Let the adventure begin at majestic Table Rock State Park (Greenville weekend fun outdoor activities)

So much to see, so much to do at Table Rock State Park the undisputed jewel of the South Carolina mountains. The park is at the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment off of scenic highway 11, relative short drive from Greenville and little over an hour drive from Charlotte. Table Rock Visitors Center photo Table Rock mountain has a spectacular granite outcropping which at 3124 feet is a stark contrast to the heavily wooded forests below.

The first white men moved in the Oolenoy Valley soon after the Cherokee treaty at a place called Pumpkintown. In 1840 the Keith and Sutherland families built a hotel that soon became a popular area attraction. A second hotel was built in 1899 at present White Oak Picnic Shelters site then moved in 1920 to Saluda Valley to become a summer lodge.

Things to know before you go at Table Rock and Caesar’s Head parks

1. Carrick Creek is the only recommended hiking trail for young kids at the Table Rock state park. It starts at the Nature Center and about 2 miles it takes an hour to complete. It weaves around Carrick Creek and rewards hikers with dozens of gorgeous, refreshing and easy accessible mini waterfalls. It gets better at the end (or beginning!) when you and your brave little ones can goof around at the swimming area.
Rock sliding Nature Center at Table Rock Park photo

Here are all Table Rock hiking trails. Hikers are encouraged to register at the trail head kiosk and be off trails at least one hour before sunset. No overnight camping on trails. Foothills Trail hikers need to purchase a parking permit at the Visitors Welcome Center.
• Pinnacle Mt. 8.4 miles 6-7 hours
• Table Rock 7.2 miles 5-6 hours
• Mill Creek 5.8 miles 5-6 hours
• Carrick Creek (kid friendly) 1.9 miles 1 hour
Hiking on Carrick Creek trail photo

2. There is a big playground near Pinnacle Lake with plenty of age appropriate equipment in a nicely shaded place. Beware of the geese wandering throughout the parking lot and the picnic area. They are mean, mean, mean and will harass you as soon as they sense the food. My 4 years old and I had to take refuge on top of the picnic table. No kidding! I finally braved to chase them away using some stick musketeer style.
Young kid on Carrick Creek trail photo

3. Caesar’s Head State Park has the “take it with you, no trace left behind” policy. There are no trash canes or restrooms along the park. The welcome center has restrooms and vending machines. I encourage you to replenish there and use the facilities.
Caesars Head overlook photo

4. The trail to Raven Cliff Falls from Caesar’s Head is about 5 miles long so plan ahead. If there is not much time left you can still enjoy incredible vistas of Campbell, Paris, Table Rock, Raven Cliff and Glassy mountains and the immaculate Table Rock reservoir (it supplies the city of Greenville with fresh water) at the Caesar’s Head overlook. From there you can hike the short and moderate Devil’s Kitchen trail. Caesar Head park photo
Be mindful this park is frequented by black bears.

5. If waterfall viewing “it’s on the menu” drive to Dupont Forest State Park (couple miles after crossing the NC border off of hwy 276; here are driving directions to and map of Hooker Falls Access Area). It provides easy hiking and quick access to some of North Carolina most beautiful waterfalls: Triple Falls, High Falls and Grassy Creek Falls. There is a $12 map you can purchase at Caesar’s Head welcome center. Here are some great Dupont Foreast park hike trails details, an interactive map and waterfall photos.

Table Rock Admission, Lodging and Rental Prices

Admission fee: $2 per person; $15 per bus; $1.25 SC senior citizen. Annual passport $50 (good at all SC State Parks); Palmetto Passport $25 (for SC seniors or disabled citizens). Tip: if you got a permit or day pass from another SC park you can use it at Table Rock (and any other state park) as long as the permit / pass are still valid.
Lake Oolenoy Table Rock State park photo

Cabins: There are 14 cabins (8 with 1 BR, 5 with 2 BR and 1 with 3 BR) that can accommodate 4-10 persons. They range in price from $75 to $120 per night. Check in 4 PM, check out time 10 AM. Tip: rent Sunday thru Thursday to save $15-20 per night. Cabins 5, 6, 7 and 8 are right by Pinnacle Lake and have the best views. You can reserve a cabin up to 11 months in advance. Call 1-866-345-7275 or go online www.southcarolinaparks.com.

There are 96 camping sites at the White Oaks campground equipped with showers and a recreation building. Price is about $20 per night (including tax); again is cheaper during the week.

Equipment Rentals: Spring thru fall, Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM (weather permitting).
• Pedal boats – 2 person $5 per half hour; 4 person boat $7 per half hour
• Kayaks and canoes – $5 per half hour; $15 per day
• Fishing boat – $15 per day; $35 per day for boats with trolling motor (3 person maximum). Note that no private boats are allowed on Pinnacle Lake however you can use them at Lake Oolenoy across Hwy 11.
Table Rock swimming area photo
Swimming: June till mid-August Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM; August 16 thru Labor Day weekends only. Adults $2, children 4-12 years $1.50, free for kids 3 years and under.

Enjoy the beauty of the South Carolina Upcountry parks!

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Must see waterfalls in the South Carolina Upcountry (fun things to do outdoor with kids)

Here are some free and highly rewarding outdoor activities near Oconee State Park and Lake Jocassee in the breath-taking (I know I used this term a lot…but it’s so true) South Carolina Upcountry and Western North Carolina. Your kids will remember these trips for ever. To help you plan ahead here is a custom Google Map with these waterfalls as well as other area attractions worth shouting about.

Issaqueena Falls and the Stumphouse Tunnel
Issaqueena is the most visited waterfall Isaqueena riding to her love and the only one with a “Romeo and Juliet” like love story. Legend has it Issaqueena rode her horse great distance to warn her (white-man) husband about fast approaching Indians seeking revenge for her marriage betrayal. Some say she died during the quest others speak of a happy ending. Either way the power of love prevailed.
The hike from the viewing area to the bottom of the fall is short but strenuous. I had to piggy back carry my 4 years old but we were rewarded with an up close view of the 200 feet gorgeous waterfall.

While in the area visit the Stumphouse Tunnel where big railroad dreams crushed but the blue cheese flourished. 1,500 Irish-immigrants workers and their families came to Stumphouse Mountain to work on the tunnel meant to complete the railroad from Charleston all the way to Ohio. In the 1850s “Tunnel Hill was a rough town with more saloons than churches”. The tunnel supposed to be 5,863 feet long and its deepest point 236 feet below the surface. However the massive granite stone posed significant challenges and workers could barely get to 200 feet a month. Stumphouse Tunnel

It was hard back-breaking labor of 12 hours a day six days a week using only sledge hammers, hand drills and black powder. The Civil War and constant lack of funding put an end to the project and Tunnel Hill faded into history.

In 1940s Dr. Paul G. Miller from Clemson University noticed the tunnel ideal conditions for curing blue cheese: year around temperature of 59 degrees and 85% humidity.

Issaqueena Falls and the Stumphouse Tunnel are located on Hwy 28 between Walhalla and Oconee State Park.

Whitewater Falls
Upper Whitewater FallsAt 700 feet the Whitewater Falls are the highest falls series in the East (the Upper ones are 411 feet). The falls are close to Devils Fork and Oconee State Park and you can get to the park from highways 28, 107, 11 and 130. You will need to pay $2 daily admission fee. A half mile trail takes you to a breath-taking viewing area; beware the last segment has steep boardwalk steps. There is no trail to reach the base of the Upper Whitewater falls.

If you travel with little kids make sure to point out the funny cartoon sign remind them how dangerous the waterfall area can be. It worked well with my daughter.

Oconee Station Cove Falls
You can access the trail leading to the Cove Falls from Oconee Historic Station parking lot or Oconee State Park (connecting from the Oconee Trail). This is by far the longest (~3 miles round trip) and most diverse hike around a peaceful pond, through odd shaped trees, into a deep eerie forest, and along an intimate and refreshing creek. Fun at the bottom of Cove Falls
At the end it’s all worth it. The fall has a wide base area which makes it very popular with kids as they can hop around the rocks and get in the water safely.

Table Rock Falls
The Table Rock State Park has lots of mini waterfalls along the 1.9 mile Carrick Creek Trail that loops around the Nature Center. This is the only recommended trail for hiking with young children. With a fall every other minute it provides instant gratification to the little ones and perfect photo background. Right above the Nature Center it’s a fantastic rock-sliding and swimming spot little children just adore. This is the perfect “bribe” to keep them hiking on your way back.

Bridal Veil and Cullasaja Falls
These are separate falls located along scenic Hwy 64 Boy rock slides in Cullasaja river between Highlands and Franklin, the NC gem and gold mining star. Yes is the other Carolina but very close to the border and worth shouting about!
Bridal Veil is the only one I know of that you can drive through it. Cullasaja river boasts the teens’ favorite rock-sliding and swimming spot in the area. Motorists stop frequently to take photos, enjoy the incredible views and just have a laugh watching the children jump Tarzan-style into the river.

Make sure to stop by the Jackson Hole Gem Mine for some rubies and sapphires rock-hounding. Your kids will love that.

Downtown Greenville Reedy River Falls

An oasis of relaxation downtown Greenville

An oasis of relaxation downtown Greenville

One can’t forget the 60 foot falls nestled along scenic Reedy River feet away from downtown Greenville. Relaxing with loved ones along the river walk has become a weekend tradition for the Upstate capitol city.

You can picnic, walk, jog, bike, feed ducks and geese, play freesbie with the dog and enjoy the free entertainment at the pavilion.

Little kids love splashing about at the man-made water park or take part in classical story tales at the Children’s Garden. Everyone is invited to a funny quirky “Mice on Main” scavenger hunt downtown and to greet elephants, lions and giraffes at nearby Greenville Zoo!

History lovers and art collectors must visit Pendleton, “the Charleston of the Upstate“. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Notable attractions: Farmer’s Hall (oldest continuous operating hall in the country), Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula (1st licensed tavern), Old Stone Church (where Andrew Pickens and Gen. Anderson are buried) and Woodburn (centuries old 4 story mansion and farm)

Safe hiking and happy waterfall viewing in the Carolinas!

What kids, adults and even pets love to do at Oconee State Park (a fun and affordable family vacation in SC)

Recently I spent an extraordinary week with my 4 years old at the Oconee State Park in beautiful Carolina Upcountry. If you wonder about what to do, where to go and what places to visit while vacationing in the South Carolina mountains then read along.

Free activities
• Hike the easygoing 1 mile loop trail to enjoy gorgeous views around the lake. Lassie in the canoe!
Serious trekkers are rewarded with the start of the famous 80 mile Foothills Trail.
• Stop by the playground where little ones can run around and you can picnic, volleyball and relax by the lake.
• Visit the interpretive room to learn about the very rare chestnut and the versatile hickory trees. Centuries ago chestnut trees graced our forests from northern Appalachian Mountains all the way to Mississippi. The wood was resistant to rot and easy to split thus it was used for building fences and railroads. Legend has it a 20 foot rail could be split with a single wedge! Chestnut was a valuable source to produce the acid used for tanning leather. Back then, entire communities depended on the “acid” factories. In 1904 people in New York started to see trees being killed by blight and by 1930s all the trees were almost extinct.

Teen jumping in the lake At Oconee you can still spot stumps of this once majestic tree. Hickory, a truly American tree (there is only one other specy in eastern China), is quite abundant, with four varieties thriving at the Oconee park. Its wood has an unequal combination of strength, elasticity and toughness making it the major raw material for producing sporting goods. Hickory it’s also used to flavor barbecue.
• Swim Fri to Sun(11 AM to 5 PM). Lifeguards on duty. Bring some flotation device to keep little kids entertained. Older kids keep themselves busy at the diving platform
• Chase geese and ducks around. May not seem like much to you but trust me little ones never get tired of it. Don’t worry; no animals get harmed…when they had enough they just take off.

Activities under $5 and $10
• Putt-putt golf: $1.50 per game
• Pedal boats: $5 / hour (go with #7 the red sparkling one)
• Boating and fishing, canoeing or kayaking. Like paradise at Oconee lake

The sign says $10 / half-day or $20 / whole day. I paid $3 for an hour of kayaking. Cabin renters can get a “John” boat for the whole week for $50. Beware private boats are not allowed on the park lake, only rental fishing boats.You need a SC fishing license. The lake has excellent bass, bream, catfish and trout fishing.
• Friday night Square Dancing at the Barn: $2 for adults and $1 for children.

Tips to know before you go
1. There are 2 things you MUST bring along to keep little ones entertained in the evenings: a portable or car DVD player and a flashlight.

2. There is no TV and the cell signal is almost null. Those of you who can’t survive without the world wide web, the Chick-fill-A in Seneca has free Wifi Internet and an awesone indoor playground.

3. Take advantage of the fire pit and grill and try to have a fire every night. It’s priceless. You don’t have to cook much; hot-dogs followed by marshmallows will do just fine. You can get a stack of wood cheaply from the stands along Hwy 28 that leads to the park.

4. Go to Ingles in Walhalla for grocery shopping and to Wal-Mart in Seneca for anything else…

Area Attractions
Here are some suggestions on things to do while vacationing at Oconee. Check and print this custom Google Map with all the attractions listed below. Everything is less than an hour drive and most of them are FREE to attend.
Walhalla Trout Fish Hatchery – see the life stages of, feed and even fish three species of trout
• Visit the centuries old Oconee Historic Station and Hagood Mill the oldest continuous operating grist mill in the Carolina.
• Learn how electricity is made and nuclear reactors works at Duke’s World of Energy museum.
• See the legendary Issaqueena and the breathtaking Whitewater waterfalls (highest in the East).
• Go to Lake Jocassee at Devils Fork State Park for year around swimming, boating and even scuba-diving. This is the finest fishing place in the Southeast.
• Mine for rubies, sapphires and even gold in Franklin, NC. Make sure to stop near Cullahasa Falls on Hwy 64 (between Highlands and Franklin) for some awesome rock-sliding in the river.
• Admire country largest collection of nature-based sculptures and hundreds of exotic ornamental plants at the SC Botanical Garden (located on the Clemson University campus).
• Journey back in time and shop for incredible antiques at historic Pendleton, the Charleston of the Upstate! Check out Farmer’s Hall, Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula, Woodburn and Old Stone Church.

Greenville free things to do – Walk along Reedy River at Falls Park

It’s beautiful. It’s outdoor. It’s free.
It’s a river, a waterfall, flowers and trees. Moms and dads, kids with pets, lovers, friends, seniors, tourists, business partners and everyone else in between come everyday to enjoy the fresh air and peacefulness of the Reedy river.

The Falls Park is right off of Main Street in downtown Greenville, yet if you are that lazy you can also drive and park your car in the heart of it. The main attractions are the waterfalls, one of the nation’s greatest for a city downtown, and the 355 feet Liberty Bridge featuring an unique construction and an ideal photo station for the Falls Park.

There are two amphitheaters that hold a variety of shows most of the year; like the free to attend Upstate Shakespeare Festival taking place from May through August at the Carolina First Amphitheater.

I let the photo do the talking now.

If you are traveling to Greenville do yourself a favor and come relax along the Reedy river at the Falls Park. That’s a free “spa” treatment your mind and body will be grateful for.

Happy Family Vacation in Greenville South Carolina!

Fairy tale fun at the Children’s Garden, Greenville free things to do

Bring your kids to The Children’s Garden at the Linky Stone Park to enjoy, for free, classic children stories, to learn about Greenville’s history, or to just smell the blooming flowers in the beautiful surroundings along the Reedy River.

Historic facts that stand out:
1. The Reedy River falls are the reason for the city’s location. Greenville was established as a Indian trading post; the water power helped grind the corn into grits and weave cotton into cloth.
2. In the 1900s, cotton was the king crop and Greenville became the “Textile Capital of the World”; even the school year ran in accordance with the crop calendar so kids can help their parents during harvest.
3. South Carolina is home to the only tea farm in America; on the Wadmalaw island (near Charleston) the “American Classic Tea” and the White House’s official tea has been grown since 1799.
4. The river cane is the only American native bamboo and the Reedy river’s name source. Native Americans used the river cane for centuries to make clothes, baskets, utensils and even to build lodges. You can see them now at the Children’s Garden.

Once you complete the garden tour you can continue your outdoor recreation along the scenic Reedy River walking trail that takes you through Falls and Cleveland Parks.

Have a relaxing family vacation in Greenville South Carolina!

Fun Family Time at the Greenville Zoo

Greenville has so many fun things to do along the beautiful Reedy river. The Greenville Zoo, one of the top small-size zoos in the country, is a must see and do family attraction. Nested in the Cleveland Park the zoo is a short drive from downtown; it can also be reached by foot following the scenic and very popular river walking trail that starts at the Falls Park off of Main Street.
Lion napping at Greenville Zoo
Start and end your family day fun at the well-equipped playground located right in front of the zoo entrance. It has separate and age appropriate areas for both toddlers and older kids.

Inside it feels more like a park than a traditional zoo. The exhibits are “hidden” behind dense trees and bushes that provide much needed shade during the hot Carolina days. Elephant Painter Taking a Lunch Break at Greenville ZooThe main attractions are the elephants that like to amuze the crowds showcasing their painting skills, the majestic and always napping lions and the Siamang monkeys whose loud ear piercing territorial singing can be heard throughout the park.

Tips to know before you go:
1. If you are a Riverbanks Zoo member you can use your card to go in for free.

2. Spend the extra $2 on animal food (you can buy it at the entrance). It’s plenty (not like the sorry looking grains you get at other places…) and you can use it throughout the zoo. This should keep kids busy.

Take a break at the playground inside the zoo3. Parents can take a well deserved break at the cute playground inside the zoo. There are rocking chairs with your name on it. You can even admire the giraffes while napping along.

4. If you must buy something to eat get the hot-dog from the snack bar.

Flamingos Line Up at the Greenville Zoo
Where
150 Cleveland Park Drive,
Greenville, SC 29601
www.greenvillezoo.com
Phone (864) 467-4300
The zoo is open daily 10 AM – 4:30 PM. The gates close at 5 PM.
Admission tickets: $6 for adults and $3 for children ages 3 – 15. Under age 3 is free

Go Wild at the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina!