Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, current businesses’ hours may differ from what is posted on their websites. Also, keep in mind that some may require guests to wear face coverings before entering their doors.
Currently the 11th most-populated city in South Carolina, Spartanburg is becoming the bustling city it used to be. Through recent revitalization efforts, downtown is also becoming more attractive, especially Main Street, which was repaved and lined with brick sidewalks in 2015. The historic buildings give the city its charm, and newer businesses keep the town on its toes. Here are just a few of the many places in Spartanburg that make it a thriving community.
Chapman Cultural Center
A grand venue with a mixture of classic and modern design, the Chapman Cultural Center offers 389 events yearly to infuse the community with fine arts. It hosts performances, exhibits and festivals, such as the International Kite Festival. Other opportunities include camps, classes for any age — even adult ballroom dancing — and events like the Holiday Craft Market last winter. The Center houses a number of organizations that contribute to the performances and exhibits offered:
- The Spartanburg Little Theatre produces plays and musicals and is also home to the Spartanburg Youth Theatre.
- Ballet Spartanburg offers the community both instruction and performances.
- The Spartanburg Art Museum has a permanent collection and special exhibits that the public can visit for free. Selections are both historical and contemporary.
- The Artists’ Guild of Spartanburg is a free gallery that features shows with local artists.
- Spartanburg Regional History Museum is a free museum that focuses on the military history of the county over several hundred years.
- The Spartanburg Science Center educates students and adults on how the world works.
- The Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra provides the community with a wide variety of music.
The Center also gets involved in the community. For example, it supported colorful crosswalk murals at two intersections along West Main Street to promote public art.
Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve
Immerse yourself in nature in 10 acres of ponds, paved paths and lots of plants at Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve. The tree-lined trails make you feel like you are in an oasis. You can walk through the well-manicured and landscaped garden or enjoy the plants from several gazebos or multiple benches throughout the park. There are also garden rooms, one of which is a butterfly garden.
Anyone can enjoy the garden for free at any time of the year, and something is always blooming, no matter which season you go. The garden also hosts special events, such as the Spring Plant Sale, Twilight in the Garden and Pumpkin Path.
Less than 2 miles from Main Street, Cleveland Park is an enjoyable spot for anyone. Through the park and around the lake wind 1.5 miles of paved trails. Visitors can enjoy the brick-paved promenade and small amphitheater along the lake when there is not a wedding or other event. At the edge of the park, two separate playgrounds provide entertainment for older and younger children.
The park also offers multiple venues for events — an event center with two levels, four picnic shelters and an island gazebo reached by crossing a bridge.
Donald Stuart Russell Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
Built in 1931 as part of the Public Buildings Act of 1926, the courthouse stands stalwart on Magnolia Street, a historic landmark with its red brick and columned entry. It is an excellent example of Georgian Revival architecture, except for a tower that resembles Collegiate Gothic architecture.
At first, the courthouse contained the regional post office, U.S. District Court for the Western District of South Carolina and offices for other federal agencies. Currently, it is a United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Carolina. The building also houses the U.S. Marshals Service, Probation Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was listed in the National Register in 2017.
In 1994, the building was named after Donald Russell to honor him for his leadership in South Carolina. He was president of the University of South Carolina, a South Carolina Governor, a U.S. Senator, a U.S. District Court Judge and a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge.
Hub City Railroad Museum
The Hub City Railroad Museum is one of the best places for anyone to learn about Spartanburg’s historical significance. Part of the historic Spartanburg Union Station, the museum features artifacts highlighting the pillars of the city’s development, including textiles, peaches and the railroad itself. It even has a model of the original station. While you’re there, visit the caboose, browse the gift shop or watch Norfolk Southern and Amtrak trains pass.
Due to the coronavirus, the museum has postponed reopening, but when it does, admission will be free. Donations are welcome.
The Spartanburg Union Station was built in 1904 and soon became a railway hub for freight and passenger trains. Since the railroads spanned out from the station at the center of the city, Spartanburg also looked like the hub of a wheel, hence the nickname “Hub City.” As other modes of transportation rendered railroads less essential for personal travel, the depot was razed over time.
By 1996, only the Southern Railway Depot, added in 1915, was left, but then a fire caused by lightning threatened its demolition as well. However, 16-year-old Trey Davis III initiated efforts to convince city officials to restore the station. Half of it became the museum, and the other half is a waiting room for passengers traveling on the Amtrak Crescent train.
In 2003, the caboose, which was a boxcar until 1947, was donated to the museum and restored. Now sitting alongside the tracks, it is currently undergoing renovations to the roof, windows and walls.
Carolina Cash Company
One of the oldest establishments in Spartanburg, the Carolina Cash Company is a local department store that has been downtown since 1886. Founded by John Graham, it was first located on Morgan Square but now sits a block away in the Historic District on East Main Street. Outside, the storefront is timeless with its red brick and display windows, and inside clothing, hats and shoes line the floor as they have for over 100 years. The Carolina Cash Company prides itself on fair prices and personalized service.
The store has another location on Union Street, and John Graham Stores also operates the Graham Cash Company store in Forest City, North Carolina.
The Vintage Warehouse began when owners Jane Crook and Carmen Blanton formed a friendship through their love of art and antiques. Several years after meeting, they went into business together in 2014.
It’s called a warehouse for a reason — the building’s 30,000 square feet is filled with almost anything you could want. Browse through art, jewelry, clothing, decorations and furniture. Many items are repurposed. The ladies might have put furniture legs on an old door to make a table or made a wreath out of pages from an old book. They have even created a couch from the back end of a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro.
The founders are also dedicated to helping local artisans and vendors sell their work at the warehouse. Additionally, the warehouse hosts events like art and decorating workshops.
Market on Main
The Vintage Warehouse isn’t the only place in town run by two ladies — Lisa Giaimo and Aimee Cheek founded their own business, a boutique called Market on Main. In addition to clothing, decor and much more, Market on Main offers classes with local artisans, including pottery painting, jewelry making and glass stenciling and etching. When you visit Spartanburg, shop in the store, but if you can’t wait, start browsing their selection online.
Hub City Bookshop
Looking for a book? Maybe fiction, nonfiction, history, Southern literature or a children’s book? Hub City Bookshop is the place to find all that plus works of the Hub City Press. The small bookstore is ideal for getting lost in a book without getting lost searching for one. Complete the perfect book outing with coffee and baked goods on site at the Little River Coffee Bar which operates in conjunction with the bookstore.
In 2010, the Hub City Writers Project, a literary group in Spartanburg since 1995, opened the Hub City Bookshop after Spartanburg’s independent bookstore closed. Located in the renovated ground floor of the historic Masonic Temple on Main Street, it is the nation’s first full-service bookshop run by a non-profit organization.
The Beacon Drive-In
No restaurant in Spartanburg is more classic than the Beacon Drive-In. Opened in 1946, it is the second-largest drive-in in the country, the Varsity in Atlanta being the largest. You can choose from a variety of sandwiches, burgers, seafood, desserts and even breakfast plates. The Beacon is renowned for its Chili-Cheese A-Plenty — a chili-cheeseburger covered in fries and sweet onion rings — and its iced tea. If you’re brave, try the liver mush, a western North Carolina staple. (Being a northerner, I can’t help but ask what is wrong with that part of the country.)
The Skillet Restaurant
Also founded in 1946, the Skillet Restaurant serves classic breakfast and lunch entrees. The hearty breakfast menu offers anything from pancakes to omelets to shrimp and grits. The lunch menu includes sandwiches like Philly cheese steaks as well as salads and wraps. Along with the food, the vintage-like atmosphere — bar stools included — gives guests the 1940s vibe.
Take a break from traditional American fare by visiting Gerhard’s Cafe on East Main Street. Opened in 1993, this European-American restaurant features traditional Austrian and German foods like wienerschnitzel and elk rouladen with spaetzle and red cabbage. They also serve seafood, soups and salads. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available.
The brick walls and wooden beams and furniture transport you to a traditional rustic European venue. Guests can also enjoy their meals on a patio off to the side of the building.
Gerald’s Candy and Nut Shoppe
Need a sweet treat to go along with your lunch or dinner? Gerald’s Candy and Nut Shoppe has candied fruits, peanut brittle, cheese straws and their famous double-dipped peanuts and chocolate-covered pecans to satisfy any sweet tooth. Plain nuts are also available. Gerald’s is especially popular during the holidays.
Gerald Tucker founded the store by the early ‘90s, and his grandson now owns it and carries on the tradition. Gerald’s has been at its current location on Kennedy Street since around 2011. Keep tabs on their hours and updates on their Facebook page.
The Farmer’s Table
The Farmer’s Table opened in 2012 to serve Spartanburg local, seasonal food for breakfast and lunch. The menu even has vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. You can eat at a table in their rustic, open restaurant on South Daniel Morgan Avenue or stop by their food truck. Check their Instagram or Facebook to find out when the truck is near you.
Check out our Around Greenville article about other food trucks you can enjoy.
Since 2011, Cribbs Kitchen has added to Main Street with its contemporary dining. Named for proprietor and head chef William Cribb, the restaurant offers salads, burgers and other sandwiches, all with a fancy Cribbs flare. Customers enjoy their meals inside among contemporary decor or on an outdoor patio. And first-time guests can receive a free order of their famous pimento cheese fritters.
Catch up on our Around Greenville series to see more of what our city and the area around it has to offer.