Rimmed with shops and restaurants and carpeted in emerald-hued grass, Pendleton’s Village Green is like a town square, only better. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot folk artist Richard Burnside at his easel. Docents at the town’s two historic homes—Woodburn and Ashtabula—offer friendly, informative tours and the stories behind the family photos and antiques on display.
When you get tired of being surrounded by condos or sprawling residential developments when you play golf, head to Cheraw, where the Audubon-certified course is free of manmade distractions. In town, past the elegant Colonial Revival homes and small museums, check out St. David’s Church, where both Americans and Britons worshipped during the Revolution.
NASCAR® put Darlington on the map in 1950 when the Darlington Speedway opened and hosted its first stock car event, but racing isn’t the only game in town. Research family military history and check out Civil War relics at Florence’s War Between the States Museum, or stroll among the treetops at Lynches River Park’s sky-high Canopy Walk.
If your kids liked Transformers, take them to the BMW Zentrum Museum, where, with the help of implausibly agile robotic arms, massive chunks of metal become sleek cars. If Gone with the Wind was more your style, head to Walnut Grove Plantation, where you can tour the 18th-century house and explore 60 acres of artifact-filled grounds.
Whether you spend your day in Summerville touring the historic district or strolling through Azalea Park, squeeze in time for a milk shake at the 1920s soda fountain at Guerin’s Pharmacy.
Situated in plantation cottages, garages, outbuildings and even storefronts, Bluffton’s shops, galleries and cafés ramble past the edges of downtown. Keep going and you’ll run across the Gothic 19th-century Church of the Cross on a bluff overlooking the May River. Bed down at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a favorite of Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler, where you can hike through ancient marine forest and explore the river via kayak.
Jog along North Augusta’s seven-mile interpretive trail, and you’ll get a dose of history with your exercise. A series of markers and podcasts details life in a centuries-old Native American village, explores regional pottery traditions, investigates the impact of the railroad and explains the Savannah River’s surprising importance as an early trade route.
A funny thing happened in 1927 when Hamilton Carr Bland pulled the dead iris bulbs out of his garden and dumped them into a swamp: The next spring, they bloomed so profusely that Bland turned the land into a public garden. Today, Swan Lake Iris Garden features all eight of the world’s species of swans, as well as several themed gardens.
Getting to Landrum’s cozy downtown is half the fun of visiting. The city is located just a few miles off Cherokee Scenic Highway 11, which wends its way for 112 miles through cool valleys, over mountains and through peach and apple groves, where during the season you can fill your car with baskets of sun-warmed fruit.
German immigrants gave this Upstate city its name, which means “a heavenly place of happiness,” and the moniker fits. This mountain aerie is filled with cafés and antique shops and surrounded by natural wonders like Issaqueena Falls, a dramatic waterfall that spills over massive boulders as it tumbles more than 200 feet to the river below.