South Carolina

South Carolina

Nightlife Bars Entertainment in South Carolina.

South Carolina. Stretching from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, South Carolina has a rich – and often troubled history – that has become a prime factor in its importance as a tourist state. It’s also a pretty state, with excellent beaches, resort islands, and floral wonderlands that give way to challenging high-altitude topography. And if you’re a golfer, there are enough top courses to keep you challenged every day of your stay (there are over 300 courses in the state).

The state is not named after anyone called Caroline (as you might expect) but King Charles II – Carolus being Latin for Charles. Home to several Native American tribes, the Spanish played around long the coast for a while in the 16th century, but it was initially settled by the English (mostly from Barbados) in 1670. Less than 50 years later (having been separated from North Carolina in 1712), it was largely a slave state with Africans accounting for the majority of the population. South Carolina nearly ceased to be at all, following one of the worst Indian wars: the Yamasee of 1715-17, but the Indians were ravaged by disease and the white landowners went on to become rich through indigo, rice and cotton plantations.

South Carolina was the 8th state to ratify the US Constitution in 1788, moving government from Charleston to the newly declared capital of Columbia in 1790. And it was the first to secede from the Union in 1860; the first shots of the Civil War being fired in the Charleston Harbor in 1861. Two days later the federal garrison surrendered to Confederate forces. No major battles were fought inside the state but it’s reckoned that some 20% of South Carolina’s white males lost their lives to the Confederate cause.

A long period of racial tension and discrimination followed, with blacks being given limited rights one minute, then taken away the next. By 1895 almost all Africans had been disfranchised, despite representing over 50% of the population. No wonder that by 1920, despite the expansion of the textile industry which recovered the state’s economy, many African Americans had left for a new life in northern cities. In more recent years, the state has benefited from the development of large military bases and foreign manufacturing investment.
Prohibition played a significant part in South Carolina’s history. Although voted for in 1892, South Carolina became a ‘victim’ of the Dispensary System whereby liquor stores became state owned. They became associated with political corruption during the ‘reign’ of ‘Pitchfork Ben Tillman’ and were subsequently shut down in 1907. Today? Well you will not find much liquor on sale in South Carolina on Sundays, although locally this has been overturned in some counties and by some cities through referendums. So you’ll be ok in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Rock Hill, Summerville and several other areas (check locally).

You will also discover that some counties restrict hours of alcohol sale, particularly in stores, while others don’t. Columbia is pretty relaxed about it and there are plenty of bars and clubs here that will serve alcohol all night, more or less. In Greenville city, you won’t be able to purchase alcohol after 2am unless you are purchasing food at the same time. Again, you’ll need to check out local rules.

Food is important in this southern state and wherever you find yourself, you’ll find great ‘low country’ cooking. Seafood boils, shrimp and grits, chicken and biscuits, buckwheat pancakes and cane syrup, sweet potato and pecan pie are all typical dishes – not exactly food for dieters, but hey, you’re on vacation! Still, a full range of international cuisine is also on offer if you don’t fancy eating like a local.
Charleston is South Carolina’s oldest city, rich in historic sites, and a top destination for visitors drawn by its picturesque architecture, scenic waterfront and beaches, artisan markets and welcoming attitude. A thriving college town, Charleston has a large ‘young’ population, a wealthy ‘second home’ residency, and several top notch golf courses that draw an affluent crowd. A historic city with a modern, dynamic twist (though cutting-edge, it’s not), Charleston caters for its students, holidaymakers and well-to-do visitors with a great range of nightlife.

Students head for the sports bars and pubs. Downtown King Street is buzzing with them; the likes of AC’s Bar & Grill, O’Reilly’s Irish Pub and Seafood Tavern, the King Street Grille and The Plex all good choices.

Well-heeled visitors may prefer more sophisticated bars like Club Habana, an upscale martini and wine bar on Meeting Street, The Harbour Club in Charleston’s historic Prileau St, the Thoroughbred Club at the Charleston Place Hotel, or the Torch Velvet Lounge back on King Street.

The Music Farm on Ann St, is probably the best venue for live music, offering an array of local and national acts, but places like Dunleavy’s Pub (Middle St), the Mill House Hotel on Meeting St, Mistral (South Market St) and Gennaro’s are good alternatives for jazz and weekend bands. This is not a big clubbing city, but DJS and dancing are on offer at various establishments including JB Pivots Beach Club on Savannah Hwy, And if its good views your after, head for the Pavilion Rooftop Bar at the Market Pavilion Hotel on E Bay St, the Roof Top Bar at the Vendue Inn or Windjammer on the Isle of Palms – the latter featuring some excellent live music at weekends.
The story at South Carolina’s state capital Columbia is not much different. Though not as cute as Charleston, Columbia has an interesting history and a friendly, hospitable feel that makes tourists feel very welcome. There’s plenty to do here, both in the city itself and outside with the Congaree National Park and Lake Murray nearby offering fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing and various other outdoor activities. Just outside is Fort Jackson, the US’s largest military training facility, and this is also home to the University of South Carolina. So there is a real young feel here with plenty going on, particularly for sports and arts fans. Downtown has been spruced up big-time with major work done on the warehouse district, leading to The Vista – an energetic mix of bars, restaurants, shops and galleries. Try Flying Saucer, a southern Chain which specializes in beers on tap and bottled and offers a German orientated menu or Gervais & Vine for a wide choice in wines, beers and malts plus an inventive tapas menu. The Liberty Taproom is another popular spot with beer aficionados; there are homebrewed varieties here that go down well with their typical American/Southern menu. Hush and Rush both offer both live and dj music ranging from latin to jazz to rock to reggae, while The Blue Martini caters for the young and fashionable with live jazz at the weekend.

Otherwise, Main St and the Five Points area are where you’ll find most of the action in Columbia – and being this is on the University of South Carolina territory, that’s not surprising. The Hunter-Gatherer Brewery and Mac’s on Main are both recommended. You’ll find plenty of youngsters at Bailey’s Sports Grille on Alton Court and Damon’s Clubhouse on Senate St, where bbq ribs are definitely the best menu choice.

North west of Columbia, by around 100 miles, is Greenville, a rapidly growing city well placed for exploring the state’s Blue Ridge mountain area. The textile centre of the world at one time, today Greenville is home to Fortune 500 companies galore and is a major business centre. But it’s also high on the culture lovers agenda with the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, the Greenville Symphony, the Greenville Country Art Museum and the Bi-Lo Centre all attracting out of state visitors.

With its growth has come a rapid rise in the number of pubs, bars and restaurants, particularly downtown and the West End district. After work bars are prominent here, and there are some top notch contemporary restaurants, as well as good classic Southern fare. Beer buffs aim for Main Street and Liberty Taproom and Blue Ridge Brewing Company or Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria on W Washington St. Bars and pubs here in Greenville put the emphasis on fun and good times, and you’ll get them at The Cazbah on W McBee Ave, the Wild Wing Café on W Washington St and Café and Then Some on College St, which has a daily comedy show staring at 2030. Comedy acts also feature at
Coffee Underground, which also has regular live folk music and films in its theatre, as well as a good selection of beer , wine (oh, and coffee!). Other popular live music joints include The Handlebar on E Stone Ave while clubbers tend to head for Blu Martini on College St.

There is no statewide smoking ban in South Carolina, although there are local laws. In Charleston, for example, smoking is banned in all restaurants and bars, although cigar bars and some hotel and motel bedrooms are exempt. In Columbia, smoking is banned from July 2008 in all workplaces except where 85% of revenue comes from the sale of alcohol and in Greenville it is banned in all restaurants and bars. So check locally.