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Spartanburg surprises

Spartanburg's downtown is filled with history and is the home to the Denny's Restaurant chain headquarters.
C. Hensley

If you're heading to the beaches of South Carolina, chances are you pass by the edge of Spartanburg. This city of around 40-thousand is the state's fourth largest city and is often overlooked as a place to stop and explore. With the history of Charleston, the University spirit of Columbia, and the hipness of Greenville it is easy to see why Spartanburg is usually just a place people pass through on the way to somewhere else.

Because of its history as a center for transportation and commerce in the Upcountry of South Carolina, Spartanburg has been given the nickname "hub city." It is still a busy place with I-26 and I-85 crossing paths there and BMW has a large manufacturing plant just west of town as well as a performance driving school and museum.

Morgan Square lies in the heart of the city. It's where the town more or less began back in the late 1700's. Many historic buildings surround the square and many are now filled with places to eat, shop and explore. The square itself is a center for water features, public art and relaxing. Near the square, Main Street snakes its way through downtown past more historic buildings including an old Kress five and dime, the old Woolworth's and Belk stores. The stores inside the buildings are long gone, but the history behind them has not completely faded away.

Down a few blocks more stands a small "skyscraper" looming high over everything around it. On the side is a familiar bright yellow sign with red letters spelling "Denny's.' This is the restaurant chain's headquarters, a seemingly nice fit for a town that still has that all American feel.

The downtown scene in Spartanburg is nothing like what you will find over in Greenville about 30 minutes away. The city seems to be a bit more laid back, but quite comfortable with the direction it is going. One sign of that is the Music Trail you will find Downtown. For several blocks, including Morgan Square, markers representing locals from all different genres of music line the trail. Perhaps the most recognized of the musicians that called this city home is "The Marshall Tucker Band."

Most recently, the city was in the national spotlight as the TV show Food Court Wars came to Westgate Mall. In the end Tirado's Empandas and More won the competition and you can now get a taste of Puerto Rico in the Upcountry of South Carolina.

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