Having just come from the Old 96 with its distinctive bygone era feel, Rock Hill, SC looked to me like any other modern suburb (it’s part of Charlotte, NC’s metropolitan area). I was wrong. Well, it is modern and boasts all the comforts and conveniences that that implies, but it’s so much more.
Over the course of my hosted three-day trip, I peeled back its layers and discovered some of South Carolina’s greatest treasures. Take a look. Here are 14 fun things to do in Rock Hill and the greater York County.
EXPERIENCE BMX THRILLS
One of the newest (and coolest) things about Rock Hill is the cutting edge Novant Health BMX Supercross track which played host to the 2017 BMX World Championships in July. It’s a big deal for Rock Hill to have an Olympic-caliber training facility like this open to the public, and if you’re an amateur bike sports enthusiast, it’s a must-see, must-ride track. Check the track calendar for instructional programs, open sessions and race events.
While I have no supercross abilities myself (but never say never,) I stopped by the venue to watch some riders take on the track. It was thrilling to see them zoom down the starting hill, careen wildly around the curves and launch their bikes into the air as they flew over the rollers and jumps on their way to the finish line. Exciting!
STOP FOR LUNCH/BRUNCH AT THE YOLK
This chef-owned casual breakfast diner is only open until 2 pm and is wildly popular, so get there early. You might luck out and grab a seat at the community table but otherwise, you’re likely to wait a bit. It’s worth it though! Chef Greg Collier relies heavily on locally sourced ingredients and is passionate and incredibly creative with his menu items and daily specials. The Yolk is a big YUM.
VISIT HISTORIC BRATTONSVILLE
This open-air living history museum offers an immersive 18th and 19th-century experience as it tells the story of three generations of the Bratton family. Whether you’ve heard of the Brattons or not really doesn’t matter because the importance of Brattonsville lies more in the fact that it’s a microcosm of early southern history — the good, the bad and the ugly.
The ugly as you can imagine is slavery, and it’s an important part of the historical interpretation at Brattonsville. There’s an original brick (very rare) slave house on the property and a replica that can be toured.
Tip: Ask to hear the story of Watt (one of the Bratton’s slaves) and you’ll understand the significance and existence of the below tombstone.
There are 30 historical structures to explore and visitors are free to wander at their leisure. If you follow the self-guided map from the visitor center, you’ll notice that as the timeline through history progresses, the Bratton’s wealth amasses and it shows very clearly in the growing grandeur of their plantation homes.
In some of the locations, costumed interpreters are on hand with stories or demonstrations, and I highly recommend you stop and listen to their tales. You’ll also notice that Brattonsville is a working farm so there are animals and crops that all need tending.
VISIT THE CAT’S PAW WINERY
If you say “cat,” I’m there. But in case the word cat doesn’t make you jump, I’ll explain the other part of the Cat’s Paw Winery appeal. It’s a small and cozy place producing 11 small-batch varieties of red and white wine made without chemical preservatives, sulfites, and tannins so wine headaches are a thing of the past. Without chemicals, the taste is smooth and the bite is non-existent.
The cat theme comes from the owner’s passion for cats and cat rescue, and the winery has even served as the venue for a cat wedding. Truth. They also host regular goat yoga classes, and at the time of my visit they were looking forward to hosting a goat wedding. Local shelter cats needing adoption will attend in hopes of finding their fur-ever family.
My wine pick: Sangiovese
HAVE DINNER AT THE FIVE AND DINE
This diner was once a McCrory’s five-and-dime store and the site of the Friendship Nine sit-in on January 31, 1961. Ten African-American students from Friendship College sat down at the lunch counter in McCrory’s as a quiet protest to racism. They were denied their meals, harassed and arrested. One student paid the fine due to scholarship concerns, but the remaining nine opted for “jail no bail” because they knew going to jail would bring more attention to the Civil Rights Movement.
The original seats remain in the diner today with the names of those courageous men who protested in silence, not violence.
On the 50th anniversary, the Friendship Nine recreated the walk and were served the meal they’d been denied. Two years ago all of those students were exonerated. Powerful.
The Five and Dine is one of the few places where a sit-in lunch counter and chairs are still in an operational restaurant, and after absorbing the weight of that historical moment, I sat down in a booth for my own meal.
WALK THROUGH A REVOLUTIONARY WAR BATTLEFIELD
The Battle of Kings Mountain was a critical victory for the Patriots and is said to have turned the tide of the Revolutionary War. Start at the visitors center by watching an introductory film which gives a good overview of the battle and helps give perspective to what you’ll see outside. There are also numerous museum exhibits worth a look before you head outdoors to see where it all happened.
The entire battlefield site is preserved at Kings Mountain National Military Park, and visitors can walk the 1.5-mile paved trail which gradually ascends to the top of the mountain (it’s a hill but still… you’ll feel the incline). Informational signs along the trail explain the different battle events, markers and memorials you’ll encounter along the way.
STOP BY SANDERS PEACH FARM STAND
Visiting with Dori Sanders at her roadside stand was the highlight of my trip to Rock Hill. She’s as sweet as she is sassy, and I absolutely adored her. Her family has been farming since 1915 on this land when her father (a former tenant farmer) purchased it. It’s now one of the oldest African-American farms in the region. If you love sweet freestone peaches, her Georgia Belles are some of the best around and when fresh fruits and veggies are in season, she’s often at the stand telling stories like only she can. Dori is also the best-selling author of Clover, Her Own Place and Dori Sanders’ Country Cooking.
DIG INTO SOME SOUTH CAROLINA-STYLE BBQ
Coming from North Carolina and the home of Eastern-style BBQ, I wasn’t expecting to be all that impressed with South Carolina-style ‘cue. Open mouth, insert
foot BBQ, and lots of it! The Dixie Pig has oodles of crispy bits in their smoked meat (YUM!) and their mac ‘n cheese was voted #2 in the state. I can also vouch for their black-eyed peas and collards, and their delicious collection of sauces.
The Dixie Pig is a stop on the South Carolina BBQ Trail, so you’d better believe I’ll be trekkin’ that trail in the not-too-distant future. I still love you North Carolina, but your southern sister is nippin’ at your heels.
TRY HOT SAUCE MADE WITH THE HOTTEST CHILI PEPPER IN THE WORLD
The hottest chili in the world (the Carolina Reaper) was created by Smokin’ Ed Curry, the owner of Puckerbutt Pepper Company, and you can visit his store in Fort Mill to taste the hot sauces made with it (or without it). Heat intensities range from mild to “stupit hot” so there’s something for everyone.
I was lucky enough to chat with Ed the day I visited; the genius scientist is as humble, kind and generous as he is brilliant. Although proud of his Guinness World Record and famous fiery yet flavorful pepper, he’s quick to deflect the praise off of himself and onto his friends, family and those who’ve supported and championed him along the way.
TRY BEER MADE WITH THE HOTTEST CHILI PEPPER IN THE WORLD
Yep, you read that right. The fellas at Full Spectrum Brewing have found a way to infuse beer with the Carolina Reaper, and it’s yours for the tasting. It’s called Reaper Roast Amber and it’s one of those things you might do for the novelty of it. But guess what? I loved it, and took a growler of it home with me.
But there’s a beer for everyone on the spectrum there (Full Spectrum, get it?) and my favorite beer of the bunch was the Upstate Orange Wheat- a smooth, easy-to-drink light and summer-y beer. Oh, and they label individual beers on a beer flight with magnetic bottle caps instead of having to write names down. Best.idea.EVER.
STROLL THROUGH GLENCAIRN GARDEN
Even on a misty and cloudy day, Glencairn Garden took my breath away! The four season 11-acre garden is a stunner and draws a huge number of visitors. One of the highlights is azalea season when the garden is awash in a sea of blooms. Allow plenty of time to wander the many winding pathways, see the lily pond, traipse over bridges, peek at fountains or just sit on a swing or bench and enjoy the beauty.
VISIT THE WHITE HOME AT HISTORIC ROCK HILL
Family drama is always fascinating (when it’s not your own) and you’ll hear plenty of it with a side of Rock Hill’s early history when you visit the White Home. Although you can opt for a self-guided tour, I highly recommend you take the guided tour. The stories you’ll hear are really interesting!
Parking is in the rear, so as you walk up to the house, don’t miss the sprawling live oaks, original cabin and THICK Victorian-style gingerbread trim on the back porch.
Fun Fact about Rock Hill’s semi-recent history: Main Street was once completely covered with a roof! Ask about it when you visit.
HAVE LUNCH AT FLIPSIDE
Feeling slightly clandestine, I slipped into a secret doorway off the back alley to enter The Flipside, a casual eatery with elevated southern-style menu options. If you love pimiento cheese (a true Carolina thing,) you’ll have no problem finding it here. Perhaps on a sloppy joe? Or you could just order a grilled ham panini (which was phenomenal) like I did.
If you’d like to enjoy the whole list of fun things to do in Rock Hill, SC and York County, you’ll need to spend two or three days, so reach out to the York County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau for help in planning your trip! I made my home base in Rock Hill at the Wingate by Wyndham which was right off the interstate — perfect.
Comments & Reviews
Alli Smith says
I don’t live far from Rock Hill and I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know there were so many things to do there. I need to check it out next time I’m there.
Looks like there is a ton of fun stuff to do around Rock Hill. We would enjoy all the historical stuff first and of course some good food.
Amber Myers says
This is so cool! I would love to check this area out. I’m all about history, so I’d love to learn more about the area. Plus the food looks delicious.
It definitely looks like a great place to check out. I love anything that has to do with history especially when you can go and feel and touch the history that you’re learning about.
Robin rue says
I had no idea there was so much to do there. I would love to plan a trip there one of these days.
Neely Moldovan says
So many fun and outdoorsy things to do. I haven’ seen enough South Carolina. I should check this out!
Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says
Looks like Rock Hill SC is a great place to visit for a long weekend, if your close enough to drive. All of that food looks quite tasty!
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
I would love to visit Rock Hill! I really love to go to places that are full of history. I just find it so fascinating.
Christie Cronan says
I would love to take the kids to Rock Hill! I’m a huge fan of traveling to places that present an opportunity to learn. It’s a great way to bond with the family and to get the kids excited about exploring their world at the same time.
Tomi C says
I have a few Carolina Reapers in my freezer so I would definitely be up for a trip to Full Spectrum Brewing to try their brews featuring the pepper. Thanks for the introduction as this is the first time I’ve seen a beverage made with the pepper.
Makeba Giles says
I’m not a fan of BMX, but visiting Brattonsville. The museum alone would be on my list to see. I’d sample some beers, but I would have to probably abstain from the hot pepper beer.
Awe, you’re making me miss being back east. I haven’t spent much time in SC but I really like NC.
Looks like a great place to visit. There is a box track in our local park. It is always full of kids.
Claudia Krusch says
This would be such a fun trip. I love to learn the history of old towns. I love spicy food. The Puckerbutt Pepper Company would be a great store for me.
What a fun post! I lived in Rock Hill, SC many moons ago and went to elementary school there. It really is an awesome place to explore. So much history and so many things to see and do!
Lisa Bristol says
I would love to go to the museum someday. I am hoping to be in the area next summer. I look forward to checking out the Puckerbutt Pepper Company.
I grew up with family in South Carolina and love the state. I would love to visit Brattonsville and would ESPECIALLY love to visit the peach stand. (Fresh South Carolina peaches are the best!)
Sarah Bailey says
Historic Brattonsville sounds like a really eye-opening place to visit, I would be interested in going and hearing the stories.
valmg @ Mom Knows It All says
This sounds like an interesting region. I am a cat person and all about the cats, plus I’ve been wanting to tour a winery, so Cat’s Paw would be a must see for me.
AnnMarie John says
WOW! There’s really so much that you can do while you’re there! I love it. I think it’s nice to just walk around and explore the different places in Rock Hill.
Diana Elizabeth says
Rock Hill looks like such a place to visit! All that good food is definitely a big plus!
Dawn Lopez says
I think visiting Brattonsville would be awesome. I love learning about historical people and events by visiting the places they lived. The whole area looks very rich in history!
Perfect timing for us because our neighbors have invited us to their second home in S.C. Will be doing a driving trip and we need to check this out.
Kelly || Food, Fun & Faraway Places says
I’ve never been to Rock Hill but it looks like you had so much fun! I love the houses, they’re so pretty!
Carol Cassara says
I’ve never been here before. If you’re looking for a nice quiet place where you can walk around and explore, this is definitely the perfect one!
Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says
The winery sounds like a place that my husband and I will enjoy. The diner, too! I think this place is a lovely one to escape to especially after a stressful week!
This looks like a great place to visit with your family. You touched on some areas I myself would like to see.
Amy Desrosiers says
I have never been to South Carolina. I think I would love to visit with my family and explore. Those homefries look amazing!
This looks like a great place to visit! There really is so much to do!
Sara Welch says
That bike race would be a ton of fun! The food looks really great at Rock Hill, too!
There are so many fabulous things to do in Rock Hill. I would have stop into the different restaurants and definitely the Cat’s Paw Winery.
This looks like a super fun place to take a trip! It is several hours from where we live. But, I want to add it to the bucket list.
Tami Qualls says
We hadn’t considered Rock Hill as a travel destination before now. We will have to stay a few days to hit all fourteen of these.
Alison M. says
I’ve never visited here before but it looks like a place I need to add to our travel list. Thanks for sharing it.
I’m going to pin your post as we are hoping to visit SC during our girls spring break from school. You shared some great information.
Wow, so much cool stuff going on. My son would love the BMX bikes! If we lived closer, I’d be going to check it all out.
Annemarie LeBlanc says
What a beautiful place to explore with the family! I love all those historic houses and of course, the delicious southern style cooking! I hope we get to make it there someday.
I think I’ve only been to SC once. And that was because we were visiting Carowinds and were at the area where you could stand in both states at the same time!
Jenn @ EngineerMommy says
I love exploring new areas and towns. This sounds like a wonderful place to visit. I would definitely love to visit this location with the family.
We’re trying to figure out where to go next year and this was great info at a perfect time! It just made the bucket list!
Rosemary Palmer says
We love road trips and this is only 5 1/2 hour from me in Chattanooga. I’ve never heard of Rock Hill but thinking this can be added to a list for next year.
I am in Chattanooga too. I was thinking how close it would be for a couple of day trip.
Rose Cottrill says
What a beautiful place to visit with family. The nature trails are just gorgeous, I would prefer exploring that.
I love that you watched BMX riders. What an unexpected and thrilling thing to do on a trip!
Julie @ Running in a Skirt says
This is just down the road from me! What a fun place to visit. I didn’t realize there was so much to do.
Adding this to my travel bucket list. We are driving down south this spring and I am hoping this area is on our way!
I have never been to Rock Hill. I need to check out the Cats Paw winery.
Kita Bryant says
There’s quite a few things on that list my kids would love. We’re in love with South Carolina right now too.
Shannon Gurnee says
I love to travel, but have never been here before. I would love to visit here someday and check out your recommendations.
Sandy N Vyjay says
So many amazing experiences await at Rock Hill. I am sure it would be a great outing for the entiire family. I am particularly thrilled by the Olympic calibre bike track. Would love to visit there.
I am history nerd and I love seeing historic sites when I travel! I would love to check out this part of South Carolina one day!!
Our Family World says
Wow. Rock Hill is such a wonderful place! So much of history can be learned just by visiting this place. I am just wondering how hot those chili peppers are, and to have it infused in beer? Oh my. I’d be like a fire breathing dragon!
My sons would be thrilled to go to the Novant Health BMX Supercross track. They are not professional BMX riders in anyway, but I am sure they would learn a thing or two once they get there. Thanks for letting me know about this. Hopefully, we can visit Rock Hill sometime soon.
Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai says
Wow, what a beautiful place. I love history and checking out historical buildings and graveyards, etc. It is always fascinating!
Kristen from the road to domestication says
So many options! That Bratonsville looks especially fun (I LOVE historic things like that). Thanks for the info!
Agness of Fit Travelling says
Rock Hill seems so awesome and fun. It can be a great destination for an active travel. Excellent way to combine fitness and travel together, Liz. When’s the best time of the year to go there?
Tiffany VanSickle says
You had me at BMX Supercross! I LOVE action sports and wish we had more tracks (BMX and dirt bike) around here!
Look like great rock hill! Thanks for sharing
I loved this post. There are about 15 states I have yet to visit, and SC is one. I love the history, and I really enjoyed your photos. Thank you so much for sharing this. This is one of my favorites.