Southern Charm and Vibrant Urban Energy
© Becky Linhardt 2013
After years of sprawling outwards as metropolitan Greenville grew to a regional powerhouse for commercial development, the city looked inward to the core where the small downtown area had a lot of small town charm. Streets shaded by mature trees provide shade for chef-owned restaurants, many with outdoor dining spring through fall when the weather is generally warm. Soon other businesses joined the exciting revitalization.
The Falls Park on the Reedy at the southern edge of downtown is just one of a string of parks along the Reedy River connected by an extensive system of wide asphalt trails popular with the locals and visitors at downtown hotels. Since many of the parking facilities are free weekends/evenings families often drive downtown to the Falls Park for a walk and to let their children explore along the shores of this generally shallow river and feed the ducks – more ducks than geese here.
As more international companies moved in to the rapidly growing city, art galleries popped up in small store fronts. The Westin renovated a historic hotel and Marriott built a new one near the performing arts spaces of the 2100-seat Concert Hall and the 400-seat Gunter Theatreat the nearby Peace Center. Professionals moved into new office and residential living spaces adjacent to the activities on Main Street and the nearby parks where they can walk or run, even play tennis on city courts.
Crossing the “T” on the north side of downtown is College Street with the sports-oriented Bi-Lo Center Arena at the eastern end and Heritage Green to the west. The park-like setting of Heritage Green is home to a variety of cultural institutions including the Upcountry History Museum, Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery of Art at Heritage Green, The Greenville Theater, the Main Library, The Greenville County Museum of Art, and The Children’s Museum.
Although the building is new, the Upcountry Museum focuses on the past with contemporary displays and installations that recount the history of the region. Many new technologies are used to recount the settlement of the area, the agrarian roots, and the changes after the Civil War as the area became the “Textile Capital of the World”. Exhibitions also deal with more contemporary military history and the social and economic impacts of the Upcountry’s military bases. There is a small admission fee.
The Museum of Art may be small by some standards but it has the largest collections of Andrew Wyeth watercolors owned by any public museum in the world. The collection of forty-five paintings is really quite exceptional in quality and the museum is free to the public. Traveling exhibitions of note are also displayed in this contemporary structure that is connected by walkways through the lovely landscape of mature trees and sunlit garden spaces of the Heritage Green.
While you are walking downtown, watch for the “artsy”series of cute little bronze mice. The tiny sculptures are tucked along buildings in the Main Street business district and it has become a tradition for locals to set visiting friends on a search to find all of them. So if you see people looking at the ground and around corners join the fun. Ask the Visitors Center personnel for some clues to “mice” locations.
Greenville Visitors Center: City Hall Building, 206 S. Main Street, Greenville, SC 29601
www.greenvillecvb.com or 800-717-0023