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Escape to South Carolina’s Old 96 District

Escape to South Carolina’s Old 96 District

The brick-paved streets of Abbeville add to the historic downtown's charm

A girls’ getaway filled with shopping, spa and spectacular food

The brick-paved streets of Abbeville add to the historic downtown's charm
The brick-paved streets of Abbeville add to the historic downtown’s charm

When I first learned about South Carolina’s Old 96 District, I didn’t know much about the area, so I did some research and found there are many theories behind its name. Some say it was a judicial district; others say it’s based on the 96 miles from the Cherokee town of Keowee. What is certain is the area has a lot to offer. Covering parts of five counties, the region is known as the state’s Freshwater Coast thanks to more than 100,000 acres of water. It’s also home to more than 10 historic museums, eight B&Bs and inns, and a wealth of shopping and dining destinations, all within three hours of Atlanta up Interstate 85.

Visitors can explore Greenwood’s history at the Greenwood Museum.

I chose Greenwood, a city of approximately 23,000 residents, as my home base while meeting up with friends in the area. Two-story buildings filled with shops and restaurants sit behind the tree-lined Main Street, which invites visitors to stop and stay awhile. Within walking distance of those businesses, I stayed at the Inn on the Square, a boutique hotel with 48 guest rooms that combine the Southern hospitality of luxurious bedding, cozy chairs and upscale bathroom amenities with modern conveniences such as free Wi-Fi and large flat-screen TVs.

The inn’s guests enjoy a complimentary breakfast and can opt for dinner in the Carriage House Restaurant. The evening menu includes a range of French and American cuisine mixed with seasonal dishes such as fried calamari, filet mignon and Southern buttermilk fried chicken.

Throughout the stay, I also ate more than my fair share of mouthwatering cuisine beyond the hotel’s dining spots. In Greenwood, we sampled international treats—think Greek, Moroccan, Caribbean and more—at Kickers Restaurant, indulged in brick-oven pizza at The Mill House and dove into a true country breakfast at West End Cafe. If you’re in nearby Abbeville, don’t miss the spicy chicken quesadilla at The Village Grill.

Breezy Quarters in Abbeville specializes in handmade soap, lotion, lip balms, scrubs and more.

My friends and I also explored the town’s shops, such as Main & Maxwell, which features such wares as handcrafted jewelry, pottery, art and more from more than 40 local artists, and Thayers Furniture and Fine Gifts, where furniture, china and a wealth of decor pieces are on display. We also stopped by the Greenwood Museum that provides an educational look at the city’s history through its “Main Street” layout, a fun concept for exploring history. For instance, pop into the local general store for dry goods, see what kids are studying in the classroom or check out the latest styles in the millinery and dress shop.

No girlfriend getaway is complete without some pampering, and The Spa on Maxwell delivers. Offering a full menu of services, the spa provides a respite where you can relax with your besties. Although not large, it offers some amazing treatments, such as the 24K Gold Facial that infuses skin with 24K gold to combat aging.

From the Old 96 District, we drove about 45 minutes to Abbeville, a quaint town with brick roads throughout the historic center. I purchased no-melt lip balms at Breezy Quarters, which also offers handmade soaps, lotions and bath bombs. At Urban 2 Country, we perused the selection of sauces, spices and artisan teas in the market downstairs and checked out the vintage clothing upstairs. These are just two of the many antique stores, clothing boutiques and specialty shops where visitors can enjoy some retail therapy.

The Benjamin Mays Historic Preservation Site documents Mays’ life from growing up in Greenwood to working at Morehouse College and beyond.

On the way back to Greenwood, we stopped to visit a spot with a strong Atlanta connection: the Benjamin Mays Historic Preservation Site. A native of Greenwood, the former president of Atlanta’s Morehouse College lived in the area until he was a teenager when he left to further his education. The museum documents Mays’ life, including extensive details on his time at Morehouse College and his service during President Jimmy Carter’s administration.

Sadly, my stay in South Carolina’s Old 96 District was too short to explore all the area has to offer, but the experience gave me many reasons to return. I’ll return to try the water activities available on the region’s lakes and rivers, dine at the restaurants I didn’t have time for, catch a show at the historic Abbeville Opera House and attend local festivals such as the South Carolina Festival of Flowers each June.


STORY: Karon Warren

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