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Savoring South Carolina

What’s something you’ve seen or done on the road that you wish you could go back and experience again? 

Was it an unforgettable trip to a historic city? Time on the water discovering the ecology of a destination by boat? Maybe it was a quaint yet exciting downtown. For some perhaps, it was a museum, science center or theater. Or maybe when you think about it, that thing you wish you could experience again was on a beach trip. 

On this South Carolina itinerary, there are plenty of chances to make those irreplaceable memories — together.

We’ll look at America’s oldest landscaped grounds, estuarine marshes, a delightful downtown, a cultural center (with, dare we say, everything?) and a beach trip deserving a gold star. 

This five-to-eight-day itinerary loops around the state, starting in Charleston. It stays in the low country region exploring Beaufort before heading upstate to Greenville and Spartanburg. Finish by heading east to the Pee Dee region for Myrtle Beach, where your group can leave directly or disperse from nearby Charleston.

Charleston is Grounded in History

Where better to start a faith-based trip in South Carolina than in the Holy City? 

Roughly halfway down the Palmetto State coast, Charleston has long been a traveler favorite for its unique architecture, food scene and fascinating history. 

“Groups find the region alluring to visit any time of year and are drawn to a wealth of activities including walking tours, gardens, beaches, parks and various other attractions,”  said Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston. 

This most elegant of Southern cities offers groups plenty of all-in-one stops, like national treasure Middleton Place. 

The National Historic Landmark is the ancestral home of the Middleton family, seven generations of enslaved people and a microcosm of American history. The grounds transcend America’s Colonial period, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Invite your visitors to explore the home, stable yards, gardens, Eliza’s House and more.

Tours are available at different places throughout of Middleton Place’s 110 acres. Don’t miss your chance to try Charleston’s famous she crab soup at onsite Middleton Place Restaurant. Part of the menu is sourced from the on-site organic farm.

While you’re there: Make time for a stop at the South Carolina Aquarium. Find this easy group pick on a downtown stroll by the harbor. The aquarium’s famous rehabilitation center offers a chance to see the care and rehabilitation of loggerhead, leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley and other sea turtles up close.

Sea-zing the Day in Beaufort

Once you’ve had your fill of Charlestonian period actors and crab bisque, take the forested drive along Highway 17 southwest to Beaufort. This Port Royal Island city, on one of South Carolina’s coastal islands, has to be seen from the water. So grab your lifejackets and cameras for an adventure. 

“I love Coastal Expeditions’ boat tour that leaves right from Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in the historic district,” said Cristy Armstrong, public relations director at Visit Beaufort said. This fun escape will introduce your group to the town’s history, wildlife and unique estuarine ecology. Part relaxing break, part history lesson, your group won’t know if they’re at a show or in class learning about Native Americans, Spanish exploration, French settlement and English colonization. 

And make sure your batteries are charged. If luck strikes, your group may see bald eagles nesting, ospreys hunting for dinner and resident bottlenose dolphins playing in the water. A dozen restaurants are within walking distance from Waterfront Park, where the tour starts and ends.

While you’re there: Take to the Huntington Island Lighthouse in the Huntington Island State Park, the state’s most popular. Yes, there are 167 steps, but you won’t be disappointed with the panoramic view from South Carolina’s only publicly accessible lighthouse.

The Main Thing in Greenville

“I would say that our main attraction is our Main Street!”

Beth Moats, the director of marketing at VisitGreenvilleSC, wasn’t kidding. The city’s shaded Main Street winds its way past Falls Park on the Reedy and plenty of quaint shops and restaurants just begging to distract and delight. As your group explores Greenville’s Main Street and its offshoots, they’ll have the chance to shop, to eat and to contemplate nearly 100 public art pieces. 

Plus, Falls Park on the Reedy’s Liberty Bridge is the only single-sided pedestrian suspension bridge in the United States. It is the perfect place for a calm walk, fun selfies and views of the natural waterfall dancing through downtown. 

“With over 110 restaurants, abundant shops and entertainment options, your group can enjoy a unique blend of traditional Southern warmth and contemporary cool,” Moats said. 

While you’re there: Greenville is perfectly poised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so take a jaunt to the mountains for some amazing vistas. A popular place for church groups is open-air sanctuary Fred W. Symmes Chapel, or “Pretty Place.”

Spartanburg, a Cultural Cornucopia

Is your group full of theater enthusiasts, exhibit lovers or hands-on learners?

If so, Greenville neighbor Spartanburg has something for everyone under the same roof. Here’s more good news: Spartanburg and Greenville are close enough that you could depart from Greenville after lunch and spend most of the afternoon exploring Hub City. 

When you arrive, let your travelers hop off at Spartanburg’s downtown Chapman Cultural Center, where there’s plenty to be found for everyone. The Cultural Center in Spartanburg’s Downtown Cultural District is home to an exciting collection of activities sure to please multiple tastes among group members. Check out the Spartanburg Art Museum, the Spartanburg Regional History Museum, the Spartanburg Science Center and a variety of entertainment options on the stage.

“Spartanburg’s blossoming downtown offers visitors a taste of authentic Southern charm,” said Naomi Sargent, vice president of strategic communications at Visit Spartanburg.

While you’re there: Hatcher Garden features 10 acres packed with flora and is a magnet for birds and bird-watchers. The garden’s trails and paved quarter-and half-mile paths are wheelchair accessible, so everyone can enjoy nature’s beauty on a visit. This is a great option for a picnic lunch.

Sky High Fun in Myrtle Beach

Finish the trip with a few sun-soaked days at Myrtle Beach. Powder-soft sand, miles upon miles of shoreline and just-right weather makes the South Carolina mainstay the perfect exclamation point to the end of a trip. Myrtle Beach is located in the state’s northeast quadrant, resting on the Atlantic known as the Pee Dee, named for the Native Americans who made their home in the region.

Other than plenty of free time on a beach lounger, what is a Grand Strand must-do for your group? 

“SkyWheel is a great choice! And the beach for sure,” said Julie Ellis, Visit Myrtle Beach’s public relations manager.

She’s right: The best way to relax and view the town, the shoreline and the vast blue Atlantic expanse is from Myrtle Beach’s iconic SkyWheel. 

While you’re there: Head to the MarshWalk, the inspired food and watersport adventure destination on Murrells Inlet. It’s on the once pirate-inhabited island just 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach. From boat rentals, Jet Skis and sightseeing tours to hungry pelicans, wandering egrets and ridiculously fresh oysters, MarshWalk is different, quirky and well worth the excursion.