Editor’s Note—you can read about my first trip to Clemson, South Carolina in this post. Since the last trip was pre-COVID, there are a lot more recommendations on where to eat and drink!
I feel like my 4th of July plans are always really hit or miss—I either have something really fun on the docket or it is very low key. For instance, last year, I went to Soul Cycle and then hung out at my apartment solo and watched the fireworks on TV. A few weeks before this year’s holiday, my sister Jennifer and I were chatting about how we might be able to celebrate in the COVID-era, and decided we could road trip down to Clemson, South Carolina to spend a low-key weekend with our other sister, Lindsey. (She is a rising senior at Clemson and has clinicals all summer, so has been living down at her townhome for the past couple of months.) We compared calendars with Lindsey and made it a date!
We drove down on a Thursday and came home on a Sunday. The last time we visited Clemson, we flew—but that wasn’t really an option this time. The drive is about 8.5 hours, so it definitely is a commitment, but I’d say it was more than worth it. On Thursday morning, we got up early, put on a country music playlist, split the drive time, and stopped at Chick Fil A for lunch. From the DC area, we took 66 to 81, and then took 81 to 77, before picking up 85. Because you’re on the highway the whole time, we made pretty good time—and we avoided all the holiday weekend beach traffic on 95. We got into town around 4pm, which was perfect timing since that was right around the time Lindsey was getting done with school. We celebrated that first night with Mexican food at El Jimador, one of my family’s favorite place in town!
Even if you don’t have an excuse to visit Clemson, I’d add it to your travel destination bucket list—it’s one of America’s great college towns and nearby Greenville is also a really cute small city, with a lot of restaurants and a beautiful park at the Reedy River Falls. South Carolina is one of my favorite states—from the beaches to Charleston to Clemson, there’s just so much to offer. Given the pandemic, we chose to lay pretty low and luckily it is very easy to socially distance when your number one plan for the weekend is floating on a lake!
So we would have our own beds and not interfere with Lindsey’s college roommates, Jennifer and I dipped into my bank of Marriott points and stayed at the Courtyard in town. This was my first time staying at a hotel since the onset of the pandemic and we felt very safe given all the precautions the staff was taking. Everyone had to wear masks in the public parts of the hotel, and they were enforcing social distancing. When we checked in, we stood very far away from the concierge. Even though it was a holiday weekend, we rarely ran into other hotel guests, and everyone was great about grabbing the next elevator. The hotel also suspended housekeeping unless you requested it to minimize interaction between guests and the staff. We didn’t want to put their hardworking staff at risk, so we just grabbed fresh towels one night from the front desk and kept the room tidy otherwise. Since we were only in town for three days and pretty much only slept in our room, it worked out great.
On Friday and Saturday while we were in town, we spent time on Lake Hartwell. It was so much fun, and I really wish we had something like this in DC! Lindsey’s friend lives in an apartment complex that has a large dock right on the lake—talk about a great amenity!—and she invited us over. If you don’t have access to a private dock like we did, Y Beach at Clemson is open to the public (during non-COVID times) and I am sure there are other public access points. We bought our rafts for floating for $8 at a local Publix and they were already blown up and ready to go.
We literally spent from 12 noon to 5pm floating out, drinking Truly Hard Lemonades (seriously the best hard seltzer on the market!), and listening to some country tunes. Growing up, my family mostly went to the beach—but I can totally see the appeal of why people love lakes now, too!
On Friday night, after a day floating out at Lake Hartwell, we drove to Greenville—which is about 30-minutes from Clemson—and enjoyed a great evening at Gather GVL. Made of out container ships, there are about 15 permanent stalls, each with a different restaurant outpost—everything from sushi to lobster to burgers to Mexican food. It was such a cool concept—it kind of reminded me a little bit of what Truckeroo used to be like at the Bullpen here in DC. For an app, we split the chips and salsa from Mercado Cantina and for dinner, I opted for a burger from KO Burger and Lindsey and Jennifer grabbed pasta from The Pasta Addict. We also quickly learned that The Lob Father served hard lemonade—fresh squeeze juice with Tito’s!—and it was so, so good. They required a mask upon entry and when you weren’t at your picnic table, you had to be wearing one. We were big fans and I’ll definitely be back—my only regret is not saving room for ice cream!
On Saturday, after another great day at Lake Hartwell, we went for a walk around the Clemson campus and saw the football stadium—here’s to hoping they can play some games there this fall! The trip was definitely worth the 18 hours worth of driving we did—and I hope you all are finding ways to safely enjoy the summer, too! x