If you’re like me, then the upcoming New Year brings with it a “bucket list” of things you plan to do in the coming year. Okay, some call it “New Year’s resolutions.” But it’s a bucket list.
For the sake of time (and relevancy to the topic of this article) let’s skip over the super important stuff at the top of your 2016 bucket list (family, health, diet, exercise) and talk about travel. Let’s make 2016 the year to See The World!
That world starts right outside your own front door. The Palmetto State has an immeasurable amount of stuff to see and learn. In every nook and cranny of this state you’ll find something to see and another “neighbor” to meet. For starters, let’s take a look at some of the most underrated cities and towns in South Carolina.
Abbeville is home to the Abbeville Opera House, now in the middle of its 107th winter season. It's also the home of the Village Grill, touted by TripAdvisor users as the best place to eat within 50 miles of Abbeville. After breakfast or lunch at Village Grill you can work off that big meal on a hike through Parson's Mountain Recreation Area, ranked as Trip Advisor's #1 Thing to Do in Abbeville.
If you've been wondering where in SC you can get a proper cup of tea, it's here in Ridgeway, a tiny little historic town just north of Blythewood in Fairfield County. Laura's Tea Room is eclectic, but formal. They even have vintage hats you can "borrow" because formal tea just wouldn't be the same without a proper hat, right? You'll love Laura's collection of vintage tea cups - always in style at Laura's.
Bluffton is a day trip at the very least. But you may want to plan a weekend. There's a lot to see and do in Bluffton, starting with historic Old Town Bluffton. From there you'll want to head over to The Church of the Cross on the May River. It's a beautiful old church. If you get there at the right time you might even get to go inside. Another must-see in Bluffton: Rose Hill Mansion. Oh who are we kidding? There are at least a dozen more "must-see and must-do" things in Bluffton. Just plan a weekend and you'll get through most of them.
Never under-estimate the allure and power of a small town. Newberry, SC has a performance venue - the Newberry Opera House - that's so well known that Willie Nelson played there. It's so versatile that it hosted the Vienna Boys Choir in October of this year and Graham Nash is performing there in Feb 2016. Splurge for French food before or after the show at Figaro's (Figaro The Dining Room). It's only a short walk away. What's that? You're not into concerts and eating? You can always just drink your way through Newberry (designated driver required, of course) at Enoree River Vineyard's Winery in Newberry.
What is it about cute little towns with Train Depots right out of a Rockwell painting that make you just know, for sure, that this is a place worth seeing? Seneca is one of those underrated places in South Carolina that most people who aren't Lake Keowee-goers don't pay enough mind to. But Seneca is worthy of a trip to the far corner of the Upstate. According to the website, PlacesOfValue.com Seneca is known as "Little Tahoe," because of its breathtaking beauty. Another huge web publisher (OnlyInYourState) ranked Seneca #5 on the list of
Safest and Most Peaceful Places To Live in 2015.
Port Royal, SC
In late 2014 a company (creditdonkey.com) did a study based on 7 variables in search of the happiest places in South Carolina. Port Royal ranked #1. Here are the 3 main reasons why people here are happier than anywhere else in the Palmetto State.
31% of people here start their work day before 5 a.m.
Commute time to work is only 14 minutes.
The divorce rate is only 14%.
See the complete list and methodology
Be careful, with stats like these you may go for a day trip and never leave. Foodwise, you can't go wrong in Port Royal if you eat at one of these two: Moon Doggies Cafe or 1635 on the Avenue.
Travelers Rest, SC
Avid golfers already know about the Traveler's Rest Pete Dye designed course, Cherokee Valley Golf Club. Its reputation for fast greens and spectacular views has spread through the entire Southeast. When you're finished with the back nine, be sure to stop by the Cafe at Williams Hardware for a famous black bean burger or one of their BBQ quesadillas. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Travelers Rest made headlines in 2013 when it annexed Furman. That's right, TR is now the home of Furman University. Big move, TR. Don't under-estimate what this town can do.
North Augusta, SC
North Augusta was first built as a luxury resort town. Located on the banks of the Savannah River, North Augusta is across the water from Augusta, Georgia. The Augusta Entertainment Complex/James Brown Arena is constantly hosting big performances. South Carolina's own country music sensation Lee Brice is set to play there on Feb. 19, 2016. We like Brice's choice to keep the dollars in the home state. Way to go North Augusta and kudos to you Lee Brice!
The City of Landrum was founded in 1880 and incorporated 1883. Located just west of Interstate 26 between Spartanburg and Asheville, the City of Landrum enjoys stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Residents and visitors alike enjoy drives along scenic roads, strolling through unique antique and specialty shops, and dining in Landrum‘s restaurants.
Also called "The Friendliest City in South Carolina," this small town in the Upstate has a beautiful downtown. Make plans to visit Anderson's biennial International Festival, set to feature Italy from Jan. 8 - Feb. 20, 2016. For casual dining visit Summa Joe's on N. Main Street for great pizza. For upscale evenings, choose Sullivan's on South Main.
Until you've been to Aiken you just have no idea how charming this city is. Aiken just might be one of the Palmetto State's best kept secrets. Maybe it's the the huge urban forest in the middle of downtown (Hitchcock Woods) that's been compared to Central Park in New York; or maybe it's all the horse-related activities here. But Aiken is definitely one of those cities in South Carolina that over-delivers on your expectations. Plan at least an overnight and definitely put the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame and Racing Museum on your agenda.
Go ahead. Make 2016 your year to explore all the amazing places that are right in your own backyard.
Did you know about all of these places and some of the things they have to offer? There are so many underrated places in our beautiful state. Do you think we left any off the list? Feel free to add them in the comments on Facebook.