Despite it's vast size and considerable sprawl Atlanta can start to trigger feelings of claustrophobia. In the time we've lived in Atlanta, there's one nearby city we've never visited: Greenville, SC. We've heard so many great things about it in the last few years that we decided to make the trip.

Greenville is only 140 interstate miles away so we could leave after school and arrive in time for dinner. Work got in the way of our plans a little and we didn't leave Atlanta till 5:00pm, right at the height of rush hour. Thankfully, Mira was in a good mood so it was just the traffic that gave us problems.

Our first night we got in, checked into our hotel right on the river and went out dinner. Our cousin who resided in Greenville for a time recommended Nose Dive and it did not disappoint.

The Pavillion at Night

After dinner we took the slightly longer route back to the hotel. Our hotel was on the south bank of Reedy River right across from the Peace Center. The city did a good job of accent lighting including the fountains and other water features, along with light fixtures inside some of the buildings. There were also quite a few people out and about. The town was small, but vibrant. Mira was ecstatic to be up at night since in summer the sun sets after she does.

On the Liberty Bridge over the Reedy River

The next morning was time to explore the city proper. Greenville's primary industry through the 20th century had been cotton milling. Like many cities in the midst of an industrial boom, industry took precedence over aesthetics or the environment.

Mira posing on the Bridge

However, by the 1970's the economic fortunes of Greenville's industry had turned and the economy declined with many retailers leaving downtown.

Sonali and I sitting near a small pond in the Falls River Park

The elected officials and citizens of Greenville took steps to rehabilitate the city. The river was cleaned up, Main Street was converted into a two lane road, and a mixed used trail system was set up that ran through downtown. Most importantly the city removed the 6-lane highway bridge that ran through downtown and obscured the view of the falls.

Family Selfie

The centerpiece of the city's transformation is the Falls Park on the Reedy. Land for the park came from multiple efforts, starting with reclaiming land from abandoned mills in 1967. Development accelerated in the 90's and highlight, the Liberty Bridge, was installed in 2004.

The result was a gorgeous park that we (and quite a few others) explored for the entire morning. There were many smaller trails of the main one that lead to interesting falls or bridges along with a few ruins from the 1770's. There were hills, expansive flower beds, and of course, the falls. Walking through the park was our favorite part of Greenville, made even more so by how close it was to our hotel.

Mira enjoying a Gelato

All this walking got tiring, so we had pizza at Trio then gelato at Luna Rosa. One of the understated stories in America's food renaissance is how good the food in smaller towns has become. Long gone are the days when the Olive Garden is the best you could hope for when traveling. All the meals we had were excellent.

Mira in the Secret Garden

After an afternoon nap, we took the trail in the other direction and came upon the Linky Stone Park: A Children's Garden. This was a little park with activities for kids along with references to elements from children's literature. Mira was excited to see things from her books in real life.

Rabbit Hop on the Swamp Rabbit Trail

After a happy hour snack, we went back through the park. The park was far busier in the afternoon and had a far more festive feel than our quiet morning stroll.

Selfie on the Liberty Bridge, if you look closely, you can see mermaids on the falls

Mira doing her best model impersonation

Though I referenced an afternoon nap earlier, I neglected to elaborate that it was for Sonali and I. Mira decided she didn't need one, resulting in her being overly tired by 6:30pm. After a quick dinner at the Lazy Goat, it was time for a quiet evening reading. Which was okay by me, I finally had time to finish Truman by David McCullough.

The next morning we were treated by a superhero race going by our window. We watched that from our balcony while drinking our coffee and packing up. Then it was off for one last trip to the park.

Mira wanted to point out the mermaids were no longer there

Sonali and I in front of the falls.

Mira spent most of this walk trying to get closer to the ducks

When I first moved to Atlanta from Chicago, I was surprised how friendly everyone was down here. Greenville is the next level beyond that. Everybody was very friendly. The waitstaff were an extra level of helpful, nearly everyone said "Hi," and when walking through the park it was never a challenge to get someone to take a picture. Nothing brings home the fact that you live in a big city than that difference.

This F1 car mockup had tires you could change and gas you could fill

One of the reasons that Greenville ended up on our radar was the children's museum, which has been rated as one of the best in the country. After packing the car for our return trip, we headed there. The opening exhibit had me sold as it was dedicated to auto racing. Surprisingly for a Carolina it featured Formula 1 instead of NASCAR.