Weekend in Sumter, SC

The Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, SC
The Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, SC

There are more things to do in Sumter, SC than you can possibly pack into a weekend.

This quaint southern town has a rich and colorful history, amazing antebellum architecture, award winning parks, and a simmering food scene. Follow Potter's Raid and visit the many surrounding Civil War battlefields and tributes to General Thomas Sumter, the “Fighting Gamecock” of the American Revolution, or tour Swan Lake and step into a scene straight out of a fairy tale then take in a show at the historic Opera House. Here's an itinerary that gives you a healthy sampling of what Sumter has to offer.

Day 1, Friday

Time: 6 p.m.

Grits for Dinner at Hamptons

Hamptons is a dream come true for owner Greg Thompson, who wants to make Sumter a dining destination. Thompson spent two years developing the restaurant and concocting the menu, which can be described as redefined southern cuisine. Main course options include Peking duck, fried chicken on red wine risotto, seared tuna with braised cabbage, grilled rib eye and rack of lamb with creamy grits. Hamptons offers casual outdoor dining in a courtyard Wednesday through Saturday and fine dining Thursday through Saturday. The restaurant is located on Four West Hampton Avenue, near the Sumter Opera House.      

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Music and Movies at the Sumter Opera House

Come for the history, stay for the show. Located in the heart of downtown Sumter is the historic Opera House. The building was constructed in the late 1800s and turned into a movie theater in the 1930s. It's a venue for monthly programs and special performances throughout the year, ranging from film, dance, theater, concerts and more. Be sure to check Sumter's calendar of events to find the entertainment de jour. If you're looking for a place to stay try The Parker House Bed & Breakfast, a pet-friendly place just minutes away from I-95.

Day 2, Saturday

Time: 6:30 a.m

Breakfast at Baker's Sweets

Enjoy a simple muffin, ham and cheese casserole or a slice of gourmet quiche and a fresh cup of coffee or a fruit smoothie at Baker's Sweets Cafe, a locally-owned business on Alice Drive. Get here early because there's usually a line to get a table, but the wait is well worth it. Be sure to save room for the sweets, which range from German chocolate cookies, Chess Pie bars, cream puffs, cream cheese croissants to fruit tarts, cakes and assorted scones. It's serious yum.

Time: 8 a.m.

Enjoy the outdoors at Swan Lake and/or Poinsett State Park

What began as a private fishing retreat for a wealthy businessman in 1927 is one of Sumter's most celebrated spots. Swan Lake-Iris Gardens is the only public park in the country with all eight different species of swans. Swan Lake has been featured in Southern Living and Better Homes & Gardens. It's a popular wedding venue. This park is at its best between May and June, when thousands of irises are in bloom.

Poinsett State Park offers a more adventurous setting with hikes, horseback riding and fishing holes. The terrain here is a mix of steep hills and bluffs, pine and hardwood forests and swamps covered in Spanish moss.

Time: Noon

Sandwiches for Lunch at Mary Ann's Deli or Spice it up at Angel's Mexican Restaurant

Located near in a shopping center across from the University of South Carolina Sumter campus, you'll find Mary Ann's, a sandwich shop that doesn't skimp on the meat. Mary Ann's is known for serving thick rubins and clubs. Sandwiches here are made to order and the soups are cooked fresh each day and served hot. It's a pay up front, seat yourself kind of atmosphere. Mary Ann's best seller is her chicken salad. Angel's Mexican Restaurant has two locations in Sumter. Their original store is on South Pike West Road, and the other location is on North Main Street, near the Opera House. Angel's offers traditional Mexican favorites like burritos, tacos and tamales, a variety of spicy soups and a full array of margaritas, beer, wine and frozen drinks.

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Get Historical at Sumter County Museum or a Tour of Millford Plantation

The Sumter County Museum Complex includes an elegantly restored Edwardian house built in 1916, a collection of cabins and backcountry homestead, and gardens. The actual museum features a collection of artifacts that tell the story of how the county was founded and provides a link to the county's agricultural past. Exhibits include items from the Sumter family, images and artifacts from the Atlantic Coast Line, which made a stop in Pinewood. If you're lucky enough to be in Sumter on the first Saturday of the month head to the Millford Plantation, one of the great plantations in South Carolina. The home is located in the small town of Pinewood, south of Poinsett State Park. Built in 1841, the home bears a striking resemblance to the old Charleston Hotel, and for good reason. It was built by the same man, Nathaniel P. Potter. Hourly guided tours last about 45 minutes.

Time: 6 p.m.

A Royal Dinner at The Imperial

Better make reservations if you plan to dine at The Imperial. It's a popular place. Request one of the renovated leather booths for a more private dining experience or join the crowd on the main dinning floor. Either way you're in for a real treat at The Imperial, which has established itself as the fine dining restaurant in Sumter. You can opt for a true five-course meal or head straight for the entrees, which include filet mignon, prime rib, fried shrimp, oysters, bourbon glazed chicken and maple leaf duck. Live piano music competes for space with delicious odors in this cozy restaurant.

Time: 8 p.m.

Get Down at Sabastian's or Get Comfy at Tavern on Main

If you like the bar scene here are two of Sumter's best places to party. Sabastian's is a hot nightspot with a dance floor, selection of beers and mixed drinks. The later it gets the louder it gets here, so come ready to get rowdy. The people around you will be. Tavern on Main is another popular nightspot. The music isn't as loud here, but it's just as fun. Tavern offers a bit more seating and the opportunity to carry on a conversation with the person next to you without having to yell. If you'd rather see a movie head to the Beacon 12 Cinemas on Broad Street, a modern theater with stadium seating.

Day 3, Sunday

Time: 7 a.m.

Sumter Cemetary

If you're looking for an activity to get the blood flowing take a walk through the Sumter Cemetery, where some of the county's most famous families are buried and monuments honoring Civil War soldiers are found.

Got Extra Time and Extra Cash?

Shopping in Sumter Downtown

Sumter has a growing artistic scene, with galleries and studios offering one-of-a-kind paintings, sculptures, antiques, jewelry and handcrafted items. For a more commercial experience try the Sumter Mall on Broad Street, or specialty shops on Bultman Drive in the University district. The new Westmark Plaza Shopping Center offers more dining, shopping and entertainment.

Looking for more? Check out some great attractions in the Sumter, SC area.

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