Greenville, Anderson, and Spartanburg are the 3 major cities which comprise the Upstate South Carolina region. This westernmost region of the state is most well-known for its’ rich manufacturing history and proximity to the Blue Ridge mountains. Although up and coming Greenville tends to receive much of the press, Spartanburg offers an interesting history and a host of amenities of its’ own.
A brief history of “The Hub City”
Spartanburg, was established in 1785, and named after the Spartan Regiment, a militia unit that fought in the Revolutionary War. The Spartan Regiment fought in the nearby Battle of Cowpens. The city is home to more Revolutionary War battle sites than almost anywhere else in the US.
Right away, you will notice various businesses with Hub City in the name. Spartanburg received its’ nickname from the many railroad lines that passed through the city. The Spartanburg & Union railroad was the first train to come through the town 1859. By the late 1800’s, the city had seven railroad lines which ran out of the city “like spokes on wheel.” Spartanburg thus became a major transportation hub. You can read more about this history at the Hub City Railroad museum.
At one point, Spartanburg was a textile manufacturing center with dozens of mills. Today, many of these old mills now stand as mixed use developments, thus giving them new life. Today, the city is a manufacturing hotspot with over 500 manufacturing firms including international giants like BMW.
Historical significance aside, the city is also becoming popular with retirees due to the milder winter climate and affordable cost of living. Although not nearly as popular as nearby Greenville, Spartanburg is starting to see a boost in tourism thanks to a charming Main Street and a close proximity to picturesque outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the Upstate.
The highlight of a visit to Spartanburg is taking a stroll around beautiful historical Main Street. This is the central gathering place where you can shop, dine, and enjoy an interesting lineup of events throughout the year. Popular annual events include Music on Main, a free live music festival taking place Thursdays in Morgan Square from April-July, and A Dickens of a Christmas, a Victorian inspired holiday event featuring carolers, horse drawn carriage rides, and an ice rink.
You will definitely want to start your day off with an expertly made espresso at Little River Coffee Bar, the area’s best independent coffeehouse.
Little River roasts their beans in small batches, ensuring the highest quality. They partner with over 20 sustainable farms across the world. The menu includes all your typical espresso drinks plus smoothies, iced drinks, and tea. They have an attractive patio space where you can sip your drink, enjoy a homemade pastry, and simply enjoy people watching while getting in some fresh air.
Attached to the coffeebar is a popular, award winning local bookshop. Hub City Books offers an interesting selection of regional books, along with current bestsellers and a large offering of used books in the $5-7 range. As this is one of the few independent bookstores in the Upstate, it’s well worth a look.
The downtown is small, easily walkable, and lined with trees and interesting architecture. In 1983, Main Street was added to the National Register of Historic Places. More than 20 public art installations dot the downtown area for a unique vibrant setting. If you are a history buff, you may want to consider signing up for a guided walking tour ($6 per person). After breakfast, check out an art gallery or visit one of the museums at the Chapman Cultural Center.
The Chapman Cultural Center
This 3 building facility is home to 2 art galleries, a regional history museum, and 3 performing arts centers. The Spartanburg Art Museum is the oldest contemporary art museum in the south. Ballet Spartanburg, the Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Spartanburg Little Theater offer a range of productions throughout the year. Check out the current lineup of events at the Chapman.
The Spartanburg Regional History Museum is a must-see for any history buffs visiting the area. Here you will be able to stroll through various exhibits chronicling the city’s unique history, from the textile days, to the world war training camps. The museum spotlights the city’s rich military history which includes the Battle of Cowpens (instrumental in America winning independence from Great Britain, Camp Wadsworth (WW1 training facility), and Camp Croft (WW2 training camp). The historical map collection is probably the museum’s most impressive feature.
A nature escape in the city
Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve is a quick nature escape just minutes from the downtown. Although there are better state parks in the Upstate, this serves as a decent quick nature escape. Take a little time out to walk the serene nature trail here which features a small waterfall and numerous creeks. The setting is very lush, and thus, this makes for a nice place to get in a light workout – even on hot summer days.
If you are willing to drive a bit further, Croft State Park offers dozens of miles of trails, with options for hikers, bikers, and equestrians.
Hunt for unique treasures
Vintage Warehouse is a massive 20,000 square foot space dedicated to unique artisan products from over 60 vendors. From hand crafted furniture, to home decor, to clothing, you will find a bit of everything here. You could easily spend an hour or two just browsing around all the incredible pieces here. This is a must visit if you are into vintage shopping.
Where to eat
The Crepe Factory
For breakfast, check out The Crepe Factory, a quaint local restaurant on Main St, which specializes in both sweet and savory crepes. Although a few more vegetarian options would be nice, a diverse lineup of crepes incorporating all sorts of tempting flavors are on the lineup.
Pictured to the left is the Grove St. crepe featuring Lemon Creme Anglaise with French Lavender infused Syrup, served with fresh fruit. To the right is a Magnolia crepe, Bananas Foster flambéed with Banana Vanilla glaze and Belgian Chocolate. ( Treat yourself to a side of their signature roasted brussel sprout hash browns. They also offer a full espresso bar and a signature hot chocolate.
Delaney’s Irish Pub
Delaney’s is a nice choice if you are seeking a fun casual place to enjoy a few comfort style foods. Nothing too fancy here, just a nice local place to enjoy a drink (32 beers on tap), a few appetizers, with 15 HDTVs to catch the game. The decor is pleasant and the food decent enough to warrant a visit.
Great daytrips in the vicinity
If you have the time you will want to explore some of the beautiful natural surroundings in the region. Really, the close proximity to so many beautiful waterfalls and state park is Spartanburg’s true highlight. Here are a few of the best-of-the-best waterfalls within an hour or so drive.
Pearson’s – This is a beautiful 90 foot tall waterfall easily accessible via a simple 15 minute walk. Pearsons is located in Saluda, NC, about 45 minutes outside of Spartanburg. A bit overpriced for admission, however worth it if you are not up for a lengthy hike.
Ravencliff Falls – Raven Cliff is located within beautiful Caesars Head State Park, located just an hour northwest. The falls are viewable via an observation deck located at the end of a 2.2 mile trail. This trail is moderate in intensity although worth the trek for the beautiful ending view. This trail is heavily shaded (so perfect for summer), although it really shines during the colorful autumn season.
Reedy River – Falls Park is the oasis of downtown Greenville. Located right in the center of this bustling downtown is a popular waterfall which draws tourists from all over. Boutique shops, local restaurants, and galleries dot Main Street. Check out this handy guide to exploring downtown Greenville.
Wildcat branch Falls – This roadside wonder is located about an hour west of Spartanburg, just 20 minutes outside of Greenville. The waterfall is just 30 feet tall, although very powerful. An additional 1 mile nature trek will bring you to the upper falls.