Walking and Biking in Greenville, S.C.

Even though I've driven past Greenville on I-85 many times, this was my first visit. As soon as get into downtown and turn onto Main Street, it becomes apparent that I've been missing something good all these years. It's springtime and Main Street is lined with towering, verdant trees shading a sidewalk full of people bustling about, browsing shops, walking dogs, jogging, even a group of teens Geocaching -- a scavenger hunt using GPS units.

Farther down Main Street, after parking the car, I follow a stream of people down some stairs leading from the sidewalk to the Reedy River and a spectacular cascading waterfall set right in the heart of town. Falls Park on the Reedy surrounds the falls, and the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 17.5-mile multipurpose greenway along the river connecting downtown to Travelers Rest in the Upstate foothills, runs through it.

Near the park, I find
Pedal Chic
, a lady-centric bike shop that also rents bikes for kids and men. Pedal Chic often sponsors event rides in town and on the trail, followed by refreshments at the shop. Owner Robin Bylenga gives me a tour of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, out to to Furman University and back. We glide through urban landscapes, woodlands, past old factories and train stations and around a lake on the scenic trail before stopping at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery for an organic, all-natural snack break. For joggers, one side of the trail near downtown is surfaced with the same soft material used in Olympic running tracks -- bikes aren't allowed on this soft side of the trail, but the other side is plenty wide enough for cyclists to comfortably pass each other.

On day two in Greenville, I'm ready for exploring the town by foot, an easy task in this pedestrian-friendly burg. I meet up with John Nolan, who conducts walking tours of the city for
Greenville History Tours
. I'm on the culinary tour, but Nolan throws in a good bit of Greenville's
fascinating history as well. He guides our group along Main Street, down side streets then into Falls Park, pointing out historic buildings and notable landmarks all along the way. Though I'm ending my trip with one of Nolan's tours, it's recommended you begin yours this way, because it provides a great overview of -- and introduction to -- Greenville.

Before leaving, I find out that Travel + Leisure magazine has just declared Greenville's Main Street one of the country's best in an article published the previous day titled
"America's Greatest Main Streets."
An appropriate bit of news to receive as I prepare for my departure after my first visit to town, and I couldn't agree more.

Photos by Blake Guthrie