Clemson, South Carolina

Published on October 16, 2015
Written by Ray Access

The city is more than the stage for Clemson Tigers games.

Bordering Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest, Clemson, South Carolina, sits between Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s truly a hub of the Southern Appalachian region. The city’s beauty, history, sports, and friendly character have charmed visitors for over a century. But be warned: some of those visitors never returned home.

Part of Pickens County, which was won in the Revolutionary War, Clemson has a rich history. Founded in 1872 as the village of Calhoun, named after Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of State John Calhoun, the City of Clemson welcomed Clemson University in 1889 and the nearby Central Wesleyan University in 1906.

Despite solid economic development, Clemson remained a relatively quiet town until World War II. The population of Pickens County in 1940 was 37,000, but that number has jumped to almost 120,000 today, mostly due to the area’s attractiveness. Clemson itself is home to 13,000 residents, which doubles whenever the schools are in session. But the city has more going for it than its universities.


Clemson is an energetic and cultured city, but it feels like a tight-knit community where everyone’s on a first name basis. In spite of its exploding development and economic activity, Clemson has managed to retain a quaint beauty in the charms of its architecture.

·         To start your explorations, stop by the Visitors Center at 1105 Tiger Boulevard. Housed in an historic railroad depot, the Center is the perfect kick-off for your visit, especially if you’re a history buff.

·         A stroll down College Street gives you a feel for the city’s downtown district. The street borders the university and the downtown. Many of the businesses on this vibrant street, therefore, cater to college students.

·         If you can work it in, catch a game at Memorial Stadium to see the beloved Clemson Tigers football team. This historic facility is nicknamed “Death Valley” by opposing teams because of the home team’s tendency to whip the pants off challengers. Its atmosphere, design and history alone make it worth a visit.

·         The South Carolina Botanical Gardens is one of the premier nature preserves in the country. Boasting 295 acres of gardens, trails and woods, the gardens are open all year long and are free to the public.


Whether you are with your family and friends or on a romantic getaway, Clemson will keep you busy. Nature, history and sports lovers alike can find activities to enjoy:

·         Rightfully listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fort Hill is a beautiful colonial mansion and one of the city’s most historically important places. The plantation’s land ended up becoming Clemson University by the will of its owner, Thomas Clemson. Tours are available on a regular basis.

·         If you are sports oriented, tee off at Clemson University’s 18-hole Walker Course. One of the best golf courses in South Carolina, it accommodates all skill levels. And you can get discount rates for groups. Share in the legacy of an historic sports town.

·         Take an evening or afternoon to see a show at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts. Located on Clemson University’s campus, this creative hub hosts performances in dance, theatre and music by local artists, students, and performers visiting from around the country.

·         Minutes from downtown, the Old Stone Church transports you into the past. Completed in 1802, the church served as the place of worship for a very early Upstate South Carolina congregation. Its graveyard is the resting place of prominent figures in the history of Pickens County.


Clemson locals like their food, and they like variety. So on your visit, don’t neglect your chance for culinary treats. Different cultures and styles are represented here. You’re sure to find something to your liking and leave with a happy, full belly.

·         Start your day off at the All In Coffee Shop, a favorite of Clemson students. It has become a cultural melting pot where people of different backgrounds bond over delicious coffee. The All In Coffee Shop is dedicated to local charity and fair trade coffee. And they make a great cup of Joe as well!

·         Stop by the Thaiger Café for a lunch break. You’ll find what many locals contend is the best Thai food around, and it’s a bargain, too. The atmosphere is fun, and the menu is extensive.

·         Pixie and Bill’s is a staple of local fine dining that has been held in high esteem for decades. If you’re going to splurge on food, this is the place to eat. Be sure to make reservations in advance.

·         To cap off your day or for a refreshing break anytime, stop by the ’55 Exchange, an on-campus ice cream shop run by students. The ice cream is made from scratch, and

all profits go towards academic accommodations at the college.


Clemson offers plenty of opportunities to browse and shop, whether you want to pick up a gift for a loved one, commemorate your visit, or seek out a handmade craft designed just for you.

·         The Pickens Flea Market, 20 minutes outside of Clemson, is an experience not to be missed. The proprietors suggest arriving before dawn, armed with a flashlight, to have a real chance of finding the best stuff. It’s held every Wednesday, rain or shine.

·         The appropriately named The Tiger Sports Shop is a sporting goods and apparel store that will help you remember your visit in style. Grab something you want, something for a loved one, or get a jersey to recall that classic Clemson pride!

·        Rob Gentry’s Pottery Studio offers beautiful and innovative craftsmanship to purchase or just admire. Learn everything you wanted to know about pottery (and more!), while you try to stop yourself from buying something for your home.


There are plenty of comfortable accommodations in Clemson that combine convenience and hospitality. Given the crowds the university regularly attracts for its football games, the city is used to playing host. You have your choice of nationally known hotels and unique local establishments.

·         The University Inn is located in downtown Clemson, a mile from the university campus. A fairly standard hotel, it was recently renovated. Continental breakfasts are included, as are high-speed Internet and visits to the gym.

·        Hotel Tillman on Tiger Boulevard offers a chic and luxurious atmosphere. The design is modern, yet elegant. Special amenities are provided, such as Starbucks coffee available in each room.

·         Surrounded by the Walker Golf Course, the James F. Martin Inn offers a balance between downtown life and peaceful seclusion. The Inn overlooks Hartwell Lake, which can be seen in panorama from the fourth floor. There are plenty of extras, such as an on-site restaurant, tennis courts and a pool.

·         For something different, consider staying at the Clemson Outdoor Lab. Located on a peninsula on Hartwell Lake, this peaceful secluded getaway offers a nice contrast to the downtown and campus environments. Suites are available, as are cabins.

It’s hard to believe that this little town packs so much into such a small place. Sports, arts, food, history and nature all get equal time in the spotlight. Come to visit and you’ll stay busy and excited the whole time, even as you relax and enjoy the unique feel of Clemson and Upstate South Carolina.