Death Valley is cool and all, but why stop there? 
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Clemson University
Clemson University
| Credit: Getty Images/DenisTangneyJr

You don’t have to be from South Carolina to know the unbridled enthusiasm that consumes Clemson folks—be it through an experience had with an alum, student, faculty member, or lifelong fan. Any Georgian or Alabamian knows because they lost one or two of their own to the renowned public institution after high school, and those kids have been bleeding orange ever since and singing high praises to all who will listen. But 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. We’re here to talk about Clemson, South Carolina: the small mountain town nestled in the Blue Ridge foothills that’s home to the Clemson University Tigers, because there happens to be a lot of cool things worth checking out while you’re there—that go way beyond football season and Death Valley. 

Here are 12 things to do on your visit to Clemson, South Carolina.

Walk around the picturesque campus grounds

Regularly voted as 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 town, making it perfect for those who love to have an afternoon walk or spend time outdoors. Favorite pastimes 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 the National Championship-winning Clemson football team 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
Credit: Michelle Lynn Morris

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. 

Don’t leave without a stop at Judge Keller’s store

This three-generation Clemson 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—think: Clemson Tiger overalls. 

Grab a bagel at Pot Belly Deli 

There hasn’t been a 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. 

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 campus landmark is a beloved meeting place and must-see stop.

Try Clemson’s cult-favorite blue cheese

They had us at, “cheese research project.” A venture first started in the 1940s, Clemson’s blue cheese is 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.

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
| Credit: 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. 

Get caffeinated at everyone’s favorite java joint, All In Coffee Shop 

Because everyone needs a morning cup of coffee, obviously. All In Coffee Shop has all the makings of a small-town hangout spot, complete with sofas, homemade pastries, and all the java you could want.

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. 

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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. 

See? Clemson isn’t all about the football. That being said, maybe at least stop by Death Valley...just to say you did.