SOUTH CAROLINA has been a hotspot for food, culture, and adventure for a while now, but it appears the secret is out. Charleston was voted one of the best cities to live (and dine!) in the world. The University of South Carolina and Clemson University bring students from all over — and their rival football programs don’t disappoint. And then there’s Greenville, which is topping lists of awesome small cities to visit.
And yet, much of the Palmetto State remains untouched by visitors and tourists. Are we at a tipping point? Perhaps. To get ahead of the curve, here are 11 experiences to have in South Carolina NOW.
1. Fulfilling your childhood race car dreams
With its NASCAR history dating back to the ’50s, it makes sense that South Carolina would be home to one of the most famous raceways in the world. Behold the Darlington Raceway and the
Check out the 1956 Ford convertible that won 22 races (yes, a convertible), Darrell Waltrip’s 1991 Chevy Lumina that rolled eight times (he walked away from the crash), and many more, like the ones driven by pros Johnny Mantz and Richard Petty.
To top it off, the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame is onsite, and it’s basically an interactive museum helping you brush up on NASCAR and its famous personalities. If you didn’t know what all the fuss was about before, you will now.
2. Experiencing history like never before
Exploring the Revolutionary War from its roots is easy from the Olde English District in Camden, most notably at the
When you get here, start with the 16-minute orientation film before stepping into this 18th-century, 106-acre outdoor complex. You can hop on a guided tour or go at it on your own, though the tour is definitely recommended. There are dozens of buildings worth perusing, but you won’t want to skip the 1785 Craven House or the 1794 McCaa’s Tavern. The latter was likely the best place to grab a pint back in the day.
3. Seeing just how wild the backcountry is
The backcountry of South Carolina is at its hands-down best in
And if you’re wondering why South Carolina’s backwaters deserve national park status, know that this area has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve and is one of the few remaining — and best-preserved — ecosystems of its kind. With that comes plenty of wildlife, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch the synchronous fireflies putting on a show.
4. Fixing yourself a true Southern drink
Drive to Wadmalaw Island, and you’ll come across the iconic
The drink is ubiquitous throughout the state, and you’re not a true South Carolinian until you know and love it. Locals pour a glass when neighbors pop over, and you can get a fresh, smooth cup for yourself when you leave the plantation — that’s Southern hospitality.
5. Meeting a whole other culture on the barrier islands
There are plenty of islands in South Carolina, but
Daufuskie is easy to get to from Hilton Head (it’s only a mile away), but it’s still like traveling to a different era — or world entirely. It’s only accessible by boat, and is largely one giant historic district. You won’t find shopping malls and row upon row of fancy five-star spas, but you will find plenty to do. Between the empty beaches, the Daufuskie Island Rum Company, and the seafood restaurants, you should be alright.
Traditional crafts are intricate, like the famed handwoven sweetgrass baskets — one of the oldest crafts of African origin in the country. Gullah cuisine has strongly influenced the Lowcountry, too. Their traditional meals consist of rice, okra, and shrimp — which we all know now as “soul food.”
6. Visiting the next-level state parks
The park is the only place with public access to Lake Jocassee, a body of water teeming with both wildlife and visitors. Locals come here in flocks to kayak, waterfall climb, and whitewater raft. When you’re not breaking a sweat, keep an eye out for bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and Oconee Bell flowers — they all flourish in the landscape of Devils Fork.
7. Staying at a park resort
8. Stumbling on swaths of green space hiding in our cities
There’s a lot to see in
Perhaps more importantly, though, this national historic landmark is home to what must be one of the most awe-inspiring sculpture sites in the world — there are 2,000 sculptures by 425 artists, all within the gardens.
9. Discovering that horse country is right here
There’s an area of South Carolina known as “Thoroughbred Country,” and its heart is the town of
Get there in time for the
10. Hitting the water…beyond the ocean
If lugging around a rod and reel isn’t your cup of tea, check out the boat tours into the nearby flooded cypress forest, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like ospreys, owls, egrets, and alligators.
11. Getting to know Travelers Rest
When the 18.7-mile GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail connected downtown Greenville to TR, or
The trail has gotten some pretty serious acclaim since it opened in 2009, and