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300 Acres are Waiting for You at the SC Botanical Gardens

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Forty-five minutes west of Greenville is Clemson, home not only to Clemson University but also to the South Carolina Botanical Garden, a perfect day-trip destination this spring. The colorful spring foliage and cool temperatures will ensure a memorable visit to one of the premiere Gardens of the Upstate! KAG Contributor, Liene, shares all about this beautiful (and free!) destination.

See our list of gardens near Greenville for even more beautiful outdoor areas to explore.

At just under 300 acres in size, the South Carolina Botanical Gardens encompass everything from natural landscapes to display gardens, including miles of streams, nature trails and the 70-acre Schoenike Arboretum. Home to over 300 varieties of camellias, the Gardens also have an extensive collection of hollies, hydrangeas, magnolias and native plants. Although there are multiple points of access, parking in the lot off Pearman Blvd. closest to the Heritage Garden will put you in the center of this gorgeous botanical treasure.

children's garden at clemson botanical gardens

Cadet Life Garden

Upon entering visitors will find themselves in is the Cadet Life Garden, a nod to the period in Clemson history during which the University was a military college. Over those sixty years (until 1956), 12,314 students graduated; of those nearly 10,000 became Reserve Officers, about 5,600 saw active military service, and 335 died or were missing in action while fighting for their country. (Source: informational plaques in the Garden).

Caboose Garden

After trying out one of the swings, follow the shaded pergola to the 1939 Caboose Garden. George Williams, Assistant Vice President and Treasurer of Southern Railway (as well as a graduate of the class of ’39) donated the caboose to Clemson, after which it was painted red, transported to its current spot, making a perfect playground (and photo op!) for those budding train enthusiasts.

Also, see our list of places to find trains near Greenville for more locations for kids that like trains.

clemson botanical gardens with kids

Children’s Garden

After a meander in the Heritage Garden you’ll emerge near the Children’s Garden. With greenhouses, a “Food for Thought” Garden and several other interesting spaces, the kids will find plenty to explore. The Peter Rabbit Garden features a cute little playhouse, perfect for an imaginary afternoon tea.

Butterfly Garden

Adjacent is the butterfly garden, where you will find quite a few different species of butterflies fluttering about, attracted to the early spring blooms. The bog section has really cool pitcher plants; let the kids check to see if they are digesting any insects!

Duck Pond & Camellia Trail

A loop around Duck Pond on a nice wooded trail takes visitors around to the Camellia Trail. Benches scattered here and there allowed for chances to stop and rest, have a snack and enjoy the view. Hopefully you’ll spot some migrating waterfowl in addition to the frogs, lizards, turtles and even snakes that call this area home.

Flower Display Garden

The Flower Display Garden is also on this end of the garden, and you should definitely stop in to see what is blooming before taking one of the dozens of trails back towards the Heritage Garden. If you continue past the parking area you’ll come to Kelly Meadow and the Meadow Pond, a beautiful panorama with a backdrop of the forest.

SC Botanical Gardens

In addition to a walk through the gardens, you might also be interested in the following attractions:

Fran Hanson Discovery Center & Gift Shop

On the very west end of the Gardens (past Kelly Meadow) is the Fran Hanson Discovery Center & Gift Shop. Built in 1998 as “The Wren House,” it was the first Southern Living Idea House. The second floor houses an art gallery that showcases local artists.

Campbell Geology Museum

The Campbell Geology Museum offers houses a collection of more than 10,000 minerals, rocks and fossils, a great activity for a rainy autumn day. And admission is free! The museum is open Monday – Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.

Cactus Gardens

The cactus gardens between the gift shop and the Geology Museum are interesting year-round, and the historical mining artifacts mixed in offer kids a fun game of “I Spy.”

Shoenike Arboretum

The Shoenike Arboretum features the legacy of Dr. Schoenike, who during his career at Clemson planted, cared for, and studied some 2000 trees and shrubs in the arboretum.

sc botanical garden

Plan your own trip to the SC Botanical Garden

There is always something going on in the garden! From concerts to hikes, homeschool days to wreath-making, there is something for everyone… Check the event calendar for more information.

Truly a state treasure hidden away in a corner of the Upstate, the SC Botanical Gardens are a must-see destination for visitors and residents alike. Spring is a favorite time of year to visit, although autumn also brings cooler temperatures, fewer insects and of course the colorful leaves while summer the gardens are in full bloom. Grab the kids and go explore, you’ll be sure to see something new on each trip!

South Carolina Botanical Garden
150 Discovery Lane
Clemson, SC
Open daily, dawn to dusk
Admission is free!

What is your favorite spot in the Gardens?

Keowee-Toxaway State Park Is Known for Spectacular Views of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Keowee-Toxaway State Park straddles Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (Hwy. 11) between Devils Fork State Park and Long Shoals Wayside Park, one of eight South Carolina State Parks located along the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

Keowee- Toxaway State Park in the Upstate of South Carolina

Known for spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 1,000 acre park is considered a gateway to the Jocassee Gorges, the area defined by a series of steep-sided gorges delivering mountain rivers and streams down to the Piedmont of South Carolina.

Things to do at Keowee-Toxaway State Park

Have a picnic

The state park is split by Highway 11, with the picnic shelters located on a short loop to the south. Five picnic shelters are available for rental. The picnic tables with free-standing grills throughout the park are offered on a first come, first serve basis.

Stop at the Visitor Center

Once you’ve finished your picnic lunch, head across Highway 11 to the north portion of the park. The Park Visitor Center houses exhibits about the natural diversity and history of the park, and its importance as a scientific research destination of the region.

If you’re looking to check out the Visitor Center, be advised that office hours are 11 am to noon and 4 – 5 pm. Despite these rather short hours, the Park is open Saturdays through Thursdays from 9 am – 6 pm and Fridays 9 am – 8 pm. After daylight savings time, the park is open Monday- Sunday until 9 pm. Keowee-Toxaway State Park is free to the public.

Hiking & Creek Stomping at Keowee-Toxaway

Mom and two kids splash near a small waterfall at Keowee-Toxaway State Park

There are 5.5 miles of trails in the Park, the two main hikes being Raven Rock Trail and Natural Bridge Trail. The trailhead for these two trails is located behind the park office. Natural Bridge Nature Trail is a 1½-mile loop, and at the far end of the loop is the Raven Rock trailhead. Combined with the Natural Bridge loop, you achieve a 4.4-mile hike to Raven Rock and back.

Use the Keowee-Toxaway SP trail map to help you navigate the area easily.

Natural Bridge Trail

Hiking the Natural Bridge loop clockwise starts you off along Poe creek and numerous small waterfalls. Soon you’ll come to the intersection with Raven Rock Trail with its views of Lake Keowee, passing rock outcrops and a boulder field before reaching Raven Rock. Looping back to Natural Bridge Trail you’ll cross Poe Creek on the trail’s namesake, an enormous natural rock ‘bridge’. You’ll then cross through an upland hardwoods forest to reach the parking lot.

Lake Trail

The ½ mile Lake Trail departs from the campground and emerges from the woods near the Villa to Lake Keowee, where guests can enjoy fishing for bass, bream, crappie, and catfish.

Keowee-Toxaway is a perfect hike for a spring day! Keep your eyes peeled for the wildflowers that enjoy the moisture along Poe Creek. You’ll also enjoy the rhododendrons and azaleas blooming in late spring and early summer. On a hot summer’s day prepare to cool down in Poe Creek. The irresistible tumble of water makes it hard to leave. Autumn brings colorful fall foliage, but catching the right day in winter means less-crowded trails and parking lots – this is a park for all four seasons.

Camping at Lake Keowee

Ten paved camping sites have individual water and electrical hookups for RVs up to 40 feet, while the tent camping area has 14 sites with central water, individual tent pads and fire rings. Restroom facilities with hot showers are available, as well as a dump station.

Backcountry camping is allowed at three designated sites on Lake Keowee. These are accessible by a hike on Raven Rock Trail, or by paddling to them in a canoe/kayak. For larger groups a primitive group area is located in the backcountry; registration is required and reservations are accepted.

If camping isn’t for you, reserve the three-bedroom villa that overlooks Lake Keowee near the boat launch. The cabin is completely furnished, heated & air-conditioned with all the amenities. It comes with linens, cooking and eating utensils, washer/dryer, satellite television, Wi-Fi, two fireplaces, and a private boat dock. Just know that pets are not allowed in the cabins.

Enjoy Lake Keowee!

Boating: Keowee-Toxaway provides non-motorized boat access to Lake Keowee; to launch a motorized boat you have to use the access at Fall Creek Landing, five miles southwest of the park.

Fishing: Fishing is allowed. Bass, bream, crappie, and catfish are commonly caught fish.

Swimming: Swimming is allowed, however, there are no lifeguards or designated swimming areas in the park; swim at your own risk.

With easy access to Lake Keowee, three beautiful trails with all kinds of unique natural features, and spectacular views throughout the park, Keowee-Toxaway has plenty to offer. We’ve enjoyed our visits in all four seasons. However, spring has a special magic with the ephemeral wildflowers blooming and trees budding electric green. Head north to this gem of a state park and experience the magic for yourself!

A portion of this post originally appeared on Femme au Foyer.

What’s your family’s favorite thing to do at Lake Keowee?

Thirty of the most beautiful natural places in South Carolina

Learn why the Jocassee Gorges are considered one of the most beautiful places in SC (and the US)!

Denver Downs is the One Farm To Put On Your Don’t Miss List This Fall

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If you adore fall, you may be planning a visit to a local farm with activities your whole family will love. One of our favorite farms is Denver Downs Farm, which offers a huge corn maze, a jumping pillow, a zip line, and much more. We’ll give you the details of all the activities they will offer this season!

This article includes:
The Corn Maze at Denver Downs
Things to Do at Denver Downs
Plan Your Visit to Denver Downs
Fall Weekend Themes at Denver Downs


Twelve Mile Recreation Area Has One of the Nicest Beaches in the Upstate

Have you visited Twelve Mile Recreation Area, a Clemson City Park on Lake Hartwell? Grab the swimsuits and those inflatable tubes because local mom Liene brought her kids for swimming and found a park full of family-friendly amenities that make it a great spot to spend a summer day. Here’s why you should visit and what to expect!

You can find more lakes that allow swimming in our list of swimming holes near Greenville, SC.

Things to Do at Twelve Mile Recreation Area

  • Swimming
  • Playing in the sand
  • Picnics
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Playground

Gems & Dinos: Bob Campbell Geology Museum in Clemson, SC

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Have you heard about the geology museum at Clemson University in South Carolina? The Bob Campbell Geology Museum on Clemson’s campus near Anderson is packed full of interesting gems, crystals, rocks, and even dinosaur fossils. The impressive collection is educational, but tons of fun! You will walk away with a newfound appreciation for all of the things hidden beneath the surface of the earth. It’s certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Bob Campbell Geology Museum Clemson University
Bob Campbell Geology Museum