ARTS RENAISSANCE ENLIVENS THIS S.C. TOWN
Recently awarded USA Today’s “Best Small Town Cultural Scene,” this Southern gem is well worth a visit. From its Main Street boutiques, exhibits of works by nationally recognized artists, and secret gardens tucked into hidden spots, it’s clear this is a town undergoing a remarkable renaissance.
With the help of native daughter Darla Moore, Lake City has transformed from a sleepy agricultural crossroads to a magnet for the arts. Moore was the first woman profiled on the cover of Fortune magazine, and the University of South Carolina’s Business School is named in her honor. Once the green bean capital of the world, the town today is making a name for itself in the art world. Touted as “the middle of everywhere”, Lake City is an easy two- to three-hour drive north, making it perfect for a weekend getaway or enjoyable side trip off the beaten path.
THINGS TO DO
The city boasts a busy calendar — the fifth annual Moore Farms Botanical Garden Beer Fest is coming up Sept. 8 — so you’re sure to find a fun event to keep you entertained. The plantation also is home to a breathtaking private garden showcasing regional and native plants and one of the most extensive carnivorous plant displays in the Southeast.
Visitors to Lake City also can channel their inner artist at the Jones-Carter Gallery, featuring works by acclaimed artists from throughout the South. It, along with the new Trax Visual Arts Center, are open Tuesday through Sunday. Or make an appointment to create your own custom artwork at Olio Studio or attend an adults-only “Art After Dark” event with art teacher and graphic artist Caroline Tarantini. And while you’re exploring, stop to admire the “Bee Mural” at the corner of East Thomas and South Acline streets. Painted by Matthew Willey as part of “The Good Hive” initiative, the work — located opposite one of the town’s pollinator gardens — celebrates the beauty of bees. See if you can find the queen bee, hidden in the mural’s scenes.
For a deeper dive into the town’s past and its transformative present, check out the Bean Market, Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the market is now the hub of the town’s cultural revival, serving as a host site for ArtFields and the weekly Thursday farmers market.
WHERE TO STAY
Most of the town’s attractions are within easy walking distance from the Inn at the Crossroads, a beautifully decorated, 57-room boutique hotel recently built to accommodate the many artists and others who flock to the area to take advantage of its world-class galleries and hospitality.
Surrounding a lush courtyard, the inn features a gallery exhibiting the stunning photography of Donna Goodman and other works by past contestants in Lake City’s ArtFields competition. Smack dab in the middle of town, it is the perfect home base for an afternoon spent exploring.
WHERE TO EAT
After a day of taking in the town’s sights, return to the inn for a delicious meal at its Crossroads on Main restaurant. Featuring house-made dressings — the parsley lemon is especially good — and generous steaks paired with locally inspired sides like spicy green beans, you won’t leave hungry.
With over 20 shops and restaurants, interspersed with gardens, sculptures, and murals, there is plenty to experience in Lake City. And it’s clear residents are excited about it’s newfound fame as an arts destination.
“For the first time in my lifetime, we have young people returning to Lake City after college, buying homes, starting their families,” said longtime resident Karon Epps.
Did you know?
To support small family businesses, the Greater Lake City Community Development Office provides a stipend that helps proprietors hire part time help. The employees are paid $12 an hour, up to 16 hours a week and the community development office reimburses the store owners $8 per hour. The program was started as an incentive for business owners to stay open later in the day and also on the weekends. The program is now in its second year and has been a huge success for Lake City.
For more information, go to www.visitlakecitysc.com.