We traveled up to the Pee Dee region of South Carolina this past weekend to mark off a couple counties. We stayed in Florence, but were able to make stops in 6 different counties. Overall impression of this area of the state is LOTS of cotton field, swamps, and large industrial buildings/businesses.
Attraction: Darlington International Raceway
First stop was Darlington County and the Darlington International Raceway for a 5k. Bryan and I have actually attended a couple NASCAR races in previous years at the raceway prior to having the girls. We drove up to Darlington on Friday night in order to participate in the Terrence Carraway Memorial 5K. Terrence Carraway was a Florence officer who was killed while on duty last year. The Darlington Raceway, known as the track “Too tough to tame” is the original paved superspeedway in NASCAR. I ran the race, while the girls and Bryan cheered me on! It was rather cool to experience the bright lights shining down at night while running around the track that cars usually speed around. While I was running, the girls were able to walk halfway around the track and experience the steep incline in the turns. This was the first time I have run in a race in about 5 years and I was surprised to have come in first in my age division!! This also motivated Avery and Leslie to enter a future race, so the training has begun for them!
Attraction: McArthur Farms
We got up on Saturday morning and headed to Marlboro County. As with much of the counties we have visited, we drove through a number of cotton fields to get there, both sides of the road lined with white. I had no idea how many cotton fields were in South Carolina. Our stop in Marlboro was McArthur Farms, a roadside farmers market, cornmaze, and kids play zone. McArthur Farms is over 180 acres of farmland that grows various crops including strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. In 2018, it was voted the Pee Dee’s best attraction. The 12 acre corn maze was slightly beat up since it is at the end of the season. The girls were much more interested in all the fun farm games. There were tractors to crawl on, slides going down a hill, tunnels, pedal go carts, and plenty of hay bales to climb all over. The favorite attraction was the corn pit that was just like a sandbox, but with corn. The girls enjoyed rolling and digging in the corn. We also took a wagon ride around the farm and the girls took a ride on the cow train. It was a great place to get lots of energy out!
Attraction: South of the Border
Up next, was the famous roadside attraction, South of the Border in Dillon County. Up and down Interstate 95 around the border between North and South Carolina billboards line the highway advertising all the “fun” at South of the Border. We lost count of how many billboards we saw! We explained to the girls that this is what is known as a tourist trap and to beware not to get trapped. They took us literally and were on the look out throughout our time at this stop for anything that would trap them and did not ask to buy anything!!
This silly stop is home to “Pedro” and lots of other colorful animals that we walked around and took pictures with. Also there is various shops that sell all types of gimmicky items. The motels and other attractions all looked pretty abandoned and we decided to head on down the highway for lunch.
Part 2 of our exciting Pee Dee weekend includes Florence, Marion, and Williamsburg!
We went to a Clemson game (Clemson vs. Florida State) a couple weekends ago and decided to squeeze in a couple county stops during the weekend in the upstate. While we traveled through around a dozen or so different counties, we only made three official county stops.
Attraction: Falls Park on the Reedy
Greenville County has a number of different attractions explore! When we come back through Greenville, I would like to check out the state parks and maybe do some camping. Since we were heading to the Clemson football game on Saturday, we did not have much time, and decided to visit downtown Greenville in the morning prior to the game. We stopped into Sully’s Steamers for a steamed bagel sandwich (which were delicious; perfect way to start a gameday) and then headed to Fall Park. Greenville was having a fall festival so all the downtown roads were blocked off which made it nice to walk through the downtown area. We ate our bagels in the 32 acre, Falls Park, which is located within the city making it rather unique. There is a suspension bridge (Liberty Bridge) we walked across to view the falls. On our way walking back through the city, we spotted one of the nine “mice on main”. The city has nine little bronze mice scattered around the city and offers a scavenger hunt for kids to try to find them all. Greenville is such a beautiful town and I was impressed with all the shops and restaurants that lined the streets. I wish we had more time to spend exploring the city, but we needed to make our way to Clemson to cheer on the Tigers!
Attraction: Downtown Spartanburg
The next day, we made our way to Spartanburg county. As with Greenville, Spartanburg also offers some fun outdoor attractions, but it was raining, so we did not get too adventurous and headed downtown to check out the city of Spartanburg. We ate breakfast at the Crepe Factory which was voted number one brunch spot in Spartanburg and did not disappoint. The girls had never had crepes before so this was a new food experience and they loved them, especially since they were covered with nutella. After breakfast, we walked around downtown and found some fun metal bikes that were the same that we saw when were in on the boat and visiting the town of Fort Pierce in Florida. As with Greenville, I would have liked to stay longer, however, we had a long drive ahead of us and the weather was not very good. Had it been open,we would have liked to visit the Spartanburg Science Center but we will have to save that for another visit.
Attraction: Wells Japanese Garden and Newberry College
Our final stop on our way home, was Newberry County. I struggled with finding something to do in this county but we ended up making two stops. First, we visited Wells Japanese Garden, listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1980. The garden has a couple bridges but unfortunately, has not been well maintained and was rather overgrown. We passed Newberry College on our way into the town and decided to stop there on the way out. We visited the stadium and the girls ran around and got out some energy before we hit the road back to Beaufort.
I believe our next stops will be within the Pee Dee region. We would love some suggestions of attractions in this area if you have any!
Over the last few weeks we have taken a couple days trips to counties that are not too far from Beaufort. We have traveled through these counties on a number of occasions already, especially Charleston so we looked for some different points of interest that we had not yet experienced.
Point of Interest: Caw Caw Interpretive Center
As many people know, Charleston has LOTS to offer a visitor…horse drawn carriage rides through historic downtown, boat rides to Fort Sumter National Monument, tours of Patriots Point or the South Carolina Aquarium. Not to mention the many festivals throughout the year, and of course the beaches. We wanted to stick with our theme of low cost and “off the beaten path” for our county visit, so we decided to visit Caw Caw Interpretive Center. This park is located off of Hwy 17 on the the south side of the Charleston County making it convenient to Beaufort. I have passed the entrance to the park so many times on my way to and from Charleston so I am glad we finally drove back in and checked it out.
There is an exhibit center where you can learn about the history of the park and see exhibits about the animals that live within the park including alligators, birds, and turtles. The land was once used as rice fields, but now offers many trails to walk and enjoy nature. The camp ranger offered the girls a scavenger hunt which kept them entertained on our 2 mile walk and they received a stamp when they completed the hunt. We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch when we arrived and then set off on the board walk and through the salt marshes. While we did not see an alligator on our walk, we did see a bunny which was a highlight for the girls.
Point of Interest: Summerville Sweet Tea Festival
Next stop after Charleston, was a quick ride up the road into Dorchester County. We headed to the town of Summerville which claims to be the birthplace of Sweet Tea and home of the largest Sweet Tea at 2,524 gallons. We were lucky and actually were able to attend the annual Sweet Tea Festival that was taking place within the town square. We were also extra fortunate to be able to have a quick visit with family, Uncle Chris and Aunt Rachel!! We enjoyed the live music and beverages in the town square while the girls enjoyed a watermelon Italian Ice.
I read about the Pickle Festival on the Colleton County website and thought this could be a fun stop for this particular County. Avery really enjoys pickles, so we started to get excited about all the different pickled food to try at the “Pickle Festival”. It actually turned out to be a bit of a hoax since there was no festival going on, but simply the Walterboro Saturday Farmers Market with one guy handing out a pickle to sample. Apparently they try to have “themed” market days to drum up business. Despite being a little let down, we enjoyed this quaint farmers market and our taste of a pickle. We were also able to pick up some interesting pumpkins to start decorating for fall. And course, we loved having Papa with us on this stop!
The Tuskegee Air Monument is also in Colleton County, so we headed to the airport to take a look at this memorial that honors the first black military airmen who spent their final months of combat training at Walterboro Army Airfield. Interestingly, this is also the site of a POW camp during WWII where 250 Germans were brought to work in a lumber mill.
We enjoyed our visits close to home, especially because we had family with us on some of the county stops! We have now officially crossed a milestone with half of the counties marked of the list, only 23 more to complete the state of South Carolina.
Point of Interest: Heritage Gold Mine Park
From Abbeville we drove back down south to McCormick County and stopped at Heritage Gold Mine Park. Our original intention was to let the girls pan for gems, but we were talked into a mine tour. The big girls found some interesting gems to add to their rock collection and then we set out on the tour. After walking up a hill and getting a history lesson on the background of the mine, we walk past where the ground had caved in on the mine at some point. We were then lead down some stairs to the base of a hill with a hole in the side with an iron gate covering the entrance. As we continued to get a gold mining history lesson, Leslie turned to me and asked, “are we going in there?” pointing to the hole in the side of the rock. I told her of course not, but to my surprise that was the entrance to the underground old mine. Bryan had to bend down to get into the “mine” and he could not stand straight up. Despite the little flashlights we had been given to use, it was dark and we kept walking deeper into the mine. This gave me serious anxiety, but the girls seemed to be enjoying the adventure and the crickets that were along the edges. We finally made it to the end, snapped a quick picture and then quickly hurried out to the the light at the end of the tunnel. All I could think about is the tunnel caving in, as it had in the places we were just walking above ground.
Point of Interest: Hitchcock Woods
We stayed overnight in Aiken on Friday and Saturday night, we were able to drive around the town throughout our weekend, but our official stop in this county was Hitchcock Woods. These woods are the largest privately own urban forest in the country. There are 2100 acres of land and close to 70 miles of trails for people and horses to use. On our morning walk came across a couple people riding horses and they allowed Avery and Leslie to pet the horse. It was interesting to see such vast woods in the center of a city.
Point of Interest: Ten Governor’s Rail Trail
Our final destination on our weekend trip, was Edgefield County. We picked up subs and headed to the Ten Governors Rail Trail for a picnic and walk. The county created a trail highlighting the 10 South Carolina Governors who were from Edgefield. There is a different governor featured every .1 miles on the 1 mile path. The path leads you around a lake and over a bridge and then onto the old railroad tracks that have now been turned into the trail. We had a nice picnic surrounded by ducks and then walked the trail. Some of the famous governors we saw were Storm Thurmond who started the trail and “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman.
So, that completed our weekend tour. We have now completed 20 counties and have 26 counties to go!!
It has been awhile since we last intentionally visited any counties on our family county tour, so we planned a weekend to visit some of the counties located in the western side of South Carolina a couple weeks ago. It was a busy and interesting weekend with learning new information, lots of driving, and having car issues resulting in getting new brake pads.
Point of Interest: God’s Acre Springs
We headed up to Aiken to stay the night and stopped in Barnwell County on our way. We visited God’s Acre Healing Springs in the town of Blackville. As the legend goes, during the revolutionary war, soldiers were taken to the spring and healed by bathing or drinking the spring water. Today, pipes of water run freely and people come and fill up gallons and cars loads full of the water. While we were there, a couple was packing their trunk with container after container of water. We let the girls play a bit in the water and filled up a water bottle of the water for later when needed for healing!
Point of Interest: Ridge Spring farmers marker
I had some difficulty finding an “attraction” in Saluda. We originally planned to visit Bryan’s Cafe but when we arrived in town, we found the cafe had been closed and photography business was in it’s place. Luckily, we had already made an impromptu stop in Ridge Spring (population 823) at a farmers marker along the road. Ridge Spring is known for its peach, cattle, asparagus, and pecan farms. This small town had small farmers market with people selling various goods on the roadside. We picked up a couple of gourds that the girls plan on painting for birdhouses. We also purchased some local honey. We visited the town square which had an old painted piano in the gazebo and a train car, that the girls could climb up. One thing we have learned thus far with our county tour is South Carolina has many, many small rural towns and Ridge Spring is definitely one of them!
Point of Interest: Emerald Farm
Next stop was Emerald Farm in Greenwood County. This beautiful 75 acre farm featured so much more than your typical farm experience. They had goats, peacocks and fish that you could feed and walk alongside, but what was truly unique was the train fascination/hobby that these owners showed off. We were taken above the farm store by the owner to see the train exhibit. This room was full of a running trains through expertly designed towns. They host a model railroad group and they work on creating new features to the train exhibit. It was interesting to see this hobby in action. All the little details were rather impressive! Next, we road a little passenger train around the farm. This eight seater train took us through a “village” created by the owners with a town store, saloon, school, and other interesting attractions along the way. We finished up our visit walking alongside the peacocks and feeding the many goats. They also have a small store that sells homemade soap. This stop was one of the girls favorites.
Point of Interest: Erskine College
After having lunch, we headed further north to Abbeville. This is another county I had a little difficulty finding an attraction. Among the farmland and little rural villages, sits Erskine College, located in Due West. Erskine College is a private liberal arts school with a student population of 600. What makes Erskine College even more unique is that it is the first higher education organization in South Carolina to create a statewide charter school authorizer, The Charter Institute at Erskine, which sponsors 17 charter schools across the state. It was rather quiet on campus and we walked around the green space, while Hunter napped in her stroller. We then headed to get some ice cream to energize ourselves for our next county stop!