Greenville is the largest city in Greenville County, and although it offers its fair share of attractions, you might find yourself wanting to head out of town on a day trip. If this is the case, you're in luck; the states of Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina are all within driving distance, and you have your pick of big cities, rural agricultural counties, and historic villages. It's also relatively easy to get to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where you can explore charming mountain cities, enjoy the beauty of pristine lakes and waterfalls, and hike to your heart's content.
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Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Asheville is an undeniably beautiful city that draws nature enthusiasts from near and far. Depending on whether you'd rather walk or drive, it's easy to access both the Appalachian Trail and the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway. The city is also a paradise for art lovers; dozens of galleries and museums can be found downtown, and if you want to visit some artists' studios directly, you can do so in the River Arts District. Other attractions in town include the elegant Biltmore estate, the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, and the many local microbreweries.
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Home to the historic University of Georgia, the town of Athens boasts a beautiful Victorian-era historic district filled with antebellum buildings, an incredible assortment of locally owned cafes and restaurants, and a healthy dose of southern-style charm that makes visitors want to extend their stay. The city also has a lively arts and music scene that has given birth to the likes of R.E.M. and the B-52s, so if you're here in the evening, do your best to catch a performance at the Georgia Theater, the 40 Watt Club, or one of the other highly-acclaimed venues in town.
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3.BMW Factory Tour
© BMW Zentrum Museum
Offered by the BMW Zentrum Museum, the BMW Factory Tour offers the unique opportunity to step inside a working BMW factory and learn about the automobile manufacturing process firsthand. Tour guests can also check out the museum free of charge; highlights of the exhibits here include state-of-the-art concept vehicles, and rare, historic BMW vehicles like the Isetta “Bubblecar”. The museum is open to visitors Monday through Friday, but factory tours are only available by advance reservation. The tour involves between one and two miles of walking, and all visitors must wear completely enclosed shoes to comply with safety guidelines.
1400 Highway 101 South Greer, SC 29651, Phone: 864-802-6000
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The largest city in North Carolina, Charlotte is an ever-expanding metropolis with no shortage of restaurants, shops, and attractions for visitors to enjoy. The modern downtown core is confusingly known by locals as Uptown, and it's dotted with soaring skyscrapers and high-profile attractions like the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Levine Museum of the New South. This is also where you'll find the bulk of the city's best restaurants and stores, but if you're looking to immerse yourself in art and culture, head to the funky neighborhoods of Plaza Midwood and North Davidson, known to locals as NoDa.
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Columbia is known for its scorching summer weather, but that's not the only reason this state capital is referred to as "The Real Southern Hot Spot". The city is home to an incredible array of buzzing restaurants, sophisticated cocktail bars, and trendy stores, but it also offers welcome glimpse at the city's rich heritage. Historic house museums can be found dotted throughout the city, and the South Carolina State Museum is the perfect place to learn about history in a broader sense. If you're traveling with children, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is another popular attraction, particularly with families.
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Tucked away in rural Pickens County, Dacusville is a tiny community with a decidedly agricultural feel. The community sees most of its visitors during its annual Farm Show on Labor Day weekend, which offers antique tractor shows and hayrides, but it's a charming place to visit during the rest of the year as well. There are several family-friendly parks with playgrounds in the town, and the nearby Saluda Lake is excellent for fishing and boating. Visitors can also stop by the historic Hester Store, a general store built in 1893 that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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7.DuPont State Forest
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Encompassing more than 10,000 acres in western North Carolina, the DuPont State Forest has famously served as the backdrop for movies like The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games. It's known as one of the best mountain biking destinations in the state, but the forest is also home to 86 miles of hiking trails and all sorts of waterfalls. Three of these falls can be accessed via the park's most popular hike, a 2.2-mile round-trip trail that tends to draw crowds of visitors during the summer months, but there are also plenty of other trails if you're seeking a bit of solitude.
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Set at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Easley is the biggest city in Pickens County and an excellent day trip destination. The welcoming downtown streets host a weekly farmer's market on Saturday mornings, and they offer a good selection of restaurants, antique shops, and specialty stores that are open all throughout the week. Other town amenities include a children's splash park and an outdoor amphitheater that often hosts festivals, live music, and other special events. Visitors will also enjoy easy access to the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, where they can enjoy the many lakes, waterfalls, and scenic hiking trails.
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Originally built as a place for wealthy plantation owners and Charlestonians to escape the scorching heat of the Low Country, Flat Rock is a historic village fondly nicknamed "The Little Charleston of the Mountains." The town is still a great place to beat the summer heat, but it's worth a visit for the architecture alone. The entire village district holds a place on the National Register of Historic Places, but some of the most impressive buildings include the Carl Sandburg Home, the beautiful Episcopal church, and the Flat Rock Playhouse, which still hosts high-quality theater productions today.
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Don’t be fooled by the name; Fountain Inn is not the charming bed and breakfast you might expect, but rather a peaceful city tucked among the rolling foothills of South Carolina. The town received its name from a historic inn that served as an overnight stop for weary stagecoach travelers, and today, it welcomes visitors who want a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Plenty of beautiful parks and trails can be found in the surrounding area, but if you'd rather stay in town, try to catch one of the outdoor concerts that are held at Commerce Park in the summer.
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Widely recognized as one of the best aquariums in the world, the Georgia Aquarium is home to more aquatic life than any other aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to its spectacular aquarium tanks, the aquarium holds sea lion and dolphin shows several times a day. However, visitors are advised to line up at least half an hour before showtime to ensure they get a seat. For an additional fee, you can also take a behind-the-scenes tour of the animal cafeteria to watch whale sharks eat lunch and schedule an intimate encounter with a beluga whale.
225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313, Phone: 404-581-4000
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Spread out across Spartanburg and Greenville counties at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greer is an alluring city known for its friendly small-town feel. The downtown core offers 12 blocks filled with shops and restaurants, and during the summer, live music is played every Friday evening. The city also has the honor of being home to the country's only BMW manufacturing plant, and visitors can learn about the company's history at the Zentrum museum, tour the factory to watch cars being made, and take a power-packed BMW for a spin at the Performance Center.
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13.Hagood Mill Historic Site
Found just outside the city of Pickens, the Hagood Mill Historic Site was created to protect the Hagood Gristmill. The mill dates back to 1825, and it's the only mill in the state still producing grain products, which can be purchased from the small on-site store. Visitors can also check out the site's moonshine still, historic log cabins, and cotton gin building. The site is open to visitors every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, but the third Saturday of the month is the best time to visit; the site hosts a fun festival with live music, story tellers, and other forms of live entertainment.
138 Hagood Mill Rd, Pickens, SC 29671, Phone: 864-898-2936
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14.Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
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Established to commemorate an important battle that took place here during 1780, the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site is a fascinating place to learn about the history of the Revolutionary War. Plenty of information about the battle and the war is available in the Visitor's Center, but if you'd like to get some exercise while you learn, there are also 2.5 miles of trails dotted with interpretive signs. The park also offers some spectacular natural beauty for visitors to enjoy, including the Enoree River, the beautiful Horseshoe Falls, and deciduous trees that are particularly picturesque in the fall.
398 State Park Rd, Clinton, SC 29325, Phone: 864-938-0100
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15.Paris Mountain State Park
Only five miles outside of Greenville, Paris Mountain State Park is a historic park that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Offering more than 1,500 acres of land for visitors to enjoy, the park is a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, and nature watching. There are also four beautiful lakes, one of which has a designated swimming area that can be used during the summer. The park is open to visitors on a daily basis, and an admission fee is charged for visitors over the age of 5.
2401 State Park Rd, Greenville, SC 29609, Phone: 864-244-5565
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Situated in northwestern South Carolina, Pickens County encompasses almost 500 square miles of land. There are several small cities and towns where visitors can stop to have lunch or do a bit of shopping, but most of the attractions here are found in nature. The highlight of the area is Sassafras Mountain, the highest natural point in the state, and visitors can walk or drive up to the peak for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and farmland. Other popular activities include visiting the South Carolina Botanical Garden, fishing in the county's beautiful lakes, and hiking through Table Rock State Park.
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Best known as the home of Dollywood, an Appalachian-themed amusement park owned by country singer Dolly Parton, Pigeon Forge is a bustling mountain town popular with country music fans and mountain lovers. In addition to visiting the theme park and hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visitors can explore the Titanic Museum, walk through the Old Mill Square, and stop by the Hollywood Wax Museum. If you'd like to keep the country music theme going even after you leave Dollywood, you can attend one of the lavish performances at the Smoky Mountain Opry or dine at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede dinner theater.
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Part of the rapidly expanding 'Golden Strip' in northwestern South Carolina, the city of Simpsonville has roots dating back to the 1820s, when it served as a humble crossroads between an important Cherokee trail and the Old Stage Road. These days, it's a popular place with visitors, particularly those in search of a thrill. Take a zipline canopy tour that will whisk you across the lush Green River Gorge, get behind the wheel of a race car at the BMW Performance Center, or whitewater raft down the Chattooga River. If you're looking for something more relaxing, visit one of the area's scenic parks or wineries.
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19.South Carolina Botanical Garden
Located on the campus of Clemson University, the South Carolina Botanical Garden is a beautiful 295-acre piece of land that serves as a sanctuary for a diverse collection of plant life. Visitors are welcome to stroll along the garden's 3 miles of nature trails, but there are other attractions here as well, including a geology museum, a large collection of nature-based sculptures, and the Hanover House, a historic home built during the early 18th century. The grounds are open to visitors every day of the year between dawn and dusk, and there is no admission fee.
150 Discovery Ln, Clemson, SC 29634, Phone: 864-656-3405
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Thanks to its central location, its rich heritage, and its diverse selection of things to see and do, Spartanburg is one of the most visited cities in South Carolina. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the city's proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Croft State Park, while art lovers shouldn't miss the chance to browse the exhibits at the Greenville County Museum of Art located on the campus of Bob Jones University. The area also played an important role several battles during the Revolutionary War, which visitors can learn about at the Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park.
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21.Table Rock State Park
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Sitting on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Table Rock State Park encompasses almost 3,100 acres of scenic South Carolina mountain country. The park offers plenty of hiking trails, including one that leads up to the top of the park's namesake mountain. Other attractions include paved cycling trails, a cozy lodge that hosts a monthly bluegrass jam, and two lakes, one of which boasts a welcoming swimming hole. Boats and standup paddleboards can be rented from the park's marina, and there are plenty of waterfront picnic areas that invite visitors to kick back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful views.
158 E Ellison Ln, Pickens, SC 29671, Phone: 864-878-9813
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22.The Anderson County Museum
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The Anderson County Museum is home to more than 25,000 artifacts that tell the story of Anderson County, and it's an excellent place to visit if you're interested in learning more about the history of South Carolina. The permanent visits are rotated on a regular basis, but they introduce visitors to topics like the local soldiers who have fought in various battles and wars, the history of the county fair, and the evolution of education over the years. The museum is also wonderfully family-friendly, and it offers exciting scavenger hunts and interactive games to keep visitors of all ages entertained.
202 Greenville St E, Anderson, SC 29621, Phone: 864-260-4737
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23.The Western North Carolina Nature Center
If you're looking for a kid-friendly day trip, the Western North Carolina Nature Center is one of the best destinations within driving distance of Greenville. Set on a beautiful 42-acre property, this unique museum is home to an impressive collection of living plants and animals native to the mountains of eastern North America. The excellent outdoor trail system allows visitors to safely explore the park while spotting animals like red pandas, river otters, coyotes, and endangered red wolves, and there is also an indoor exhibit area featuring a variety of amphibians, snakes, and small mammals.
75 Gashes Creek Rd, Asheville, NC 28805, Phone: 828-259-8080
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24.Vanderbilt Biltmore Mansion
Created by George Washington Vanderbilt II in the late 1800s, the Vanderbilt Biltmore Mansion is located on an 8,000-acre estate outside the city of Asheville. The estate is still owned by the Vanderbilt family, but instead of serving as a private residence, it's now open to visitors who want to explore its 250 opulent rooms and learn more about the extravagant Gilded Age. It takes approximately two hours to explore the mansion on a self-guided tour, but it's easy to spend an entire day on the estate if you visit its famous winery, enjoy some live music on the South Terrace, and stroll the grounds.
1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803, Phone: 800-411-3812
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Atlanta, GA is one of the busiest and most inviting cities in the South, so it's an excellent choice for day trippers in search of some big city style entertainment. Depending on where your interests lie, the highlight of your visit might include the enormous Georgia Aquarium, the World of Cocoa-Cola museum, or the Atlanta Botanical Garden. However, there's plenty to do here even if you skip the big attractions; dine at one of the city's upscale restaurants, take a walk through the Centennial Olympic Park, or visit the Little Five Points neighborhood for some excellent shopping.
923 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201, Phone: 404-521-6600
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25 Best Greenville Day Trips
- Asheville, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Athens, GA, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- BMW Factory Tour, Photo: BMW Zentrum Museum
- Charlotte, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Columbia, Photo: csfotoimages/stock.adobe.com
- Dacusville, Photo: iPixel Studio/stock.adobe.com
- DuPont State Forest, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Easley, Photo: Kevin Ruck/stock.adobe.com
- Flat Rock, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Fountain Inn, Photo: SFIO CRACHO/stock.adobe.com
- Georgia Aquarium, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Greer, Photo: glebchik/stock.adobe.com
- Hagood Mill Historic Site, Photo: digidreamgrafix/stock.adobe.com
- Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, Photo: Syda Productions/stock.adobe.com
- Paris Mountain State Park, Photo: Liudmila/stock.adobe.com
- Pickens County, Photo: Andrew/stock.adobe.com
- Pigeon Forge, Photo: Scott Prokop/stock.adobe.com
- Simpsonville, Photo: Foap.com/stock.adobe.com
- South Carolina Botanical Garden, Photo: lesichkadesign/stock.adobe.com
- Spartanburg, Photo: Liudmila/stock.adobe.com
- Table Rock State Park, Photo: AZP Worldwide/stock.adobe.com
- The Anderson County Museum, Photo: New Africa/stock.adobe.com
- The Western North Carolina Nature Center, Photo: Lee/stock.adobe.com
- Vanderbilt Biltmore Mansion, Photo: Edward/stock.adobe.com
- Atlanta, GA, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: susanne2688/stock.adobe.com