12 Fun Things To Do in Clemson, South Carolina—And They Go Beyond Football

Death Valley is cool and all, but why stop there?

5. Clemson University
Photo: Gary Clark

You don't have to be from South Carolina to know the unbridled enthusiasm that consumes the Clemson club. Any Georgian or Alabamian has lost at least one of their own to the renowned public institution after high school, and those kids have been bleeding orange ever since. Out-of-staters don't mind, typically. Who does mind? The Gamecocks. The state rivalry between the two colleges is legendary, but we're not here to dive into the intricacies of the Palmetto Bowl.

Collegiate football aside, Clemson, South Carolina, is just a small mountain town nestled in the Blue Ridge foothills. Sure, it's home to the Clemson University Tigers and Death Valley, but there also happens to be plenty of other cool things worth checking out while you're there.

Here are the best things to do on your visit to Clemson, South Carolina.

Walk around the picturesque campus grounds

Regularly named one of the prettiest college towns in the South, Clemson makes the most of its generous placement on the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and right up against the shores of Lake Hartwell. The campus is set on 17,000 acres (with plenty of green space) and is located only a mile from the main town district, making it perfect for those who love to have an afternoon walk or spend time outdoors. The grounds are synonymous with the scenery of the town, and you'll also find outdoor pastimes to explore. Favorite local activities include kayaking on Lake Hartwell or exploring the trails that lie along the Blue Ridge Parkway about two hours north of town.

Visit the iconic Esso Club

People have been watching games and having fun at this dive bar for decades, making it one of the most legendary spots in town. At Esso Club, you'll find memorabilia on the walls and diehard alums lined at the bar. Hit it early on game days for its signature "Build Your Own" bloody mary bar.

The Esso Club: Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar
Michelle Lynn Morris

Enjoy the shade of the Centennial Oak

Sit back and relax for a spell underneath the wide shadow of this century-old oak tree, the largest bur oak in the state of South Carolina. The landmark is a beloved meeting place and must-see stop.

Attend the Clemson Festival of Arts each spring

Every spring, Clemson's arts culture is on full display at the annual Clemson Festival of Arts, which is held around downtown Clemson in late May. The free-admission event makes a great outing to view and participate in art-making projects, listen to musicians, enjoy local vendors, and find a new piece of artwork to take home.

Try Clemson's cult-fave blue cheese

They had us at, "cheese research project." A venture first started in the 1940s, Clemson's blue cheese is an artisanal cheese made the old-fashioned way—in 288-gallon vats that each produce batches of about 240 pounds of blue cheese, which is then salted, waxed, aged for six months, and packaged by hand. And it's good, y'all. You can find it at the '55 Exchange on campus. Make sure to rack up a batch to take home in the cooler. They even ship.

Pay a visit to the South Carolina Botanical Garden

This 295-acre sanctuary really sings in the springtime. What began as a humble camellia garden in the 1950s has become an outdoor gardener's paradise. You'll find garden expeditions, pruning classes, lunch-and-learn meetings, and more on the docket.

South Carolina Botanical Garden, Clemson, South Carolina
South Carolina Botanical Garden. Getty Images/Jumping Rocks/Contributor

Visit the student-run '55 Exchange

We all scream for...ice cream! Speaking of '55 Exchange, this student-run business makes, serves, and sells Clemson's beloved ice cream (and milkshakes), as well as other in-house Clemson products like the famous blue cheese. The ice-cream tradition has been going strong since the 1920s.

Make a stop at Judge Keller's store

This three-generation institution has been around for over 100 years, and you'll find it has come a long way since its humble beginnings carrying cadet uniforms to now selling bright-orange school apparel.

Take a detour to Sassafras Mountain

This is a popular weekend destination for Clemson students and locals to take advantage of the surrounding mountain landscape. Sassafras Mountain is home to the highest point in the state of South Carolina, and it offers a rare glimpse at the cotton-candy sunsets that fall over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Make it a quick detour on your way in or out of town, and you won't be sorry.

Grab a bagel at Pot Belly Deli

There hasn't been a breakfast craving or raging hangover that couldn't be cured with a bagel sandwich from Pot Belly Deli, a town favorite of students and locals alike. Safe to say, this casual spot feeds its fair share of fans on a game day morning. Ask for the Taylor H-E-C.

Catch the town covered in Clemson orange every Friday

If there's one thing Clemson students, faculty members, and alums all know, it's that Fridays are about going "Solid Orange." Every week, you'll catch the whole town teeming with folks decked out in Clemson orange—like, all the way decked out. It takes loyal fandom to a whole new level.

Book a room at The Inn at Patrick Square

Embarking on all of these adventures requires a night's stay at least. For that, visit one of Southern Living Hotel Collection members, The Inn at Patrick Square. With historic charm and a walkable location, you'll be well-taken-care-of.

If you're heading on a tour of the scenic state of South Carolina, make sure Clemson is on the list.

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