A couple of days ago, I took Abe to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta for the first time (I’d been with the older kids, but this was Abe’s first visit). I was driving through the most touristy part of downtown, past the Georgia Aquarium, and the World of Coke, and Centennial Olympic Park, looking for parking….and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be driving toward a waterfront of some sort. Probably the giant aquarium sitting right there, surrounded by dry land, accounts for part of this feeling. But it’s also just true that most big cities are on a major body of water of one sort or another and that revitalizing these waterfront areas has been an urban development trend for quite awhile now.
Atlanta, of course, owes it growth to its history as a railroad hub, not its proximity to shipping routes. But it does have a perfectly nice river, the Chattahoochee. Perhaps you’re familiar with it from Alan Jackson’s 1992 hit, “Chattahoochee” (way down yonder on the Chattahoochee / it gets hotter than a hoochee coochie). Perhaps not. At any rate, though, the Chattahoochee is here and it’s a big part of our lives. It runs through our city north of Atlanta, and we’ve spent many weekend days exploring along its banks. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is our nearest NPS unit. We’ve spent time walking along the Chattahoochee in Columbus, GA, south of Atlanta, where the city has built exactly the sort of downtown riverfront park I was talking about up there in my first paragraph.
But it occurred to me that I don’t even have any idea where the river passes through the actual city of Atlanta.
It turns out I’m not the only one.
The stretch of the river that passes through the city, south of the national recreation area, is woefully underused and difficult to access. I’m also not the only one who thinks this is an enormous wasted opportunity. My googling led me to a group called Chattahoochee NOW that’s working on these issues and hoping to turn the riverfront into an accessible recreation area for the city.
With that lengthy digression finished, let’s turn to Greenville, SC: a city that already did just that for their downtown riverfront. Until about twenty years ago, Greenville’s Reedy River, with its waterfalls that once powered textile mills, was hidden under a four lane highway. Today there’s the lovely Falls Park on the Reedy along the river, with gardens and walking paths, a vibrant area with shops and restaurants on either side of the river, and a really cool pedestrian footbridge going across:
We spent a wondeful Labor Day weekend in Greenville and in nearby Travelers Rest, SC and devoted our first full day to exploring Greenville.
It was a beautiful weekend day, and Falls Park was busy. All the signs tell you to stay off the rocks, but most people don’t listen. This made our rule follower, Gus, very angry indeed. But there were no waterfall catastrophes while we were there:
By the time we made it to the park, it was fairly late in the day and everyone was kind of dragging. So we sat and admired the falls for a little while and attempted some nice group shots. Hmm:
Here’s one of Ari because I don’t have any others of him to put in this post. Teenagers!
And then we headed out for some ice cream at nearby Spill the Beans:
I’m going out of order so I could talk rivers for a long time first. We started our day in Greenville at the Greenville Zoo:
This is a pretty small zoo, but I actually kind of prefer small zoos, particularly with small children, because they’re not so overwhelming. We mostly went here because we have a reciprocal membership at the Chattanooga Zoo, so it was a free outing. And I love zoos. I mean Abe does. Yes, that’s it.
We got there pretty early and had low crowds, but things were getting packed by the time we left (nice day, holiday weekend). We saw many animals:
And a lot of bamboo:
Statues of animals:
I don’t know why all my zoo pictures are of Gus.
From the zoo, we headed closer to Falls Park, which was our eventual destination. We decided to spend some time walking around downtown and make our way to the park. We started out with lunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe. They actually have a location pretty close to our house, too, but we’d never been there before; we really enjoyed it, and now I want to check out the one near us, too. Also, before we went we signed up for their e-mail list and scored a free pint glass. Nice!
There was a wait for a table, so the kids played on this sort of terrifying and dangerous fountain/ledge thing right outside while we waited. It was really only terrifying for Abe. I trust the older kids’ balance more.
After we lunch, we explored downtown as we made our way to the park. Greenville is full of water features and statues:
And a cool toy store:
AND! Most excitingly, they have a scavenger hunt type thing downtown where you can use clues online to find a bunch of tiny, utterly charming and adorable, little bronze mice. Mice!
The kids got tired of finding mice before I did, but it had been a pretty long day already by then, with lots of walking. Once you finish mouse hunting, you’re pretty much at Falls Park and therefore almost ready to eat your ice cream and regain your energy.
The last thing we did before calling it a day was an unexpectedly big hit. Greenville runs a free trolley to take people all over downtown. We decided to take it back to our car after ice cream, partially because we’d walked quite a ways already and partially because Abe just really wanted to take the trolley. Because of the way the trolley loop is set up, this meant a pretty long ride before we made it back to our car. But it turned out no one minded because the trolley ended up being an awesome (and free! have I mentioned free?) way to see the parts of town we hadn’t managed to fit in to our day of touring. The driver kept up a running commentary on everything we were seeing, and we got to tour some nice historic areas in addition to the touristy things we’d missed and will put on the list for next time. And Abe got a nice nap:
And with that, our day in Greenville came to an end. But there’s more to report about our long weekend, and I’ll get to it soon!