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50 things you have to do in South Carolina before you leave

From the Lowcountry to the Upstate, here’s a look at SC’s 4 regions

South Carolina is divided into four regions — Upstate, Midlands, Pee Dee and Lowcountry. Each has its own unique geography and culture. *Note: Boundaries for each region were pulled from the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
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South Carolina is divided into four regions — Upstate, Midlands, Pee Dee and Lowcountry. Each has its own unique geography and culture. *Note: Boundaries for each region were pulled from the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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Curious SC

Read more from Curious SC – the weird, the wondrous and the beautiful stories that can come from only the Palmetto State.

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South Carolina is a state unlike any other.

From mountains to beaches, industrial cities to quaint hamlets, there’s plenty to appreciate in the Palmetto State. You can definitely have the best of both worlds here.

Here are 50 things you should do in South Carolina whether you’re a local or (soon-to-be) tourist:

1. Start off the year right with the Famously Hot New Years celebration! It’s known to be the biggest, free New Years Eve party in the Carolinas.

Mayor Steve Benjamin talks about Columbia's annual Famously Hot New Year celebration and this year's acts. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue will headline this year's event, with Sister Hazel opening for them. In keeping with tradition, FHNY will a

2. Tour the SC State House and its grounds. While the legislature is session (January-May), tours are offered every half hour. The rest of the year they’re available every hour on the half hour.

3. See the famed Angel Oak on Johns Island. Not just any tree, the Angel Oak is over400 years old, close to 70 feet tall and 28 feet around.

4. Buy the new Hootie and the Blowfish album and watch their reunion tour in Columbia. The “Group Therapy Tour” will kick off May 30 in Virginia Beach, Va. But who wouldn’t want to see the band at their last hometown stop in the Colonial Life Stadium, Sept. 13?

Here are some top facts about South Carolina native Darius Rucker, musician and lead frontman of popular band Hootie & the Blowfish

5. Go to Pelion for the town’s 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.

6. 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).

Tigers follow up by throwing oranges into the crowd after their Dec. 31, 2015 Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma, earning the team a place in the National Championship game Jan. 10.

7. Hike Table Rock. And while you’re there, be sure to check out Pinnacle Mountain, the tallest mountain in the state, and Ceasar’s Head, which offers “breathtaking views” from the overlook.

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

9. Eat your way through the SC BBQ trail. Did you know we’re 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 SC barbecue sauce.

Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis explains what happens every time she writes about BBQ - and tells us the one thing that astonishes her every time she eats a barbecue sandwich.

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

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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).

14. 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.

15. Spoleto! If you’re into performing arts, this 17-day and -night festival in Charleston is chock full of established artists and emerging talent. Keep a look-out for the 2019 schedule on their site.

16. 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.

A rare natural phenomenon is taking place at Congaree National Park as male fireflies blink in synchronized unison to attract female fireflies.

17. Go see Hamilton at Greenville’s Peace Center. That’s right, Broadway is coming to the Palmetto State, and even if you don’t have a ticket, you can try your hand at the Hamilton lottery for a once-in-a-lifetime performance.

18. Spend a day at Myrtle Beach, specifically Broadway at the Beach with its 350 acres of food, attractions and entertainment. The boardwalk deserves a day (or weekend) of your time.

If you visit Myrtle Beach, check out these 12 attractions off before heading home.

19. 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. It was also featured in the Netfix series “House of Cards.”

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

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

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

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

24. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can discover a literal Planet of the Apes on Morgan Island — a.k.a. Monkey Island — near Hilton Head. The island got its nickname due to the colony of rhesus monkeys that live there. You can only watch the monkeys from a distance as you drive by on boat or paddle by canoe, though, as humans aren’t allowed to step foot on the island.

25. Take in a double feature one of the state’s drive-in movie theater including: the Big Mo in Monetta, Drive-In Auto Theater in Greenwood and Highway 21 Drive-In in Beaufort.

26. 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.

27. 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.

28. 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.).

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

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

31. 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.

32. Travel along the ACE Basin on a boat trip. Sadly, the original ACE Basin Tour is no longer available. But good news for “Forrest Gump” fans, you can still go see (and relive) the scene where Forrest jumped off the shrimp boat when he saw Lt. Dan thanks to Beaufort Tours. Owner Bill Reynolds can take you to Lucy Creek where it all began.

33. 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.

SC Purple martin mania is back at Lake Murray after a year’s absence. Thousands of the birds are returning to Bomb Island after largely bypassing their long-time roost there last summer.

34. 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.”

35. Visit South Carolina’s famous attraction for over50 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.

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

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

State park officials had already planned a beach restoration project before the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. Now the amount of sand needed has almost doubled. Engineers plan to pump up to 1.2 million cubic yards of sand onto Hunting Island’s shor

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

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

40. Visit the last covered bridge in South Carolina. Campbell’s Covered Bridge is about 30 minutes from Spartanburg and was named after grist mill 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.

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

A tour of Fort Sumter from the documentary The Civil War Tour. The attack on Union Fort Sumter located in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861 was the start of the American Civil War. 34 hours later Confederate troops to control of the fort and wou

42. 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, SC; Beaufort Shrimp Festival in Beaufort; Charleston Wine + Food in Charleston, SC and the Aiken Bluegrass Festival in Aiken.

43. 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.

44. Take a picture (or selfie) of all the spots where Forrest Gump was filmed. Believe it or not, a majority of the film was made in the Lowcountry. From Savannah to Beaufort, you’ll probably recognize a building, bridge or road from the movie.

45. 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).

46. 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.

47. South Carolina has plenty of haunted spots (along with a few legends). Experience some of these scary stories yourself by taking a ghost tour in cities such as Charleston, Beaufort and Columbia.

Beaufort County is one of the oldest places in the country — and legend says it's also one of the most haunted. From haunted houses, to mausoleums and abandoned church ruins, here's a look at its spookiest places — and the ghosts that roam them.

48. Catch a baseball game at Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville. Modeled after Boston’s 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, right 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 the baseball legend and local.)

49. Attend at least one RBC Heritage. For over 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 such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and the late Payne Stewart have all played this tournament and gone on to become World Golf Hall of Famers.

Former Hilton Head Islander Shep Rose, star of Bravo's 'Southern Charm' and 'Relationshep' grew up coming to the RBC Heritage and is back on the island for the tournament. Here, he shares a few tips on how to enjoy the tournament.

50. Take a tour of the Bluffton Oyster Company. 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.

What did we miss? Send your suggestions to: bsaunders@islandpacket.com

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