Other than Columbia and Beaufort, SC I hadn’t explored too much of South Carolina before being hosted for a visit to the Old 96 District. This special part of western South Carolina is where rural Old South’s rich history and off-the-beaten-track appeal blends seamlessly with new restaurants, boutique hotels, craft breweries, and distilleries. I think you’ll love it as much as I did.
My first stop was to downtown Abbeville to see the 1908 Abbeville Opera House which in its heyday served as a tour stop for traveling road companies performing vaudeville, minstrel, burlesque and Broadway shows. The stately elegance of its exterior hints at what’s inside, and it doesn’t disappoint; it has been restored to its turn-of-the-century grandeur and continues to host productions (although of a different variety).
Would you believe it still uses its original rope-pulled rigging systems? How cool is that?!
The Abbeville Opera House is open to the public for self-guided snooping, so get in there and take a look. The old-timey signs for proper behavior are a hoot, so be sure to wander around and read some of them.
On either side of the Opera House are the Abbeville County Courthouse and the historic Belmont Inn, both of which are full of character and history.
Abbeville itself is picturesque and charming and the downtown square is full of cute shops to explore.
Since South Carolina has such a colorful moonshine history, I made a point to stop in the Red Likker Barn to see what modern-day moonshine tastes like (not that I know anything about early-day white lightning).
The Red Likker Barn looks exactly like its name implies it would, and it beckons visitors to stay a while with a cozy porch lined with rockers.
The tasting concept at Red Likker Barn is unique in that customers pay $5 for a commemorative shot glass and get up to 6 tastings. Nothing is pre-mixed until tasting time, and since the mixers are chilled, it’s super refreshing! I may or may not have gone home with some 90-proof shine and a couple of bottles of blackberry and peach cider mixers.
One place I didn’t have time to visit in Abbeville was the Burt-Stark Mansion which is open to the public for tours on Fridays and Saturdays. (Call to verify tour times.) This was where Jefferson Davis held his final Council of War and admitted the Confederacy was dead.
Just like Abbeville, Edgefield has a charming downtown square worth exploring, but before you park and play all afternoon, pay a visit to the National Wild Turkey Federation & Winchester Museum. Yes, it’s a whole museum dedicated to the wild turkey, and you won’t find anything else like it IN THE WORLD.
One story the museum tells is how the wild turkey nearly became extinct from overhunting during the Great Depression. We started with 10 million gobblers and by the end of the Depression, there were a mere thirty thousand left! Thanks to the NWTF and monumental conservation efforts, the wild turkey population hovers at just over 6 million now.
Along with some fascinating facts, you’ll pick up a healthy dose of the weird and quirky. In fact, there’s a whole section of the museum dedicated to turkey oddities! You probably knew about turkey wattles (under the neck) and maybe even snoods (the floppy red skin hanging down over the beak), but did you know certain male turkeys have beards hanging from their chests?
Sometimes they have several beards, and the beards grow longer with age. There’s a 5-bearded specimen in the museum, and you’ll also hear that one fellow had nine of those seemingly useless beards! And get this… 1 in 5 females have them too!
I know wild turkeys and domestic turkeys both find themselves on Thanksgiving tables, but are you curious about which tastes better? I was told the breast meat of a wild turkey tastes better than a domesticated turkey (you don’t eat the dark meat of wild turkeys). I’m game (see what I did there) to give it a try! Are you?
Also at the museum is an impressive collection of turkey calls including the world’s largest box call, wing bone calls, mouth calls, friction calls and this gorgeous carved ivory call.
I could go on and on about all there is to see at the Wild Turkey Museum, but I don’t want to spoil it all. You need to go see it for yourself.
When you leave the museum, head back to downtown Edgefield and stop at The Phoenix Factory’s Old Edgefield Pottery for a look at the 200-year-old tradition of pottery-making unique to this area of South Carolina. What set Edgefield pottery apart was the fact every piece was designed to be utilitarian and they were created with lead-free alkaline glazes discovered by Abner Landrum. He prevented more than a few poisonings, I’m sure. Thanks, Ab!
Master Potter Just Guy still hand throws local clay and fires it in a wood-burning Groundhog Kiln. A section of the studio is devoted to early examples of Edgefield pottery, and he’ll happily tell you the fascinating stories behind them.
Of course, you’ll find Justin’s own handiwork for sale in the studio as well. Beautiful, huh?
For lunch, walk across the square and grab a bite to eat at the Old Edgefield Grill, a Victorian-style brick house turned restaurant with original pressed tin ceilings and pocket doors. The southern hospitality flows freely here and the menu offers an abundance of fresh seasonal and farm to table items.
When in South Carolina, trying pimiento cheese is a must, so order the fried green tomatoes as an appetizer and share.
When I visited, I ordered the Craisin salad as my entree, and to say the toppings were generous would be, well… true.
After lunch, stroll over to the Carolina Moon Distillery (a stop on the Old 96 Satisfy Your Thirst Tour) for a tasting of their spirits and moonshine cocktails.
It all started when two buddies with a passion for building stuff got a “we should try building a still” idea, and did it. The spirits (or should I say the “drinkable” spirits) came years later, and although they still sell moonshine, it’s making new-age spirits that they love the most.
The #1 seller is the Old Tom 5-year bourbon barrel-aged whiskey, and although I wasn’t much of a whiskey girl at the time, it was darn good.
I also tried the 2nd best seller – May Lady Peach Rum (cuz I’m a rum girl through and through). I was told to smell it, take a tiny sip, eat a piece of chocolate and then sip again. The peachy flavor exploded so much that I bought myself a bottle to take home. Loved it.
Now if you’d rather not taste the alcohol, go for one of their cocktail mixers. The blackberry moonshine lemonade and the strawberry vodka cocktail are so good they’re dangerous. Of course, if you’re hardcore, you may want to go straight for the Rabbit Spit. Or not.
Before you leave town, wander across the square to the Edgefield General Store. It’s a really fun shop with an old-timey design but a thoroughly eclectic mix of retail items.
Greenwood is where the annual South Carolina Festival of Flowers takes place, an event worth adding to your next year’s travel calendar. (Read the post to see why!) But, you know what they say… “there’s always something blooming in Greenwood,” so no matter when you visit, there’s something to see.
Spend a couple of hours soaking up the beauty of the rolling countryside at Emerald Farm, a family-friendly working goat farm. Visit with the goats and ducks, admire the over 20 peacocks, ride the working train and view the model trains, relax in the shade of the giant oak and fruit trees, try samples and shop for the famous Saanen goat milk soaps, lotions, and other products and stroll through the herb garden. It’s a place where you can slow down and enjoy the simple things.
I had the chance to chat a bit with Kathy, who owns the farm. She told me she began making the goat soap on a dare from her husband. Not one to back down from a challenge, she figured out an inexpensive and ingenious way to make her first mold by using Plaster of Paris and silicone rubber and created a pure and simple goat milk soap people could feel good about using.
The signature bar is the lavender bath bar, but the soap is now made in a variety of scents and custom shapes.
Another must visit when in Greenwood SC is the Mays House Museum where you can learn about one of our country’s most influential Civil Rights leaders (Dr. Benjamin E. Mays). His story is remarkable and not widely known, and the best way to hear it, see it and feel it is through a tour that can be arranged in advance.
There are three buildings on the historic site: his childhood home, a schoolhouse, and a museum. If you take the tour (which I highly recommend), you’ll learn that Dr. Mays was the eighth child of tenant farmers and ex-slaves (his mother was illiterate, and his father could read but not write) and he lived a very rural and segregated life. He became driven to rise up from that life and undo the injustice of segregation, but he never looked back on his past with regret.
He’s best known for being president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, but you may not realize that he was an advisor to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter and a profoundly influential mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I was blown away at what he overcame and how much change he affected during his life. He was an extraordinary person.
Fun fact: Dr. Mays shared a quiet and very special (not illicit) relationship with Gone With the Wind author, Margaret Mitchell. It’s fascinating, so ask about that on your tour.
For dinnertime, you’ll want to visit The Mill House. On the way to your seat, you’ll notice a pizza on just about every table. Pay attention to this. I’m sure their menu is full of good stuff, but the pizza is where it’s at. Order some. It’s brick oven pizza and it’s so.dang.delicious.I.could.die.
Oh, and Good Times Brewing is right there too, so the obvious choice is pizza and beer. Gold. Solid gold.
You might be wondering where to stay when exploring The Old 96 District. I stayed at Inn on the Square, a full-service luxury boutique hotel right in the heart of walkable downtown Greenwood, and it was exceptional. The room, amenities, hospitality, and location were completely ideal!
The Old 96 District of South Carolina offers the perfect mix of old and new for visitors who enjoy a little bit of everything. Reach out to the Old 96 District Tourism Commission for help in planning a trip, and I highly recommend you make the trip during the annual South Carolina Festival of Flowers in June. And don’t miss Bishopville, SC’s wonderful Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.
Comments & Reviews
I love exploring these little off the track places. Small towns are always so interesting to me because they keep their small charm feel and still able to attract many different kinds of people.
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
Old 96 District looks like a great place to visit! I think the entire family would love it. It’s so much fun to explore, especially when there’s history involved.
Bill Sweeney says
That is one gorgeous place. I love all the historical sites. I’m a big fan of southern historical everything. It just drips with charm.
What an absolutely beautiful place! I’d love to see the Abbeville Opera House. It looks so amazing.
Colleen Lanin says
Abbeville looks like a wonderful place to visit. It has so much history to see! That’s exactly the kind of place I love to travel to with the kids.
Heather Johnson says
I love checking out historical places with my family. I sadly have yet to explore much of South Carolina.
I’ve only been to Charleston and Columbia in SC. But I love the historical areas down there. It looks beautiful in the Old 96 District, looks like I need another road trip.
We have never been to the state of North Carolina. Historical places are always something we enjoy visiting and learn about. We also like to stay in comfortable place and great food. Love looking at all your photos.
Jeni Hawkins says
My gosh – there are a lot of neat things in South Carolina! I love the pottery – SO pretty! And that food looks amazing. If I take a trip to the east coast, I will DEFINITELY make stops in SC!
Beautiful photos! South Carolina is definitely on my bucket list. I love the old theater. That sign in the theater reminds me of a sign my Dad had in his barbershop when I was a child. It said, “Try spitting on the ceiling, any jerk can spit on the floor.” Lo l This looks like it was an awesome trip!!
Joely Smith says
Wow I need to visit the Old 96 District! I would love it there!! I would totally hit up the Red Likker Barn for sure and probably spend a great deal of time there! The Inn looks lovely too and I am really impressed by the pottery!
Sadie Roach says
These photos and places are beautiful! Would love to see some of these in person and try the food.
We love visiting South Carolina but haven’t been to this area. We drive from Texas to Tennessee annually to visit family and sometimes head over to SC for the beach.
Claudia Krusch says
The Abbeville Opera House would be so cool to see in person. There is so much to see and do in South Carolina. I am hoping to be there in the Spring.
Amy Desrosiers says
I think it is so interesting that there is an Old South and New South. This place looks so fun to explore!
Lisa Bristol says
I would love to spend the day at Emerald Farm. These are fantastic photos of some of the animals.
Nicole Aguilar says
I went to college in Savannah, GA so I really appreciate exploring little places like this. So much history and amazing architecture. Like a step inside the past.
Honestly I would not even know where to start during a visit to South Carolina but now I want to check out Justin’s shop and eat all of the food. The older I get the more I want to slow down and check out things off the beaten path and smaller places.
South Carolina is such a beautiful place! I love all the historic things to see and the beaches are great! Not to mention the food is delicious!
AnnMarie John says
The place will really take you back in time! It’s really nice to see the old establishments and houses and to be able to explore them. The food look awesome too!
Travel Blogger says
This looks like such a great little town to explore. I would love to visit the Red Likker Barn! I would love to give some modern day moonshine a try. I will have to keep this area in mind the next time I am in South Carolina.
Kelly Hutchinson says
I would love to visit the old 96 District in South Carolina! The Abbeville Opera House is gorgeous!
I haven’t been to South Carolina, but it does sound like there is plenty to explore. I would love to go on a road trip to check out some of these places. Definitely no shortage of things to do!
Dawn McAlexander says
There is so much great stuff to do here. I have been there before and had a great time.
I love exploring old historic districts like this. I find them to be so interesting and they bring me back to a time where things were a lot more simple.
What a beautiful place to visit. Old 96 district South Carolina sounds lovely and those photos make me want to go there now. I am so glad you had this adventure!
This looks like a really great place to visit! I love the soap mold. That is one thing I would love to make. I better the lavender soap smells so good!
Michelle Waller says
I find it so cool to see a post about where I live!! Edge field is such an awesome place to visit and is so full and rich of history! Not far from Edgefield is Clarks Hill which has a huge dam. Living in South Carolina and amazing! And yes, Pimento Cheese is a MUST when in SC.
Carol Cassara says
It’s such a beautiful neighborhood to visit and explore. I’m sure you had a great time looking at the houses! The old opera house is just so stunning!
What a gorgeous place and so fun and eclectic! Seems like os much to do–would make for a fun trip one day!
Is it weird that I’m most interested in the turkey museum? I had a pet turkey names Gobbles for over 8 years before he disappeared this summer. I miss my old cranky dude!
South Carolina is on our list, hoping to visit this spring. I’ve heard so many good things about and your post just reminds of the variety I have heard about.
Marissa Zurfluh says
I have always loved how much history and culture that the east coast gives this nation. I would love to check this place out next summer!
I love visiting historical places, especially small towns. My mother and I always traveled to different historical cities when I was younger and I loved it. I will have to visit here the next time I’m in South Carolina.
I am always drawn to southern charm and the 96 District looks like such an inviting place. I can see myself in those rockers sipping a little moonshine catching up on the town gossip. Then, I’d head over to that crazy turkey museum for a few hoots.
Kristen from The Road to Domestication says
You found some real jewels on your trip! I’ve only ever been to Charleston in South Carolina, but this area looks lovely, too!
Toni | Boulder Locavore says
This place looks really cool! I love exploring historical places! I am sure my family will enjoy here too!
I have never been to South Carolina but after reading this I really want to visit. It is so rich in history and I would like to try some moonshine.
Janis @MommyBlogExpert says
We love visiting small towns on road trips, the best sightseeing jewels can be found that way . I’ve been to South Carolina before but would love to go back again and check out this old 96 District area out!
Everything looks so pretty in South Carolina. I’ve always wanted to do a trip to the Carolina’s. Bucket list!
I wish I can visit this place one day! Looks like a very cool place to explore!
Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says
How awesome it would be to able to walk around a place this beautiful! I love how it takes you back in time as you go and explore the different attractions!
I hope to visit one day – it looks like a great place to go! Very fun and lots to see!
You always visit the coolest places! I just have always wanted to see the south, this place looks so interesting. I bet you could really relax in a town like this.
I love photos of old houses or buildings. You shared a ton of beautiful photos. I kinda wish that I had the opportunity to venture off and check out some old towns off the beaten path.
Marissa Zurfluh says
That looks like a really nice place to visit. I love the history around there.
Aduke Schulist says
I’ve never been there, but I’d love to go. That pizza looks delicious and I love that there was a wild turkey museum.
Marielle Altenor says
I’m sure there is a lot of history in Old 96 District! Would love to go visit and experience it all first hand.
Shannon Gurnee says
I would love to visit South Carolina someday! It looks like they have a lot of awesome places to eat at!
I think I have only visited North Carolina when I was a child, but not South Carolina. Either way, I’d love to visit!
I would love to visit the Mays House Museum. I graduated from Spelman College, which is right across the street from Morehouse College. I never know the history of Dr. Benjamin Mays, his story is pretty amazing.
salwa kisswani says
I’ve been to South Carolina but not to those places… I think I’ve been to more of the touristy things and definitely missed on those activities and places.. by the way, I love pottery I always buy cultured pottery when I travel
This was an interesting travel guide to S.Carolina. Never knew about the Old 96 District but I love the lavender bar!
Amber K says
The old 96 District looks and sounds like an amazing destination. I think I’m going to be scheduling a trip to visit soon.
Jennifer G says
I really like to be able to check out historical places like this with my family! I am going to have to check this out,
Janet W. says
South Carolina looks like a beautiful place to visit! There is so much to do and see. I love the history!