Laurens is a historic town in South Carolina close to Columbia. There are a couple Revolutionary War historic centers to explore and a lot of interesting wares to admire. This part of South Carolina also features some nature hot spots, including a national park. And if you’re in town during a festival, I recommend you participate.
Read on to find out about the best things to do in Laurens, SC:
1. Visit the James Dunklin House
The Old 96 District is full of antique shops and historical sites such as the Magnolia Dale Plantation, an old trading post, an old cabin in the woods, historic cemeteries and so much more! Another popular spot is the James Dunklin House; this classic southern home is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1822 and today houses a museum of antiques. Admission is free, but you have to schedule and appointment.
James Dunklin House
Address: 544 West Main Street, Laurens, SC
Website: James Dunklin House
2. Get outside in the Old 96 District
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
There’s a lot of ways to get outdoors in the Old 96 District. Hiking trails such as Baker Creek State Park Trail, Battlefield Trail, the British Encampment Trail, and all that Calhoun Falls State Park has to offer. Plus, there’s also biking trails, boating, fishing, golfing, camping, and other family-friendly activities.
Old 96 District Outdoor Recreation
Calhoun State Park
Address: Highway 81 South at Lake Russell
Website: Calhoun State Park
3. Explore the Laurens Historic District
The Historic District in Laurens is made up of much of Laurens itself, especially Main Street. The John Calvin Owings House, also on the National Register of Historic Places, is a gorgeous Victorian home built in 1896 by George F. Barber. It’s two and a half stories, and still features the classic Queen Anne Victorian style architecture inside and out; it’s well known for its 12 fireplaces, gable and portico, and oak woodwork. There are also four outbuildings. The house is still in the Owings family, so you can only see the outside.
John Calvin Owings House
Address: 787 W. Main St., Laurens, SC
Website: John Calvin Owings House
4. Hike through Congaree National Park
As a national park, there are an extensive number of activities at Congaree. Ranger programs, hiking, canoeing, camping, fishing, and kayaking are among the more popular activities. This park has been around for thousands of years, so there’s a lot of history to it as well - was used by Native Americans, loggers, Revolutionary War patriots, escaped slaves, and more. The “champion trees” are one of the things that make this park unique, as well as the floodplain ecosystem. Congaree National Park is an hour and a half’s drive from Laurens.
Congaree National Park
Address: 100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC
Website: Congaree National Park
5. Hang out at Dreher Island State Park on Lake Murray
An hour’s drive from Laurens, Dreher Island State Park is another great location for outdoor recreation. The shoreline of Lake Murray stretches 19 kilometers (12 miles), so there’s plenty of space for swimming, boating, fishing (there are some great spots to find the bass, in particular), relaxing by the lake, and even scuba diving. There are a number of picnic shelters, trail loops to walk or bike, and geocaching; there are some villas available for lodging, and there are two designated campgrounds. The park is open from dawn to dusk, and the price of admission for adults is 2 USD. Visit their website for more information.
Dreher Island State Park
Address: 3677 State Park Road, 29127 Prosperity, SC
Website: Dreher Island State Park
6. Take a day trip to Columbia, South Carolina
South Carolina’s state capitol is about an hour from Laurens and offers a vast variety of things to do. There’s the Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden, 60 different city parks, a number of museums and historic houses and mansions, the State House, trails on the riverfront, and tons of events going on. All you have to do is take your pick!
Columbia, South Carolina
Website: Columbia, SC Official Site
7. Enjoy a seasonal festival or event
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Laurens has a number of seasonal events. Obviously, these are subject to change every year, but it seems they’ve got plenty of annual festivals you could stop in at. They’ve got a couple events pages on their website, listing events like the Riverfront Freedom Festival on the 4th of July, Boo in the Park on Halloween, and a Downtown Farmer’s Market. This year they have Finally Friday on the Square going on through August - the last Friday of every month they’ll have live music during extended shopping time and restaurant specials - and a 2017 Sip-N-Stroll Wine Tasting. Visit their events pages to find out when there’s an event going on.
Events in Laurens
Address: Main Street, Laurens, SC
Website: Laurens tourism
Website: Laurens events page
8. Tour the history museums
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
There are about 13 different museums and preservation sites in the Laurens area, among them the Clinton Museum, a peach museum, the National Wild Turkey Federation Museum, the Ninety Six National Historic Site (the site of the first Revolutionary War battle on land), The Railroad Historical Center, and the Laurens County Museum. The Laurens County Museum is dedicated to the history of Laurens County, especially Revolutionary War history, historical figures such as Henry Laurens, Charles H. Duckett, James Dunklin, and more, and Laurens Glass Works.
Laurens County Museum
Address: 205 W Laurens Street, Laurens, South Carolina
Website: Laurens County Museum
Small town history
Laurens may be a small town, but some of the biggest parts of American history include small town America. Laurens and Laurens County are made up of many historical sites, and stunning nature. If you’re ever nearby, be sure to stop in to enjoy a small piece of history.
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