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South Carolina Has A Vibrant Arts and Entertainment Scene

You'll get your fill of fun and creativity in South Carolina, from the arts to the cuisine.

By Rebecca Treon on September 27, 2022

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina.
Rick Rhodes

South Carolina’s ways of engaging in the arts are as varied as its topography. From the peaks and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the white-sand beaches of Myrtle Beach, the Palmetto State is steeped in a rich tradition of arts, culture, history and unique cuisine. As a result, the state boasts a lively arts scene that includes everything from world-renowned galleries and signature performing arts venues to communities that draw artisans and craftspeople — not to mention its robust craft brewery scene, where creativity also abounds. 

“Exploring South Carolina can mean a different thing to a different visitor, so if you wanted to visit larger cities like Greenville, Columbia, Charleston or Myrtle Beach, there are key cultural hubs in each one of those places that are lovely places to begin,” says David Platts, executive director of the South Carolina Arts Commission. “But if you’re a person who enjoys getting off the beaten path, and you like something more small-town and less urban, there are opportunities that can provide you with a flavor you wouldn’t necessarily find in a big city.”

The Radio Room in South Carolina is a popular music venue.
Joey Wharton

Views & Performances 

South Carolina is home to numerous galleries and museums. A few you must visit include the College of Charleston’s Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Columbia Museum of Art, Johnson Collection Gallery in Spartanburg, Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina State Museum in Columbia and Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston

“South Carolina has large performing arts centers in our cities, and even within those, there are smaller community theaters,” Platts says. “Depending on what you’re after, some have more of a focus on family entertainment, (while) others may be more avant-garde. There are a number of festivals that spotlight the performing arts, too.” 

Live performances can be found all over the state, from large music venues to local bars. A few larger venues include Charleston’s Music Farm, GroundZero in Spartanburg, The Senate in Columbia and the Radio Room in Greenville. More intimate venues include The Bowery in Myrtle Beach, The Commodore in Charleston and GOTTROCKS in Greenville

Bartender pours Palmetto Whiskey at Soby’s Restaurant in South Carolina.
Kara & Christian Crocker Photography

Fabulous Food & Drinks  

South Carolina’s cuisine is an art form in and of itself. It epitomizes Southern cooking, from Lowcountry boil and pimento cheese to barbecue and shrimp and grits. However, the cuisine also takes influences from around the world. Ocean View Seafood Restaurant in Columbia and Sweatman’s Barbeque in Holly Hill are great examples of regional cooking. At the same time, residents can satisfy their craving for global cuisine at spots like Osaka Asian Bistro in Charleston and Jerusalem Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar in Myrtle Beach

Food of seared tuna from Restaurant 17, which is located along the Ultimate Foodie Trail in South Carolina.
Restaurant 17/Ridge Media

“On any trip to South Carolina, you can discover a delicious adventure, from the mountains to the coast. From savory bowls of shrimp and grits to overflowing plates of pulled pork cooked ‘slow and low’ by pit masters across the state, and every bite of pimento cheese and glass of sweet tea in between, there are endless flavors worth savoring in The Palmetto State,” says Duane Parrish, director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism

And while the South may have a reputation for its moonshine, South Carolina’s brewery and distillery scene rivals states like Oregon and Colorado. A few must-visit breweries include River Rat Brewery in Columbia, Coast Brewing Company in North Charleston, Brewery 85 in Greenville and RJ Rockers Brewing Company in Spartanburg. Regarding distilleries, residents love Six & Twenty in Greenville, Palmetto in Anderson and Striped Pig in North Charleston.  

“On any trip to South Carolina, you can discover a delicious adventure, from the mountains to the coast.”

Duane Parrish, director of South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism 

“South Carolina is a paradise for foodies and lovers of classic comfort food alike. You can taste the roots of quintessential Southern cuisine at our fresh-from-the-garden and fresh-from-the-sea Gullah restaurants along the coast or enjoy the latest flavor innovations and nightlife in a trendy downtown hot spot,” Parrish says. “Our talented chefs and mixologists have a passion for showcasing our incredible local ingredients and building on the rich history and culture through the dishes and drinks they create.” 

Chef at Soby’s on South Main, a beloved restaurant in South Carolina.
Stephen Stinson

Fierce Flavors

Food fanatics, do we have the trail for you to tread. South Carolina boasts the Ultimate Foodie Trail, which lists delectable dining spots that change each year and let’s just say your tastebuds are in for quite the treat. 

Each January, three top chefs are selected to serve as the state’s chef ambassadors. Then, these culinary masters are in charge of creating the Ultimate Foodie Trail. The chef ambassadors for 2022 are John Ondo of The Atlantic Room at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Chris Williams of Roy’s Grille in Lexington, and Haydn Shaak of Restaurant 17 at Hotel Domestique in Travelers Rest.  

Banana cream pie from Soby’s on South Main, a beloved restaurant in South Carolina.
Stephen Stinson

Ondo, Williams and Shaak have chosen 32 top restaurants for diners to visit in 2022 while traveling through The Palmetto State. For example, five hot spots are located around the Columbia area, a handful are in the Upstate cities of Greenville and Spartanburg, and ten sit along the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean in cities like Myrtle Beach and Charleston.  

State officials say the Ultimate Foodie Trail unites two of South Carolina’s largest industries — agribusiness and tourism — which contribute tens of billions of dollars to the economy and account for hundreds of thousands of jobs. 

To get started on the trail, visit pass.scfoodietrail.com.  

If you’d like to learn more about South Carolina, check out the latest edition of South Carolina Business Climate

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