The Upcountry is rich in history. Today's travelers may hear echoes of the area's Cherokee heritage in place and river names such as Seneca, Keowee, Jocassee, Tamassee, Tokeena, Toxaway, and Eastatoe. In the late 1700’s, this was the American frontier. Oconee Station and Walnut Grove Plantation provide glimpses into this timeframe. The Upcountry played a pivotal role in the American Revolutionary War. Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park interpret these events for thousands of visitors each year.
Plenty of famous people have called the Upcountry home. Joel Poinsett, American statesman, introduced the plant that would be known as the Poinsettia to America. John C. Calhoun was the 7th Vice President of the United States and a leading Southern politician. Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens, though born in Pennsylvania, lived most of his life in the state. More recent names that may ring a bell are “Shoeless” Joe Jackson of baseball fame, The Marshall Tucker Band of music fame and Andie MacDowell of acting fame.
The development of the Upcountry was largely based on agriculture until textiles became the state's leading industry after 1900. The focus of textile production shifted from cotton to synthetic fabrics in later years with Milliken & Company leading the way. In the 1990s the major industries were textiles and chemicals, and foreign investment played a major role in the state's economy. BMW, the German automobile company, established their North American plant in Spartanburg along with Michelin’s headquarters and plants and created opportunity for related industries. Tourism has also played a role, drawing visitors from around the nation.
The Upcountry of South Carolina abounds with natural resources and recreational opportunities. There are many lakes and rivers to choose from for boating, rafting and fishing. There are state parks, national monuments, heritage preserves and designated wilderness areas that accommodate hiking, camping and horseback riding. With over 30 waterfalls and close to 40 golf courses in the area, you’ll be sure to find an outdoor activity that will challenge and inspire you.
It’s not just the outdoors that will inspire you in the Upcountry. There are museums and art galleries all over the six county area holding world-class collections and collectables. You’ll find performance halls hosting Broadway shows, mega-concerts and locally produced talent. Discover the history of the region and our country at preserved historic sites and museums.
If it’s a festival that you like, with food vendors, arts, crafts and more, then you are in the right place. All year long you’ll find activities for the public to enjoy. Freedom Weekend Aloft, the country’s second largest hot air balloon festival, happens in Simpsonville. The SC Peach Festival in Gaffney and the SC Apple Festival in Westminster are perennial favorites. You’ll find spring flings and jubilees in almost every community when the flowers are blooming. Unique to this area is The Assault on Mount Mitchell, one of the nation’s most popular challenge rides for bicyclists. The big draw is the iconic, 6,578-foot summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
When planning your visit, consider what you would like to see when you wake up. If it’s a bustling downtown, there are first-class hotels to choose from. If it’s a lakefront view, there are rental homes to consider. If it’s a secluded spot of wilderness, a cabin might be the ticket. When it’s time to eat, you’ll have to decide between the Chili-cheese-a-plenty from the Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg or the Nararre Style Trout with potato & chorizo filling, haricot verts, blistered tomatoes and fiery tomato vinaigrette from The Lazy Goat in downtown Greenville. Either way, you’ll have a sampling of Upcountry cuisine. Enjoy!