If you’ve ever been to South Carolina, you know it’s a pretty great place to visit. Southern charm and hospitality combine with gorgeous landscapes and lots of history. Most people think of the bigger cities, like Charleston, Greenville, and Columbia when they think of South Carolina, but don’t overlook the smaller gems scattered throughout the state. Here are five of the most charming small towns you can visit in South Carolina.
Nestled in the heart of Oconee County, Walhalla is a quaint little town that might have you thinking you’ve traveled out of the States and found your way to Bavarian country. Walhalla was established by German settlers looking for a new start in the United States. Its name means roughly ‘garden of the gods’ (from the word Valhalla) and it’s a pretty fitting description of the town.
While there’s plenty to see and do all year round, you’ll want to try and visit Walhalla during Oktoberfest, when the city comes alive with Bavarian food, music, and dancing. It’s an event that’s family-friendly and lots of fun for all ages.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that South Carolina beaches are all busy, noisy, and crowded. After all, they are exceedingly popular with visitors to the east coast. However, not all South Carolina beaches are the same. Some are exceptionally charming, especially Surfside Beach in Horry County. Surfside is considered to be part of the ‘Grand Strand,’ a large stretch of beaches along the east coast of South Carolina, but it feels like a world apart.
What makes Surfside Beach so charming? For starters, it has a much slower and more relaxed pace than many of the seaside towns in SC. It is exceptionally family friendly and it became the very first ‘autism friendly’ travel destination in the country in January of 2016. Surfside is known as ‘The Family Beach’ and it goes out of its way to live up to that title.
Stroll the sandy beaches, visit the parks and amusement attractions, or enjoy a meal of fresh seafood in one of the town’s great seafood restaurants. The pace is relaxed, the people are friendly, and you’ll probably find that you never want to leave the charming little seaside town.
If you want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but you also want access to all the modern conveniences, stop over at York. This small town is steeped in history and filled with friendly, smiling faces. There is an obviously British influence in the town’s history, buildings, and celebrations, but it’s a wonderful example of a great little American small town.
York is part of a larger Olde English District that is packed full of history-related attractions, including several small museums, the Catawba Cultural Preservation Center, and the African American Cultural Center. Don’t be alarmed if you spot any ‘Redcoat’ British soldiers–they’re just part of the regular Revolutionary War reenactments that take place in the District. With over 190 historic homes and buildings in the small town, history buffs will never run out of things to explore in York.
In addition to the Olde English District’s historical significance, it’s a great place to shop. York’s own downtown is filled with quaint shops, friendly eateries, and smiling faces. York’s charm probably lies in the fact that, despite its definite historical vibe, it’s also a vibrant, modern town with an eye on the future.
Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Travelers Rest is more than just a charming town with a quaint name. The town’s name comes from pioneer days when travelers would stop to rest in the area before attempting to cross the mountains. Today’s travelers may also want to stop for a bit in the pretty little SC town, but you don’t have to rest here.
Travelers Rest, known by locals simply as TR, is one of the best places in the Upstate to get your outdoor activity fix. Located near several state and local parks, it’s a great place to go if you want to hike, ride bikes, or even grab a kayak and hit the waters of the Saluda River. Take a walk along a section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail or take a short drive to one of the nearby lakes for a picnic, swim, or boat ride.
Downtown Travelers Rest is packed with charm. A thriving arts community, you’ll often find local artists at work, live music being performed, and events taking place at popular Furman University. The little town has all the cosmopolitan charm of a larger city folded into the warmth and welcome of a small southern town.
If you like the convenience of being close to a larger city without actually staying there, you might want to check out Abbeville. It’s 45 miles from Greenville and it has all the charm of a historic small town combined with the culture of much larger cities.
If you’re looking for history, look no further than Abbeville Square, Abbeville’s downtown area. Filled with shops, boutiques, a historic inn, and an opera house, you might find that you need more than a few days to enjoy the place properly.
If history isn’t really your thing, don’t worry–Abbeville has plenty for everyone. Every October, come to the small town and bring your appetite. The Hogs and Hens BBQ Festival brings out revelers in droves. It has live music, tasty barbecue, and plenty of activities for kids, making it an event for the entire family.
Abbeville is located near three state parks and four lakes, making it a great place to stay if you want to bask in the beauty of nature. Pack a picnic and head to nearby Calhoun Falls State Park, where you can swim in Lake Russell or rent a boat for some on-the-water fishing. If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can even go camping and truly get away from it all.
In reality, there are way more than just five charming small towns in South Carolina, but these are a great place to start. Why not plan a visit to one of these great little towns and see what the Palmetto State has to offer.