A less than 2-hour drive from Charleston (an easy trek up Hwy. 52), Lake City is a small, historically agricultural town that’s currently experiencing a cultural + economical renaissance thanks to the efforts of LC native Darla Moore. (If you haven’t heard of Moore, she’s a self-made billionaire businesswoman who, among countless other accomplishments, became the first woman to grace the cover of Fortune magazine.)
The tiny town has quickly blossomed into a destination for art lovers. Think: Marfa, T.X., or Paducah, K.Y. In 2018, USA Today readers voted Lake City the “#1 small town with big culture” in the publication’s annual 10Best Readers’ Choice awards.
So what’s the buzz about? First, there’s the literal buzz – Lake City is one of just two cities in S.C. to hold the Bee City USA designation. Then, there’s the wealth of activities, art, dining options, + events that are easily worth a quick trip.
When to visit
With events scheduled year-round, there’s really no bad time to check this place out.
You’ve likely heard of ArtFields – a massive art competition held every April that showcases artists from across the Southeast.
For those of you planning to tie the knot in 2020, there’s the Southeast Wedding & Event Expo coming up on Aug. 11 – a one-stop shop to learn about regional event venues, wedding planners, photographers, entertainment, + more.
This October, you can find us at Rhythm & Q’s – a live music & BBQ competition featuring $45,000 in cash prizes. This year’s event will cap off with a free concert from headliner Easton Corbin.
Where to stay
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The Inn at the Crossroads. This boutique hotel, conveniently located in the heart of downtown Lake City, was built with the specific goal of providing visitors a top notch place to stay while in town. With both a bar + a fine dining restaurant on site, The Inn provides the same luxury experience you can find at many CHS hotels – but at a fraction of the price. Booking a king room this weekend (July 5-7) will cost you about $149 a night.
Where to go
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Whether you’re in town for two hours or two days, roaming the 65-acre Moore Farms Botanical Garden is a must. Because it is a private garden, it’s not open every single day – so make sure to check before your visit. Pro tip: Roam the garden on your own for free, plan your trip around one of the many classes or events hosted there.
The garden is located just outside the town, so getting there will require a car. While you’re driving back into town, make sure to add in a quick stop at the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Memorial Park (East Main St.). McNair, a Lake City native, was one of the seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger when it exploded on Jan. 28, 1986. The old public library, located next to the memorial, denied McNair when he tried to check out a book there as a child because of the color of his skin. The building now bears his name + is used as a museum celebrating his life + achievements.
Take a stroll downtown + snap a selfie in front of the town’s many murals and installations. We’re not exaggerating – there are quite a few. Make sure to stop in both the Jones-Carter Gallery and the Trax Visual Art Center for an A.C. break + a glimpse at their latest exhibits.
Both galleries are free of charge, so you can save the cash to spend at one of the many local stores + boutiques you’ll pass along the way.
Eat + Drink
Breakfast: Start your day by walking over to Baker’s Sweets Bistro and Bakery for a latte ($4.59) and a breakfast sandwich ($6.49).
Lunch: Piggyback’s BBQ & Catfish. Try the catfish po boy ($8.99) and finish with whatever dessert is on special. We ordered a plate of s’more wontons (!) served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (!!).
Snack: Snax. (Obvi.) 115 Acline Street. Cool off with an ice cream cone ($3.25) inside this Esso station-turned-ice cream shop.
Dinner + Cocktails: Treat yourself to a fancy dinner at Crossroads on Main.