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What Is Greenville?

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In many respects, Greenville is like any bustling 80,000-person community. There’s plenty to do and see. There are big-box stores, chain restaurants and a sprawling mall for shopaholics. There’s a huge venue for concerts, as well as a multifaceted performing arts center. There is green space everywhere.

Yep, it’s a nice little city, all right. But, dig a little deeper and prepare to fall in love.

There are some good reasons that in 2015 Forbes placed it at No. 12 on its list of America’s Most Affordable Cities. The personal-finance Web site WalletHub.com also named it the 26th best city travel destination.

It all begins with downtown. Think of it as a cross between Mayberry and Atlanta’s Buckhead.DSCF2030

It’s joggers padding among the diners seated at tables arranged cafe style outside of many of Main Street’s eateries and bars. It’s the clanging bell of the free Trolley that roams downtown’s streets. Or the clip-clop of the hooves of the horses pulling hansom cabs. It’s the excited giggles of running children focused on locating the bronze mice hidden along the sidewalk. It’s the explosion of fireworks celebrating a home run hit by Greenville’s Drive minor-league baseball team. The stadium is in the heart of Greenville’s West End. It’s the sound of the Reedy River as it flows over the rock formations near the suspended walkway at Reedy River Park on North Main.

Shoeless Joe Jackson called it home; portions of the George Clooney movie Leatherheads was filmed in and around downtown; and BMW builds crossovers and teaches performance driving just outside its city limits. The city hosts Michelin’s North American Headquarters. Fluor, the world-wide engineering corporation is anchored here as well. Epitomizing the New South, Greenville is an eclectic mix of today and yesterday.
Located in what the locals refer to as the Upstate, Greenville is closer to Knoxville, Tenn. than it is to Charleston and the coast. Roughly 80,000 people live within its limits and another 300,000 in its surrounding metro area. Its people are friendly and genuinely happy to have out-of-town visitors. They smile as you pass them on the sidewalk and will eagerly engage you in conversation if you have a question. “Southern hospitality” is an overused expression, but the locals in Greenville not only define it, they polish it up and give it a life of its own.

S0166032Greenville would like us to think of it as an ideal weekend getaway. And, indeed, most visitors could easily fill two days with sightseeing and activities without ever traveling more than a few blocks from one of the downtown hotels. Those with some wanderlust, however, can strike out in the morning to visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, Carowinds fun park in Charlotte, NC or Chateau Elan Winery in Braselton, GA, and be back for dinner that evening. There is an amazing amount of things to see and do within a 90-minute-or-so drive from downtown Greenville.

But for those of us who are content with strolling tree-lined Main Street, ducking into the Mast General Store or one of the other many shops and boutiques to do a little browsing, or taking in one of the museums at Heritage Green, driving isn’t required to enjoy a Greenville weekend. Leave the rental car parked and take a walk.

Whether you are here for a weekend or a lifetime, Greenville is really something special.

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