Editor’s note: TravelQ, a series that documents travel through the eyes of stylish queers, returns this week with a new feature by Caroline and Erin, freelance photographers, writers, and content creators who co-own Authentic Asheville.
After a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19, we’re back with another installation of TravelQ, this time visiting Greenville, South Carolina.
Things to Do
Here are our top picks for fun things to do…everything from an independent bookstore to a multi-use trail to a stunning waterfall right in the middle of downtown.
Falls Park | 37 Furman College Way
There are two waterfalls in downtown Greenville but if you’ve only got time for one, make it the Reedy River Falls in Falls Park. You can get a great view of them (and also a sweet photo for your Instagram) by walking out onto the 345-foot long suspension bridge. We recommend bringing a picnic lunch or a to-go meal from one of the nearby restaurants as there are numerous places to hang out in the park.
Flying Rabbit Adventures | 821 Laurens Road
A 3-story aerial adventure awaits you in Greenville–one that involves flying through the treetops and tests your balance, coordination, and problem-solving skills. Depending on which level you choose to try (your options are beginner, intermediate, advanced), you will be anywhere from 50-80 feet off the ground as you make your way through the 58 obstacles. But don’t worry, their treetop guides are patient and helpful and will give you a tip or two if you need a hint or a little bravery.
Savereign | 1256 Pendleton St. Suite B
One spot that should definitely be on your must-see and do list when visiting Greenville is the queer-owned plant shop and Sari-Sari. Savereign feels like an extension of the very beautiful and kind AJ, and in his shop you will find everything from healthy and thriving plants of all sizes, to self-care treats like Hello Panda candies and wasabi peas. If your energy needs a reboot, or you want to take those posi-vibes even higher, be sure to pay a visit to Savereign.
M. Judson Booksellers | 130 S Main S
We’ve long been a fan of independent bookstores and this one, located in downtown Greenville, is not to be missed. If you’re visiting during the week, check to see if they have one of their Page Pairing events where, just like it sounds, you get to sip on wine while learning about new books. If you need something to read and are feeling a little daring, head for their “Blind Date” section and hope that you like what’s under the opaque wrapper!
The Swamp Rabbit Trail | access points vary
Anytime we visit a new city, we check to see if it has a greenway because we love being able to go for a walk or a bike ride without worrying about vehicle traffic. Greenville doesn’t have just any old greenway, however. Theirs is 22-mile multi-use trail that follows along the Reedy River and actually links up with neighboring Travelers Rest, SC making access to numerous shops, restaurants, and residential neighborhoods fun and convenient.
Keep your eyes peeled for news and information about Greenville’s Gender Expansive Show. Last year’s breakout event was founded by David Hawkins, one of Greenville’s most notable gay locals. Hawkins, with support from his company My PR Lab, Movement, Erika GVL, Upstate Pride, and Carolina Soma Designs produced the first trans and gender expansive fashion show in Greenville. They result? A safe space for the queer community to come together and showcase both local and international brands, designers, retail partners, stylists, and other creatives.
Places to Eat and Drink
If there’s one thing we love to do, it’s eat. These are our top picks for delicious food in GVL.
Bar Margaret | 1269 Pendleton St
If craft cocktails and cheeseburgers are your thing, head on over to Bar Margaret, affectionately known as Bar Marg to the locals. It’s located in one of our favorite parts of Greenville, the Village of West Greenville. Chris and Sarah have owned this queer-friendly safe space since 2020 and in that short time have become a hub for the LGBTQ community. Sarah serves on the board of the Upstate SC LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce whose mission is to “…embrace, unleash, and bolster the economic creativity of the queer community” and she is a really bright light in the Greenville community. Oh, and if you happen to be in town on Thursday afternoons, pop on over to Bar Marg for their unofficial Lesbian nights.
Carolina Bauernhaus | 556 Perry Avenue
Delicious, Belgian-inspired beers brewed with locally-sourced ingredients, anyone? Carolina Bauernhaus is a great spot for beer. They often host events like stand-up comedy and fitness classes so keep an eye on their calendar. If you’re lucky, you may be able to participate in Barre at the Bar class with LGBTQ+ business owner and instructor, Christopher Fisher. And if you still need another reason to visit, Carolina Bauernhaus was also the host of Greenville’s very first LGBTQ+ fashion show (more info mentioned above).
Camp | 2 E Broad Street
We’d heard so much about this restaurant that we had what felt like impossibly high expectations. And yet, despite that, Camp delivered just as everyone said it would. The food is lovingly prepared by head chef Drew Erickson who worked for four years under the famed Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. If you go, go hungry and order as many shareables as you can. We were big fans of everything we tasted but in particular the steam buns, tuna tartare, and dark spore mushrooms made with Hennessy BBQ Sauce.
Distinct Cider | 46 Lois Ave, Unit H
Make a stop at Distinct Cider, Greenville’s first cider taproom, and order up a flight. They’ve got all different kinds of ciders on tap including some of their own collaborations. The team at Distinct Cider is super friendly and welcoming, the parking is easy and free, there’s plenty of chill outdoor seating, and you can literally taste the rainbow. (We had a cider that was deep purple in color and made with beets!) Bonus: From 4 pm – 8 pm you get a $1 off pours.
Double Stamp Brewery | 819 Laurens Road
“Where the beer flows like wine.” 90’s fans will rejoice at this brewery that takes its cues from 90’s pop culture, in particular the movie Dumb and Dumber. There are Pogs, CD’s, and even an old floppy disk under the laminated bar wrap-around bar. And the beer? It’s some of the best we’ve had. Laces Out and Oops! All Sour were our two favorites. Get a flight if you can’t decide and plan on staying awhile. There’s BBQ next door that you can bring to Double Stamp in case you get hungry and there’s plenty of both outdoor and indoor seating.
Gather GVL | 126 Augusta Street
Whoever had the brilliant idea to put some brightly colored shipping containers together to create a fun outdoor space with numerous options for food and drinks…thank you! We love Gather GVL because there is literally something for almost everyone. It’s kid-friendly, pet-friendly (Tuesday to Friday), and is a must-visit. Bonus points for days when they have free live music.
Jianna | 600 South Main Street
We sat out on the second-floor outdoor patio at Jianna that overlooks Falls Park and in between sips of wine stole glances at one another. We’ve been together for over five years but Jianna’s the kind of place that had us scooting our chairs closer and offering bites of food to one another. If you’re hoping to impress someone or treat yourself to a nice meal, this is the place. The food is outstanding and had us ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ at nearly every bite. Opt for the potato gnocchi, grilled ciabatta, and do not miss the smoked mozzarella agnolotti.
Juniper | 315 South Main Street
If there’s one place to see and be seen in Greenville, it’s Juniper. The photo ops are numerous–it’s as if the space was designed with Instagram in mind. There’s often live music or a DJ and the drinks are on-point and pretty with care taken to the process. Visiting Juniper is an experience, to say the least. Reservations are strongly recommended. If you’re able, snag a reservation for sunset as the views from the 8th floor, overlooking downtown, are spectacular.
Society Sandwich Bar and Social Club | 18 East Coffee Street
This LGBTQ+ safe space has two full bars, one on each floor, and a kitchen that’s preparing lick-your-finger eats thanks in large part to ally’s Chris Rosensteel (chef) and Jeremy Krauze (owner). Society is not only a great spot for a casual lunch (yeah the ramen is real tasty) but also late-night hangs (the cocktails are on-point). This is a spot where you can come as you are, relax, dance a little, and meet new friends. If you only get one night in Greenville, Society better be on your list.
Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery | 205 Cedar Lane Road
The aptly named Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery is just steps from the Swamp Rabbit Trail, mentioned above. It’s a great pit-stop for walkers, joggers, and cyclists who need a drink or a bite to eat. It’s also our top pick for breakfast and local goodies. Their egg and cheese sandwich on a croissant is sooo good. Grab a cup of coffee and browse their locally-sourced groceries or hang out in one of their numerous outdoor spaces. There are picnic tables, a fenced-in area for kids to roam around in, bike racks, and even a ping pong table on the premises. And in addition to being a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery is a food hub which means they work with local farmers to help get their food into the community. They put it best themselves: “We crop plan with growers to help them grow crops with high market demand, in the right quantities, at the right time, and we commit to selling those crops on their behalf. We do more than just market their products: we tell these producers’ stories to restaurants, grocery stores, and other food hubs. We provide post-harvest handling education, resources, and supplies. We aggregate demand, coordinate weekly harvests and deliveries with our growers, and once it reaches our door, we tackle the logistics behind transporting local food from one end of the state to the other, and beyond!”
Where to Stay
There are numerous lodging options to choose from in Greenville, SC but we think these two options stand out above the crowd.
AC Hotel Greenville | 315 South Main Street
The AC Hotel is literally right in the middle of downtown and a short walk to Falls Park. You can’t find a better location. Valet parking is offered as well as a handful of stylish cruiser bikes. The decor is what you’d expect from the AC hotel brand: stylish, modern, clean, and comfortable. As mentioned above, the rooftop is occupied by Juniper but there’s also a ground-level bar and restaurant on the premises.
Modal | 813 Augusta Street
Greenville’s first hostel also happens to be queer-owned. This space not only accepts the LGBTQ community but celebrates it, too. The smell of fresh ground coffee will hit you upon entering Modal because in addition to being a hostel, it also serves up coffee, beer, and wine to the general public from 8 am to 8 pm. The walls of Modal are decorated with unique art, much of it local, and the rooms are super-clean. The common area workspace would make a great place to set up a laptop, and as of late, Thursdays are queer nights.
About the authors: Caroline and Erin are freelance web designers, photographers and writers for the travel blog Authentic Asheville. When they’re not on the road, they hang their hats in Asheville, North Carolina. Follow their adventures on Instagram at @e.mcgrady + @carolineperdue + @authenticasheville