Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Spartanburg, SC

  • Published 2022/12/25

Spartanburg is the county seat of Spartanburg County in South Carolina.

It has a municipal population of 38,732 as of the 2020 Census, making it the state’s 11th-largest city.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Spartanburg is the 24th best place to live in the United States in 2021-2022.

It lies inside “The Upstate,” a 10-county area in northwestern South Carolina.

Many educational institutions call Spartanburg home, including Wofford College, Converse University, and Spartanburg Community College.

You can explore the city for free by visiting its many parks, gardens, ponds, fish lakes, and wooded pathways.

Here are the free things to do in Spartanburg, South Carolina:

Go Window Shopping in Downtown Spartanburg

The road of Downtown Spartanburg

Kevin Ruck /

One of the finest and cheapest ways to explore is to do some window shopping.

There are many unique boutiques and businesses in downtown Spartanburg where you can find high-end clothing, gourmet foods, and more.

The downtown area is a fun and free place to explore, so there’s no need to feel obligated to buy from the numerous shops and bars.

Skating rink at Downtown Spartanburg

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The city’s downtown area is very walkable, making it a great place to take the family for a stroll.

You can stop at several museums, galleries, specialty shops, watering holes, and other establishments along the way.

The Chapman Cultural Center, located at East St. John Street, is a fantastic place to start a day of sightseeing.

Aerial view of Downtown Spartanburg

Kevin Ruck /

Go for a Jog at Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve

The 115-acre Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve is a wildlife refuge in the heart of the city.

There’s something for everyone at Griffin Nature Preserve.

Hikers, cyclists, and joggers can get away from the noise and chaos of the city on its more than five miles of trails.

It is home to fascinating geological formations, woodlands, and several distinct habitats.

The park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of space for jogging, walking, kayaking, canoeing, and other sports.

In addition, this urban greenspace is home to diverse fauna and plants, including deer, wild turkey, fox, numerous birds and reptiles, wildflowers, and trees.

Enjoy the preserve’s fresh air and beautiful surroundings on Beechwood Drive.

Visit the Hub City Railroad Museum

The Hub City Railroad Museum is one of the city’s most popular attractions.

It features a souvenir shop, model trains, and a reconstructed caboose.

The Hub City Railroad Museum is located in the historic Magnolia Street Station in Hub City.

The station immediately became one of Southern Express Company’s essential packaging facilities after it opened in 1915.

A fire that broke out in 1996 caused so much damage that it was almost demolished.

Fortunately, the historic structure was eventually restored to its current state, thanks to a public awareness campaign.

Visitors can take tours of the Hub City Railroad Museum, learn how to use telegraph equipment, and even ring locomotive bells from the 1940s.

The souvenir shop is loaded with one-of-a-kind items that are related to trains.

Visit the Railway Museum with your family and teach them the rich history of the railroad industry.

Enjoy Fresh Air at Hatcher Garden & Woodland Preserve

Small waterfall at Hatcher Garden & Woodland Preserve

Kevin Ruck /

The tranquil public botanical gardens at Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve are home to various mature trees, conifers, butterflies, and a hiking route.

It is part of a 13-acre public space accessible during daylight hours all year round.

The original owners, the Hatcher family, gave up possession of the land in favor of the Spartanburg County Foundation in 1987.

Hatcher Garden is a green haven right in the heart of the city, perfect for busy families to get some fresh air and connect with nature without breaking the bank.

The abundant wildlife, diverse flora, and fauna along the wooded trails make for a great day trip for the whole family.

Hatcher Garden is free; however, donations are greatly welcomed.

Visit it at John B White Senior Boulevard for a much-needed break.

Explore the Spartanburg Art Museum

The Spartanburg Art Museum inspires and educates people through modern art exhibits, art education, and more.

It’s a premier location for cutting-edge art exhibitions and related activities and boasts an impressive 3,000 square feet of exhibit space.

In addition, it hosts in-house curated exhibitions that you won’t find anywhere else, showcasing the work of artists from various backgrounds and experiences.

The museum’s mission is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience and appreciate the arts.

To do this, it offers free admission, low-cost art classes, and programs for professional development and public art projects.

It is also the only art museum in the Upstate that only showcases modern art.

The exhibits are rotated four to five times a year, so there is always something new to see when you visit the museum.

Visit Magnolia Street and spend a few hours taking in the local art scene at Spartanburg Art Museum.

Stroll along the Cottonwood Trail

The Cottonwood Trail is an excellent location to connect with nature.

The trail’s name was inspired by the majestic Cottonwood trees that dot the terrain.

It’s a perfect spot for paddling, hiking, or other outdoor activities.

In addition, the preserve is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life and acts as a vital water quality buffer in an otherwise rapidly developing area.

Its more than four miles of trails provide a tranquil escape for hikers, bicyclists, and city dwellers.

Several wetlands, open areas, and geological formations give this urban greenspace its unique character.

It’s home to various trees, flowers, and wildlife like deer and turkey.

The Cottonwood Trail runs parallel to Lawson’s Ford Creek, offering hikers a beautiful water view without getting too close to the path.

The trail is dog-friendly, so feel free to bring your furry companion.

Go Hiking at Glendale Shoals Preserve

Daytime view of Glendale Shoals Preserve

Carrie A Hanrahan /

The 13-acre Glendale Shoals Preserve is located on Lawson’s Fork Creek, on the site of the historic Glendale Mill.

Glendale Shoals Preserve was formerly the site of Bivingsville.

In the 1800s, Bivingsville was home to the Glendale Mill, which supported a local mill community.

The site now features an abandoned mill, a dam, a waterfall, and a 1928 bridge.

The mill tower at Glendale Shoals Preserve

Carrie A Hanrahan /

This area is a popular destination for outdoor activities due to its beautiful scenery and abundance of hiking trails.

At certain times of the year, the water level is low enough to allow people to walk across the shoals, wade through the cool water, and enjoy the sights.

The preserve also supports a rich diversity of animals and flora, including numerous bird species.

Glendale Shoals Preserve is located at Emma Cudd Road.

Stroll along The Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail

The 1.9-mile-long Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail was formerly a train line.

The trail was developed on the site of the first Norfolk Southern railroad, which opened in 1849.

Walking, running, and road riding are popular activities on the trail.

The trail runs along two main thoroughfares and links numerous residential areas to the heart of Spartanburg.

There are plenty of dining options, shopping opportunities, and entertainment venues near the trail.

The route is easily accessible from east Henry Street and Country Club Road, and it runs between South Pine Street and Union Street.

Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail is accessible all year round, however, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

Relax amid Nature at Barnet Park

Barnet Park is situated right in the middle of downtown Spartanburg.

It’s a welcome haven of greenery amid the city and hosts many public gatherings throughout the year.

The Zimmerli Amphitheater, located in a seven-acre Barnet Park, is a venue for live music, dance, and theater performances.

Enjoy a peaceful afternoon or evening away from the city on the park’s walking trails or at the picnic pavilion.

It doesn’t have a playground but makes up for it with a summertime splash pad.

There are several places to sit, and the grass also appears to be a pleasant picnic spot.

It is also a nice place to take your dog for a stroll.

Barnet Park is located on East Saint John Street.

Check Out Natural Attractions at the Milliken Arboretum

Road lined with trees at The Milliken Arboretum


The Milliken Arboretum is a popular arboretum with a diverse collection of interesting plants and flowers.

Explore the beautiful Milliken Arboretum on the private corporate campus of Milliken and Company, then take advantage of your visit by checking out the area’s natural attractions.

Once a peach orchard, today’s Milliken Arboretum is home to a network of hiking trails.

Stream at The Milliken Arboretum


It has a 2.7-kilometer loop trail that is considered an easy hike by most hikers.

This trail is ideal for strolling and can be finished in about 34 minutes.

The Arboretum also sponsors 5K cross-country competitions, including the NCAA National Cross-Country Championship and other local and national races.

You can find it on Milliken Road.

Grounds of The Milliken Arboretum


Have a Picnic at Happy Hollow Park

Located in the heart of the Converse Heights community is Happy Hollow Park.

The park features a children’s playground, swing set, picnic shelter, sculptures, and open grassy areas.

The playground has a fence and benches for the parents to sit on.

It’s a peaceful place to escape the city’s noise and reconnect with nature.

Every year on July 4th, locals congregate here to celebrate and get to know one another better.

The park’s cleanliness ensures that visitors may relax and take in the pleasant surroundings.

Happy Hollow Park is on Glendalyn Avenue.

Play Some Hoops at Stewart Park

Stewart Park is a sprawling park with various amenities, including fields and courts for sports.

It is located on Beacon Street in the Highland neighborhood, just around the corner from the historic Beacon Restaurant.

The park features an excellent playground, swings (including baby swings), and a splash pad.

This park also includes a baseball field, basketball courts, a splash pad, a paved walking track, and a covered picnic pavilion.

In 2012, the city completed renovations to this park and added additional amenities for visitors.

When you visit Stewart Park, you will undoubtedly have a good time.

Go Fishing at Cleveland Park

The waters of Cleveland Park

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Cleveland Park is a lakefront park that offers a variety of recreational facilities, including fishing, a theater, and a waterfront promenade that is available for hire.

The Spartanburg County Parks Department manages the Cleveland Park facility.

It’s a huge park, so there’s plenty of room to run around and have fun.

In addition, Cleveland Park features the John B. Cleveland Event Center, picnic pavilions, a sizable playground, a pond with a gazebo, walking trails, and workout equipment.

Person walking along Cleveland Park

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This is the place to go if you’re looking for a site where your kids can interact with others and have fun.

There are spots for family picnics and nice areas to chill by the lake.

When you sit by the water, you can see a lot of different animals, like geese, ducks, and turtles.

In addition, various events and programs for the local population are often held in Cleveland Park.

Playground at Cleveland Park

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Bring Your Kids to Downtown Memorial Airport Park

Downtown Memorial Airport Park is an airport-themed park in front of the Spartanburg Airport, featuring views of jets taking off and landing.

Downtown Memorial Airport Park has something for everyone.

The playground is split into two sections: one for the little ones and another for the bigger kids.

There are swings, a smaller climbing area with slides, and several toddler-sized cars to climb on in the playground for younger children.

In contrast, the older children’s section features a large climbing structure, three slides, swings, and a few educational stations.

During the warmer months, this park also features an aviation-themed splash pad that will surely be a hit with children.

The park’s seven acres provide plenty of room for people to stretch out and enjoy the outdoors.

Downtown Memorial Airport Park is also home to two soccer fields.

Bring your kids and enjoy its uniquely designed facilities!

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore Stoneledge Park

Located in the heart of Duncan, Stoneledge Park is a popular destination for residents and visitors alike.

It is equipped with a fitness trail, picnic shelters, clean restrooms, and a playground.

Guests can easily walk to the nearby Shipwreck Cove Water Park from here.

There’s a beautiful water feature in the park that many families use as a backdrop for pictures.

This park plays host to a wide variety of events that are organized by the city of Duncan.

Recent improvements have resulted in the installation of a recreation center, woodland walk, outdoor theater for movies, and multipurpose field.

In addition, a new and improved playground surface is in the works to improve the facility.

Bring the whole family to the park at South Spencer Street in Duncan, 23 minutes from Spartanburg.

Final Thoughts

Among South Carolina’s many cities, Spartanburg stands out for its incredible ethnic diversity and rich history.

The great part about Spartanburg is you can take a relaxing stroll downtown without spending a fortune.

The cultural district of downtown Spartanburg is home to galleries, entertainment theaters, and the Spartanburg Art Museum.

The Regional History Museum in Spartanburg also has displays that look at the area’s past through artifacts and textiles.

Include these free things to do in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to make the most of your trip.

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