Thursday, November 17, 2022

Downtown Greenville--The South's Best Kept Secret

Here I am, once again, facing a long Pennsylvania winter. If you're familiar with Pa winters, you may be aware that we can easily get mountains of snow. This is always great fun for the kids, but for adults, not so much. This is why I am eyeing South Carolina as a permanent destination and am making it a point to keep an eye on the real estate market during the next few years. If we plan it right, my husband and I will be resettled there by the spring of 2025. And although I realize that I may not be sunning myself while sipping a cocktail with an umbrella in it during my birthday in March, I do think I'll be quite a bit warmer and as for that white stuff? I do hope I'll be seeing less of that and more of this below.

Man walks dog at Falls Park Along the Reedy.

Another shot of Falls Park along the Reedy.

By now you may have deduced that I'm exploring the Greenville area of South Carolina. Just last month we rented a very cute Airbnb with a balcony downtown. The only problem was that we were awakened most nights around 4 a.m. as food deliveries arrived at the local restaurants. This is a normal feature of urban life.  So while the location was super convenient, it was also a bit noisy.  If you're one of those people who like to sleep past 8 a.m., you might want to trade convenience for a good night's sleep and stay either in a high rise, or in the suburbs. 

The most striking thing about downtown Greenville is the Falls Park on the Reedy. The city, using funds from a hospitality tax, transformed a 32-acre area in the West End District into a beautiful public garden and area where the public can walk, shop, or simply people watch.

Part of the project included a suspension bridge designed by architect Miguel Rosales, to offer dramatic views of the falls and gardens below.

Visitors can also enjoy the artwork in Falls Park. Among the pieces installed there are the Rose Crystal Tower by Dale Chihuly, commissioned to honor Harriet Wyche, who was a life-long Greenville resident and community volunteer. Wyche was instrumental in establishing Falls Park.

Another work includes Falls Lake Falls, located at the entrance to Falls Park and sculpted by Bryan Hunt. Then there's "Untitled 2002-2003" by Joel Shapiro, which is the most valuable piece in the city's collection and known as the dancing, or running sculpture. There's also the "Sunflower Fountain," which can be found in Pedrick's Garden and was created by Ed Ziegler, Charles Gunning and Robert Brown. The cast bronze fountain was named after Pedrick Lowrey, a principal fundraiser for the park; it was also his favorite flower. 

Walking through the park is not only a lovely way to get some exercise, but also a way to spend time in some of the area's boutique shops, of which there are quite a few. Among the items sold are jewelry, apparel, art, and more and if you get hungry, you can always stop at one of the restaurants.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Passerelle Bistro, a casual French restaurant which serves dishes like mussels, croque monsieur and creme brulee, to name a few.

"Rose Crystal Sculpture" by Dale Chihuly. Photo credit: Stephanie Thorn

Passerelle Bistro, Credit: Vanzeppelin Arial/Visit Greenville, SC

When we visited Falls Park last year, a hotel was being built. It was cool to see it in its finished state this year. I was able to wander around inside to get a bit of a feel for the place. The d├ęcor is quite attractive and pulls from the beauty of its surroundings and the native Americans who once lived in the area.

The Grand Bohemian Lobby, featuring a stone fireplace.

A bison stone sculpture in front of the Grand Bohemian Hotel.

Falls Park is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with free two-hour parking both on the street and in a parking lot located at West End Market, access via University Street.

Learn more about Falls Park by taking a virtual tour at

A short walk from Falls Park on the Reedy will take you to Main Street, where you'll find even more boutique shops, along with a wide selection of independent restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. On our first night, we indulged in small plates at Hall's Chophouse. Later we enjoyed a lunch at Limoncello. I heartily recommend both.

When we're out of town seeing the sights, it's difficult to pass up a local bookstore, so my husband and I spent time browsing the books at M. Judson Booksellers located at 130 Main, where I spotted an interesting light fixture comprised of spoons.
A chandelier, of sorts, hangs at M. Judson Booksellers.

The entrance to M. Judson Booksellers.
You'll also find more art scattered around downtown, paying homage to the area's native sons, or offering tribute to other symbols relevant to Greenville's history.
Joel Roberts Poinsett sits here.
If you travel to Greenville and its environs, you'll see Poinsett's name mentioned more than once. Poinsett was an American physician and member of the South Carolina legislature. He served as Secretary of War under Martin Van Buren and was a co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, which was a precursor to the Smithsonian Institution.

Another curious piece of art located in downtown Greenville is the piggy below, which is a replica of a famous statue in Florence called Il Porcellino. The initiative was undertaken by an organization called "Young Friends of Florence" and its purpose is to raise funds to support restoration work in Florence, Italy. Legend has it that if you put money in his snout and it falls through the grate you'll receive good luck. Evidently rubbing his nose is supposed to do the same thing. I missed out on my chance to win the lottery since I didn't learn of these tips until after I returned home.
A boar statue crafted in the likeness of Florence's Il Porcellino. 

Vardry McBee, also known as the Father of South Carolina.

Another sculpture you'll come across in downtown Greenville is of Vardry McBee, a saddlemaker, merchant, farmer, entrepreneur and philanthropist who has also been called the father of South Carolina.

The Westin located in the heart of downtown.

In this building, you'll find a restaurant and a bookstore.

Downtown Greenville is also home to attractive architecture, like these buildings shown above and below.  

In the foreground is the visitors center. In the background is the Fidelity Investments Tower.

Of course, I had to take a photo of the local newspaper building, since I may be doing some work with them when I move. You never know. 

The Greenville News Building

The Mast General Store is famous because of its history, the first of which dates back to 1883. Mast stores sell home goods, work clothes, outdoor clothing and gear, old-fashioned candy and more.
Mast General Store Candy Barrels. Credit: South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Mast General Store Sign. Credit: Visit Greenville, South Carolina.

Another business of note, particularly for its uniqueness, is "Gather GVL" I spotted the colorful place about a year and a half ago when I was riding a tour bus. It certainly commands attention from the street and I vowed to return later to check it out. 

Gather GVL can be described as a food court, crafted of colorful shipping containers.

The destination, made of brightly colored intermodal shipping containers, offers a variety of food and drink for guests to enjoy.

It is located within walking distance of Fluor Field and a children's theatre, making it a convenient destination for families to gather after a game, or a show. Often visitors bring along their four-legged friends.

This is just a taste of what Greenville has to offer when it comes to restaurants, art, architecture, retail and more. And although it's currently known as the "best kept secret of the South," I doubt it will be known as such for very much longer.