Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Written by Hope S. Philbrick
The Hub City steps up as a hot destination that’s easy to explore on foot.
There’s a boom happening in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Construction is underway on multiple downtown properties, from new buildings to renovations, to expand retail, office and residential spaces. But don’t wait to visit: There’s already much to see and do in the Hub City, a nickname Spartanburg earned in the late 1800s for its role as a major transportation center. Best of all, you can park and explore downtown Spartanburg without getting back into your car.
Downtown Spartanburg has so many art galleries, music venues, museums, culinary arts, and literary arts venues within walking distance of one another that it’s been designated a cultural district by the state’s arts commission. Stroll the wide sidewalks and you might hear a musician playing jazz or see a painter brushing a canvas. Walk any direction to see some of the more than 75 public art installations that dot the city, ranging from abstract to whimsical.
Here are some potential starting points.
Chapman Cultural Center is a mind-expanding extravaganza of the arts. It’s the only place in the U.S. where you can find visual arts, performing arts, science and history in one location. The event calendar is so packed there’s literally something happening every day—oftentimes, free of charge. The three-building facility houses art, science and history museums, two galleries, and three performing arts organizations. Spartanburg Art Museum is the only contemporary art museum the Upstate and the oldest in the South. Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra performs a range of musical styles, from classic to avant-garde. Spartanburg Regional History Museum exhibits one of the finest historical map collections in the Southeast. Ballet Spartanburg performs contemporary and traditional dances plus runs a robust community outreach program that includes classes. Spartanburg Little Theater stages a variety of shows from musicals to fringe and everything in between. And at the almost 500-seat theater, there’s not a bad seat in the house!
The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, set to open in April, aims to make learning fun. Based upon best-practices for early childhood development, programming is geared to kids age five and younger, with outreach initiatives for children up to age 12. Pop-up story times, cooperative games, physical play, exhibits that showcase the Spartanburg area, “random acts of science,” a climbing tree, water table, soft floor for crawling, and much more will engage young minds and bodies. From the eye-popping décor to the abundant opportunities to burn energy, bring youngsters here and plan to stay awhile because they won’t want to leave.
Hub City Bookshop & Press, run by the Hub City Writers Project non-profit, is an award-winning independent bookstore and one of the South’s leading literary publishers—what’s more, it’s the only non-profit full-service independent bookstore and publishing company in the nation. With a focus on Southern themes and writers, it specializes in new titles, regional authors, literary fiction, history, children’s books, and special projects like the new cookbook “A Taste of Spartanburg: Local Chefs. Local Farmers. Local Recipes.” that features 15 farmers and 15 chefs with recipes. The shop contributes to the local community with over 100 events each year including creative writing education, writing residencies, book prizes, conferences, author appearances, and more. Browse titles and grab a treat at the tasty hotspots that share the ground level of the landmark Masonic Temple, Cakehead Bake Shop and Little River Coffee Bar.
AC Hotel Spartanburg is brand new, yet the building’s historic exterior design makes it look like it has long been standing in the heart of Spartanburg. It feels that way, too, because it’s already luring out-of-town guests to luxuriate in its chic guestrooms and mingle with the throngs of locals who can’t resist the lobby-level bar and fine-dining restaurant Level 10—the first rooftop restaurant in downtown Spartanburg. The hotel’s sleek and contemporary interiors seem to underscore that Spartanburg is of the moment and trending now.
Meander downtown Spartanburg on a themed trail using your smartphone to guide the route and tap into detailed information. Learn about the city’s 200-year music-making history on the Music Trail, listening to music that honors 18 local musicians who made a national or international impact on your phone as you go. Find 14 significant sites related to architecture, war, transportation, entertainment and more on the Historic Downtown Walking Tour, referencing facts and historic photos on your phone along the way.
Tap into the culinary arts at Spartanburg’s hottest restaurants. Got a thirst for local beer? Head to Ciclops Cyderi and Brewery or RJ Rockers Brewing Company to tap into fresh brews. Or sip your pick of favorite grape styles at Carriage House Wines or Bond Street Wines.
There’s so much happening in Spartanburg, it’s hard to stand still. On Thursdays (April-August), listen to live bands at Music on Main. On Friday evenings (April-October) tap into Jazz on the Square. Every third Thursday of the month join the ArtWalk as galleries and museums open from 5 to 9 p.m. to show off their latest works.
Put on your walking shoes and come visit soon.
There’s more to discover just a short drive from downtown Spartanburg. The nation’s only BMW museum, BMW Zentrum, is a short drive away, plus you can visit the manufacturing facility to see some of the brand’s sport utility vehicles being made or even get behind the wheel for an adventurous test-drive unlike any other at the BMW Performance Center. Shop and stroll downtown Landrum for antiques, arts, equestrian gear, gifts, and delicious food. Sip spirits at Motte & Sons Bootlegging, the city’s first micro-distillery, and Sugar Tit Moonshine in nearby Reidville. Visit 12 historic sites on the Spartanburg Revolutionary War Trail self-guided driving tour. Find 31 quilt blocks on the Foothills Quilt Trail. Watch the NFL’s Carolina Panthers practice each summer at Wofford College. Explore the great outdoors.
For help planning your visit to Spartanburg, South Carolina, explore VisitSpartanburg.com or call 864-594-5000.