While most people think of South Carolina as a gold mine for pristine beaches, there is so much that my home state has to offer from the midlands of the Columbia area to the Blue Ridge Mountains of the upstate. I have lived in both these areas for quite some time, so here are my bucket list things to do in both the midlands and the upstate.
The midlands region of South Carolina is home to Columbia – the capital city. Columbia has an exceptionally vibrant history and still has many historical attractions to visit for all ages. One of my personal favorites is the South Carolina State Museum.
What I like most about the state museum is the fact that there are so many interesting parts of history everywhere you go inside this museum. Some of these exhibits go way back to when dinosaurs ruled the world, and some are much newer, like the very first iPhone and some of the old flip phones that were popular when I was in high school. There is a plethora of South Carolina history wrapped throughout your visit there, including some colonial paintings and lots of information about what life was like back during early years in South Carolina.
Outside of the museum, one of the of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire state of South Carolina (and especially the midlands) is the Riverbanks Zoo. Located in the heart of Columbia, it’s one of the top zoos in the entire southeastern United States.
Every time I visit the zoo, there’s always something new to see. During my last visit at Riverbanks, there were lion cubs. I had no idea that one of the lions had even had babies until this visit!
Aside from the lions, other typical animals, and the many ongoing activities, the Riverbanks Zoo has just about everything I can think of while catering to every age group. But don’t worry if you don’t have kids – there is a “Brew in the Zoo” event every year at the zoo, obviously catered toward adults. I have yet to attend this, but it’s definitely on my list of things to do in Columbia!
Although I’ve already discussed my two favorite tourist attractions in Columbia, the University of South Carolina and the SC State House are also great places to visit if you like to see those kinds of things. Both of these places have been around since the 1800s and have been through a tremendous amount of historical events – one being General Sherman’s March To The Sea during the Civil War. Again, if you’re into history, you’ll definitely want to give these runner-ups a shot!
Another great thing that I should mention while discussing Columbia and the surrounding area is the South Carolina State Fair. If you’re in South Carolina in the month of October, it’s a fun place to spend a day. I’m not much of a fair person, but the SC State Fair made an appearance on Carnival Eats, a popular TV show that focuses on wild carnival foods. Upon checking it out, I was thoroughly pleased with my experience and all the food choices there. The fair is known for its wacky food, like this donut burger. (I didn’t like it but there are HUNDREDS of food choices aside from this burger, so it’s well worth it if you like carnival-style foods!)
As you travel further north and away from Columbia and the midlands, you’ll eventually run into the upstate. The upstate is home to Greenville, which is one of the most up-and-coming tourist locations in America. Greenville has an estimated five million visitors each year, according to Greenville’s tourism office. The city has also been recognized over recent years by many different popular magazines and companies (including TripAdvisor, Travel + Leisure, and National Geographic Traveler) for being one of the best places to visit in the entire US.
As a Greenville native, I can definitely vouch for the downtown area. If someone would’ve told me as a child that Greenville would be a tourist hot spot, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years. I don’t know the exact cost of renovations that the city has put into the downtown area, but now there is so much life in Greenville that was never there before the last ten to fifteen years came and passed.
Downtown Greenville, again, is a must if you choose to visit the upstate. There is a nearly endless amount of delectable restaurants within walking distance from everything. These restaurants range from Ruth’s Chris and other upscale, five-star dining to a grits/brunch bar at Nose Dive and cultural foods to please every palate.
If you’re more into nature, the upstate is the perfect place to satisfy all your outdoor needs. In under an hour, you can easily reach many different waterfalls and mountain hiking trails, like Caesar’s Head State Park or Table Rock State Park. However, the most popular waterfall in the upstate doesn’t actually involve a hike at all. It’s located at Falls Park on the Reedy in downtown Greenville. This is hands down the best and most popular tourist attraction in Greenville, and it’s very clear as to why.
Greenville is the perfect location, whether you’re young, old, or anything in between. The food is seriously top-notch and the atmosphere of the downtown streets is like no other place in the South. It is a must-visit location, even if I am biased since Greenville is my hometown.
South Carolina is a wonderful state to visit and learn about, from the history of the midlands to the mountain views in the upstate. I hope you find this guide helpful when it comes to traveling throughout my home state. Thanks, y’all – enjoy!
Hey y’all! My name is Megan and the creator of my lifestyle blog, Megan Cecilia, where I talk about motivation tips and living your best life through the power of positvity. See you there!
Megan thank you for sharing South Carolina! It sounds like a great place to spend time. I would for sure go on the hike and see the beautiful waterfalls. Love the photo of the baby cubs! How neat!