Historic Newberry, SC: “The Most Charming Small Town”



Newberry, SC, was recently named one of America’s Most Charming Small Towns by Travel Channel and was chosen as day 14 of the South Carolina 7 expedition. As KAG SC7 correspondent, Liene Kukainis accompanied the team on the way to see what the whole press was talking about!

Across Historic Newberry, SC

In the heart of downtown is the Newberry Opera House. Completed in 1882, the opera house was designed as a place of entertainment for locals and as the seat of government for the city – including a fire station and three prison cells! Silent pictures were slowly being replaced by films, and in the 1920s it was rebuilt as a cinema. But in 1952 the cinema closed and there was even talk of tearing it down; Fortunately, the Newberry Historical Society joined, and in 1970 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1998, the Newberry Opera House reopened for performances after extensive renovations.

In 2010, however, downtown Newberry was grappling with the great national recession. As the city took steps to revitalize the inner city to make it more pedestrian and visitor friendly, the opera remained the focus. Its location between the Greenville-Spartanburg Corridor and Columbia makes it one of the few venues in the Midlands / Piedmont, and musicians coming from Charleston often take the opportunity to play one more show before heading north / west . Newberry has really benefited from its unique location in terms of art and is now a vibrant, old-fashioned town center that is a centerpiece for the community.

The Travel Channel praised Newberry as “a university town with lots of extras: beautiful architecture, a historic opera house, a winery with rocking chairs from a large veranda and first-class dining and drinking experiences. Nicknamed the “City of the Friendly People,” it is named one of America’s Top 100 Small Towns. “The awards are well deserved, and Newberry has something for everyone … even a state expedition!

Palmetto Trail in Downtown Newberry, SC

The Palmetto Trail in Newberry, SC

The South Carolina 7 Expedition used the Palmetto Trail as their backbone for their explorations, and on a sunny summer day, I “hiked” Newberry Passage Senn with South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette and Newberry Mayor Foster. Our city walk took us into the heart of Newberry, past Newberry College, which was founded in 1856, past several ornate houses that were built between 1880 and 1915, and then straight to Main Street. We passed the old Coca-Cola bottling plant (converted into an indoor shooting range, a law firm) and the town hall.

Newberry Passage is a 10 mile section of the trail, approximately 4 of those miles being within the city limits. Be warned that there is little shade and most of the section is along busy roads. I found the 3-4 km within the city limits with the historic houses, an old cemetery and of course the renovated Main Street with shops, cafes, bars and ice cream parlors interesting.

Another Newberry treasure is a second Passage of the Palmetto Trail, Lynch’s Woods. In direct contrast to the urban Newberry Passage, Lynch’s Woods is a relaxing 5-mile circular walk through a beautiful park with mature trees. Lynch’s Woods Park was laid out in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and now offers trails for mountain bikers, hikers and riders.

Family things to do in Newberry, SC

Newberry Museum

We stopped at the Old Court House, completed in 1853, to get a map and a few brochures – the historic building now houses the Chamber of Commerce. There they took us to the Newberry Museum, which was housed in the Federal Building and the United States Post Office in 1911. The museum offers permanent and changing exhibitions on the history of the district and the surrounding communities. An exhibition calendar can be found on the Newberry Museum website.

Newberry Museum

Newberry Arts Center

The Newberry Arts Center is just a few blocks from the museum. Through the windows we could see children busy with their work at the NAC Youth Summer Camp, and the Art Center shop was full of handcrafted items from local artisans. The Arts Center also sponsors Rec Mobile Friday Art in the Park, a free travel activity with a local artist that takes place over the 6 weeks of summer. Art programs are offered year-round; Visit the Newberry Arts Center website for more information.

Japanese Garden in Newberry, SC

I was pleasantly surprised that Newberry has a Japanese garden that is hidden just waiting to be discovered. We were a little disappointed that the garden was closed as it was under construction, but the Chamber of Commerce gave me assurances that it should be open within a month. Wells Japanese Garden is a Newberry landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. You can find more information about the garden on the Newberry website.

Events in Newberry, SC

Newberry hosts many events year-round, including Oktoberfest on the first Saturday in October, a pumpkin painting party in late October, and Main Street Lights in late November; all in the enchanting setting of Memorial Park, across from the Opera House. Originally the parking lot for horses and carriages, on our last visit it turned into a lively reception for the SC7 expedition, tables in the shade of the huge trees where we ate our fill of barbecue and ice cream while listening to a DJ play music.

Just around the corner, the Newberry Police Department had set up a bicycle rodeo where young cyclists could test their knowledge of traffic signs and their ability to negotiate an obstacle course. To top it off, the green carpet premiere of the SC7 documentary “Higher Ground” took place in the opera house and we could see the ornate interior of the magnificent building. Yes, Newberry can throw a party too!

Newberry Community Hall (left), Newberry Opera House (right)

Shopping and dining in Newberry, SC

On our forays through the city center we saw several fascinating antique shops, including an advertisement “World famous, like on” American pickers. ”An antique bookstore, art galleries, clothing and jewelry stores complete the shopping experience – we could easily have spent a morning strolling through the shops. Don’t forget the Art Center Store when looking for this souvenir!

We had lunch and ice cream at family-friendly Laila’s Place, and the cultural icon “Zesto’s” was on her way into town in Newberry Passage. Several upscale restaurants catered to the opera house audiences, and the Figaro Market was filled with local produce and tempting foods.

Accommodation in Newberry, SC

Accommodation options include several of the big chains, although there are some bed and breakfast options nearby.

Kidding Around earned when you book with this card as a STAY22 partner.

Attractions near Newberry

Peak to Prosperty Passage of the Palmetto Trail

To the south is the well-known Peak to Prosperity Passage of the Palmetto Trail, which is great for biking and hiking and is known for the converted railway bridge that now allows pedestrians to cross the Broad River.

Murray Lake

Less than an hour away is Lake Murray with all kinds of recreational opportunities. At this time of year we visit the Purple Martins on their way south; The thousands of birds that all rest on Bomb Island at dusk is a sight to behold!

End the day in Newberry, SC

That evening the lights in the grand opera house were dimmed and after a welcoming speech by Governor Henry McMaster, the lights were dimmed for the premiere of “Higher Ground”. We sank into our plush armchairs made of red velvet and absorbed everything: the historical, the hiking, the small town, the culture…. Yes, Newberry is actually one of the best small towns in America!



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