This South Carolina destination is large-dog friendly and offers a sense of Seattle chic in the South Atlantic with plenty of classic Americana thrown in for good measure. Main Street offers a scenic place to stroll, with a variety of shops and sidewalks wide enough to accommodate canines of all sizes. A free trolley system, numerous cultural museums and a strong selection of cost-free public trails add to the overall family vacation appeal. Here are my top tips for making the most of a Greenville getaway.
Art: Museums and cultural performances come with the territory when planning a Greenville getaway. Of note are the religious art collections at the Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery. The venue provides a serious opportunity to see a significant number of works by the old masters along with ancient Egyptian ceremonial vessels, Mesopotamian artifacts, an entire collection of Russian icons and much more. The works here are on par with anything I've seen at the top museums in Europe, so if you'd like to expose the kiddos to a world-class experience without dishing out for international air fare, this museum is definitely worth your tourist time. Adult and student ticket prices are $5 and $3 respectively, and you should plan to set aside an entire afternoon for the experience.
The Greenville County Museum of Art is also worth your travel attention, featuring the works of numerous prominent American artists. You can expect to see works by the African-American potter David Drake, contemporary artist Jasper Johns and one of the largest publically-accessible collections of watercolors created by Andrew Wyeth himself. Admission is currently free, although certain parking fees can apply unless you visit after 5 p.m. or on weekends when vehicle access is complimentary.
Activities: The city has its own baseball team, and the games offer a serious bargain for families in search of outdoor entertainment. Tickets to see The Greenville Drive in action start at $6, and post-game treats are just steps away at Funnelicious, which sells a number of penny-pinching goodies such as hot dogs, baby funnel cakes, ice cream and more. Also across the street is the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library. A great itinerary stop for sports fans, the venue has recreated portions of Joe's living space in the structure where he actually resided, and houses a collection of artifacts and memorabilia that baseball buffs are sure to find interesting. Admission and parking at the Shoeless Joe venue are both free.
Greenville also boasts a great park and trail system that visitors to the downtown area can access on foot. That the city's free downtown Wi-Fi is accessible from there as well means lounging on the rocks amid the waterfalls while sipping your gourmet coffee and checking email on your tablet device is an experience that's easily achievable. Visitgreenvillesc.com has additional detailed information regarding activities, attractions and venues worth visiting.
Appetite: The food scene in this Southern destination is noteworthy, and bargains are abundant. For example, serious Sunday brunch savings can be scored at Nose Dive, a downtown gastro pub. Their $6 grits bar is an all-you-can-eat affair, with topping options available to suit vegetarians, vegans and bacon lovers alike. Custom-cooked eggs can be added to your order for a buck a pop, while complimentary live music and drink specials add to the value. For the hottest high-end lunch deal in town, head to High Cotton, which offers two $10 daily lunch specials and a variety of gourmet desserts that all ring in at $7.
Other fun food experiences include enjoying a bottle of suds with the $6 spicy pimento cheese spread at Soby's and the award-winning truffle fries available at The Green Room. If you feel like a light snack after catching a show, experience gourmet popcorn nirvana at Poppington's, where small and family-size bags of the treat are available in an extreme selection of sweet and savory flavors such as coconut curry, dill pickle, cinnamon kettle corn and bacon cheddar.
Additional: Feel like treating yourself? There are a number of experiences in town that are definitely worth the throw down. For a sexy sit-down dinner splurge, try the South Main Street location of Rick Erwin's where those who enjoy drinking strong red wines will find a winning dinner pairing in their grilled lamb and goat cheese salad. The Westin Poinsett is an iconic, nearly century-old venue offering stylish accommodations in a convenient location with rack rates starting at $159 per night.
Those who have the need for speed may want to dish out the dough for the ultimate driving experience offered by BMW. An activity fee of $149 gets you several hours of behind-the-wheel time in an extensive selection of high-performance vehicles and the chance to drive them around a test track at top speeds. The experience also includes a tour of the production plant and entry to the on-property BMW museum.
Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget, and founder of TrekHound.com, a web site for independent travelers. She also founded TheLessonMachine.com, a web site for teachers.