Save Gas: Vacation Near the Upstate

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Looking for a family getaway near you? Need a change of scenery but want to stay under an hour and a half drive from Greenville, SC? With the increase in gas prices and other financial stresses, staying closer to home seems like a better idea every day so we’ve pulled together some great options for you right here. Plan your spring or summer vacation near Upstate, SC.

12 Vacations Less Than 1.5 Hours From the Upstate

Greenville, South Carolina has got to be one of the most perfectly situated towns in the country. You can drive two hours in any direction and be in the rolling hills, on a sandy mountain beach, or in some cute, little town eating ice cream and waxing nostalgic about cream soda. Now with rise in gas prices, it has become a non-negotiable for many families in the Upstate to stay closer to home when considering a getaway. 

We can help you out. Every place we list is no further than two hours’ drive from Greenville. We’ll give you as many budget-friendly things to do as possible whether you want to stay for a week or a few days to help you stretch your dollar further and still have a great time. 

Through affiliate relationships with STAY22 and StayGVL, Kidding Around earns when you book through some of these links.

Bonus: Here are some tips to help you save money when you drive by increasing fuel economy.

Best Vacations Near Greenville, SC

Vacation in Greenville, SC

We’re starting right here in Greenville because, really, there is just so much to do and you don’t need to spend hardly any gas money to get there. 

Where to stay: You can choose a vacation rental through StayGVL (we have a promo code!) or a hotel downtown, where you’ll have access to lots of cool things to do within walking distance. 

What to do:

  • Take a walk or bike ride on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, get coffee and stecca from the Swamp Rabbit Cafe while the kids play in the enclosed playground.
  • Stroll through Falls Park and be a tourist, eat lunch or dinner at Passerelle Bistro overlooking Falls Park.
  • Play at Cleveland Park.
  • Go to the Greenville Zoo
  • Walk through the Children’s Garden
  • Admire art at the Greenville County Museum of Art
  • Find the Mice on Main
  • Do the free First Friday events every first Friday of the month.
  • Need more ideas? Here’s our list of fun things to do in Greenville, SC.

Distance from Greenville: 0 hours

Vacation in Easley, SC

Easley flies under the radar a lot of the time but there’s a lot to do there and it’s the gateway to the mountains, which yield even more fun activities for families. 

Where to stay:

  • Stay in a tiny house at the Saluda Outdoor Center on the Saluda River and eat dinner at 13 Stripes Lodge right on site. During the summer months, this is a great base for your tubing and SUP adventures.
  • Or stay in this remodeled two-bedroom home right near downtown Easley.
River view from Saluda Tiny home.
River view from a Tiny House rental at the Saluda Outdoor Center

What to do:

  • Hit the Doodle Trail, a 8.5 mile paved bike trail that runs through the town. There are some great train-themed playgrounds along the trail.
  • Go for a short hike through Nalley Brown Nature Park.
  • Tube the Saluda River during summer time.
  • Get ice cream in downtown Easley and don’t miss eating lunch or dinner at Tropical Burger. Best. Burgers. Ever.
  • There’s also a Papi’s Tacos location in Easley.
  • More things to do: Guide to Easley, SC
  • Visit a park: Parks in Easley, SC

Distance from Greenville: 15 minutes

Vacation in Pickens, SC

Now we’re really heading out to the more mountainous areas of the Upstate but you won’t only find trails to hit here. There’s a tea company to tour, a working grist mill, and ancient petroglyphs to discover.

Where to stay

What to do:

  • If you’re going on the third weekend of the month, don’t miss the festival at Hagood Mill Historic Site. They have fantastic events there that are also budget-friendly ($5/adult, free for kids 12 and under). Be sure to check out the museum to see ancient petroglyphs and Native American historic items plus see the working grist mill and buy freshly ground grits.
  • If you visit during the summer months, stop by the Happy Berry to pick seasonal berries.
  • Hiking trails are abundant at Table Rock State Park, or try the hike to Beech Bottom Falls.
  • Catching the sunrise or sunset at Glassy Mountain or Sassafras Mountain should also be on your list.
  • Here is a big list of other things to do in Pickens, SC.

Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes

Vacation in Clemson, SC 

From local farms to petting zoos to kayaking to gardens, the Clemson area has a lot to offer for a local getaway. 

Where to stay:

  • This three-bedroom rental home that sleeps six people only a couple miles from Clemson University.
  • Or, this three-bedroom lakefront home on Lake Hartwell.
  • Or. try this duplex near Clemson and Lake Hartwell. You can rent both sides of the home for a large group, or just one side if you only need a small bit of space. We have promo code KAG22 to save 10% on this property!

What to do:

Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes

Vacation in Seneca, SC

The highlights of visiting Seneca are nearby Lake Jocassee and Lake Keowee. These two lakes are stunningly beautiful and perfect if you love water sports, fishing, chilling on a little sandy beach, or chasing waterfalls. 

Where to stay:

What to do:

Distance from Greenville: 55 minutes

Jumping into Lake Jocassee on a Jocassee Kayak Tour
Jumping into Lake Jocassee

Vacation in Mountain Rest, SC 

Smack in the middle of hundreds of waterfalls, adventurers will love this part of the Upstate. 

Where to stay:

  • Stay at the “Chicken Coop”, a one bedroom, one bath small home that sleeps four people on the property of Chattooga Belle Farms and overlooks the llama pasture.
  • Or this two-bedroom cabin that sleeps four people, is on a lake, and comes with kayaks.

What to do:

  • There are so many waterfalls in this area that you could spend days here and not explore them all. Check out Kings Creek, Brasstown Falls, Station Cove Falls, Yellow Branch, and Isaqueena Falls (and Stumphouse Tunnel at the same spot).
  • You can play mini-golf at Oconee State Park.
  • Chau Ram County Park has a small, sandy beach plus waterfalls and trails.
  • The Walhalla Fish Hatchery is a great spot to learn about local fish.
  • And for an adrenaline rush, take a whitewater rafting trip down the Chattooga River.
  • If you visit in the summer, you can pick fruit at Chattooga Belle Farms.

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour and 25 minutes

View of a large waterfall
Spoonauger Falls

Vacation in Columbia, SC

The capital of South Carolina has a lot going for it when you’re looking for a fun few days away as a family. 

Where to stay:

What to do:

  • The Riverbanks Zoo tops the list for most families when they visit Columbia.
  • Don’t forget the SC State Museum (homeschool families get in free).
  • There’s also South Carolina’s only National Park at Congaree National Park where you can hike and canoe or kayak through the cypress forest.
  • Kayaking on Lake Murray is also a fun activity.
  • A popular indoor activity is love exploring Edventure.
  • You can also take a day trip over to historic Newberry and learn all about history, go antiquing, and see the Wells Japanese Garden.

Distance from Greenville: 1.5 hours

North Carolina Vacation Destinations Near the Upstate

Hendersonville/Flat Rock

Going here for a day trip is a blast but staying for a few days will give you the opportunity to explore all the family-friendly adventures the area offers. 

Where to stay:

  • This beautiful 1960s rental home that has mountain views, a private pool, and sleeps six.
  • Or bring the whole extended family to this mountain cabin that sleeps 14.

What to do:

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour

National literacy month at Carl Sandburg Home
Reading to goats at Carl Sandburg Home

Vacation in Brevard, NC

Brevard is the epicenter of some of the best hiking trails and waterfalls in Western NC. This is the place to go if you love the outdoors. 

Where to stay:

  • We absolutely love Pilot Cove for their beautiful cabins and unbeatable location on the edge of Pisgah Forest. 
  • This lovely three-bedroom home within walking distance of downtown Brevard is a great option.
  • This updated home in downtown Brevard is beautiful and in a great location.

What to do:

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Pilot Cove

Vacation in Cashiers, NC

Waterfalls, hiking, and small-town charm are the themes of Cashiers and the Highlands.

Where to stay:

  • Earthshine Lodge is like something out of a movie and a beautiful spot to stay.
  • The Sapphire Valley Resort is also amazing – get the amenity card (a few dollars per person) to enjoy the indoor pool and sauna. This townhome has four bedrooms and sleeps 8 and is on the biggest lake at the resort.
  • Or this rental that sleeps four people and is pet friendly.
  • Or this two-bedroom rental at the resort that sleeps four people and includes the Sapphire Valley Resort amenity card.

What to do:

  • Hike with a llama at Earthshine Lodge.
  • Chase the hundreds of waterfalls throughout Jackson County and nearby Transylvania County. The hiking here is outstanding.
  • You can also take your kids gem mining – the area is known for its precious gems and stones.

Distance from Greenville: 1.5 hours

Earthsine Lodge llamas

Vacation in Charlotte, NC 

A major metropolitan city like Charlotte has tons of great things to do with kids without having to travel far. 

Where to stay:

What to do:

  • See our giant Guide to Charlotte for Families for things like indoor skydiving, learning about birds of prey at the Carolina Raptor Center, take a trip to a Native American village at the Schiele Museum of Natural History, and visiting local nature preserves. 

Distance from Greenville: 1.5 hours

Vacation in Chimney Rock/Lake Lure, NC

Part of the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed at the lake and they even have an entire festival surrounding the movie in the fall. But this area is a lot of fun any time of year. 

Where to stay:

What to do:

  • Stroll through downtown Lake Lure, a quaint little village under the shadow of Chimney Rock State Park with coffee shops, gem mining, and shopping.
  • Walk through the Flowering Bridge.
  • Over the summer, swim in the lake at the mountain sandy beach or rent a kayak.
  • You can also hike at Chimney Rock State Park, Bearwallow Mountain (a great place to see the sunrise or sunset), or the Florence Nature Preserve. 

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Chimney Rock birds eye view

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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