A Family Trip to Greenville, South Carolina

This small foothills town delivers big fun for families
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Photo by Kristina Hernandez
When it’s warm, let the kids play in the free splash pad by the Reedy River in downtown Greenville.

From parks, playgrounds and trails to museums, restaurants and festivals, Greenville, South Carolina has plenty to offer families for a day or weekend excursion. 


Explore and Picnic at Falls Park

Spend some time at iconic Falls Park, where the 355-foot long pedestrian Liberty Bridge spans Reedy River Falls. Grab a loaf of stecca bread from the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery, along with local fruit, meat, veggies and homemade cookies to create an enviable picnic lunch to enjoy at the park. Many special events take place at the park throughout the year. During Artisphere, happening May 10-12 this year, you may be entertained at the park by an artist creating magnificent paintings. Any number of restaurants line Main Street during Fall for Greenville, one of the largest food festivals of the upstate and one of the most popular in the Southeast, happening Oct. 11-13.

Mice on Main

For fun at no cost, stroll along Main Street and look for the nine Mice on Main. These small bronze statues of mice are inspired by the classic book “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown. Children can use clues to see if they can spot the mice throughout the downtown area.

Take a Bike Ride

If you’re feeling adventurous, rent bikes at Reedy Rides and bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 20-mile paved trail that runs through the heart of Greenville. Ride north up to Furman University, where you can stroll around the lake on campus and feed the ducks or ride south to Falls Park to see the waterfalls.

Stroll the Zoo

The Greenville Zoo, which houses giraffes, lions, birds, mammals and snakes, is a manageable size and takes about an hour-and-a-half to walk through. In 2018, the zoo welcomed a baby giraffe, orangutan and red panda cubs. A new lions den, which could become a breeding center, should be ready mid-2019. Tickets are $9.75 for adults, $6.50 for children ages 3-15, and children 2 and younger are admitted free with a paying adult. Be sure to leave time to visit Cleveland Park, a free, sprawling playground right outside the zoo.

The Children’s Museum of the Upstate

If it’s raining during your excursion to Greenville, don’t sweat it. Head to The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, a Smithsonian-affiliated experience located in downtown Greenville. The museum offers three floors of endless fun, learning and entertainment. Exhibits include a studio with a green screen where kids can pretend to be news anchors, an art studio, an outdoor playground designed by Michelin, a water feature offering information about the Reedy River, a music room with a variety of instruments, and Grandma Betty’s Farm, which was designed for children under age 5. The museum is best for ages 12 and younger, and families can expect to spend at least a couple hours there. Admission costs $10 for adults and $9 for children ages 1-15. Children under age 1 are admitted free. 

Watch Planes Land and Take Off

Runway Park, which sits next to Greenville Downtown Airport, offers a short track perfect for kids who want to ride a small bike or ride-on, as well as a shelter. Enjoy a full meal at the adjacent Runway Cafe. 

Go on an Outdoor Adventure

Greenville is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is within an hour of a variety of hiking trails, and lakes suitable for kayaking and swimming. Paris Mountain State Park is 15 minutes from downtown Greenville and features a lake, trails for all skill levels and a playground. The Carrick Creek Trail at Table Rock State Park is ideal for smaller kids because it is less than 2 miles, travels past waterfalls and features a few water crossings. For a day trip, rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards at Lake Jocassee, a crystal clear lake that looks like something you might see on a postcard that is about an 80-minute drive from Greenville. 

Kristina Hernandez lives in Greenville with her husband and two daughters, and is an amateur outdoorswoman who loves exploring the mountains, lakes, and trails.