Latest News

50 things to do in South Carolina before you die

Getty Images/iStockphoto

South Carolina is not your average state. From mountains to beaches, industrial cities to quaint parishes, there’s plenty to appreciate in the Palmetto State. Here are 50 things you should do in South Carolina before you head off to that great, big crescent moon in the sky:

state house14813
The SC State House Tracy Glantz

1. Tour the S.C. State House and its grounds. While the Legislature is session (January through May), tours are offered every half hour. The rest of the year they’re available every hour on the half hour.

2. See the famed Angel Oak on Johns Island. Not just any tree, the Angel Oak is more than 400 years old, close to 70 feet tall and 28 feet around.

3. Buy a Hootie and the Blowfish album. You can’t go wrong with their debut album, “Cracked Rear View” (1994).

4. Go to Pelion for their annual peanut party. Be sure to try the boiled peanuts made by members of the Pelion Ruritan Club. They use a secret recipe for boiling the peanuts.

5. Go to a USC-Clemson football game. It’s the rivalry in the state, so seeing it live is a must. Only tailgating the game does not count.

IMG_IMG_ceasarshead.jpg__2_1_O95S167C_L157890601
The view from Ceasar’s Head staff photo

6. Hike Table Rock. And while you’re there be sure to check out Pinnacle Mountain, the tallest mountain in the state, and Ceasars Head, which offers breathtaking views from the Caesars Head Overlook.

7. Walk the Battery in Charleston. It’s the best way to admire the antebellum homes that still line the city side of the sea wall as well as White Point Garden, which got its name from the large piles of bleached oyster shells found there.

8. Eat your way through the S.C. BBQ Trail. Did you know S.C. is the only state to feature all four basic barbecue sauces (mustard, light tomato, heavy tomato and vinegar)? Bonus points if you try all four but know which one is the real S.C. barbecue sauce.

9. Float down the Congaree River. Palmetto Outdoors has everything you’ll need: tubes, kayaks, tours and shuttles.

10. Sip tea at the Summerville Sweet Tea Festival. Recognized as the state’s hospitality beverage, this annual event is a call to all true Southerners.

11. Visit the South Carolina Aquarium. Home to more than 10,000 plants and animals, you can actually touch some of the marine animals in the Touch Tank.

12. Hang out at Falls Park on the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. There are pathways for bikers and runners, restaurants, hotels and even a waterfall. Yes, there’s a waterfall in downtown Greenville.

13. Hike the Palmetto Trail. Maybe not the whole projected 500-mile path that cuts across the state’s lakes, mountain ridges, forests and cities, but enough to cross it off the list.

14. Spoleto! If you’re into performing arts, this 17-day and -night festival in Charleston is chock full of established artists and emerging talent.

15. See fireflies synch their lights at Congaree National Park. South Carolina is just one of a handful of places in the nation where you can see this spectacular phenomenon.

16. Visit “Pretty Place,” a chapel named for Fred W. Symmes. Located in Camp Greenville, the chapel earned its nickname for its amazing view of rolling mountains in the distance.

IMG_Myrtle_Beach_2011073_4_1_7D43L7H6_L106181817
The Skywheel serves as the centerpiece of the 1.2 mile long ocean-front boardwalk in Myrtle Beach. Perry Baker

17. Spend a day at Myrtle Beach, specifically Broadway at the Beach. It’s 350 acres of food, attractions and entertainment. It deserves a day (or weekend) of your time.

18. Snap a photo of the Peachoid. It’s a 135-foot-tall water tower in Gaffney that was made to resemble a peach, the state’s signature fruit. Some people say it looks like a backside, earning it the nickname “peach butt.” You be the judge.

19. Sign up to run the Cooper River Bridge Race. With more than four decades of races under the banner, you want to sign up early. The race is capped at 40,000 participants.

20. Skydive over Chester. Offered by Sky Dive Carolina since 1986, you can choose to learn how to skydive, plan for a solo free fall or go tandem with a professional. And just you thrill seekers know, the website reports that while you’re in free fall, you can accelerate to more than 120 mph for up to a minute, followed by a five-minute scenic descent.

21. Watch the Revolutionary War re-enactment at Historic Camden on the 107 acres where the original 18th-century property of the city’s founder, Joseph Kershaw, is located.

22. Visit the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman. The saucer-shaped UFO was built by Jody Pendarvis, whose yard it resides in.

23. Take in a double feature at the Big Mo drive-in movie theater. Each weekend during the spring, summer and fall seasons, they offer three double features for the price of a single movie.

24. Tour the Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Moncks Corner. The Roman Catholic monks welcome you to visit the church on a guided tour as well as wander around the Nancy Bryan Luce Gardens.

CAROLINA CUP 040228197
Revelers exit the infield at the Springdale Racetrack during the Carolina Cup in Camden. The yearly event attracts thousands of horse fans and party people. Sean Rayford online@thestate.com

25. Trot out to the Carolina Cup steeplechase in Camden. Bonus points if you dress in your best preppy attire (and, ladies, don’t forget to don your best hat or fascinator!). If you can’t make this one, there’s also the Aiken Fall Steeplechase.

26. Take a picture of (and on) Poinsett Bridge. Although it’s no longer a working bridge, the structure still stands and is reportedly the oldest bridge in South Carolina (and possibly the southeastern U.S.).

27. Go to a NASCAR race at Darlington Raceway. Known as “The Lady in Black” (because it was the original paved super speedway for NASCAR), this location’s track is still regarded as “too tough to tame.”

28. Eat at the Beacon. This Spartanburg drive-in has a reputation for being a regional Carolina tradition and the second-largest drive-in restaurant in the U.S. The food isn’t half bad either!

29. Take a hot-air balloon ride with Captain Telegram. A bit of an institution himself, let Columbia’s favorite captain take you on an hour tour above the Midlands. He also offers trolley rides and singing telegrams, for future reference.

30. Travel along the ACE Basin on a boat trip. Located just outside of Beaufort, this three-hour tour will take you through the marshes and islands of the ACE Basin. The tour departs from Coosaw Island, featured in the movie Forrest Gump.

IMG_purplemartins_tg0990_2_1_CH5BS3KF_L142900486
The Purple Martins return to Bomb Island to roost during summer evenings. Tracy Glantz

31. See the purple martins at Bomb Island on Lake Murray. Known as the first official North American sanctuary for these large swallows, up to 750,000 purple martins migrate and stay here from June through late August, early September.

32. Read a Pat Conroy novel, if you haven’t already. Sure you could cheat and watch either of the Oscar-nominated films based on his books (“The Prince of Tides” or “The Great Santini”), but his best known works are the novel “The Lords of Discipline” and his memoir, “My Losing Season.”

33. Visit South Carolina’s famous attraction for more than 50 years, South of the Border ... and drink a Blenheim Ginger Ale. The independent soda-bottling company dates back to 1903 and is one of the earliest, smallest and (in some southern circles) finest in the United States.

34. Drink water from Healing Springs. Located behind the Healing Springs Baptist Church in Blackville, the mineral water found there is said to have healing properties.

IMG_lede--North_Beach_at_8_1_8OBGUF57_L318203466
The beach at Hunting Island State Park staff photo

35. Go camping at Hunting Island State Park. There’s 5 miles of beach, a saltwater lagoon, a historic lighthouse ( the only publicly accessible one in the state) and 100 highly coveted campsites.

36. See the Hunley submarine. Located at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, the thrice sunk submarine was lost at sea from 1864 to 1995, when it was finally found, raised and put on display.

37. See a concert at the Newberry Opera House. Built in 1881, this historic building was fully restored in the late 1990s and is beloved for its live performances as much as the its rich cultural significance.

38. Visit the last covered bridge in South Carolina. Campbell’s Covered Bridge is about 30 minutes from Spartanburg and was named after grist mill (a mill where grain is turned into flour) owner Alexander Lafayette Campbell. The historic bridge is owned and operated by Greenville County, which turned the site into a park with picnic tables, access to the site of the old mill, Campbell’s home and a view of Beaverdam Creek.

IMG_Fort_Sumter_Shells_4_1_S16HGG7C
Several shells are lodged in a wall of Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. They are being conserved in place because removing them would damage both the shells and the masonry around them. Bruce Smith AP

40. Visit either (or both!) of the forts along the coast. This means either Fort Sumter (where the first shots of the Civil War were fired) or Fort Moultrie (used from 1776-1947).

41. Pick a festival, any festival. Just to name a few, there’s the Rosewood Crawfish Festival and St. Pat’s in Five Points in Columbia, the Okra Strut Festival in Irmo, Charleston Wine + Food in Charleston and the Aiken Bluegrass Festival in Aiken.

42. Dine at Miller’s Bread Basket. Located in Blackville, this family-owned and -operated restaurant serves home-cooked Amish-Mennonite-style foods. Can’t find that everywhere in South Carolina, that’s for sure.

43. See the “haunting ruins” of the Old Sheldon Church. Built in the 1700s, this church was burned down twice (once by the British during the Revolutionary War and once by General William Sherman in the Civil War), but the Gothic brick exterior withstood the flames and is now an attraction worth seeing.

44. Find all the mice on Main. Greenville is overrun with mice! Of the bronze variety, that is. The city has made a game (and book of clues) for finding all the mice along the city’s Main Street. (Hint: you can find them all between the Hyatt and the Westin Poinsett hotels).

45. Check out the Chester County Historical Society Museum and Archives. First, it’s housed in an old county jail; second, it’s rumored to be haunted; third, it has a surprisingly large collection of Native American pottery, historic weaponry and photography.

46. Take a ghost tour in Charleston. Bulldog Tours will give you the fright of your life for a night as they take you to explore the city’s most notoriously haunted places.

IMG_Furman_004.JPG_2_1_6U74T547
South Carolina 1st baseman LB Dantzler (20) tags Furman shortstop Hunter Burton (1) after catching him in a run down between 1st and 2nd at Fluor Field at the West End. BART BOATWRIGHT/Staff

47. Catch a baseball game at Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville. Modeled after Fenway Park, the field has its own 30-foot-high “green monster” for players to contend with, and the outfield’s dimensions are the same as Fenway’s, down to the “Pesky’s Pole” in right field. (And while you’re in the area – and mindset – visit the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum across the way, dedicated to baseball legend and local, Joe Jackson.)

48. Attend at least one RBC Heritage. For more than 50 years, this golf event has been held on Hilton Head Island in the spring, a week after the Masters Tournament (which is also a S.C.to-do, even if it is in Augusta, Georgia). Golf legends like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and the late Payne Stewart have all played this tournament and gone on to become World Golf Hall of Famers.

49. Take a tour of the Bluffton Oyster Co. The state’s only oyster house, this old-school operation has been around since 1899 and is known for its freshly harvested, hand-shucked oysters.

IMG_famously-hot-new-yea_3_1_5Q6Q16LA_L185182831
Thousands gather in front of the State House for Famously Hot New Years celebration, topped off with some midnight fireworks to ring in the New Year. C Michael Bergen mbergen@thestate.com

50. Ring in the new year with the Famously Hot New Years celebration! It’s touted as the biggest, free NYE party in the Carolinas!

What did we miss? Send your suggestions to: dsellers@thestate.com

  Comments