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South Carolina Headliners

From the mountains to the sea, South Carolina is packed with memorable experiences for group travelers.

On a tour of the Palmetto State, groups can discover little-known national parks, see one of the country’s most scenic zoos, enjoy first-class musical entertainment and explore one of the most historic cities in the country. Along the way, they’ll enjoy both the mountainous beauty of central South Carolina and the cultural heritage of low country on the coast.

This tour begins in Greenville and then proceeds southeast to Columbia. From there, it heads to the coast, stopping in Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head. At the end, groups can make the three-hour drive back to Greenville or proceed down the coast toward Savannah, Georgia.

Falls Park in Greenville

In the mountainous territory of northeast South Carolina, Greenville is known for its vibrant downtown scene complete with restaurants, shopping, nightlife and history. Among the most distinctive elements of this city center, though, is the stretch of the Reedy River that runs through it.

For most of the 20th century, the stretch of the Reedy River in downtown Greenville was neglected and forgotten. But in 2004, the city opened Falls Park on the Reedy, a natural area that highlights the gentle cascades of the river through the park. Today there are dozens of small flower gardens throughout the park in the center of downtown, and a 355-foot-long, 12-foot-wide suspension bridge curving around the falls gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding scenery.

Since it opened, Falls Park has become a hub for festivals and activity downtown, and it has won a number of awards as one of the top urban parks in the country.

While you’re there: Downtown Greenville boasts more than 70 pieces of public art, and visitors can take a self-guided walking tour to see the artwork and learn about the people who created it. The tour takes visitors through seven Greenville neighborhoods, including Main Street and Falls Park.

Animal Encounters in Columbia

In the center of South Carolina is Columbia, the state’s capital; the city has a number of marquee attractions, among them the South Carolina Statehouse and the governor’s mansion. For many travelers, though, Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens is the most memorable place in town.

For almost 50 years, this 170-acre zoo has been a favorite of locals and visitors alike, and it is consistently rated one of the most beautiful zoos in the country. It is home to more than 2,000 animals from all over the world as well as the State Botanical Garden, which is connected to the zoo by an 800-foot bridge and is accessible by tram.

Special experiences at the zoo include opportunities to feed sea lions, penguins, elephants, monkeys and other animals. Adventure lovers will enjoy Zip the Zoo, a seven-line treetop zip course with a 1,000-foot segment that sends guests soaring over the Saluda River.

While you’re there: Just outside the city, Congaree National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the country. But this blackwater swamp holds some fascinating sights for intrepid travelers, including record-size trees. Groups can take canoe tours through the riverfront park to see the flora and fauna up close.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.