Now that our daughters are on separate school calendars (year-round vs traditional) we’re looking for opportunities to travel on solo trips with them. There’s only so much PlayStation and Netflix binging I can allow for Savannah on her three-week fall break.
So, when the opportunity arose to explore the Old 96 District in South Carolina this October, we jumped at it. (paid partnership)
Embarking on a mother-daughter road trip is an opportunity to create lasting memories and strengthen the bond between generations. Our girls love that one-on-one time they get taking a solo trip with just one parent.
We hadn’t heard of this area before and were excited about exploring together to “find the story.”
As I shared with Savannah, having a great time no matter where you go is all about the open-minded perspective you bring to it. Having a fun time is simply about seeking a fun time! And fun is what we had.
I was thrilled when, after experiencing stunning topiaries and the beautiful Ninety-Six National Historic park, Savannah turned to me and said, “Well Mum, I think we found our story!” Here it is for you down below.
In this guide to the Old 96 District in South Carolina, I’ll share fun things to do in Greenwood, Abbeville, and Edgefield (regions in Old 96 District) in a road trip itinerary format. But first…
Why Visit the Old 96 District in South Carolina?
The Old 96 District boasts a rich historical heritage and is known for its picturesque landscapes. It has miles of hiking, biking, and walking trails, popular golf courses, and several pristine freshwater lakes.
From exploring quaint towns to outdoor adventures and historic sites, it’s a unique destination for travelers interested in history, outdoor activities, and Southern culture.
It’s also an affordable destination with many free activities and the costs are typically lower than you’d find in North Carolina!
Where is the Old 96 District?
The Old 96 District is a historical region located in the upper western part of South Carolina, USA. It is named after the original “Ninety-Six District” established in colonial South Carolina.
It’s part of South Carolina’s “Freshwater Coast,” a region home to a number of freshwater lakes and rivers along the Savannah River. The modern Old 96 District includes the following counties:
- Abbeville County
- Edgefield County
- Greenwood County
- Laurens County
- McCormick County
How to get there from Raleigh
Getting to the Old 96 District from Raleigh is an easy drive.
On our way there, we drove via the I-95 as it was the quickest route to our first stop, Edgefield. SC. On the way home, we came via the I-85 through Charlotte as it was the quickest way home from our last stop in Greenwood, South Carolina.
Some areas of this region are around halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte, only two hours from Asheville, and close to Augusta, Georgia.
I have mapped out all the points of interest from our trip that is mentioned in this post. You can click here to make a copy of it and adjust and use as you see fit!
In the itinerary guide below, we’ll share the various things to do in each stop on the trip, including places to eat and where to stay. Adjust it as you see fit, and according to how much time you wish to stay in the region. Three nights allowed us to see quite a lot and at a relaxing pace.
Day 1: Edgefield & Hickory Knob State Resort Park, SC
We left Raleigh at 7am to reach Edgefield by lunch time.
Stop 1: Explore Downtown Edgefield
We stopped into Edgefield for about two hours on our first day and encountered a small South Carolina town centered around the square. We encounted friendly people stopping us on the street to ask us more about who we were and what we were doing.
Edgefield is the birthplace of ten South Carolina governors, is well known for its stoneware pottery, and is home to the largest peach farm east of the Mississippi River. Truth – South Carolina produces more peaches than Georgia.
Lunch at the Old Edgefield Grille
The Old Edgefield Grille is the kind of lunch spot you look for on a road trip. It’s located in an historic Victorian home with a food quality to match its charm.
Savannah had a fried chicken sandwich with fries which she loved, even while it was dripping with cheese (she’s normally a fussy eater). And my shrimp and grits with onions, tomatoes, and andouille sausage in a Cajun white wine butter sauce was outstanding – one of the best I’ve had.
Stan told me this signature dish (since 1999) is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant.
Carolina Moon Distillery Tasting
A visit to the distillery in Edgefield will help you learn about the history of moonshine in the South, some of the characters of the region, while sampling a variety of flavors.
Now moonshine tasting is not an activity I recommend doing with your kids, but since part of our journey was to share the story with you, Savannah was happy to sit and take a few photos of me sampling some local liquor with taste master Martha.
Savannah found Martha’s storytelling fascinating and laughed along with the tales that sit behind the naming of many of the liquors distilled at Carolina Moon Distillery.
Stories like the gin named after local character Betty Cotton who had a penchant for killing her husbands. She kept getting found innocent as she was too pretty to be a murderer! Even one of the jurors ended up marrying her! Fool on them.
Then there is the moonshine, which local Edgefield Judge William Devore said during the illegal moonshine trade of the 20s that the moonshine was “strong enough to make a rabbit spit in a bulldog’s face.”
It was strong, but mixed with a bit of lemonade it became a refreshing summer drink.
Don’t worry if moonshine is not your thing, the distillery also makes vodka, gin, bourbon, peach rum and they have Bourbon Cream Liqueur with flavors such as chocolate, coffee, caramel, and of course peach.
Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of your favorite to take home as a souvenir. I took a bottle of Tally Ho bourbon home for Craig (said to be like Makers Mark), and some chocolate cream bourbon (as good as any Bailey’s you’ll try).
TLC Bakery Confections
Our next stop was for Savannah: The TLC Bakery Confections just a few steps from the moonshine. Imagine my surprise when I saw a Flat White on the coffee menu. This Australian style coffee is rarely seen in the US and I can report it was pretty good!
TLC is the place to go for coffee and bakery treats. Savannah enjoyed a slice of banana fosters cake. It took us on a trip down memory lane when we had banana fosters during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Now you can drive 45-minutes to the next place in the Old 96 District.
Stop 2. Hickory Knob State Resort Park
Hickory Knob State Resort Park is a beautiful and expansive state park located in McCormick County.
The park’s setting along the 71,100-acre Lake Thurmond provides ample opportunities for birdwatching, wildlife observation, and enjoying the tranquility of the natural surroundings.
Golf enthusiasts will be happy to know there is an 18-hole golf course located within the park which has scenic views of Lake Thurmond.
Here’s what we enjoyed doing in this South Carolina state park.
Archery, Skeet Shooting & Axe Throwing
Our first stop at the park was to refine our hunting skills with Ranger Griffin.
First Savannah participated in axe throwing. She enjoyed this activity and got better with each throw under the instruction of Griffin and even hit the bullseye. Make sure you have closed in shoes. I did not pack them so had to sit out this activity!
Next was a first-time activity for me: skeet shooting! Experienced shooters will enjoy moving around the semi-circle from difficult to harder positions to shoot the clay pigeons.
Beginners like me can have lessons with the ranger and practice from easier positions.
I truly thought I had no hope of shooting a clay pigeon and surprised myself by hitting three of them. I feel like I was just wild shooting and got lucky, but Griffen’s instructions helped me to better understand how to track and fire.
Savannah sat this one out – she was a little unnerved by holding the weight of the gun and the shock of the kickback. There was a little kickback but nothing that hurt, it’s just a new sensation to get used to.
Our next activity we both loved the most – channeling our inner Katniss on the archery range. By about the third round, we had both improved dramatically, enough even for me to land most of my 12 arrows on the target!
I highly suggest doing one or all three activities when you visit Hickory Knob State Resort Park. It was a fun bonding experience for Savannah and me. All three can be done at the archery range.
Paddle Boarding on Lake Thurmond
Savannah and I had time to spare before dinner, so we decided to rent paddle boards ($10 an hour) and head out on Lake Thurmond. Paddle boarding is the ultimate zen way to experience the beauty of lake life (or ocean life).
You are given a code to unlock the paddleboards from their stands near the water. Word of warning, they are quite heavy and awkward to take down and put back up again. Don’t be afraid to ask a ranger for help.
You can also rent kayaks or bring your own.
Stop 5: Dinner: The River Grille at the Tara Clubhouse
What a wonderful dinner we had at the River Grille at the nearby Tara Clubhouse. If the weather is co-operating, you can sit on the terrace with views of the golf course.
We loved enjoying a fancy dinner together which started with the most delicious pork belly with a peach sauce showcasing the star produce of this region.
This was followed by Bourbon Glazed Salmon and Chicken Under a Brick.
Again, our plain eater Savannah gobbled up the chicken WITH the gravy and said how much she enjoyed it! I just wish she’d do that when I cook sauces at home instead of just settling for boring chicken nuggets. Maybe it’s me?
Overnight: Hickory Knob State Park Resort Lodge
Spend the night at Hickory Knob State Resort Park, offering comfortable lodges and cabins, making it the perfect place to unwind after a day of adventure.
We were very impressed with our two-bed lodge room with a separate kitchen, dining and living area; and a gorgeous deck to enjoy those lake views. It was the perfect family-sized accommodation.
Day 2: Abbeville & Uptown Greenwood, SC
Stop 1: Hike the Beaver Run Trail
Before you head off to Abbeville, you’ll have time to start the day with a gentle hike on one of the park’s scenic trails. The Beaver Run Trail started near our cabin and is 2.5 miles one way and ends at the Archery zone.
It’s an uneven trail path with zig-zags and switch backs through the forest before winding along the lake.
What we loved the most about this hike is we saw three deer along the trail from the very beginning. They followed us along the way!
Due to time constraints, we only hiked for an hour. Hickory Knob also has a 7-mile Lakeview Lop Trail and a 1.7-mile turkey ridge loop trail.
Now you’re ready to check out and drive thirty minutes to Abbeville.
Stop 2: Things to do in Abbeville, SC
Abbeville is a charming town with a rich history dating back to the 1700s. It has a European vibe with its colorful, classic architecture and churches, and brick-covered streets that surround the downtown Court Square, a popular gathering place for the town’s annual festivals.
Lunch: Main Street Coffee Company
A favorite place for locals for coffee, breakfast, lunch, and brunch is the Main Street Coffee Company. Enjoy a light lunch of salads, soup, and sandwiches before the rest of the day’s explorations.
You may want to save room for some treats after you explore Abbeville. Daily Bread Bakery is recommended for their bakery items which are homemade from fresh and natural ingredients- no nasties needed. They also have gluten free treats.
Abbeville Opera House
After lunch, make a stop at the historic Abbeville Opera House, known for its stunning architecture and cultural significance.
We had a behind-the-scenes tour with Emily, who works for the City of Abbeville and had the pleasure of meeting the theater director who was hard at work putting the set together for the upcoming play.
I enjoyed hearing both their stories about the theater including the young lady ghost who has a seat specially reserved for her on the third floor of the theater.
The first thing that struck me upon entering was how similar this theater was to the infamous Ford Theater in Washington D.C. where President Lincoln was assassinated. Emily said it’s something she hears all the time!
Since its beginning in 1908, the Abbeville Opera House has served as a cultural hub for the town. It has hosted a wide range of performances, including operas, plays, musicals, and even traveling vaudeville acts, which were quite popular in that era.
Like many historic theaters, the Abbeville Opera House experienced a decline in the mid-20th century as entertainment preferences shifted, but it was restored a few decades later.
It hosts a diverse range of events, including classic plays, contemporary productions, concerts, and various community programs. It is renowned for its historic charm and acoustics, making it an exceptional venue for live performances.
Check the schedule for any performances or events that may be happening during your visit. Attending a concert or theater play here would be one of the best things to do in Abbeville.
Shopping: Divine your Space
Lastly, indulge in some shopping in the quaint boutiques and antique stores that line the streets of Abbeville. Pick up unique souvenirs and gifts to remember your trip by.
I loved the Divine your Space store. It’s the kind of store I want to visit when exploring a local destination. Filled with unique, locally made products that included home décor, Christmas decorations, plants, and artwork.
The store also has art classes and a wine room out the back with popular Divine wine slushies.
Savannah convinced me to buy Mr. and Mrs. Claus for our Christmas decorations. How could I resist something so cute and a memento of our mother daughter trip.
I was also told Breezy Quarters is a fantastic place to shop for soaps, candles, and body products.
If you want to stay in Abbeville, the Belmont Inn is highly recommended. Located on the square it’s Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has 25 unique boutique guest rooms.
Otherwise, keep driving twenty more minutes to…
Stop 3: Things to do in Uptown Greenwood, South Carolina (overnight)
As the biggest city in the Old 96 District, Greenwood, SC is the perfect two-night stop on your itinerary. It has important historical attractions to visit, is located near the popular Lake Greenwood, and has a friendly, small-town atmosphere, with the activities and amenities of a larger city.
We had a free afternoon, so Savannah and I decided to explore Uptown Greenwood, which has seen a resurgence and revitalization over the past decade.
Shop Uptown Greenwood
Explore the Uptown District, stroll along the tree-lined streets, and visit local boutiques and galleries.
Uptown’s claim to fame is it has the widest Main street in the USA. Count your steps as you cross it and see if that’s an accurate claim!
Enjoy window shopping and perhaps pick up some unique souvenirs. You’ll also find delightful cafes and restaurants where you can stop for a coffee or a snack.
Some stores we enjoyed were Sugar Boutique, Seet Teas Children’s Boutique, and Main on Maxwell, which is a women owned retail gallery space that supports the work of over 60 artists and craftspeople from the surrounding area and the state of South Carolina.
Stop in at black-owned Sweet Indulgence for a delicious cupcake treat – Savannah said the red velvet is a winner!
Learn at the Greenwood Museum
On Main Street is the free Greenwood Museum, which is an interesting look back at the area’s history.
The two-story museum features rotating exhibits, artifacts, and recreation of historic Main Street storefronts from the days of old. There’s also a basement where you can look at a Carolina Kitchen from the 30s and various printing presses.
Arts Center of Greenwood
Next door to the museum and worth a stop is the Arts Center of Greenwood which features exhibitions from talented local artists. Not only are there beautiful art pieces, which range from paintings to pottery, but the natural light-filled open-air space is gorgeous.
Good Times Brewing
Considering many of our readers love a good local brewery, Savannah and I ducked into the Good Times Brewery. They have a large inviting space with a beautiful upstairs area and deck overlooking the Uptown Market opposite (if you visit on the weekend you may want to stop in here).
As I’m gluten free, a good pint of locally craft beer was not for me, but for you they have a few signature and seasonal beers on tap. They also have guest ciders, which I had – ‘tis the season for pumpkin cider for sure!
Savannah and I then had a fun (and slightly raucous) game of foosball. They have the Mill House pizza place next door as well, which we’ve heard is excellent. We were bypassing that for a fancy steakhouse experience at the Inn on the Square.
Stop 4: Dinner at Cambridge Chophouse
If you like perfectly cooked steak (in a variety of cuts) you will love eating at the newly opened chophouse inside the Inn on the Square.
Again, Savannah went all out with a medium cooked grass-fed flat iron steak AND delicious madeira demi-glaze which was also on my medium-rare ribeye with a side of fingerling potatoes.
The steaks were perfectly cooked and matched well with a velvety smooth cabernet sauvignon which was only $7. Can you believe that? But wait, there’s also desert.
On the menu was a velvety rich gluten free chocolate torte – thank you! And Savannah loved her dessert special – an ice cream sandwich that tastes like eating churros. Could desserts get any better than that for a sweet tooth?
Service was what you’d expect from a fine dining style restaurant – exceptional.
Overnight: The Inn on the Square
The Inn on the Square is a charming boutique hotel in the heart of Greenwood, offering comfortable luxurious rooms and suites and a touch of Southern hospitality.
Most charming is its two-story atrium, with plants, water features and colorful furniture. As mentioned, there is the steakhouse and the more casual Fox and Hound Lounge (we check that out on day 3 below).
It’s also withing walking distance to Uptown Main Street. See rates and availability here.
Day 3: Things to do in Greenwood, South Carolina
On our last day, we’ll explore a few attractions in Greenwood outside of the Uptown area. You’ll need your car to get around.
Stop 1: Breakfast Eggs Up Grill
Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Eggs Up Grill, a popular place to eat in Greenwood. They offer a variety of breakfast options, including omelets, pancakes, and classic Southern biscuits and gravy.
This is a chain, and you can find some in Raleigh! I really enjoyed the modern retro vibe of this diner, and the food was top quality.
I really enjoyed my omelet with mushroom and bacon, and Savanah loved her apple pancakes. We went back the next morning, and I had a delicious Southwestern bowl.
Stop 2: Festival of Flowers Topiaries
If you’re visiting in the summer, you may be lucky and can visit the annual South Carolina Festival of Flowers, the only one of its kind in the country. Uptown Greenwood’s Main Street is filled with living topiaries made by the city each year.
It’s a yearlong project and we were able to go for a behind the scenes look in the greenhouse where they were busy packing down 2023’s topiaries and staring to think about creating the ones for 2024.
Each topiary uses only fresh flowers and live plant material (many they grow themselves) such as palm fibers to make the topiaries, which are plugged into holes inside a frame, and each has their own irrigation system.
There are 55 living creatures in a variety of topiary sizes, plants, colors, and textures including the Clemson Tiger mascot, a flying elephant, and a safari jeep!
The City of Greenwood’s Public Works Department and Horticulture Department are responsible for their year-round care and maintenance, and you can reach out to see if they are available for you to visit the greenhouse!
Stop 3: Aromas Uptown Coffee
You know we’re always seeking good coffee on our travels and Aromas Uptown did not disappoint.
They have a great range of unique seasonal coffee, and I could not resist ordering a latte with Nutella and orange essence in it. How could you say no? Savannah had a nice hot chocolate from here too.
Stop 4: Ninety-Six National Historic Site
The site offers a glimpse into the Revolutionary War history of the region, with well-preserved fortification, the site of the original Ninety-Six Village, and educational exhibits in the museum.
Both Savannah and I were surprised at how much we enjoyed this. There is a looped trail that takes you through the forest and to the reconstructed Star Fort saw the first of the southern battles of the Revolutionary War as well as the longest siege.
I recommend picking up a Junior Ranger booklet from the visitor center. The activities inside are the best way to help children engage with the historical, natural, and cultural significance of national and state parks.
We love them! And you get a cool badge with this one – it’s shaped like a star fort!
If you have time there are other walking trails you can do here, like the Cherokee path trail which follows the hunting paths of the Indigenous tribe. It’s a very peaceful and beautiful area.
Stop 5: Emerald Farm
On the way back into town, you may want to stop in at Emerald Farm. Visiting this 75-acre goat farm is a popular thing to do in Greenwood.
If you visit on the weekend, there may be more activity, like a train ride, animal feeding, strolling through herb gardens, and an Antique Shop, and don’t forget to stroll through the herb gardens.
It was quiet when we visited, but the owner opened the store for us where we picked up a few goat milk products like soaps and creams. We were able to see the goats and peacocks roaming and the fish in the pond.
Stop 6: Lunch at Kicker’s Takeout
Head back to Greenwood for lunch at Kickers Takeout owned by Zimbabwean born Abdel Dimiati who came to Greenwood to attend Lander University and play soccer.
You’ll find a mix of cuisines from Asian stir fries to American burgers and Greek pita wraps.
All food is cooked to order, fresh and delicious. And with the open kitchen, you can watch them prepare the food! It’s a cozy, friendly atmosphere with a great local story and good food.
Stop 7: Dr. Benjamin Mays Historical Site
An unmissable thing to do in Greenwood is to visit the Dr. Benjamin Mays Historic Site, which honors the life and legacy of a prominent civil rights leader and educator, who was born in nearby Epworth.
At the site you can see inside Dr. Benjamin Mays’ childhood home, where you can gain insights into his early life and the significant impact he had on the civil rights movement.
The site offers guided tours on weekends, which you must pre-book.
Thankfully, Reverand Chris Thomas, the director, was on site, and he shared many stories with us inside the museum of the life of Dr. Benjamin Mays and the huge impact he had on the Civil Rights movement.
The museum tells the story of each important chapter of his life from early childhood to his educational pursuit to prove that a black man was no less intelligent and worthy than a white man.
He more than proved that with an incredible life of service and contribution. He is best known as the longtime president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, and a distinguished African American minister, educator, scholar, and social activist.
He was a noted spiritual mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King. He was also an advisor to three Presidents, including LBJ and Kennedy, and met with Gandhi for 90-minutes to listen to his views on non-violent protests.
At one stage he had the most honorary doctorate degrees of any person – you can see the list in the museum as well as many artifacts and photos from his life.
Dr. Benjamin Mays Historical Site is on the National Civil Rights Trail. You may have to visit this site on the morning of your next day departure. You only need around an hour to visit. Check opening times.
Stop 8: Dinner Break on the Lake (Greenwood)
Time to experience one of Greenwood’s star attractions: Lake Greenwood. If you have time now, or in the morning before you leave, you may want to explore the lake more, go for a boating or paddling adventure, or take a few hikes in the nearby Lake Greenwood State Park.
We decided to finish our wonderful road trip through the Old 96 District with dinner at Break on the Lake. You’ll have outside seating with front row seats to Lake Greenwood views with good seafood dishes to match!
My Mahi Mahi filet with remoulade and chimichurri was delicious! And Savannah loved her deep-fried cod – that was big enough to share!
Stop 9: Live Music at the Fox & Hound
After our dinner, we arrived back at the Inn to head to our room for an early night. But we passed by the Fox & Hound Lounge and heard some live music.
So, we decided to pull up a chair, order some more of that delicious chocolate torte and ice cream sandwich we had at the restaurant the evening before and listen to local musician Ben Bagwell.
He had a flawless voice singing many of my favorite folksy tunes like Sound of Silence, Rocket Man, Carolina on my Mind, and Landslide. Savannah and I had an enjoyable time listening and chatting to him after.
The Fox & Hound is a great spot to come for a pre or post dinner drink. Check their schedule to see when they have live music so you can add it into your Greenwood itinerary.
Check Ben’s Facebook page to see where he may be playing when you visit.
A road trip to the Old 96 District of South Carolina from Raleigh promises adventure, relaxation, and quality time together.
From historical sites to outdoor escapades, this itinerary offers a diverse range of experiences, ensuring that you create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy your journey!