As I recall, I had moved to South Carolina in the Fall of 1999 and lived near Spartanburg, SC. However, Spartanburg seemed like the land that time forgot; so whenever I had a date or needed to buy something, I'd head over to Greenville, SC and shop at the Haywood Mall or CompUSA, but I never made it downtown to Main Street.
One day while doing an errand, I started exploring downtown Greenville. I came in on I-385, went in front of the Bi-Lo Center, then made a left on to Main St. at the Hyatt, then my mouth dropped open. I thought I was in Europe.
Main Street Greenville, South Carolina had some of the widest sidewalks I had ever seen on a city street. In places, they seemed 20 to 30 feet leaving ample room for mature trees to line the sidewalks and large flower boxes filled with beautiful plants and blooms. Restaurants and boutiques were side by side for as far as the eye could see. Each shoppe had it's own unique front. Most of the restaurants had indoor/outdoor seating. Colorful umbrellas over the the cafe tables lined the streets. I felt like I was in Paris. During the warmer months, the City blocks off Main Street for pedestrian traffic only and has open air bands where the people can mix and mingle with a glass of wine in the hand. As the sun goes down, the tiny twinkling lights in the trees lining Main Street turn on creating a magical atmosphere as people gaze upward to the sky while standing in the middle of the street with music in their ears.
I shook my head in disbelief thinking I'd lived 35 minutes away from this jewel of a city and I had never even known about how charming the downtown was. I just pictured downtown Greenville would be like any medium sized city in the United States struggling to stay alive, run down and brimming with the homeless. It was quite the opposite. In fact, it was thriving with bustling businesses, each showcasing unique character.
As I met store and restauant owners, they said there was actually a revival taking place and that just 10 years before, many of the businesses I was seeing were boarded up including the Poinsett Hotel which has had such a hot acceptance after the renovations that Hollywood has has taken notice by filming "Leatherheads" there. This movie stars George Clooney and Renee Zellwger in the 1920s style hotel. How would one know the 1920s style? Why the very building was made in 1925 by W.L. Stoddard, of course.
When I had a special date, I'd wisk her over to a quaint restarant in Greenville, but I was still completely unaware that if I had explored just few more blocks towards the West Main area, I would have seen one of the most prized possessions of Greenville...the Reedy River Falls Park.
The Reedy River goes right under Main Street next to their performing arts center known as the Peace Center. One can take a leisurely stroll down the steps to walk into a Garden of Eden like area filled with dramatic waterfalls, trees, manicured lawn with nature and people living in harmony. Just watch the video at the top of this post and you'll see that these words hold true. They even have an open air amphitheatre that features 'Shakespeare in the Park' May through August. For more information, call (864) 787-4016.
For me, Glen Woodfin, Greenville, SC is one of the best cities in America. A few of my others are: Flagstaff, AZ, Santa Barbara, CA, Carmel by the Sea, CA, Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC.
Feel free to share your favorite cities in the comment section!