Best Places to Live

Sumter, SC

Population: 40,851
Todd Bennett

Swan Lake Iris Gardens

Nothing sets the scene quite like Swan Lake. But in Sumter, they're offering a new spin on the old classic with the Swan Lake Iris Gardens. The 120-acre park began as an accidental garden in 1927, when a failed iris garden sprung to life the next year, creating what Southern Living magazine called “a lovely mistake.”

Australian Black and English Royal Mute swans were later imported in the early 1930s, and today the park has all eight swan species. The park is the setting for the Sumter Iris Festival, which began in 1940 and is South Carolina's oldest continuing festival. Swan Lake is also routinely used as a wedding venue.

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