Summer in the city: What to do in Greenville

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Roper Mountain Science Center
Roper Mountain Science Center has a summer packed full of fun for all the adventure-loving kids out there. Photo by Will Crooks

Hot town. Summer in the city.

When the folk-rock band The Lovin’ Spoonful released that song (to great acclaim) in 1966, Greenville was a hot town only when measured by thermometer. Downtown was showing decay and would get worse in the 1970s.

Decades later, the tune fits across a wider spectrum. Culturally, esthetically, and commercially, Greenville and its immediate environs are celebrated nationally as one of the best towns of its size in the country. Nationally respected magazines practically demand that people retire here, and the restaurant and craft brewery scene attracts visitors from states away.

Finally, it IS a hot town.

On the doorsteps of a three-month period when many locals detour to the Carolinas mountains or beaches, Greenville can make claim to its own list of reasons to hang around for summer in the city. That list would start on Main Street, from the venerable Northgate Soda Shop, churning out burgers and floats for seven decades, to the now-vibrant West End, where unique shops, a treasured baseball field, and a once-forgotten river are calling.

“With countless annual festivals and events, some of the most accessible natural attractions in the Southeast nearby, and endless boutiques and galleries, not to mention one of the most buzzed-about food scenes in the South, Greenville is the perfect summer ‘staycation’ where there is literally always something going on,” said Taryn Scher, public relations representative for VisitGreenvilleSC.

From hot dogs and pizza to smoked salmon and the finest filet, restaurants on and along Greenville’s downtown spine offer tastes for every taste. Go chain or go local, or get loaded fries at Fluor Field.

Fluor is home for the Greenville Drive, the city’s team in the South Atlantic League. With the exception of June 16-22, the team has at least one home game every week from early June to late August. It’s inexpensive, fun entertainment. Pass the popcorn and pretzels.

For those looking for a summer of soccer, the new Greenville Triumph professional team has you covered. The Triumph’s first season continues throughout June, July, and August, with home games scheduled for Legacy Early College. Wear green.

Ready for a summer stroll or a bike ride? The Swamp Rabbit Trail stretches 22 miles from the city to Travelers Rest and offers fine views of area parks and the Reedy River.

A beloved attraction since its dramatic transformation changed the face of downtown, Falls Park on the Reedy offers the cool waters of Reedy River Falls and pleasant walking areas in both sun and shade. Survey it all from the Liberty Bridge, now a Greenville landmark.

Nearby is old mainstay Cleveland Park, home to the Greenville Zoo, one of the area’s largest playgrounds, picnic areas, and trails. Also in the city park family: McPherson Park, highlighted by an 18-hole miniature golf course.

One of the biggest area events of the summer is the June 6-9 BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tournament, a Web.com tour event scheduled for Thornblade Club in Greenville and the Cliffs Valley course in Travelers Rest. This popular tournament annually attracts an impressive list of celebrity golfers. This year’s group includes former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, former Atlanta Braves star Fred McGriff, and actors Brian Baumgartner and Lucas Black.

Greenville summer 2019Speaking of golf, brand new to Greenville is Topgolf, that rather strange-looking edifice south of the city off Interstate 85. Topgolf, now in 50 locations nationwide, offers a new approach to recreational golf. It is perhaps best described as a juiced-up driving range, with targets in the distance and a computer system that scores every shot. There will be golf clinics for kids throughout the summer.

Museums? Greenville has them. There will be summer exhibits and programs at the Upcountry History Museum, the Greenville County Museum of Art, and The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, and the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, located near Fluor Field, offers a comprehensive look at Greenville’s most famous baseball player.

Among summer highlights at Roper Mountain Science Center is the Butterfly Adventure. Scheduled June 11 to July 12, the adventure puts participants in an environment surrounded by hundreds of butterflies.

On the summer list at Bon Secours Wellness Arena are UFC Fight Night, New Kids on the Block, and ageless troubadour Willie Nelson.

The Peace Center summer schedule includes “Hello Dolly!,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” the Marcus King Band, Chris Botti, Terry Fator, Gladys Knight, Jason Isbell, and “The Band’s Visit.”

A double weekend (June 14-23) of entertainment is on tap at the Chautauqua History Alive Festival: It’s Revolutionary, at Greenville Technical College. Historical interpreters costumed as Andrew Jackson, Alexander Hamilton, Jackie Kennedy, Malcolm X, and others will present more than 30 shows over the two weekends.

Augusta Road will be headquarters for Summer on Augusta June 14-17. Live music, a shag contest, children’s activities, and special food selections highlight activities.

“Perhaps one of the special reasons Greenville is so attractive for locals is because of its affordability for families,” Scher said. “Everything from free concerts every Thursday and Friday night to riding the trolley or fanning out at professional baseball or soccer games, kids in Greenville can experience the same offerings as any major city in the U.S. at a fraction of the cost.”

Looking for a wacky Greenville-only diversion? Let the kids search for Mice on Main, nine tiny bronze mice scattered along Main Street. Clues are available at miceonmain.com.

Escape Artist Greenville provides an unusual summer experience for those interested in mystery and mayhem and the quickest way out of a series of escape rooms.

Finally, what’s summer without fireworks? The Wells Fargo Red, White, and Blue Festival, scheduled along Main Street July 4, promises a large fireworks show, music, a kids area, and an array of food and beverage.

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