Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Darlington, SC

  • Published 2023/03/29

A city with a rich and colorful history, Darlington features the quaint but lively Old Southern atmosphere anyone would enjoy.

The historic city is the county seat of Darlington County and is part of South Carolina’s Pee Dee region.

From the beginnings of a small crossroads community, the area progressed and was incorporated in 1835.

The city is best known as home to the famous Darlington Raceway, which annually hosts the NASCAR Southern 500 race.

This raceway also features the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame.

The city and surrounding areas are full of historical attractions and beautiful events, making it a city like no other.

There’s no better place to enjoy learning about history while enjoying high-octane car races than this city in South Carolina.

Here are the best things to do in Darlington, SC:

Watch Speeding Race Cars at Darlington Raceway

Race cars on Darlington Raceway

Grindstone Media Group /

Dubbed “The Lady in Black” and named by NASCAR fans and racers as “The Track Too Tough to Tame,” Darlington Raceway has indeed become an iconic landmark.

Racing enthusiasts from across the country are familiar with the Darlington Raceway.

You won’t become a legit racecar fan without stopping by this attraction in South Carolina.

Dedicated in 1965, this famous speedway proudly hosts the yearly NASCAR 500 race.

Get an exhilarating experience as you watch speeding cars on the oldest speedway in the region.

You can also catch the Pre-Experience events like concerts and a meet-and-greet with the racers.

Night scene at Darlington Raceway

Grindstone Media Group /

Walk through the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum and learn about the history and developments in the sport and the raceway.

You’ll see impressive displays of classic cars like the 1950 Plymouth Johnny Mantz, which placed second at the first Mountain Dew Southern 500.

Take a peek at NASCAR racing memorabilia, photos, and interactive exhibits inside the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame.

You can also drop by the gift shop for souvenirs and great merchandise.

Pit stop at Darlington Raceway

Grindstone Media Group /

Check Out Our Pat

Our Pat is Darlington’s old Fire Steamer.

The steamer has served as the city Fire Department’s only pump truck for several years.

In 1882, Darlington acquired the fire engine from Charleston, South Carolina.

Its former name was Young America.

However, the town council and fire chief renamed it after the mayor’s daughter, who was affectionately known as Pat.

The horse-drawn fire engine relied on its 5,000-gallon reservoir to put out the fires that raged in Darlington on many occasions.

The old fire engine, Our Pat, is on display at the city’s original fire department.

Drop by the Old Oaklyn Plantation

The Oaklyn Plantation in Old Charleston Road at Black Creek is historically significant.

It’s one of the county’s major plantation enterprises.

For over 200 years, the plantation was the property of the Williamson family.

In 1995, the National Register of Historic Places added the plantation to the record.

You’ll get to see a 19th-century plantation house surrounded by tall oaks and a lovely flower garden.

It comes with service buildings, and with a brick kitchen, smokehouse, and quarters.

Stroll along the plantation area and see the old-fashioned tobacco curing barns, packhouses, barns, sheds, milling equipment, and tenant houses.

You’ll also find an old pecan orchard, grape arbor, and peaceful woodland surroundings.

Trek the Woodlands at Williamson Park

A wooden bridge trail at Williamson Park

Jared Freye /

Williamson Park is a woodland reserve next to Swift Creek on the north part of Williamson Park Drive.

It was established as a sanctuary for native plants and valuable wildlife.

Visitors who want to have an enjoyable nature escape should drop by the reserve at least once.

Experience nature’s calm as you stroll the three-mile boardwalk or hike farther down the five-mile nature trails.

Witches butter fungus at Williamson Park

Jared Freye /

Go birdwatching and discover a wide variety of South Carolina plant and tree varieties.

Williamson Park also offers the most worthwhile spot for a good hike, nature study, or picnicking with the family.

A bench overlooking the waters of Williamson Park

Jared Freye /

Find Rare Collectibles at the Collectors Box

Darlington is host to numerous shops selling rare antiques and collectible items.

One of them is a local store called the Collectors Box.

Located at Cashua Street in downtown Darlington, the shop offers an array of trading cards, vintage coins, silver items, and more.

If you have the knack for collecting unique baseball, NFL, and NBA cards, this shop is your perfect stop to find these.

You’ll find many rare Panini Signature cards and Topps cards.

You might even see new collector’s items every week.

You can visit the shop every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

Discover Historic Industries at Darlington Industrial Historic District

The Darlington Industrial Historic District shows the vital history of the city’s agriculture, transportation, and commerce.

In 1988, the National Register of Historic Places added the district to the record.

You’ll see structures built during the late 19th and early 20thcenturies, when the city was at the peak of its progressive developments.

Take a stroll along these sites.

You might not know what you can discover about the city’s past industries.

Some of the significant buildings you’ll see in the district include the Charleston, Sumter, and Northern Railway Freight Station.

You’ll also find the Thomas and Howard Tobacco Warehouse and Price’s Tobacco Warehouse, and the Darlington Roller Mill.

Discover the Old Cotton Mill Memorial Park

Another historical site in Darlington is the Old Cotton Mill Memorial Park.

The park was established to pay tribute to the men and women who worked at the Darlington Manufacturing Company for years.

Tour the facility and see the memorial that tells the story of the significant contributions of the textile mills in Milltown and St. Stephen.

Have a picnic at the tables or sit back and relax on the benches while enjoying the atmostphere.

You can also grab some snacks and refreshments at the convenience store across the park.

Take a Nature Trip to Lake Darpo

Have some relaxing outdoor fun with your family at Lake Darpo.

The 20-acre lake in the nature park provides an excellent location for fishing and boating.

Pedal boats are also available for rent here.

The park has camping shelters and five RV sites that can accommodate campers near the lake.

All their campsites have electricity and water and a bathhouse with shower and restrooms.

If you choose to join a day tour, you can rent the clubhouse, including restrooms, a kitchen, and covered shelters.

Other amenities available at the park include a playground, outdoor basketball, and tennis court.

See the Old Buildings at Darlington Downtown Historic District

Buildings along Darlington Downtown Historic District

TheCatalyst31, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Darlington Downtown Historic District features the quaint architectural structures showing the city of Darlington at its most prosperous.

The district has several buildings from the 1870s to the 1930s, showing the rise and fall of the cotton and tobacco industries.

The area became a leading cotton producer in the 1870s.

By the early 20th century, the city shifted to become the state’s largest tobacco manufacturer.

You’ll pass the old buildings and establishments like the Smith Building, Coggeshall Building, McLellan’s Department Store, Jewel’s Deluxe Café, and Manne Building.

In 2006, the National Register of Historic Places added this old district to the record.

Join the Feast at the Taste of Darlington

The city of Darlington is well-known for its dynamic celebrations, including the Taste of Darlington.

The city’s long-running tradition, which is locally known as the Taste, is an annual community gathering highlighting local flavors.

Held every April, the local community makes an effort to organize and participate in keeping this yearly celebration alive.

Guests can join the fun festivities, enjoy the food, and meet the hospitable people of Darlington.

For more than 30 years, the event has raised funds for various projects to improve the town through initiatives of the Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association.

Enjoy the Events at the Sweet Potato Festival

Bring your family and have loads of fun at the South Carolina Sweet Potato Festival.

The Pilot Club of Darlington sponsors the annual event, held every second Saturday of October at the courthouse Square.

The whole day celebration features around a hundred vendors from local food specialties, exciting games, and fascinating exhibits from the South Carolina region.

You can catch entertaining performances and see the exciting antique car show.

And, of course, have a taste of sweet potatoes and sweet potato dishes at the event.

See Historic Sites at the South Carolina Cotton Trail

The 90-mile driving tour of the South Carolina Cotton Trail provides a scenic, winding path across the state’s Pee Dee region.

The trail remains open to the public even after the cotton trail organization has already ceased its operation.

The route starts from Clio, Cheraw, and Bennettsville areas, passing through Society Hill and Hartsville, leading to the areas of Darlington and Bishopville.

Along the trail, you’ll see old cotton towns, historic towns, museums, gardens, a cotton press, and the vast cotton fields.

The museums feature interpretive exhibits of how cotton production shaped the region.

Enjoy a Delicious Buffet at South of Pearl

Spend hours at the delectable lunch and dinner buffets of South of Pearl.

Located at the historic “Boatwright House” built in the 1900s, this neighborhood restaurant opened its doors to the public in 2015.

Have a taste of traditional local fare and meal selections prepared from scratch.

The restaurant also offers nightly events suitable for 30 or more guests.

Don’t miss their must-try daily specials like fried chicken, baked chicken, vegetables, a salad bar, and a treat of homemade banana pudding.

South of Pearl is famous for its All-You-Can-Eat Buffet in Small Buffet and Senior Buffet sizes, so you’ll have your fill of great food here.

Admire the Old Darlington Public Square Mural

The Old Darlington Public Square Mural is one of painter Blue Sky’s best works.

Completed in 1985, this mural presents the city in its former glory.

The city’s peaceful and small-town atmosphere is perfectly captured in the art.

An advertisement for the movie Gone With the Wind also takes center stage.

Be sure to take a picture of this historic mural while on your Darlington vacation.

The Old Darlington Public Square Mural is on Public Square Road.

Follow the Darlington Antiques Trail

One of Darlington’s specialties is its collection of antique shops and retail stores.

Hence, you should try to follow the Darlington Antiques Trail at least once during your visit to the city.

Make your first stop along the trail at B&B Variety & Antiques on Pearl Street.

This antique shop has a wide range of vintage items, both small and big.

Pee Dee Treasures is another shop worth visiting, and it’s on East Broad Street.

This is also a thrift store as it is an antique shop.

Sit in on a free auction show at So-lina Auction Market, Inc. on Lamar Highway, too.

This trail also includes the likes of Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum and The Collectors Box.

Practice Your Aim and Swing at Darlington Country Club

Are you a golfer at heart?

Then, you might like to drop by Darlington Country Club.

This public golf course comes with an 18-hole challenging layout along the breathtaking Black Creek.

It also features a driving range with target greens and a putting area.

So, whether you’re a seasoned player or someone who just plays golf as a hobby, you can have fun within the facilities of this golf center.

Should you lack any golf equipment and apparel, there’s a golf shop onsite.

Darlington Country Club is on Country Club Road.

Challenge Yourself and Your Group with a Physical Game at Twisted Paintball

Twisted Paintball is your go-to destination for some paintball fun.

This private paintball training field offers you the best of a closed-course facility with various targets.

Complete with practice pits and a laid-back grassy area, this training facility gets you and your group’s blood pumping.

Perfect your aim and improve your stealth as you navigate the challenges and obstacles within the field.

Twisted Paintball is on Angel Wing Drive.

Join an Event or Host Your Own at The Grand Old Post Office

The Grand Old Post Office is one of Darlington’s striking historical landmarks.

Established in 1912, this building has come a long way since its original purposes and is now an events center.

It underwent renovations in 2019 when it officially opened its doors for community and private events.

It spans over 6,600 square feet of indoor space and a ballroom extending to over 3,000 square feet.

The place accommodates up to 200 seated individuals.

Its amenities include a separate meeting hall, a back porch, and a podcast studio.

Come by and join community events, including wine-tasting sessions, jazz concerts, and yoga classes.

And if you’ve got a special occasion coming up, celebrate it with your loved ones and guests at this well-rounded facility.

The Grand Old Post Office is on Pearl Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Stop by the Historic Jacob Kelley House

The Jacob Kelley House was formerly a headquarters for Gen. John E. Smith’s Union troops in 1865.

You can find it in nearby Hartsville, South Carolina, 21 minutes from Darlington.

The historic site has celebrated its 200th anniversary and is a part of the city’s origin and community.

The residence was restored and furnished in a 19th-century style to feature how the people lived during the Civil War.

Take a step back in time with antiquities, old items, and vintage furniture settings.

You can visit this attraction from March to December on the first Sunday of each month.

Stroll the Landscapes at Kalmia Gardens

Located on an old plantation in the Pee Dee region, the Kalmia Gardens presents a 35-acre botanical garden and a historic residence.

You can find the gardens at Hartsville, 21 minutes from Darlington.

The lovely garden has been open to the public since 1935 and offers a respite for anyone looking for a calm escape.

You can also check out the 1820 Thomas E. Hart House, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

View an abundance of Kalmia latifolia, the mountain laurel after which the garden was named.

You’ll also see an array of vibrant blooms like azaleas, rhododendrons, tea olives, dogwood, and camellias.

Walk towards Black Creek marsh and take the boardwalk trails leading you to laurel groves, uplands, and hillsides lined with pines, oaks, holly, and beech.

Final Thoughts

Discover historical sites and natural wonders in the city of Darlington.

The city offers splendid parks, old districts, gardens, and the famous Darlington Raceway.

You can spend your vacation however you want.

If you want to relax, you can spend afternoons at the parks.

Otherwise, you can visit museums, historic towns, and hiking trails.

Likewise, you can join a host of events throughout the year to experience the warm Old South hospitality.

Enjoy the activities and sites of Darlington, South Carolina.

Book your trip today!

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