This time last week, I was down in Clemson, South Carolina for my youngest sister Lindsey’s graduation from college.Though I went to UVA and would argue any day of the week that Charlottesville is the best college town in America, over the past few years of having Lindsey down in Tiger Town, my whole family has fallen in love with Clemson and nearby Greenville, South Carolina, which is the city Clemson is closest to. If you love good food, being on the water, and college town bars, I’d definitely recommend it for a long weekend trip. While Lindsey is graduating and moving on from the area, I do hope to get back again one day!
Because of Covid, this year, Clemson held graduation ceremonies over five days to accommodate for social distancing. Lindsey’s graduation was on Thursday night, so we flew in Thursday morning and came home Sunday morning. This was my first time taking PTO this year, and a few days of celebrating with my family was just the reset I needed.
I wanted to share about our trip, but given we were focused on celebrating my sister Lindsey’s graduation, this post is less of a travel guide and more of a weekend recap, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. If you ever find yourself planning a trip to Clemson, I’ve written about my previous trips here and here — both of which have more advice on where to stay, where to eat + drink, and what to do.
GETTING TO CLEMSON —
My sister Jennifer and I flew into town on Thursday morning. Originally our flight was direct from DCA to GSP (the Greenville/Spartanburg airport, which is the closest one to Clemson), but we had a short layover through CLT added a few weeks after we booked our flights.
At DCA, everyone is really good about wearing masks—I think the culture of DC/Arlington rolls over to the airport. We were really excited that a lot of the restaurants in the terminal were allowing you to sit at the bars again (with seats more spaced out than normal), so that’s where we chose to enjoy a few pre-flight mimosas. I love an airport bar and we purposefully got to the airport early so we could imbibe before boarding.
We flew American, and the plane was pretty much fully booked—but again, since we were flying out of DC, people were really good with masks. Where I found myself really glad to be fully vaccinated was at CLT—that place is an absolute zoo and there were so many people who didn’t have their masks over their noses. It’s not that hard to wear a mask and you’re not better than the rules! Luckily, our layover was really short and the flight from CLT to GSP took all of 23 minutes.
THE GRADUATION —
While Clemson usually holds their graduation ceremonies in Little John Coliseum on-campus, they moved it to the arena in Greenville to better accommodate for social distancing protocols. As such, my family had a hotel in downtown Greenville on Thursday night so we could walk to and from the ceremony. Downtown Greenville is so nice! There are a ton of great restaurants and shops, and a beautiful park right on the Reedy River with waterfalls. I think it would be such a cute spot for a weekend getaway!
Before the ceremony, we enjoyed a late lunch at The Lost Cajun—despite having no historical ties to New Orleans, my family loves the city and cajun food. The Lost Cajun has delicious gumbo, jambalaya, and other Big Easy staples. The one thing I will say—and my family agrees!—is that they don’t have awesome drink options. They don’t have great wine, their spiked seltzer flavors are a little meh, but they do have an ample selection of beer on tap, but that’s not really my thing. Overall though, a really fun place.
Just a few storefronts down from The Lost Cajun is Byrd Cookies, which is one of our family’s favorite sweet treats. We first discovered Byrd’s on our trip to Savannah. My mom and my sister love the Key Lime coolers and I really like the lemon ones—they have free samples!
After we fueled up, we watched Lindsey graduation summa cum laud from Clemson—go Tigers! And the best part? They kept the ceremony to a whopping 57 minutes; now that is my kind of graduation.
GATHER GVL CELEBRATIONS —
After the graduation ceremony—and obligatory photoshoot—we went over to Gather GVL for dinner. We first discovered this place on our trip last summer. I was so excited to go back because it’s awesome! It’s basically a courtyard that’s surrounded by container ships, and each one has a different restaurant. (So, essentially, a fancy food court.) It’s great because everyone can get what they’re craving or you can create a meal from a few different places. It also means there are a ton of fun drink options! This go-around, we were big fans of the wine bar because they had frosé and Prosecco on tap—two of our go-to drinks at the moment! We shut the place down and would have definitely stayed longer if they let us.
Gather GVL is really popular, so I’d go on the earlier side if you can, or look into grabbing one of the tables you can reserve online. We didn’t go the reservation route and just got really, really lucky and found an open picnic table.
A DAY SPENT ON LAKE KEOWEE —
The following day, we went over to a house on Lake Keowee that one of Lindsey’s roommates had rented for graduation. It was a little too cold to swim or tube, but we had the best time sitting on the dock and raising our glass to all the graduates. We stayed out there long enough to watch the sunset and it was so beautiful! There truly is nothing like being on the water—and there is a lot of it near Clemson, which is a huge perk of going to school there!
A NIGHT OUT IN DOWNTOWN CLEMSON —
After our lake day, my dad dropped us and a few of Lindsey’s friends off (five stars!) in downtown Clemson for a night of college town bar hopping, which is truly one of my favorite pastimes. We started the night at Backstreets, moved over to Tiger Town Tavern, and finished the night at Study Hall, which is my favorite Clemson college bar. We capped off our night with pizza from Todaro—and a prayer that we wouldn’t be hungover.
ESSO BRUNCH & COLLEGE GEAR SHOPPING —
On Saturday, we did a late breakfast at Esso, which has been on my Clemson bucket list since I first visited Lindsey back when she was a freshman! It’s a sports bar in an old Esso service station. Truly no frills, they have great bar food and I’m told that it’s the place to be on football game day.
After we were fueled up, we went back to downtown Clemson—but this time we skipped the bars and headed straight to the apparel stores for what I like to call a “bookstore buyout.” Everyone in my family came home with some new Clemson gear!
It was also fun to see how the whole town is really excited for Trevor Lawrence as he begins his NFL career with the Jags.
THE TIKI HUT —
After shopping, we headed over to The Tiki Hut on Lake Keowee for an extended happy hour and some snacks. We loved this place! They had a great view of Lake Keowee and some really fun, fruit cocktails. I really felt like we were on vacation while we were here.
The Tiki Hut is located right at the Lake Keowee Marina, which has boat rentals available if that’s something you’re interested in!
DINNER AT THE BLUE HERON —
We capped off an amazing graduation weekend with a nice family dinner at The Blue Heron, which is located in Pendleton, South Carolina, about a 15-minute drive away from Clemson. (Pendleton had a really cute town square and another restaurant that caught our eye was 1826 Bistro.)
The Blue Heron was such a fun atmosphere and had a great selection of seafood, sushi, pasta, streak, and poultry—so basically, something for everyone! A great way to cap off a great weekend; we were up bright and early Sunday morning to catch a flight back home.
Congrats again to my sister, Lindsey, on graduating from Clemson! I am so proud of you and all the work you put in, and even more proud that you enjoyed college and the ride along the way. It was so fun to be able to celebrate this major accomplishment with you all weekend long.
I had some custom koozies made for the weekend—I designed them in Adobe InDesign and had them custom printed at Totally Promotional. They were awesome to work with—I paid for them myself—with quick proofs, low minimums, and fast shipping. I went with the size that fits White Claws given I knew that was the graduate’s drink of choice, but they also have standard size koozies, too. This will not be my last foray into custom koozies for fun events.
If you have any questions about our trip to Clemson, don’t hesitate to reach out: email@example.com. I’d highly recommend adding this beautiful South Carolina town to your travel bucket list!