It happens every year. You survive the South Carolina winter, which likely includes a little snow, many cold and damp days, and even a few 60+ degree days thrown into the mix. The key here is: you made it through and spring is in the very near future!
If you’re like me, with kids in Greenville County Schools (GCS), spring includes the much loved and desperately needed Spring Break. That glorious week off of school for the kids and, hopefully, off work for the parents. What do we do?
- Leave town.
- Head to the beach.
- Go west to snow ski.
- Fly to a remote tropical island.
The options are endless! Like so many GCS families, my family typically travels for Spring Break. What makes my family unique is that every year I hear my husband grumble about how he hates winter but also isn’t a fan of the summer heat and humidity. And yet, we LEAVE town for Spring Break during his favorite season of the year.
I get it. I really do. But, let’s be honest, I’m not giving up an annual trip during Spring Break! As a result, we’ve become big fans of staycations . . . right here in the Upstate! What’s not to love? A staycation is quick, easy to plan and full of great options close to home!
If you’ve considered a staycation or are just now realizing it’s a viable option, read on. I’m sharing some of my family’s favorite staycations as well as ideas and pointers for planning your own!
A Staycation Close to Home: Downtown Greenville
Everyone loves downtown Greenville, my family included. But let’s face it, even though we are only 20 minutes away, we don’t visit downtown very often. As a result, we love staying overnight “in the city” and having plenty of uninterrupted time to check out many of the fun things to do in the area. The options are endless for a staycation in downtown Greenville. Here are a few possibilities!
Where to Stay
Clearly, not the most important element of the staycation concept—however, since the word starts with STAY, so will we!
As a loyal Marriott family, we really love the Springhill Suites on Washington Street. It sits across the street from Fireforge, one of our favorite breweries in the area, and is very close to everything on Main Street.
There are so many hotel options in downtown Greenville that you can literally pick your hotel based on which part of downtown you want to be closest to, which loyalty program you’ve pledged your undying love to, or what amenities they offer. Embassy Suites Downtown Riverplace offers a rooftop bar. AC Hotel is new and super fun with multiple places to eat or drink inside the hotel, plus it’s surrounded by all the new development where Greenville News used to sit. If you prefer the west side of downtown, there are several smaller, boutique hotels out that way too.
What to do
Talk about a loaded question! The options are truly endless.
Downtown Greenville offers one of the best Saturday morning farmers markets in the area! Happening every Saturday morning from May through October, this is your chance to walk down Main Street without dodging cars, while you shop for flowers, fruits and vegetables, fresh baked bread, handmade soap and so much more! Even though this doesn’t run during Spring Break—be sure to mark your calendars for May!
Rent bikes and hit the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Reedy Rides is right downtown and can hook your whole family up with bikes. Head north past Furman University and into Travelers Rest. Or head south to Cleveland Park. Stop by Cancer Survivors Park or Linky Stone Park along your way! So many options.
Visit Falls Park. This alone could occupy hours of your time. Walk across the bridge, explore the gardens, and venture a bit further to the galleries. You could even have a meal or snack at Passerelle while enjoying the park from above.
Find the mice in downtown Greenville! Whether your kids have never done it or done it a thousand times, the Mice on Main scavenger hunt is truly iconic and a must-do for families when visiting downtown Greenville!
Take in a baseball game. The Greenville Drive stadium sits right in the west end of downtown and makes for a fun spring afternoon destination!
Go for a hike. If you’re not quite ready to head home after checking out the last morning, sneaking in a short hike may be exactly what you need. Paris Mountain and Conestee Nature Preserve are two great options not too far from downtown.
Is the weather not-so-great? No problem! Downtown Greenville has some pretty cool places to hang out indoors too.
Get your game on at Group Therapy. This indoor fun zone offers something for everyone, including ping pong, mini golf and more! Keep in mind, Group Therapy is adults only after 7 pm. Sorry kids!
Walk and shop. Not gonna lie, this is how my family tends to spend a good chunk of our time when we staycation in downtown Greenville. My goal is to walk from one end of town to the other, then back. Stopping wherever we want along the way, we check out hotel lobbies and rooftops, boutiques, kitchen stores, antique shops and, of course, the Mast General Store.
Downtown Greenville has several breweries the whole family can enjoy. When you think brewery, you may think adult-only but you are wrong! Breweries typically offer amazing outdoor spaces, giant TVs, games, great food, and yes, beer. My family has loved Fireforge for years, though recently we’ve been known to enjoy some hot chicken and foosball at Yee-Haw Brewing Company!
Don’t Forget the Nearby Cute Downtowns
Downtown Greenville is certainly not the only option for a staycation in a cute downtown without traveling too far from home. Downtown Greer is one of the cutest downtowns in the area, has a new hotel in the midst of it all, a giant park you can walk to and so many cool festivals. Downtown Simpsonville and Downtown Fountain Inn are two more good choices for a fun staycation as there are plenty of things to do, places to eat, etc.
A Staycation Down the Road: Downtown Spartanburg
Did you know that before Gather came to Greenville, downtown Spartanburg had Fr8yard? Yep, it’s true. Downtown Spartanburg is another great option for a fun overnight trip with the family. Tons to do, lots of places to eat, a scavenger hunt of their own and so much more!
Where to Stay
You know what else downtown Spartanburg had before downtown Greenville? The AC Hotel. This Spartanburg hotel sits right downtown, is walkable to everything and offers rooftop dining at Level 10. This AC Hotel has an outdoor pool and you can even bring your pooch! The area also has other large hotel options as well, like Spartanburg Marriott, and several smaller boutique type inns as well.
What to Do
There is certainly no shortage of things to do in downtown Spartanburg! My family has loved Fr8yard for years! It’s South Carolina’s first open air biergarten. Don’t be fooled, it offers way more than beer. Great food, live music, games and tons of space to hang out and have fun with your people.
Visit a super cool park. If you’re visiting downtown Spartanburg with kids, be sure to check out the park situated in the heart of it all. Even my “I’m too old for a playground” kid loved Play on Main, which is actually a school playground but open to the public when school isn’t in session.
Experience Lighten Up Spartanburg. The art scene is legit and another fun way to explore downtown Spartanburg. We love strolling the streets of downtown Spartanburg and finding the lightbulbs. Not familiar with Lighten Up Spartanburg? You should be! Over 20 life size fiberglass lightbulbs can be found throughout downtown Spartanburg and the surrounding areas. Finding and photographing these lightbulbs is something my family loves to do each and every time we visit downtown Spartanburg. Heck, maybe finding ALL the lightbulbs should go on my personal 2023 bucket list!
Visit a street festival. Perhaps you should plan a Spartanburg staycation around one of the city’s popular street festivals! Hubs City Hog Fest, Cribbs Burger Fest and Spring Fling are all happening in downtown Spartanburg this spring.
A Staycation a Stone’s Throw Away: Downtown Asheville
Close enough for a quick overnight but not exactly a staycation, downtown Asheville is another favorite destination for my family. Here you will find lots of fun things to do, great food, cool hotels, and even a pinball museum, all with a beautiful mountain backdrop.
In the past we have stayed at Renaissance Asheville Downtown but next time, may check out the AC Hotel. Like the AC hotels in Greenville and Spartanburg, the AC Hotel Asheville also has a rooftop dining option, tapas style Capella on 9. And unlike the South Carolina hotels, this rooftop venue offers some amazing mountain views to enjoy as you sip a glass of wine.
Another great aspect of a semi-staycation in Asheville is proximity to so many outdoor activities like hiking or whitewater rafting. And don’t forget about the beloved Biltmore Estate right outside of downtown Asheville. If you plan it right, you could enjoy a staycation in Asheville capped off with a trip to Biltmore Blooms; Biltmore’s annual flower extravaganza! Perhaps a staycation in Asheville calls for a whole weekend to truly enjoy this mountain city and even a small portion of what it has to offer. Not too bad for only a hour or so drive from home!
Plan Your Own Staycation
Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and your kids over-scheduled, consider an escape in your own backyard! When life gets crazy, a staycation is a great way to bring your family back together while having a lot of fun and making memories!
As you plan your own staycation, be sure to keep the following in mind:
- You don’t have to travel far.
- Make it a surprise!
- Many hotels will even let you bring your dog.
- Wrap up your staycation with an activity the next day.
As the years go by and kids grow up, I find myself counting down the years until my oldest daughter (now 14) heads off to college. I get a little knot in my stomach as I realize the clock is ticking! Truthfully, hanging with her boring mom, embarrassing dad and annoying little sister isn’t always at the top of the to-do list for my teenager. This is another reason my family has really embraced the staycation concept!
No weeks of planning. No friends with us. No hours on electronic devices. It’s just our family together for 24-48 hours and pure togetherness as we walk, explore, play and eat. It’s all about the memories we make! We have made some good ones on our staycations and look forward to making some more.
I hope you found this piece helpful in planning a fun staycation for your own family!
Contact Elizabeth Faulkner
Read more about Elizabeth Faulkner on Kidding Around.