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Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Too often, you read articles about the death of small town America, the influx of big city residents, and the decline of the traditional main street.

This is not one of those articles.

Travelers Rest, population 4500, is only a few miles from Greenville, South Carolina. Up until a few years ago, it was just a pass-through between the industry of Greenville and the idyllic retreats of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. The story of Travelers Rest is like many across the country: a town grew up around the railroad, but when the railroad business left, so did the residents.


Yet, that's not where this story ends. In fact, a brand new chapter is beginning in the small town, one that's sure to make Travelers Rest into a destination instead of another stop light to get through on the way to the mountains.

Over the last decade, Travelers Rest has seen new businesses come to town, and now, all but two storefronts along Main Street are open and thriving. I recently had the opportunity to spend a day in Travelers Rest, and during that time, I walked, shopped, and ate my way through everything this town has to offer.

I started my day out in my comfortable room at the Travelers Rest Hampton Inn. Located just a block or two from downtown, this Hampton Inn is just what you expect from the brand: a friendly staff, clean rooms, and modern commons areas.

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Grab breakfast from the spread downstairs in the lobby--you have options from Belgium waffles to cereal to pastries. Just remember to pace yourself since we've got a lot of tasty things to try today!

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Who doesn't love a waffle bar?!
After I'd fueled up for the morning, it was off into the area's beautiful natural surroundings. I made my way to Poinsett Bridge, which is about 20 minutes from Main Street. Head out of downtown on highway 25, then turn right onto Old Highway 25/ SC 23-969. Finally, bear right onto Callahan Mountain Road; the bridge will be on your left in 2 miles. There's a small parking lot on your right.

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The bridge is considered to be the oldest in South Carolina and originally connected Greenville and Asheville. While there's not definitive evidence, it's thought that Robert Mills is the the builder of the bridge; he's the same man who is responsible for the Washington Monument.

The Poinsett in the bridge's name comes from Joel Poinsett, who served as ambassador to Mexico and who is responsible for introducing the poinsettia flower to the U.S.

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
If my toddler finds some crunchy leaves, she's got to dance in them. It's a rule.
All of that exploring at the bridge can work up an appetite, so I headed back into town to indulge in some brunch at the Cafe at Williams Hardware. A visit to Travelers Rest is incomplete without a stop here, as this is basically Ground Zero for all of the changes that TR has seen in recent years. The brain child of two sisters (and Travelers Rest natives), Nancy and Joyce McCarrell, the Cafe at Williams Hardware was the first of the new shops and restaurants that came to Main Street.

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The sisters initially planned to have a gift shop with a small snack bar in back, but their idea slowly morphed into the existing layout of a cafe with a small gift shop up front. The cafe serves breakfast on the weekends and lunch everyday. With homemade biscuits, daily specials, and seasonal quiches, the Cafe at Williams Hardware lets you chow down on some delicious food while you meet some of the Travelers Rest locals.

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

I can't resist a good brunch, so I made sure to load up on our breakfast plate: it comes with two eggs, grits or home fries, and a biscuit or toast. I also opted for the corned beef hash, which I'd love to have again every morning!

After I had my fill of tasty breakfast foods, I lingered in the cafe's gift shop to look at the old photos of Travelers Rest that are for sale. Seeing these in stark contrast to what the town is now is a testament to what hard work, determination, and a supportive community can do to change a place.

Then, it was time to do some shopping along Main Street. Travelers Rest offers antique stores, several gift shops, a running shop, and an outdoor supply shop. From kayaks to a new sweater, there are some fun finds in these stores.

Next, head over to Tandem, an adorable creperie and coffee shop at the corner of Main and Center Streets. Hang out here while you read the newspaper, browse the internet, or chat with a few locals.

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

A visit to Travelers Rest is incomplete without a walk, run, or bike on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. This trail runs along the old railroad tracks and has been one of the major reasons why Travelers Rest has been able to reinvent itself. When the Trail opened in 2010, it was a big deal for Upstate South Carolina; immediately, the Greenville area began to get attention for this massive project. Today, the Trail runs nearly 20 miles through Greenville and ends just north of Travelers Rest.

For dinner (or supper, for my Southern friends), I experienced the gloriousness that is Sidewall Pizza on Main Street. Owned by Loren Frant and Andy O'Mara, this restaurant hasn't even hit its one-year anniversary yet, and it's already attracting customers from an hour away.

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The small building, a former tire shop, is unassuming from the outside, but, once you step inside, the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen promise of great things to come. As Loren explained to me, she and fellow owner Andy wanted to create a full-service restaurant that happened to serve great pizza.

This is not your traditional pizzeria: where most pizza places do mostly carry-out business, Sidewall puts their emphasis on the dine-in experience. Loren and Andy don't have a culinary background, but they came up with all of their own recipes: everything, from the pizza sauce to the salad dressings to the ice cream, is made from scratch on-site.

Whenever possible, they source local ingredients, so you'll get North Carolina Pink Lady apples in your salad and nitrate-free bacon from a nearby farm.

I started off with an order of their bread sticks and tomato sauce, and my toddler gobbled down an entire one before I even got in a bite. I also sampled the incredible local apple salad, a seasonal menu item that includes Pink Lady apples, curry candied pecans, goat cheese, and maple cider vinaigrette.

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Top: order of 4 breadsticks // bottom: large serving of the Local Apple Salad

I had to pace myself because I wanted to try the pizzas, too, but I could've fallen into that apple salad and never looked back!

I pulled myself away from the salad to sample of few of their pizzas:

  • the Hot Hawaiian (bacon, prosciutto, pineapple, and jalapeƱos over mozzarella and tomato sauce)
  • the Roasted Mushroom (shiitake, oyster, crimini, and button mushrooms over mozzarella and their garlic sauce), and 
  • the Bacon Bliss Blondie (16 pieces of bacon over mozzarella and garlic sauce)

Small Town America Restored: 24 Hours in Travelers Rest, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Left: Hot Hawaiian (half without jalapeƱos) // top right: Roasted Mushroom // bottom right: Bacon Bliss Blondie
End the day with a cup of herbal tea in the lobby of the Hampton Inn before turning in. There's plenty more to see in the surrounding areas of Greenville county, and you'll want to be well rested for the adventures ahead!

Note: there's actually more to do in Travelers Rest than you could fit into one day! You might also consider adding in a visit to the Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom or a meal at Whistle Stop in addition to what I was able to do above.


Disclaimer: I was provided a stay at the Travelers Rest Hampton Inn and a meal at Sidewall Pizza in order to facilitate my review. As always, my opinions are my own. 
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