By Bonnie & Bill Neely
Do you want lots of festivals, hiking trails, biking on trails and around town, free concerts, fabulous theater and professional performances by world famous performers? How about cool nights, warm days, friendly people, delicious foods in hundreds of restaurants and ethnicities? And do you enjoy four seasons of the year, appreciate lovely gardens, waterfalls and rivers, art exhibits, mountains to climb, photographic scenery in every direction? Trees and rolling hills, museums, galleries, colleges and lifetime learning classes in everything you could imagine…and the list of great things in Greenville, SC, goes on and on!
Bonnie grew up in Greenville when it was the Textile Center Of The World with many mill villages providing work for most of the population, but the advent of double knit fabrics vastly impacted the town and threatened to devastate it about the time Bonnie married her Texan and moved to the Lone Star State. Now, after over 50 years away, we have moved back to Greenville, having no idea how much it has changed to become one of the top four fastest growing cities in the USA and one of the top ten places to live, work, and play, as so many of the national listing services recommend.
At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with Paris Mountain part of the cityscape, Greenville benefits from the cool breezes and forests, which keep the Upstate a most desirable place to visit, live, play, and work. Greenville has kept the tradition of Southern hospitality, and that is what most of the transplants to this area from everywhere in the USA and all over the world constantly notice and comment about. Most of the new-comers say, “I was surprised at how friendly everyone is. I felt welcome immediately!” And Greenville has plenty of new-comers every year, many retiring here and others transferred here by their jobs in one of the many large companies located in the greater Greenville area.
From April through October Main Street is closed off to become a pedestrian walkable market on Saturday mornings. It seems half of the population comes for fresh vegetables and fruit locally grown, tasty foods and coffees to eat on the spot, and just the fun of being outdoors with friends, toddlers, dogs, and cameras! There are always a few artists selling their creations, others performing dances or singing or playing instruments to make the day fun for all. Children’s activities are a big attraction at several specified corners. And the surrounding small towns that adjoin Greenville also have farmers’ markets, and some are daily.
Greenville takes pride in being a center for inspiring and supporting all the arts, from theater performers, to painters, sculptors, dancers, jewelers, wood-workers, decorators, culinary creators, speakers, comedians, photographers, and all kinds of creative people. One of the most thriving areas is in West Greenville where Brandon Mills was once the dominant force. Grenville Center for Creative Arts, where artists of many disciplines and children can take individual or group lessons, have studios, find inspiration and encouragement, provides encouragement, publicity, gallery shows for an enthusiastic audience of appreciative supporters. First Fridays here and in other parts of Greenville are all about art and family fun.
On Thursdays through Sundays there are always fun events taking place on Main Street with certain areas closed off in the evenings for music, outdoor eating, and dancing. And The Peace Center, the beautiful building on lower Main Street has professional entertainment from Broadway Theater to famous singers, instrumentalists, speakers almost every night. If you plan ahead you can get tickets to the most prestigious indoor performances of all types. Across the street is the spectacular Falls Park, where everyone loves the famous walking bridge to view Reedy River waterfalls, the focal point of downtown reinventing itself, as few other cities have been able to accomplish as malls took over the suburbs across the USA. On summer evenings people bring lawn chairs, food, and blankets to enjoy Shakespeare plays and other performances and Movies on Main in the shade of enormous trees, surrounded by flowers and often a few ducks lazily coasting down the river. The excellent patrol men and women keep the popular areas safe and local citizens take pride in keeping the city clean.
Greenville is a city that loves a festival, and there are various ones throughout the year which give the people, who have been transplanted from different parts of the world to Greenville with their jobs, an opportunity to have fun observing and showing their unique culture. To name just a few we’ll include The Greek Festival, ShalomFest, Irish Festival, Scottish Games, German Beer Festival, International Festival, each with its delicious appropriate foods, music, dances, shops, and educational fun.
One of the best known nationally is Artisphere, which is a prestigious juried show each year on Mothers’ Day Weekend. Over 100 highly acclaimed artists in every kind of medium from oils to charcoals, photography, ceramics, jewelry, fiber, and much more, are selected from over 1,000 entries from many states. There are street performers in theater, music, dance; food and drink vendors, and on Saturday morning the farmers’ market adds a few blocks to the fun. Throngs of people enjoy this celebration of spring. In late summer thousands take to the Main Street again for Fall For Greenville festival, with more foods, entertainment, fun for families and people of all ages. And throughout the weekends from March through October there are many different small festivals in various areas of Greenville, and always places for free outdoor concerts and dancing. You can always find last minute tickets to about any kind of indoor entertainment you desire.
Cyclists also enjoy biking through Greenville on cycles they can rent from many different racks. The Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail has provided thousands of people with 20.6 miles of hiking and biking on the multi-use path through lovely wooded and open areas, connecting many parks in Greenville to the foothills of Paris Mountain. This passes beside Furman University Campus, where on summer evenings the open air free concerts beckon passersby. The little town of Travelers Rest is near the end of the trail and has breweries and restaurants for good rest-stops.
If you are looking for a wonderful place to spend a day, a week, or a lifetime, Greenville, South Carolina, is the first place to check out, and it is likely you will look no farther!