Planning a visit to Greenville, SC? Travel to the area is booming, and we’re so glad you’re here! We love our little city (and so does The New York Times, Forbes, and Southern Living!) because there’s so much for everyone to see, do, and eat.
Art connoisseurs, outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, and history buffs will all find something to enjoy while visiting Greenville. And, of course, families have an incredible amount of opportunities to make memories here. So, since you’re planning to visit, we wanted to make your planning a little easier by giving you a list of our top recommendations for places to eat, places to stay, and things to do in Greenville… as well as a guide to parking in downtown Greenville.
Are you looking for a day trip that is a little more spooky? These Halloween trips are worth the drive! You will find special Halloween-themed events in South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee that will make for a memorable time with your family. These events go all out with spectacular light shows, costumed characters, and out-of-this-world Halloween displays. Let us know how you’re celebrating Halloween in 2023 in the comments.
We found some great day trip activities to celebrate Halloween this year. They are not only entertaining, but they will get you exploring a new town. These festivities make a great day trip or a weekend getaway! We’ve compiled extra info if you decide to make a trip of it!
Halloween Trips to Georgia
If you’re thinking of making a weekend out of Halloween this year, check out our Guide to Travel in Georgia for ideas to fill out your itinerary.
Stone Mountain Pumpkin Festival
1000 Robert E Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain GA
The Glow By Night Experience is a journey through a storybook tale that comes to life with thousands of glowing lights, massive carved pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, bubbles, fog, and plenty of kid-friendly, glow-in-the-dark adventures after dark.
September 16th- October 29th, 2023
Adult (ages 12+) $39.95 / Child (ages 3-11) $34.95 / Children two years and younger are free.
In addition to all of the fun Six Flags Over Georgia normally offers, guests will experience Halloween-themed extras. Live character interactions and shows top off the list of themed things you can expect. Kids Boo Fest is spooky fun for all ages, including trick-or-treating, family-friendly rides, and other fall activities.
September 16th – October 29th, 2023 (select dates)
Augusta is hosting its annual historic cemetery tour. Notable “spirits” come to life! This ghost tours aims to increase awareness of Augusta’s past by connecting current residents and visitors with the people and places that still influence us today through their contributions to Augusta’s cultural legacy.
Select Dates September 15th through October 29th, 2023
SCarowinds tickets begin at $45, Great Pumpkin Fest tickets are general admission tickets
SCarowinds is one of the Carolina’s biggest Halloween events and a top Halloween themed destination, happening September 15, 2023 through October 29th, 2023. The theme park has evening events that contain haunted mazes, scare zones, live entertainment, and more. It is a scary event, not for small children!
The Great Pumpkin Fest
Carowinds’ fall and Halloween event for families, the Great Pumpkin Fest has all the regular Carowinds fun, plus great fall and festive Halloween activities with just a tiny bit of spooky. It’s happening Saturdays and Sundays September 16th, 2023 through October 29th, 2023. Enjoy a haybale maze, craft corner, soapy mummy pit, trick-or-treat trail, festive games, live entertainment, and lots more!
Head to Brevard, North Carolina this October for this annual, family-friendly event! Pumpkin Fest runs from October 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, and 27-28, 2023, and features displays of lighted carved pumpkins, local musicians, fun and games for the entire family, food trucks, storytellers, face painting, a tour of the mansion, and of course, a white squirrel scavenger hunt! The event is sponsored by Friends of Silvermont, and admission is $7 per person ages 13 or older, and $5 for ages 3 – 12. Ages 2 and under are free.
Halloween Trips in South Carolina
South Carolina Railroad Museum: Pumpkin Patch
110 Industrial Park Road, Winnsboro, SC
Hop aboard for a train ride to the pumpkin patch! When guests arrive at the patch, kids will choose a pumpkin and decorate it with provided supplies. There will also be a maze and games at the patch to enjoy for about 40 minutes before heading back aboard the train to return to the museum.
October 21st and October 28th, 2023
Purchase tickets in advance. They range from $17 to $120 depending on the seating class purchased.
SC State Museum- Dark History Tours
Visit the SC State Museum for a special kind of history tour full of spooky legendary tales from South Carolina’s history. Tours are self-guided and are available every day, or you can attend an educator-led guided tour any Saturday in October at 10:30 am or 2:30 pm. These tours are included in regular museum admission.
If you are looking for a fun, family-friendly activity that is great for younger children, then the Silva Terra Not-So-Spooky Halloween Trail in Liberty, South Carolina is perfect! The cost is $9 per person, with games, photo ops, and lots of interactive activities. You can even visit Casper’s barn and visit with the farm animals.
Have you visited South Carolina’s ACE Basin in the Lowcountry? Ever wondered what the ACE Basin is? Or maybe you just want to know more about this ecologically unique area that checks all the boxes for a fantastic weekend? Keep reading to find out what the ACE Basin is and how best to see it!
What is South Carolina’s ACE Basin?
Three rivers – the Ashepoo, the Combahee and the Edisto (ACE) – come together at St. Helena Sound in South Carolina’s Lowcountry to form a rich estuary. This 350,000-acre ACE Basin watershed contains one of the largest areas of undeveloped wetlands/uplands ecosystems remaining on the Atlantic Coast and features a remarkable interlocking web of ecosystems including forested uplands, wetlands, tidal marshes, barrier islands, and peatlands.
According to The Nature Conservancy, it supports 33 types of natural plant communities and provides critical habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds and endangered species. In 2014, National Geographic featured the ACE Basin as its cover story, and The Nature Conservancy has declared the area “one of the last great places.”
From the early 1700s to the mid-1800s, much of the ACE Basin was home to large plantations that primarily grew rice. In the late 1800s, many of these plantations were purchased by wealthy sportsmen as hunting retreats, who managed the former rice fields and adjacent upland estates for a wide range of wildlife – ensuring that the region remained relatively undeveloped.
Sounds cool! But how can we see it?: How to Visit ACE Basin
The principal road through the ACE Basin is U.S. Highway 17, the ACE Basin Parkway, which skirts the north end of the protected areas connecting Charleston to Yemassee. Small communities within ACE Basin include Bennetts Point, Green Pond, Jacksonboro, Wiggins and Willtown Bluff.
There are numerous access points to the public lands of the ACE Basin including 23 boat landings, allowing visitors opportunities to experience it by land and by water!
Edisto Learning Center & Edisto Beach State Park
A good place to start is at Edisto Beach State Park. The park’s environmental education center is a “green” building with exhibits that highlight the natural history of Edisto Island and the surrounding ACE Basin. One of four oceanfront state parks in South Carolina, it features trails for hiking and biking in addition to the 1.5 miles of beach renowned for its shelling.
Edisto Beach State Park is also an excellent home base for additional ACE Basin explorations; if camping or staying at a cabin there, you are within an easy drive of the Edisto River side of the region including ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge and Botany Bay!
ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge
Driving north from Edisto Beach there is a boat ramp at the Dawhoo Bridge that offers westerly views (great for sunset viewing!) over the salt marsh and towards Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge. At just under 12,000 acres, the Refuge is key in protecting the Edisto portion of the estuary.
In addition, the Refuge office is a former rice plantation house that was built in 1828, one of only a few antebellum mansions that survived the civil war in the area; today it is protected on the National Register of Historic Places.
You can visit both Grove Plantation House and the kitchen house. The Visitor’s area inside the Plantation House has tons of information for you.
There are a variety of recreational activities such as hunting (in season), picnicking, hiking, fresh and saltwater fishing, canoeing, wildlife watching, photography, and environmental education. Special events and programs are held throughout the year for visitors to learn more about the ACE Basin and National Wildlife Refuges; see the Fish & Wildlife Service website.
The 3,363 acre Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located in the northeast corner of Edisto Island, and is important to numerous wildlife species including the federally-threatened loggerhead sea turtle and the state-threatened least tern.
Cultural sites including the Fig Island Shell Rings, outbuildings from Bleak Hall Plantation and elements of the Alexander Bache U.S. Coast Survey Line – all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The causeway to the beach is wheelchair accessible, and the designated driving tour provides excellent viewing opportunities for the mobility impaired; for more information, please visit the SC DNR website.
Edisto River & State Parks
A great way to see the Edisto River is from kayak or canoe. For more on the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail, Edisto River Adventures tubing, and the two SC State Parks that provide access to the Edisto (Givhans Ferry and Colleton).
The blackwater river is the longest of its kind in North America and is a favorite for cooling down on hot summer days.
A portion of the headwaters of the Edisto River and ACE Basin is Four Holes Swamp, which visitors can experience through Audubon’s Beidler Forest. T
his 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary in the South Carolina Lowcountry is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest, home to thousand-year-old trees and a wide range of wildlife.
It is a great place to visit for families, as the entire 1.75-mile trail is a boardwalk: easy to follow, and provides safe viewing of wildlife without getting muddy or wet.
Ravenel Caw Caw Interpretive Center
This nature center has over six miles of walking trails that wind through its diverse habitats, with interpretive exhibits, displays, and an assortment of programs. Boardwalks take visitors through the wetlands and rice fields dating to the eighteenth century.
Caw Caw is a birding hotspot for coastal SC, but is also important historically: it’s one of the important sites of the Stono Rebellion, a Member of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, and features thousands of naturalized tea plants from a 20th-century tea farm.
On your visit, you can expect to see American alligators, swallow-tailed kites, and bald eagles! Admission is $2/person, for more information see the Charleston County Parks website.
Bear Island Game Management Area
It was a hot day in July when we found ourselves turning off Highway 17 towards Bennetts Point a few weeks ago. Much like many of the destinations on this side of Charleston – Edisto Beach, Hunting Island, Hilton Head – there is a significant drive from the main highway to reach the ocean.
Over the next 15 miles we wound our way along live oak-shaded lanes, the giants draped in Spanish moss functioning almost as curtains to the lands beyond. After crossing the Ashepoo River we entered Bear Island Game Management Area home to countless waterfowl and protected species such as wood storks and bald eagles.
The miles of dikes on Bear Island provide plenty of wildlife viewing, hiking, biking and hunting opportunities.
ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve
Soon after passing Bear Island we arrived at the Michael D. McKenzie Field Station. Headquarters for the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), the field station serves as a community hub for coastal science, education and collaboration.
The NERR encompasses nearly 100,000 acres of ACE Basin, and is managed in a joint effort by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC DNR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Adjacent Mosquito Creek was living up to its name, but luckily we were able to escape the insects by boarding a boat and heading out on the Ashepoo River as part of the South Carolina 7 expedition.
Viewing the ACE Basin from the water is an excellent way to not only get away from the bugs but also to get a feel for the enormity of coastline and estuary protected by the NERR and other entities.
There are numerous science, education and training programs operated by the SC DNR out of the field station including ones off and on the water; the facility contains offices, wet/dry labs, a conference room and an outdoor classroom, while science-related school groups and naturalists visit the field station for a variety of educational outdoor activities.
Our boat tour with the SC7 team included an orientation to the ACE Basin watershed, and contained a look at the oyster reefs, plenty of wildlife viewing, and discussions of salt marsh and estuarine diversity.
For those wishing to tour the ACE Basin by boat, but looking for an option other than the NERR, a number of outfitters in Charleston, Beaufort and Colleton counties offer guided kayaking trips on the three rivers, as well as tours for those who prefer to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a motorboat.
Islands only accessible by boat!
If traveling by water in the area, you more than likely will pass through or near the St. Helena Sound Heritage Preserve, a collection of coastal and barrier islands only accessible by boat. Otter Island is part of this Heritage Preserve, and receives special protection because of its significance for rare plants, threatened and endangered species, and as a historic site.
With developed islands to the north (Edisto) and to the south (Harbor, Fripp and Hunting), Otter Island is the only spot where wildlife species can rest, feed and reproduce without development pressures for a long stretch of coastline. Another barrier island only accessible by boat but providing ample wildlife viewing is South Fenwick Island.
Donnelley Wildlife Management Area
Heading back out from Bennetts Point you’ll pass the 8,000-acre Donnelley Wildlife Management Area just as you reach ACE Basin Parkway (Highway 17). The nature trails here offer birdwatching, hiking, biking, riding and hunting opportunities; check the website for seasonal closure information, as the WMA is closed during certain hunt periods.
When should we visit ACE Basin?
As anyone who has spent time in the Lowcountry knows, each season down near the coast comes with advantages and hindrances. Summer days can be hot and buggy, especially in the marsh, however a hot August day might just be perfect for tubing the Edisto or enjoying the ocean surf.
Spring and fall offer excellent birdwatching, cooler temperatures and fewer bugs, but some areas might see closures for hunt seasons. And while winter might mean you have the trail/boardwalk to yourself, it also brings cold & unpredictable weather…
As with any trip, planning ahead can really pay off in terms of knowing what to expect and what adjustments might have to be made. Our year-round basics include protection against the weather & insects, water and snacks, and comfortable clothes & footwear.
But snakes, alligators, and spiders?!
Before we took our boys tubing on the Edisto, I asked how often they see alligators on that stretch of the river – the answer was never. However, if you are kayaking the Four Holes Swamp, chances are you might see one or two. In any case, the key is to follow the basic guidelines as you would with all animals – keep your distance and don’t feed or harass the wildlife.
For our family, the fear of encountering the animals that get all the bad press has slowly turned to hopes of catching a glimpse of one of them: a gator from a causeway as we head out to one of the barrier islands, a snake from the safety of the boardwalk at Francis Beidler Forest, or a shark feeding out beyond the break as we sit safely on the shore of Edisto Beach.
Know what to do in case you come across a venomous snake, and know how to tell the difference between the ones that can hurt you and the harmless ones that help keep the rodent population in check.
And finally, stay on the trail, be mindful of where you are stepping, and exercise caution when out in the wilderness; animals are a part of the outdoor experience, and will add so much to your ACE Basin adventure!
Something for everyone!
More than 130,000 acres of land have been protected through public/private partnerships in the heart of the ACE Basin, qualifying it as one of the most acclaimed freshwater natural areas found on the East Coast.
It is open to hiking, biking, boating, driving, riding, diving, viewing, and tasting (we enjoy stopping at local stands for fresh produce and seafood – but that’s a whole other post!)… Each time we visit, we discover another thing we love about the area, and I hope this article has inspired you to visit the ACE Basin and find something of your own to love.
Planning a trip for apple picking at Jeter Mountain Farm? This gorgeous farm hosts weddings, has seasonal u-pick flowers, fruits, and more plus an enormous indoor play area.
The views from the parking lot of Jeter Mountain Farm are sweeping shots of the nearby mountains, open space, and a beautiful building that seems to fit right into the landscape with its earthy hues of brown and green. The farm is a welcoming spot for families that has nearly two dozen varieties of apples, cider, live music, a wagon ride, and lots of other activities to enjoy.
Looking for a Charleston travel guide? Does your family love hitting the highway and heading south to this seaside town in South Carolina?
We’ve covered lots of different things to do and see in Charleston and you can find them all here in this Charleston Travel Guide. Everything from an itinerary for a long weekend without kids to a list of things to do that won’t break the bank. We’ve even included some things we plan to cover in the coming months.
Did you know that the famed theme park, Dollywood, has Homeschool Days? The park offers reduced admission and educational programs plus all the fun of the rides and experience of the attractions.
If you are looking to have an adventure, Dollywood will be offering Homeschool Days for families that are utilizing the homeschool option. These days focus on mostly science and math – and really, what’s cooler than learning about the laws of physics by riding a roller coaster?
Be sure to check out the newly installed whimsical area of the park, Wildwood Grove, complete with rides, including a new roller coaster called DragonFly. There is plenty to see and do at the park in addition to the educational programs offered these days.
What Do Homeschool Days Include?
Homeschool Days at Dollywood are geared for kids in Kindergarten through 12th and include a new curriculum, Science in the Park, that utilizes the scientific principles that make many of the rides at the park actually happen like velocity and speed.
There will also be lots of visual learning through craftspeople doing glass-blowing, candle making, and forging. The Tennessee Valley Authority partnered with Dollywood to create STEM-related learning experience that kids can do throughout the park. Some activities are learning about water filtration, kinetic energy, solar and wind energy, eco-friendly transportation, and weather.
Kids can also learn about the science of birds by visiting the 30,000 square feet Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at the park, which houses the largest collection of non-releasable bald eagles in the country.
Admission & Dates
Normal admission to Dollywood is $79+ for people ages 10-61 but on Homeschool Days, parents can take advantage of $41/ticket for kids in grades K-12 and $51/ticket for each accompanying adult. Huge savings!
To obtain the tickets, you need to call (888) 428-6789 at least 72 hours ahead of your visit. These tickets are not available at the gate. Parking is $20/car so plan for that cost as well.
Homeschool days for 2023 are August 7 – September 18, 2023. The park is not open every day so be sure to look at the calendar before planning your trip. Dollywood Splash Country also has homeschool days from August 8 – September 10, 2023 and tickets are discounted to $37/person.
Where to Stay
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is a beautiful hotel that offers free transportation to the park. The resort is offering 20% off a standard room for homeschool families Sunday – Thursday.
We’ve personally stayed at these places below and can recommend them as wonderful options for families.
Margaritaville Island Hotel A stay at this beautiful and trendy hotel will be a relaxing experience. Margarita makers are in every room and balconies overlook either the river or the Island at Pigeon Forge. You can explore the Island, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, grab a margarita at the bar (or in your room) and just chill. Read our review of our stay at this awesome hotel.
131 The Island Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN
Greystone Lodge By the River One of the very last family-owned hotels in Gatlinburg, the Greystone dates back originally to the early 1960s and has become the go-to hotel for generations of families. The location cannot be beat as it is steps from the aquarium and across the street from Anakeesta, within walking distance to shops and restaurants. They also have a great pool and free breakfast. It’s perfect for families looking to have a restful and accommodating place to call home during their trip. We stayed there and absolutely loved it.
559 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
Foothills RV Park & Cabins If you are not into tent camping but are still looking for a cheaper option than a hotel, Foothills has bare bones cabins to rent where you bring your own linens/sleeping bags and pillows. This is a good option if you’re really trying to stay within a budget but want someplace clean and comfortable. The location is right on the cusp of Pigeon Forge, very close to Dollywood, and maybe ten minutes from Gatlinburg. Camping cabins are rented April through October and start at $52/night.
4235 Huskey St, Pigeon Forge, TN
The Ridge Outdoor Resort The Ridge Outdoor Resort is about ten minutes from Dollywood and has two zero-entry pools, a lazy river, a catch & release pond, a deli and laundry facility on-site, two fenced in dog parks, a playground, a game room, and one of the pools has a hot tub. We stayed in one of their two-bedroom glamping tents and it was amazing!
Smoky Hollow Outdoor Resort Stay in a covered wagon or tipi at this resort in Sevierville, TN for the ultimate pioneer adventure. The resort is close to Soaky Mountain and minutes from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smokies. Read our review here.
Be blown away by the 17 room game mansion in Gatlinburg! It has more than 300 indoor and outdoor games and sleeps up to 20 people. This is perfect for a multi-family or big friends vacation and about 15 minutes from the main strip in Gatlinburg.
Camp LeConte Kicking up the glamping a notch further is Camp LeConte, which offers a treehouse, safari tents, and a retro camper. You can even catch the trolley into Gatlinburg from the campground. Depending on the time of year, the two-person safari tent starts around $128/night. Read our review here.
1739 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN
Other Things to Do Nearby
There are a ton of things to do in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is minutes away – and it’s free. Anakeesta, the SkyBridge, PINK Jeep Tours, and lots more are all within a 20-30 minute drive of each other and excellent opportunities for both learning and fun.