These 10 Palmetto State cities combine history, recreation and culture to create an atmosphere that can’t be missed, making them the top places to live in South Carolina. Read on to discover which cities made the cut.
Known for its rich history and Southern charm, Charleston features well-preserved architecture and a mix of historic attractions, such as Fort Sumter, Magnolia Cemetery, Drayton Hall and the Aiken-Rhett House. In 2014, the city earned a spot on Conde Nast Traveler’s Best American Cities for Foodies list thanks to unique restaurants like The Ordinary and Xiao Bao Biscuit.
2. North Charleston
As South Carolina’s top city in gross retail sales, North Charleston is a favorite shopping destination. The area includes Northwoods Mall, which includes more than 120 stores, and Tanger Outlets, where shoppers can find designer items at discounted prices. North Charleston is also an entertainment hot spot, with live shows taking place at the North Charleston Coliseum and North Charleston Performing Arts Center.
The city’s downtown, named one of America’s Best Downtowns by Forbes, includes attractions like Falls Park on the Reedy; Fluor Field, home to the Greenville Drive minor league team; and the Peace Center, a $42 million entertainment venue. In addition, downtown Greenville is Upstate South Carolina’s largest central business district.
4. Rock Hill
Located less than 30 miles from Charlotte, N.C., Rock Hill draws outdoor enthusiasts with 31 parks, four recreation centers and the Rock Hill Outdoor Center at Riverwalk, which includes Olympic-caliber cycling and BMX facilities. Winthrop University’s presence gives the city a college-town vibe, and Rock Hill’s historic Old Town area hosts special events and celebrations throughout the year.
The state capital and the largest city in South Carolina, Columbia includes major attractions like the 170-acre Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena, which is the state's largest arena. The city is also a college town, thanks to the University of South Carolina, and the school's Gamecocks sports teams are a major draw.
6. Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach, the No. 1 city on TripAdvisor’s list of Top 10 Summer Vacation Destinations for 2014, is centrally located on the Grand Strand. The city and surrounding areas feature more than 60 miles of beaches and offer water activities such as swimming, boating and fishing. Myrtle Beach also includes Family Kingdom, an oceanfront amusement park, as well as the East Coast's only 200-foot SkyWheel.
Part of the state’s Pee Dee Region, Florence is a favorite destination for U.S. history buffs. The city includes the Florence National Cemetery, War Between the States Museum and a portion of the 66-mile Revolutionary Rivers Trail, which offers canoeing, kayaking, fishing and camping. The Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center, Florence Civic Center and Florence Little Theatre provide live entertainment.
Several international companies – including BMW Manufacturing, adidas and Michelin – have put down roots in Spartanburg and helped make the city a cultural melting pot. Spartanburg’s Croft State Park hosts the Stump Jump mountain bike races, which are qualifying events for the USAC XC Mountain Bike National Championships, and the city’s Wofford College hosts training camps for the Carolina Panthers football team.
Nicknamed the Gamecock City after Gen. Thomas Sumter, the “Fighting Gamecock” of the American Revolution, the city lays claim to the only public park in the U.S. that includes all eight swan species – Swan Lake Iris Gardens. Sumter is also known for its festivals and special events, including the Iris Festival, Halloween on Main, the Poinsettia Festival and Fourth Fridays.
Located in the heart of Thoroughbred Country, Aiken is a can’t-miss city for equestrians. The Aiken Steeplechase Association hosts two steeplechase racing events annually, while the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum commemorates the area’s rich history in the sport. College students are drawn to the area, too, thanks to the University of South Carolina Aiken and Aiken Technical College.