Paramount's Carowinds

(Images from Carowinds' on-line media kit.)

If you like standing in the blistering South Carolina heat for 45 minutes to gain access for a twenty second thrill ride, Carowinds is a good choice. Similar in size and quality to Six Flags, Kings Dominion, King's Island, and Bush Gardens, as far as theme parks are concerned it's a nice one. If you'd like to avoid the heat and long lines, now is a good time of the year to check it out. Although the waterpark area is closed, most everything else is open with little waiting. Also in the evenings they are currently hosting what they call Scarowinds, which includes Halloween themed exhibits and rides.

The best (and scariest) two rides, in my opinion, are the Borg Assimilator (pictured above) and the Drop Zone (pictured below). The Borg is a roller coaster where participants lie down head first and are tossed and turned all different directions. In the Drop Zone you’ll climb 160 feet then be dropped like a stone straight down at 56 mph.

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Location: 35° 6'2.96"N 80°56'19.63"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 107 miles
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Mimi's Creekside Restaurant

There's not a better place to spend a Sunday morning than on Mimi's deck listening to live blues music, eating a shrimp omelet, and sippping a Bloody Mary. (My wife prefers the shrimp and grits.) It's a tiny joint with limited parking but the atmosphere and menu are definitely worth the wait.

The view from Mimi's.

Location: 32°45'3.84"N 79°57'7.18"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 216 miles
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Patriots Point

Image above taken from Patriots Point website.

Patriots Point, located in Mt. Pleasant, SC, is the location of four retired military vessels - the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier; the USS Laffey, a destroyer; the USS Clamagore, a submarine; and the USCG Cutter Ingham, a Coast Guard Cutter. All four vessels are open for a self-guided tour. Climbing aboard these ships makes it immediately apparent that our men and women in the armed forces make many sacrifices even during peacetime.

The USS Yorktown houses an air and naval museum which includes both replicas and real aircraft from past decades. There is a snack bar onboard as well but be sure to bring cash, especially in the summer months, as it gets very hot aboard these vessels.

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Location: 32°47'24.40"N 79°54'29.63"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 215 miles
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West End Field

Although today marked the last game of the season for the Greenville Drive, according to John Oliver, voice of the Drive, the West End Field will continue to be open for business. In the following weeks outdoor movies will be shown at the field, and the field will be open for happy hour and lunch on certain days of the week.

Location: 34°50'31.76"N 82°24'29.70"W
Distance from downtown Greenville: 0 miles.
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Panthertown Valley

Panthertown Valley is a hidden treasure located in an exclusive area of Western, NC near the town of Sapphire containing hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails. There are no signs leading to it. A map of the area can be found both here and on National Geographic topo map number 785 (Nantahala and Cullasaja Gorges). There is also a recently published map that is available at the Highland Hiker in Highlands. The best way to find the parking areas for Panthertown is to follow the directions found here. A western trailhead can be found following the directions found here, although it's about 30 minutes longer to get to from Greenville.

The area contains at least eight different waterfalls and many rock domes. This shot was taken from atop a Little Green Mountain, which is a large granite dome. The top image is School House Falls. The image below is Warden Falls.

According to the Nature Conservancy, “Panthertown Valley is a treat for hikers, as it contains a curious mixture of threatened and endangered species and natural communities. Panthertown is distinguished by its broad flat valley floor flanked by granite cliffs abruptly rising 200 to 300 feet. These granite domes with exposed rock are uncommon in the southern Appalachians and offer spectacular open vistas. The unusually flat valley is home to at least 11 different natural communities, including the rare southern Appalachian bog and the swamp forest-bog community. These communities harbor numerous rare plants, such as Cuthbert's turtlehead, Canada burnet, marsh bellflower, climbing fern, and spinulose wood fern.

“The headwaters of the East Fork of the Tuckasegee River and 20 miles of native brook trout streams, including Panthertown, Greenland, and Flat Creeks, are located in Panthertown Valley.”

Much of the area contains white sand, like you would typically expect to find near the coast. Following the directions listed for the western trail head will take you to all of the locations seen here, and also through an upland bog where you can see a carnivorous plant called a sundew. (Click here to know what to look for.)

A mountain biker ahead of us found this rattler on the trail and encouraged him to move to this spot under some rhododendron.

More Images. Click each one for a larger view.

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Distance from downtown Greenville: 61 miles
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