7 Things Not to Miss in Clemson
here’s a lot to love about Clemson. There are the many opportunities the university provides, the natural beauty of the area, great people, and of course, there’s Clemson Tigers football. Is there anything more exciting than the beginning of a Clemson Tigers football game? Maybe not in all of college football. The Tigers have had a great run under Coach Swinney and they’re just one of many things we love about our town.
Naturally Clemson gets a lot of visitors for the football games, and there’s lots to see and do beyond a fall afternoon at Death Valley. If you look beyond the stadium, one may find the skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a house dating back to 1716, a $3.25 cheeseburger, an amazing heirloom garden, and one of the best fresh water lakes in the Southeastern US.
Let’s start with the Esso Club.
Fried chicken breast with gravy, green beans, macaroni & cheese, cornbread and hot sauce. This is what the Esso Club does best; simple yet hearty southern offerings for a fair price.
The Esso Club started life in 1933 as a gas station. The Club proudly traces its original beer license and their first beer drinker back to 1938. Through years of necessity and different owners, it was transformed into this thriving grill and bar. Its big break came in 1977 when Lewis Grizzard featured it in his popular column in the Atlanta Constitution. Today one can enjoy a modestly priced meat and two lunch for less than $8.00.
“Wait a minute, I thought velociraptors were ten feet tall with mouths big enough to eat a whole watermelon in one bite.”
The curator informed me that the image of those clever, deadly raptors was greatly exaggerated by the movie Jurassic Park. They actually were about the size of a large dog and probably didn’t hunt so cleverly. In fact, this photo shows their cast raptor skeleton next to a juvenile American alligator and a red-shoulder hawk.
One of my favorite places in Clemson, especially in the spring or summer, is the SC Botanical Gardens. Here one can walk away an afternoon through glorious displays of native plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees. And if you’re a bird enthusiast,you’ll be delighted with the diversity of feathered residents.
Looking for great Southern ingredients for your weekend meal? Every Friday afternoon during the growing season (May 15th through October 16th), Patrick Square hosts a thriving market. During a typical visit, one can sample local honey, baked goods, a dizzying variety of tomatoes, and learn all you ever wanted to know about squash.
very April, our town features the Clemson Blues Festival and offers a great line up of music, food, and fun. The festival is now in its fifth year and thanks to its success, has expanded greatly. This year you can take in a variety of performers and venues including a James Brown tribute by Caesar, Mac Brown and Plate Full O’Blues, and Wanda Johnson, South Carolina’s First Lady of Blues. April 11th through the 25th, at a variety of venues, including Patrick Square on Saturday, April 18th.
Step back in time with a $3.25 cheeseburger from Mac’s Diner. Mac’s is one of the rare establishments that has changed very little, if any, through the years. This tiny, counter-service stand features enough Clemson memorabilia to qualify as a satellite museum for the Tigers. A complete meal of burger, fries and iced tea sweet enough to send a dietician running for the hills will only set you back about $8.00. But you better bring cash, because Mac’s doesn’t accept credit cards.
Created in 1934 by the Works Progress Administration, Lake Issaqueena is the focal point of Clemson’s 17,500-acre Experimental Forest. The lake and its surrounding forest provide outdoor opportunities for students and visitors alike. Although the lake is not open for boating, there’s ample opportunities for hiking, fishing, and mountain biking.
Note: All photos courtesy John Malik save for the final one, Courtesy Clemson Experimental Forest