Greenville’s Ultimate Summer Day Trip Guide for the Best Summer Ever

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Planning your summer day trips? With school out, summer is a great time for family trips. But if you don’t have the time for multi-day trips or vacations, day trips are a fantastic alternative to enjoy the season, have fun together, and spend quality time with each other. 

We’ve pulled together some of our favorite summer day trip destinations here in this list, including the driving distance, admission if any, and why it’s so cool so you can plan it out for your family. We organized the list like this:

Summer Day Trips From Upstate, SC:
Day Trips for the Outdoor Adventurer
Day Trips for the Casual Nature Lover
Day Trips for the Animal Enthusiast
Day Trips for the Waterfall Chaser
Day Trips for the Mountain Beach Bum

We have listed only places that are open but please double-check before you go just to make sure they are operating.

Also, we tried to make this list full of new things your family may not have done before or new ways to enjoy familiar places. We didn’t include high-traffic destinations like DuPont Forest and Sliding Rock because there are so many other wonderful locations to enjoy without being on top of each other.

If we missed a place you think should be here, tell us in the comments!

On a budget? Check out this list of cheap summer day trips that are free or less than $40 for a family of four!

For the Outdoor Adventurer

Splash Island or Aqua Zone

There are two pretty awesome floating obstacle courses an hour from Greenville on Lake Hartwell that are super fun and that we recommend! One is Splash Island at the Big Water Marina and the other is the Aqua Zone at The Shores of Asbury.

Hours: Big Water Marina is open Thursday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm and The Shores of Asbury is open daily 10 am – 6 pm
Admission: $15/hour or $25/two hours at Big Water Marina; $18/hour or $35/two hours at The Shores of Asbury (they offer other packages as well)
Distance from Greenville: 1 hour

Splash Island at the Big Water Marina & Campground

Quarry at Carrigan Farms

1261 Oakridge Farm Highway, Mooresville, NC
Hours: Most days open swim is from 10 am – 3 pm but see the calendar before you go.
Admission: Admission ranges anywhere from $20 up to $35 per person depending upon weekday, weekend, or holiday time slots. You can choose your time slot via the online reservation portal.
Distance from Greenville: 2 hours

The Quarry is a huge, 25-foot deep natural spring quarry where adventures jump and dive. The quarry at Carrigan Farms is not only a beautiful sight to behold, but also a full day of water activities including several rock jump-off points, rope swings, swimming areas, and a sand beach volleyball area.

carrigan farms

Tube Down a River

See our giant list of places to go tubing over the summer. We have locations, cost, and open/not open status. This is a great family-friendly activity and day trip! See our reviews of Deep Creek in NC and Cool River in Georgia.

Highlands Aerial Park

9625 Dillard Road, Scaly Mountain, NC
Hours: See website.
Admission: $34.97/person for the kids challenge course; full mountaintop zipline 2.5 hour tour is $99.97/person; half mountaintop zipline 1.5 hour tour is $59.97/person; see website for specials.
Distance from Greenville: 1 hour and 45 minutes

This outdoor adventure center has something for every thrill seeker in your family. There is a kids challenge course, zipline course, a giant mountain swing, nature trail, and even a tree climbing contest. Kids need to be at least 5 years old to participate in the challenge course and 8+ years old and 70+ pounds for the zipline. 

Jocassee Wild Child

Lake Jocassee, Sunset, SC
Hours: Boat tours last around three hours and you get to go all around the beautiful lake. Check the website for specific dates and times:
Admission: Usually ~$55/person
Distance from Greenville: ~an hour and 20 minutes

This fantastic outdoor adventure takes kids and their parents all over the incredibly beautiful Lake Jocassee and lets kids explore secret ponds and trails and learn all about the local wildlife.

Holding pond salamanders at Jocassee Wild Child

U.S. National Whitewater Center

5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, NC
Hours: Check the calendar; many dates are 10 am – 6 pm but other days are open earlier/later.
Admission: Varies but you can purchase a day pass that includes all activities for $75/adult, $65/youth
Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes

Located in Charlotte, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is an awesome place to visit for families looking for outdoor activities. In addition to offering whitewater rafting, you can also kayak, paddle board, and mountain bike. Guests also have the opportunity to do some rock climbing, tackle ropes courses, canopy courses, and more. 

Paddle Through Congaree National Forest

100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC
Hours: 24/7
Admission: Free
Distance from Greenville: 2 hours

Paddle through the incredible landscape of Congaree National Forest near Columbia, SC and see snakes, turtles, owls, and maybe even a wild hog. Enchanting doesn’t even begin to describe this trip. You can either bring your own kayak or canoe or do a guided trip with Carolina Outdoor Adventures. Read our review and all you need to know here.

Kayaking in Congaree

Unicoi State Park & Helen, GA

1788 Highway 356, Helen, GA
Hours: See website for the park
Admission: Adventures all have varying costs.
Distance from Greenville: 2 hours

This park is located in Georgia and has tons of outdoor adventure opportunities for families like kayaking, stand up boarding, archery, ziplining, fishing, mountain biking, and hiking. There’s also a sandy beach on their lake. Read our review of Unicoi State Park here. The park is five minutes from the Bavarian village of Helen, GA where you can enjoy authentic German cuisine and an alpine coaster.

River Snorkeling

2641 Golden Road, ​Lake Toxaway, NC
Hours: Depends on the trip.
Admission: $270 (1-3 people); $90 each additional person
Distance from Greenville: Hour and 45 minutes

You’ll get to snorkel in rivers in Western North Carolina in a guided half day tour in small groups. Get up close and personal with hellbenders, trout, and all kinds of creepy crawling things under the water. So cool! Learn more at the Oxbow River Snorkeling website.

Grandfather Mountain

2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC
Hours: Summer hours are 8 am – 7 pm
Admission: $24/ages 13-59, $10/ages 4-12, $22/seniors 60+, under 4 are free
Distance from Greenville: 2.5 hours

The mile high swinging bridge, the bears at the wildlife habitat, the stunning beauty of this mountain – that’s what keeps families coming back to Grandfather Mountain. The Nature Museum serves food and fudge Thursday-Sunday. There is also an abundance of trails at the mountain to enjoy.

For the Casual Nature Lover

The South Carolina Botanical Gardens

150 Discovery Lane, Clemson SC
Hours: 7 am – sunset
Admission: Free
Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes from Greenville

The botanical gardens consist of 295 acres of gorgeous flowers and landscapes. There are duck ponds for the children to visit, as well as an adorable children’s garden that encourages them to play in the dirt. There’s also a red caboose that kids just love and an amazing, free geology museum.

The Biltmore Estate

One Lodge Street, Asheville, NC
Hours: See hours on their website.
Admission: Starts at $76+ adult depending on season and types of tours
Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes

Most people think of the Biltmore and see the majestic castle that sits on the 8,000+ acres of lush forest. But there is so much more to see there. The gardens are stunning and a casual stroll admiring the flowers and plants is relaxing. You can do a free wine tasting and kids get grape juice at the winery. There are miles of bike and running trails. Kids can pet baby goats and hold chickens at the farmyard. You can go kayaking or rafting and the restaurants serve delicious cuisine. Here’s a review of all the things to do at the Biltmore.

Biltmore goats

Kings Mountain State Park & National Military Site

1277 Park Road, Blacksburg, SC
Hours: 8 am – 6 pm daily (extended to 7 pm during Daylight Savings Time)
Admission: Minimal fee for the state park; free for the national military site
Distance from Greenville: An hour and 20 minutes

The battle at Kings Mountain between the Loyalists and the Nationalists on October 7, 1780 was one of the defining battles of the Revolutionary War. You can walk a paved 1.5 mile trail that tells you all about the battle and has monuments and plaques about different parts of the battle. There are hiking and equestrian trails as well as a living history farm at the state park and two lakes. Read our review here.

Sassafras Mountain & Hiking

Sassafras Mountain Rd, Sunset, SC
Hours: N/A
Admission: Free
Distance from Greenville: An hour and 20 minutes

You can get to the highest peak in South Carolina without hiking at the Sassafras Mountain Overlook. And you can even stand right on the state line of SC and North Carolina while overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Jocassee, and out towards the Great Smoky Mountains. There are lots of trails nearby to add onto this trip like Beech Bottom Falls (1.7 miles), Twin Falls Trail (2.3 miles) . Take a trip through Pickens for dinner at Main Street Pizzeria on the way home.

Sassafrass Mountain state line

For the Animal Enthusiast

Ride Horses at The Dillard House

768 Franklin Street, Dillard, GA
Hours: See website
Admission: Rates vary depending on which ride you choose
Distance from Greenville: 2 hours

Ride horses through open pastures or in the Little Tennessee River. Dine on delicious cuisine. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the Tennessee Mountains. Read our review here.

Horses at the Dillard House

Riverbanks Zoo

500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia
Hours: Open 9 am – 5 pm (most days)
Admission: Adults (ages 13 and up): $21.99; Children (ages 2–12): $18.99. Parking is $5. If you have a reciprocal membership, then admission is half price.
Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes

The Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia is hugely popular for families and has enough activities and animals that you can easily spend a whole day there. They have new policies due to the coronavirus pandemic so read our review to make sure you have everything you need before you go. 

Don’t forget the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens and the splash pads and play areas at Waterfall Junction are included in your admission to the zoo!

Giraffe at Riverbanks Zoo

Chattahoochee Nature Center

9135 Willeo Road, Roswell, GA
Hours: 10 am -5 pm Monday – Saturday; Noon – 5 pm Sunday
Admission: see website for current rates
Distance from Greenville: 2.5 hours

You’ll find hiking, interactive exhibits, gardens, and wetlands habitats at the Chattahoochee Nature Center just outside of Atlanta.

Carolina Raptor Center

6000 Sample Road, Huntersville, NC
Hours: Daily in the summer 10 am – 4 pm (Closed for lunch and cleaning 12:30 – 1:30 pm)
Admission: Admission: $12 adults, $10 seniors, teachers, military, $8 Students ages 4 and up, Free for children ages 3 and under.
Distance from Greenville: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Carolina Raptor Center is located just north of Charlotte in Huntersville, NC.  An easy day trip from Greenville and Spartanburg, the center is home to falcons, hawks, owls, eagles and vultures from all over the world.  Visitors can view these magnificent raptors up close, and learn about their individual stories and unique characteristics that help them survive in the wild.  

Raptor program at Carolina Raptor Center

For the Waterfall Chaser

For more fabulous waterfalls to visit with your family, check out our guide to Waterfalls of the Southeast featuring waterfalls with family-friendly hikes in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.

Gorges State Park & Whitewater Falls

976 Grassy Ridge Road, Sapphire, NC
Hours: 7 am – 10 pm during the summer
Admission: Free
Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes

Hike through this beautiful North Carolina State Park and enjoy stunning waterfalls, like Rainbow Falls (pictured below) and Turtleback Falls (four miles total). There is also a picnic area and camping, and it’s close to Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, at more than 400 feet high. That trail is an easy quarter mile on a paved path. Coming from Greenville, you’ll pass it on your way to Gorges State Park.

Waterfall

Brevard & Pisgah Forest

Hwy 276, Brevard, NC
Hours: 24/7
Admission: Free
Distance from Greenville: A little over an hour

Brevard is a cute little town that borders Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County, which is home to more than 200 waterfalls, including Looking Glass, Moore Cove, Courthouse, and many others. This review on Pilot Cove, an awesome place to stay there, also has several things to do in Brevard and where to eat and shop.

Sapphire Valley “Land of the Waterfalls”

Hwy 64, Sapphire, NC
Hours: 24/7
Admission: Free
Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes

The Sapphire Valley in Western North Carolina, which encompasses Cashiers and Highlands, is known as the “Land of the Waterfalls” for the extensive number of them. You can easily make a day trip out of heading to Silver Run Falls, Sliding Rock in Cashiers (different than Pisgah Forest), Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls, and Bust Yer Butt Falls if you’re in the mood. You can also choose a non-hike driving tour of waterfalls in the area.

Stumphouse Park and Issaqueena Falls

About 7 miles northwest of Walhalla on Highway 28
Distance from Greenville: Around 90 minutes
Admission: $5 parking fee

Stumphouse Park, which includes Issaqueena Falls, is super cool and pretty unique. The Stumphouse Tunnel maintains the same temperature all year round and the waterfall is stunning. There are hiking trails and a picnic area. Pair it up with a trip to the Walhalla Fish Hatchery for a great day trip. Read our full review of Stumphouse Park and Issaqueena Falls.

Stumphouse tunnel

For the Mountain Beach Bum

Lake Lure & The Flowering Bridge

2724 Memorial Hwy, Lake Lure, NC
Hours: Open weekends 10 am – 5 pm
Admission: $10/adults and kids 4 to 12 is $8, with under 4 free; the Flowering Bridge is free.
Distance from Greenville: An hour

This is the lake where Dirty Dancing was filmed (that’s enough of a reason for me to visit) and you can lay out in the sun or slide down water slides or rent kayaks. The Flowering Bridge is a beauty where you’ll want to take some family photos. It’s a great place for a day trip that isn’t far from Greenville. Read our review of Lake Lure here.

Tubes on Lake Lure

Chau Ram County Park

1220 Chau Ram Park Rd, Westminster, SC
Hours: 7 am – 8 pm
Admission: $3/car
Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes

Chau Ram County Park is a great day trip idea because you can hike around the island and swim in the creek and there is a great little sandy beach, too. Either bring your own life jackets for the kids or borrow them at the park. There’s a small waterfall to splash around in as well. See other parks in Oconee County here.

Lake Powhatan & NC Arboretum 

375 Wesley Branch Road, Asheville, NC
Hours: 2 pm – 8 pm
Admission: Day use pass is $5/person
Distance from Greenville: An hour and 20 minutes

Guests can lounge on the sandy beach at Lake Powhatan or walk the Bent Creek Trails. Nearby is the NC Arboretum, a vast garden that is breathtaking! There’s a parking fee of $16 and hours are 8 am – 9 pm. We suggest getting takeout from nearby Papas & Beer for an awesome dinner. 

Hidden Creek Camping Resort

1210 Deacon Drive, Marion NC
Hours: 9 am – 7 pm Sunday- Friday
Admission: Day rates for amenity use is $15/person (not available on weekends or holidays)
Distance from Greenville: 1.5 hours

So Hidden Creek is an awesome campground that has a lake, pools, water slide, nature trails, and kayak and canoe rentals. There isn’t a mountain beach per se but this is the category we decided to put it under. Call them before you go to make sure they have space available: 828.652.7208.

Other Day Trip Resources 

While we didn’t include beach trips, we certainly have many reviews of those: 

Other day trip suggestions can be found below. Be sure to verify their operating hours before going.

Where is your family’s favorite summer day trip?

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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