SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA

There is only one Spartanburg. In fact, it’s the only city of that name in the country. Spartanburg’s story is tied to textiles and its history as a major U.S. textile center. Time passed and the industry became a thing of the past. Decades later Spartanburg has recaptured its business crown and is ranked “#15 on the 2020 Best Performing Cities in the U.S.” according to The Milken Institute. Spartanburg is “#4 in Economic Strength, and #8 overall, on Area Development’s Leading Metro Locations list. The city is also ranked as “#4 Best Place to Work in Manufacturing.” Through mid-2018, the Spartanburg metropolitan area was the 19th-fastest-growing in the nation out of nearly 400.

Local Economy Is Strong

The economy of Spartanburg is robust and benefits from the BMW manufacturing facility in the city of Greer, located in Spartanburg County. Spartanburg is also home to the world headquarters and research facility for Milliken & Company, a textile and chemical manufacturer.

A major selling point is Spartanburg’s cool factor. It is called the “9th Coolest Town in America” by matadornetwork.com. Matador cited the city’s “diner culture” linked to Spartanburg’s manufacturing history. The eateries are a lasting legacy of the textile industry that left behind diners that were in place to ensure factory workers would always have a place to eat.

Unique Dining And Drink Options

Aside from diners, a restaurant renaissance has come to the city in the last several years, with an exploding culinary scene that invites new dining concepts and unique food experiences due to the diverse business culture. For those seeking the authentic Spartanburg taste, Wade’s Restaurant and Charlene’s Home Cooking serve up delicious meat-and-threes with options like pulled pork, fried chicken and sides.

These tried-and-true classics commingle with a variety of newcomers from the beer-inspired dishes at The Silo at RJ Rockers, to the gourmet street food at the open-air biergarten FR8 Yard, to the high-end new American eatery, The Kennedy. Thanks to Spartanburg’s abundance of international companies, culinary artisans have opened an impressive list of global eateries from Le Spice, serving French-Thai fusion bites, to Bar 1884, offering Asian-forward plates with a twist and a rooftop view. And, barbecue lovers have a new experience with the upscale ‘cue at Initial Q located above UnderPin Lane N’ Lounge bowling alley. At the gastro-smokehouse patrons can try barbecue duck and rabbit with charred Brussel sprouts.

To go with great food are local breweries where residents and visitors imbibe with delicious hand-crafted brews from hometown favorite RJ Rockers Brewing Company (try the signature Son of a Peach), Ciclops Cyberia & Brewery and New Groove Artisan Brewery.

Old school eateries thrive here and two of Spartanburg’s best — Peach Blossom and The Beacon Drive-In — are so iconic that TV shows have come calling to tell their stories. The Beacon-Drive In is a much written about and famed Southern landmark in business since 1946.  Bring a bib to eat the Chili-Cheese A-Plenty, a chili-cheeseburger buried underneath piles of sweet onion rings and french-fried potatoes. Wash it down with supremely good sweet tea.

Though the mills are mostly gone, Spartanburg still clings to its industrial identity. Morgan Square, the city’s primary downtown hub, is the original courthouse village. The Magnolia Street Train Depot is one of the older buildings in Spartanburg and is a reminder of the city’s nickname “the Hub City,” referring to the transportation routes that connected Spartanburg with cities throughout the region. The depot is now the home of the Amtrak station, the Hub City Railroad Museum, and the Hub City Farmers’ Market (longest running farmers market in the Upstate). Hampton Heights Historic District is the city’s oldest intact downtown neighborhood, located a couple of blocks south of Morgan Square.

Plenty To Do Within Walking Distance

Old blends seamlessly with new as the city looks to expand and develop the pedestrian friendly downtown called the “No-Car Needed” zone. Over the next five to ten years, the area near the Hampton Heights neighborhood will be built out with apartments, restaurants and retail space. The Danmor project is a mixed-use project that will include a five-story building made up of 25 apartments on the upper level and room for restaurants or retail businesses on the ground floor.

Getting outdoors is easy in the walkable city that has recreation outlets that fit every personality. Cycling is a favorite mode of fitness and transportation – more a passion in Spartanburg than a pastime. Cycling is a way of life in the city that started South Carolina’s first bike sharing program with benefits for fitness and helping the environment. Not into cycling? Grab a kayak, canoe or walking shoes to explore Spartanburg’s blueways, greenways, parks and trails (121 miles) that keep all ages active.

Parks renew locals and residents who get outside for fresh air and renewal. Croft State Park is perfect for a weekend camping trip, with campsites for RV or tent camping, while Glendale Shoals Preserve is ideal for an afternoon stroll, complete with 13 acres of scenic landscape along Lawson’s Fork Creek, with a waterfall that cascades over a dam. Spartanburg’s premier outdoor concert and special events venue, Barnet Park, doubles as a cultural and outdoors space with seven acres of land and a 2-mile paved walking trail. For a weekend stroll, Hatcher Garden is a beautiful botanical garden and woodland preserve that will leave any nature-lover inspired.

A Very Robust Arts Scene

The city has a firm foundation built on the love of art and culture in all forms. Music, theatre, galleries and book stores are some of the creative outlets that locals enjoy in Spartanburg. The art loving city made Forbes’ list of “The World’s Greatest Modern Art Where You Least Expect to Find It.” Forbes recognized Spartanburg in its heady list of museums (which included the Andy Warhol Museum) for the city’s Johnson Collection chronicling the cultural evolution of the American South.

Spartanburg’s love of the arts is evident and everywhere – with public art in colorful display. Art surrounds Morgan Square, on the walls and windows of local businesses, and even under people’s feet as they walk up and down Main Street.

Sculptures can be found dotting downtown, from a series of bicycles representing Spartanburg’s status as a cycling-friendly community to the “I Love You” metal sculpture. The metal piece forming the American Sign Language signal for “I love you” was constructed by students and faculty from the S.C. School for the Deaf and the Blind – located in Spartanburg.

Spartanburg is home to one of the first Downtown Cultural Districts in the state. Along with indoor and outdoor music venues, museums, studios and workshops, historic sites, and more, the Cultural District includes 43 galleries and exhibit spaces, and 38 murals or other public art displays.

Located in downtown Spartanburg’s Grain District, HUB-BUB offers more than 100 nights of art, culture, and entertainment annually in The Showroom Gallery and Performance Hall. The venue, a former Nash Rambler car dealership, is now the front line of Spartanburg’s creative culture. A year-round event calendar is filled with concerts, progressive art exhibits, film, experimental theatre, workshops, community forums, and more.

Funding For The Arts

“I think it is critical that our downtown experience remain fresh, welcoming and unique for not only our visitors, but for the downtown workforce and residents that enjoy visiting our downtown on a regular basis,” said Jennifer Evins, president and CEO of the Chapman Cultural Center (CCC). “Public art provides an experience that is free and does not require businesses to be open or a special event for people to learn what is authentic and special about Spartanburg.”

The Chapman Cultural Center (CCC) provides major funding and support for many of Spartanburg’s arts and cultural organizations. The campus is like a shopping mall of the arts, featuring eight additional non-profit organizations including: Spartanburg Science Center; Spartanburg Little Theatre; Spartanburg Youth Theatre; Spartanburg County Historical Association; Spartanburg Art Museum; Spartanburg Philharmonic; Ballet Spartanburg; Artists’ Guild of Spartanburg.

CCC is more than just as destination; its educational programs serve more than 40,000 public and private school students throughout Spartanburg County, with residencies by professional artists in the disciplines of music, dance, visual arts, literature, media, theatre, and a rotating youth art gallery that displays thousands of student artwork every year.

Chapman Cultural Center also reaches out to the community with initiatives and programming that includes quarterly grants for artists, public art installations including Creative Crosswalks downtown, a busking street music series to help support Spartanburg’s local musicians, a new facility called Mayfair Art Studios designed for artists to practice their craft with hourly space rentals, and an International Kite Festival held each spring on the grounds of CCC.

Murals tell the city’s story with bold colors splashed on buildings of all sizes. The “Love Where You Live” mural is a wall awash with color across from the Daniel Morgan Clock Tower. The mural – popular for selfies – is plastered with central aspects of Spartanburg’s identity: from its 864-area code to 1831, the year of Spartanburg’s founding.

Spartanburg is also a literary city, home to the nationally known and independent Hub City Writer’s Project and Hub City Press, celebrating 25 years. Hub City Press frequently hosts readings and events, an annual writing conference, residency program, and a contest series (like the Cold Mountain Fund Series in partnership with author Charles Frazier) that highlights literary fiction from the South. Attendees of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance annual trade show picked Hub City Books as the 2020 Bibb Pick “Independent Bookstore of the Year.”

Entertainment Under The Stars

Outdoor, live music is a favorite way to listen to tunes in the music loving city. Weekly outdoor concerts bring people together for Music on Main (varied genres on Thursdays) and Jazz on the Square (Fridays). The International Fest features music from across the globe each year, while Spring Fling brings musicians to several stages during the weekend-long street festival. The Melting Pot Music Festival is a showcase for multiple genres of music. (check the city for dates)

Education

Work and play are taken seriously in Spartanburg along with education. From K-12 to nationally recognized institutions of higher learner (USC-Upstate, Wofford College, Converse College and others), the city makes sure all ages are prepared for their future.

The Spartanburg Academic Movement, also known as SAM, is a community movement (nonprofit) started in 2013 as partnership made up of education, business, government, foundations, community and faith leaders across Spartanburg County. The organization’s mission is to provide high levels of academic success for children with a “cradle to career” approach that demonstrates how a community comes together around a vision to identify what is needed to get results for children, improves and builds upon those efforts over time, and invests the community’s resources to increase impact.

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