The Upstate has seen tremendous population growth in the past decade. About 70,000 new people have moved to Greenville, Anderson and Spartanburg counties in the past seven years alone. These are people who have come for work and to enjoy the lifestyle here. They have added to our culture, but what have we shown them? They are getting heaping helpings of great Clemson football teams, a foodie boom, highway construction and amazingly unique downtowns. But are they really learning what the Upstate is? Are they enjoying the things that many of us know, but take for granted? And we are not talking about things that are no longer here. We are talking about the things that make our little slice of the world so very genuine. With that in mind, we at Locally Epic (with the always-wonderful aid of social media) have come up with a Top 10 list of things that anyone in our region has to do at least once to say they really live here. These are the things only an insider would know about and attempt over time. This is not a weekend fun list. This is the Upstate.
- Snap a photo of the Peachoid (but not while you’re driving on the interstate): Located just off I-85 in Gaffney County, nothing says welcome to the Upstate like a giant peach on the horizon. Yes, it does look like a giant butt. Thousands drive past it every day, and it even made it into an episode of “House of Cards,” so you really can’t say you live here until you have a picture of it.
- Go to Victoria Valley Vineyard: This vineyard in northern Greenville County has become a destination for many romantic dates. Located just off Highway 11, Victoria Valley Vineyards is beautiful and scenic, and the wine is locally made and fantastic.
- Take in a race at Greenville Pickens Speedway: This SHOULD be higher on the list, but apparently a lot of people have not been to this racetrack off Highway 123 just past the Saluda River. But they SHOULD go there. There is nothing like watching actual stock cars race, and this place has it, and so much more. It oozes authentic history. While so many places try to be authentic, this place is it. You get 10 points cooler on the authenticity scale just by walking through the gate. Oh yeah, and while you can buy a fried-bologna sandwich at the concession stand, you can also BYO beer and food, which somehow makes it cooler.
- Climb Table Rock: Are their better places to hike in the Upstate? Yes. But for some reason, this is the place everyone hikes at least once. Why? We think it is the view of “the rock,” which can be seen from miles away. A person is drawn to it, and wants to conquer it.
- Walk around Furman’s Lake: This was another one that surprised us, but shouldn’t have. A picnic and walk around the lake is high on the list of romantic (and inexpensive) first dates. Everyone does it at least once. While there, check out the Thoreau Cabin.
- Shop at the Anderson Jockey Lot: We want to make a joke about underwear or people who ride horses, but the reality is that a person can likely find both in droves at the Jockey Lot, a giant flea market located in Anderson County on Highway 29. For generations, many Upstaters considered Sunday to be a day for going to church and prayer. The others went to the Jockey Lot early to get a jump on the best sales and things to purchase. Today, well, now everyone needs to go to the Jockey Lot at least once.
- Trek around Croft State Park: This is an Upstate jewel located just south of downtown Spartanburg. Whether you want to run, bike, hike, swim or fish, Croft State Park has it. A former World War II camp with more than 7,000, acres to explore, Croft is simply beautiful. And the best part is the location: If you get bored or it starts raining, you are about a 10-minute drive to downtown Spartanburg where you can find plenty to do.
- Boat on Lake Keowee: We chose Keowee, but we easily could have chosen Hartwell or Robinson or Bowen. You might live here, but you haven’t really lived until you have found yourself sipping a cold one on the back of a boat on an Upstate lake. What, you don’t drink alcohol? We said cold one, and that could mean a Coke. Or a Pepsi. Or a Cheerwine. (You haven’t had a Cheerwine? Then go drink one and start over on this list. You can’t say you live here until you have had a Cheerwine.)
- Eat at The Beacon Drive-In: There is nothing like the Beacon anywhere else in America. Located on the cusp of Spartanburg’s downtown (go here after Croft!), it would be easy to say that stepping into the Beacon is like stepping back in time. But it is more like stepping into a different reality that is void of healthy food, gravity and good manners. Only one of those is true and it isn’t gravity or manners. But it’s not the food that keeps people and presidential candidates coming back time after time. It is the place. We lack the words to describe why it is great. It just is great. And don’t forget the password: Chili Cheese A-Plenty.
- Experience a heartbreaking day at Clemson: This is sort of a trick one. The Tigers have been damn near dominant at home the past few years. So, a lot of bandwagon Clemson fans have gotten used to tailgating, watching a big win and then heading to TigerTown tavern after the game. But you can’t really say you have lived in the Upstate until you have experienced the unearthly, tomblike silence of Death Valley after the Tigers have found some bizarre way to lose a game. Whether that is a botched handoff that led to a touchdown for the other team with no time left; a failed field goal returned for a touchdown in overtime; a 99-yard touchdown run by the opposition in double overtime; a 105-yard interception return for a touchdown in triple overtime; a lightning bolt hitting the game-winning touchdown pass and exploding the football before it reached Rod Gardner; a freak tsunami coming up from Lake Hartwell and causing the Tigers to fumble on the one-yard line; Strom Thurmond running onto the field and causing a delay of game that moved Clemson out of field goal range; a rip in the time-space continuum that caused the…OK…you get the idea…
Anyway, welcome to the Upstate. You have your homework. Get to it.