Perhaps the Alpine Helen/White County Convention and Visitors Bureau says it best:
“… [H]ere, you can introduce the whole family to new kinds of fun that you experience together, without tiny glowing screens.”
That last phrase might summarize summer road trip goals for many – whether you’ve been swatting devices out of your teens’ hands or attempting to disconnect from the work email account.
And within relatively short distances from Greenville, new adventures await that will hold the attention of even the most phone-addicted among us.
Categorized by distance and activities, here are three day-trip destinations in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia that are perfect for a midweek diversion as a solo traveler or weekend jaunt with loved ones.
Destination: Hendersonville, North Carolina
Drive time: 1 hour
Who: Families with young children; food and drink tourists; dog lovers
For many, Hendersonville is synonymous with apple picking. But that’s one fall activity of dozens year-round that make this growing tourism spot worth stopping a few exits short of Asheville. Its quaint Main Street alone provides enough activity and interest that there’s no need to wander off the beaten path. Should you get the hiking itch, though, there’s plenty of opportunity for that, too.
For families with young children
Located along Main Street, these activities span all ages:
- Appalachian Pinball Museum
- Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO
- Hands On! Children’s Museum
- Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
- Mineral & Lapidary Museum
- Pisgah Forest Gem Mine & Gifts
- Public art attractions — Apple Quest and Bearfootin’ Public Art Walk
For food and drink tourists
- Notable Main Street dining: Postero, Never Blue, the soon-to-open Madame Roqué’s Meat Emporium & Pickled Curiosités, Shine, Cask & Wine on Main, Brandy’s on Main.
- Thirteen breweries, wineries, and cideries in Henderson County: Dry Falls Brewing Co., Guidon Brewing Co., Sanctuary Brewing Co., Southern Appalachian Brewery, and Triskelion Brewing Co. are all within a few blocks of Main Street. Others, with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, are a short drive.
Read more — Madame Roqué’s Meat Emporium & Pickled Curiosités brings tarot and tattoos to Hendersonville dining scene
For dog lovers
- Four off-leash dog parks: Jackson Park, Mills River Park, Pet’s Own Place, and Bill Moore Community Park.
- Two dozen pet-friendly walking and hiking trails: Try the Carl Sandburg Home for 5 miles of trails, baby goats, and plenty of space to roam.
- Dog-friendly dining: Most restaurants along Main Street have outdoor dining sections that welcome well-behaved dogs, and most of the breweries, wineries, and cideries are dog-friendly both indoors and out.
For more information on Hendersonville, go to visithendersonvillenc.org.
Destination: Helen, Georgia
Drive time: 2 hours
Who: Adventure seekers, wine drinkers, curious diners
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Bavarian-themed town looks like a German fairy tale. The schnitzel, pretzels, sausages, and mountain escapades, however, are real. Various festivals throughout the year showcase the ambiance each season brings, but even on a normal day in Helen, adventure awaits.
For adventure seekers
Kids on up to adults can participate in many of these outdoor activities:
- Adventure Lodges of Georgia-Unicoi State Park (low ropes course, challenge course, canopy ziplines and bridges, GPS scavenger hunt, archery and air guns, fly fishing, guided nature hikes, paddle boarding, slacklining)
- Cool River Adventures (ziplining)
- Cool River Tubing
- Nacoochee Adventures (ATV tours, ziplines, giant swing, treehouse, camping, climbing adventure)
- Woody’s Mountain Bikes (planned mountain biking explorations)
- Anna Ruby Falls
For wine drinkers
Tour the Unicoi Wine Trail, either through one of several tour companies or by visiting these wineries on your own:
- Cottage Vineyard & Winery
- Habersham Vineyards & Winery
- Kaya Vineyard and Winery
- Yonah Mountain Vineyards
For curious diners
German isn’t the only international cuisine you’ll find in Helen, but it’s the highlight:
- Old Heidelberg
- Old Bavaria Inn Restaurant & Lounge
- Mullers Famous Fried Cheese Cafe
- Hofer’s of Helen Bakery & Cafe
- Bodensee Restaurant
- Cafe International
For more information on Helen, go to helenga.org.
Destination: Lake City, South Carolina
Drive time: 3 hours
Who: Art enthusiasts, horticulture buffs, families of all ages
ArtFields, Lake City’s annual festival celebrating arts in the Southeast each spring, has landed the town, population fewer than 7,000, on the national radar. Still an agricultural center with a tobacco festival, public art and art galleries have become a new focus and tourism draw year-round. The fully walkable town is a perfect day destination for art lovers at all levels of appreciation.
For art enthusiasts
Commissioned ArtFields pieces have become part of the permanent Lake City landscape:
- Colorful murals throughout downtown (the newest contains 30 hidden objects to find)
- Public art installations and sculptures
- Two notable art galleries with free rotating exhibits (Trax Visual Art Center and Jones-Carter Gallery)
- Olio Studio (art classes and exploration)
For horticulture buffs
Art and horticulture go hand in hand in Lake City:
- Floral scapes throughout downtown made of native plants grown locally by professional horticulturalists
- Moore Farms Botanical Garden (900 acres dedicated to education and research of southern horticulture and agriculture. Pack a picnic.)
For families of all ages
Most of Lake City’s activities are free or inexpensive, making art and horticulture even more accessible to families:
- Lake City Community Park (an 8-acre lake with a boardwalk, five fishing piers, canoe/kayak launch, shaded gazebo, and a picnic shelter with a wood-burning fireplace)
- Fiesta Fridays (community celebration of family and arts held once a month with music and activities designed to keep the kids entertained. The next one is July 12.)
- Snax Gourmet Ice Cream & Hot Dogs (Grab an ice cream cone while you stroll the public art for the ultimate kid-friendly tour.)