziplines that span 1.25 miles, all while overlooking 18,000 acres of protected, unspoiled land.

Have we mentioned the gravity-defying sky bridge and three rappels you also must negotiate? Because there's a gravity-defying sky bridge and three rappels you must negotiate. *hit that sweet, sweet guitar riff again*

This is a full-on experience that has a few obstacles to meet before you even harness up. The suggested minimum age to take the tour is 10 years old, and there's a weight requirement of being somewhere between 70-250 pounds. You also must be in reasonably good condition as you'll be pulling yourself hand-over-hand along a cable and taking a couple of very short hikes along the way.

The entire tour will take you around 3-3.5 hours to complete, so it's a perfect day-trip for a visit to Greenville.

Before we launch ourselves into The Gorge, we want to thank you for zipping along with us on two fun, filling A-to-Z Instagram tours. Now, cue that guitar riff again as we ride out through the trees. 🎸😎