This Piedmont town brings big energy with a bustling historic downtown, great dining, and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
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Anderson, South Carolina
Credit: Getty Images / Bryan Powell / 500px

Greenville, South Carolina has been getting quite a bit of buzz lately—and for good reason. Its emerging food scene, array of museums, and walkable downtown are just a few of the reasons it was named the South's Best City on the Rise in 2022. But travel 45 minutes southeast towards the South Carolina-Georgia border, and you'll find another town more than worth a weekend away. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Anderson is a small town with big energy that you need to add to your Southern travel bucket list today. 

Once known as the Electric City thanks to its pioneering use of hydroelectric power, Anderson has remained every bit of that spark more than 100 years later. Its location near the Blue Ridge Mountains and one of the Southeast's largest recreation lakes means there's plenty by way of outdoor recreation to explore, from freshwater fishing and boating to hiking and biking. 

When you're ready to slow your roll, a leisurely stroll around Anderson's historic district shops and restaurants is a great option. Then, you can round out your trip by hunting down all the local treats of the Piedmont region, from handmade truffles and homegrown honey to craft whiskey and farm-fresh goat cheese. Here are 10 things you must do on a visit to the Friendliest City in South Carolina. 

Palmetto Distillery
Credit: Courtesy of Palmetto Distillery

Do a Tour and Tasting at Palmetto Distillery

The fun started more than a decade ago when brothers Trey and Bryan Boggs opened South Carolina's first legal moonshine distillery in Anderson. Since then, they've grown the collection of spirits at Palmetto Distillery to include not only award-winning flavored moonshines (Try the Pina Colada, Peach, or Salted Caramel), but also a line of craft whiskeys and ready-to-drink cocktails. Tours are free (no reservations required) and typically end with a choose-your-own-adventure tasting where you can decided between a traditional tasting (9 flavors for $10 with a $5 credit for whatever you decide to take home), flight ($5), or single sample ($1). 

Lake Hartwell
Credit: Courtesy of Big Water Marina

Spend a Day on Lake Hartwell

Ask any Anderson local where their favorite place to spend a day is and they'll likely reply with Lake Hartwell. The 56,000-acre lake is one of the biggest recreation lakes in the Southeast and is well-known for its world-class fishing. Catch catfish, bream, crappie, and bass from the 100-foot fishing pier at Sadlers Creek State Park, or book a trip with one of many local fishing guides who are guaranteed to have you reeling in trophy bass in no time. If fishing isn't your fancy, head to Big Water Marina and take your pick of watercrafts. They've got everything from kayaks, paddle boards, and hydrobikes to pontoon boats. 

Anderson Arts Center
Credit: Courtesy of Anderson Arts Center

Immerse Yourself in the Arts at the Anderson Arts Center

Art enthusiasts should plan to spend ample time at downtown's Anderson Arts Center. The massive complex is a hub for the visual and performing arts. The complex features several rotating exhibitions, as well as the Bay 3 Artisan Gallery, a cooperative gallery of local artists who represent a variety of different mediums. If you'd like to get a little more hands-on, sign up for a workshop or class hosted regularly at the center. The center is also home to The Market Theatre Company, a community theater group that pulls off an impressive year-round schedule of musicals, plays, and productions for the public. 

Downtown Anderson Courthouse
Credit: Courtesy of the City of Anderson

Explore the Historic District

One of Anderson's crowning jewels is its bustling 16-block Historic District. Allot a few hours to explore this area and see where your whims take you. History buffs will want to look out for Anderson County Courthouse, the P&N Railroad Depot, the Anderson County Museum, and a 1764 Revolutionary War cannon called Old Reformer. Modern mavens will love the eclectic mix of locally owned specialty shops, boutiques, breweries, and restaurants. Just off Main Street, pay a visit to Carolina Wren Park, a hub for community activity including open-air concerts, block parties, movie screenings, and other outdoor events. Don't forget a sweet treat at CocoBon Chocolatier, an artisan truffle and chocolate shop that's been a local favorite since opening in 2007.

Bleckley Inn
Credit: Courtesy of The Bleckley Inn

Stay at the Bleckley Inn

When visiting Anderson, there's no better home base than The Bleckley Inn. The city's only boutique hotel, the Bleckley offers 22 well-appointed rooms in the heart of downtown. The renovated historic building features dramatic 10-foot ceilings, original heart pine flooring, and classic Southern décor. For the full experience, book reservations at the hotel's Restaurant 151, a Southern American eatery with a special emphasis on South Carolina-grown ingredients and produce. 

Split Creek Goat Farm
Credit: Courtesy of Split Creek Goat Farm

Visit Split Creek Goat Farm 

At its heart, Anderson is a rural community. For a foray into the farm fresh, a visit to Split Creek Goat Farm is a must. The goat dairy is home to 350 goats who provide the milk for Split Creek's nationally acclaimed, award-winning goat cheese, fudge, and yogurt. The farm shop is open every day except Sunday, but if you'd like to take a self-guided tour of the operations be sure to visit between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday or Saturday. In addition to finding Split Creek's legendary products, you can also find produce and food from other South Carolina businesses. 

Sullivan's
Credit: Courtesy of Sullivan's

No vacation—and especially no Southern vacation—is complete without a meal to write home about. In Anderson, you'll have plenty of options to choose from. Sullivan's Metropolitan Grill is the place to go for an upscale evening out. With its white tablecloths and elegant architecture, you'd never know the building opened as a hardware store in the late 1800s. Dinner options range from Lowcountry classics like Shrimp and Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Sullivan's Hush Puppies to Italian-inspired Short Rib Bolognese and Black Truffle Ravioli. For top-notch cooking in more casual digs, head to Mama Penn's for a Southern-certified meat 'n' three experience and Creekside Bar-be-que for slow-smoked ribs, brisket, and pork using recipes passed down for generations. 

Get Delicious Eats at a Local Restaurant

Magnetic South Brewing
Credit: Courtesy of Magnetic South Brewing

Go Brewery Hopping

Make a toast to a trip well spent with a pint at one of Anderson's hip craft breweries. Carolina Bauerhaus uses local yeasts, regional hops, and seasonal fruit to create an ever-rotating menu of small-batch beers, ciders, and wines. Be on the lookout for seasonal brews like the Bradford, a sour ale brewed with Bradford watermelons. Electric City Brewing Company is a brewery, coffee shop, and café all in one. On-tap options range from a 10% spiked seltzer to a Blood Orange IPA. Complete your downtown brewery tour at Magnetic South, a brewery on downtown's Main Street that opened in September 2021. The brewpub encourages visitors to stay for a while. The large taproom features arcade games, a pool table, and plenty of room to relax over a pint and specialty cast-iron pizza.