Top 10 Things to Discover in Sumter
COVID-19 UPDATES - this is an unprecedented time and almost all events and most activities are canceled or on limited access at this time. Please check our updates page for more information and/or check the website for each organization listed below for more details on what is available to the public. Thank you!
Nestled in the middle of the state, not too far from the mountains or ocean, is where the heart of South Carolina lives. In Sumter, you’d be hard-pressed not to find an event or festival taking place. While Sumter has countless activities to have fun-filled days, weekends and months, we narrowed the list to help you navigate your visit to Sumter.
For more information, on visiting these places and more, contact the
Sumter Convention and Visitor's Bureau
822 W. Liberty Street, Sumter SC 29150
Also, check out our interactive map at the bottom for more information and places to Eat, Stay and Play in Sumter, SC!
1.) Go to a Festival
Sumter has festivals for every season! Here's a list of just a few, for a full list of events and to confirm dates, visit our online calendar.
- Festival on the Avenue (typically 2nd Weekend in April) - a West African Bimbé festival of harvest, held every spring in the spirit of sharing, includes traditional soul food, music, art, dance, parades, and living history that showcases the creativity and vitality of South Sumter Community.
- Bethune Legacy Festival (3rd Weekend in May) - a festival to celebrate an American History Icon, Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune. Mrs. Bethune was an advisor to four U.S. Presidents, a national champion of human rights, as well as the founder of Bethune-Cookman College and was born and raised in Sumter, SC.
- Iris Festival (Memorial Day Weekend) - This three-day festival is one of the old continuous running festivals in the state of South Carolina. It includes concerts, arts & crafts, pageants, plants & flowers, antique & classic car shows, a number of contests, concerts and lots of children's activities. Continuously named one of the top 20 events in the Southeas
- OktoberFest on Main - downtown Sumter transforms into little Germany for a grand evening full of german food, music and heritage.
- Porches of Sumter (1st Thursday in October) - ever wonder what sipping tea on the veranda was like? This is the event for you. Stroll the historic streets of Hampton Park area and visit as homeowners open their homes and share their stories with visitors.
- Fantasy of Lights (December 1-31) - For the entire month of December, the Swan Lake Iris Gardens come alive with a display of twinkling holiday imagery created by more than one million lights.
2.) Visit a State Park
- Poinsett State Park - In the High Hills of Santee, where the South Carolina Sandhills of the Midlands region meet the coastal plain region, you’ll find Poinsett State Park. Called the "mountains of the midlands," this mixed ecosystem yields a high degree of biodiversity and some of the most unique natural sightings in the park system, especially along the Palmetto trail which winds through the Manchester State Forest. The High Hills of Santee are dotted with the hiking and biking trails that wind through the park–some of which connect to the Palmetto Trail that leads hikers through the Manchester State Forest. Poinsett’s 10-acre lake makes for a serene setting, and can be used for fishing and johnboat rentals. The park also offers campsites, a fishing pond, a coquina bathhouse built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, pre-revolutionary grist mill ruins and rustic cabins. Open 9am-dark, year round. Admission is $3 adults; $1.50 SC seniors; $1 children age 6-15; age 5 & younger free.
- Woods Bay State Park - offers a close-up look at one of the last remaining large Carolina Bays on the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain. The 1,590-acre park, located in the coastal plains region, features a wide range of habitats including marsh, sandhills, oak-hickory forest and shrub bog. Open 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., daily. Admission is Free.
- Thomas Sumter Memorial Park - Burial place for Gen. Thomas Sumter, "The Gamecock," a friend of the Cherokee, a Revolutionary War hero, planter, congressman and senator. The City of Sumter and Sumter County, as well as a national forest and a fort in Charleston SC are named after him. Open daily, dawn to dusk. Admission is Free.
- ATV/OHV Trails in Manchester State Forest - Permits are required for all activities except hiking.
- Rifle and Pistol Range in Manchester State Forest - Permits for the Manchester Rifle and Pistol Range can be obtained at the range during its operating hours, at the Manchester office on Headquarters Road. Hours vary, click on link for details or call 803-494-4885.
3.) Outdoor Markets
South Sumter Farmer’s and Flea on Manning Avenue, open Friday afternoons (May-November).
Downtown Market at corner of Main and Liberty Streets, open Saturday mornings (May-September).
Sumter Farmer’s Market at USC Sumter, open Friday afternoons (April-November)
- American Legion Farmer's Market, an indoor year-around market open Fridays from 12-6
Sumter Flea Market, open Saturdays & Sundays.
4.) Take the Museum Crawl Tour (or go on your own)
- Bethune Learning Center & Art Gallery - located on N. Main Street in Mayesville, SC. Learn more about Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, an American educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian, and civil rights activist. She also served as an advisor to several U.S. Presidents. The gallery also highlights various stories of African American culture and the legacy left for us today. Hours vary. Admission is free.
- Sumter County Museum & Backcountry - Hours are Thursdays - Saturday 10am to 5pm, Closed Holidays. Admission is $5 for Adults (18-64), $2 Students (6-17) and Seniors (65+), and Free for 5 and Under as well as Museum Members. Combination tickets available for visiting the Sumter County Museum and Temple Sinai Jewish History Center. $8 for Adults (18-64), $3 Students (6-17) and Seniors (65+), and Free 5 and Under and Museum Members.
Sumter Fire Museum - Hours are 8:30am to 5 PM Monday-Friday. Admission is free.
- Sumter Military Museum - Located at 129 S. Harvin Street, Sumter, SC 29150. Hours are Fridays - 9 am - 12 pm and Sundays - 2 pm - 5 pm. Admission is free.
- Sumter Opera House - step back in time to experience 125 years of growth and events at this historic opera house. Open Monday-Friday 8:30am - 5pm and during special events. Admission is free.
- Temple Sinai Jewish Heritage Center - Hours are Thursdays and Fridays, 1pm to 4pm and Saturdays, 10am to 1pm. Admission is $5 for Adults (18-64), $2 for Students 6-17 and Seniors 65+, and Free 5 and Under. Free for Museum Members. Combo tickets available to visit both the Sumter County Museum and the Temple Sinai Jewish History Center.
5.) For the Sports Enthusiasts
Sumter is a very active sports community.
Watch an MVP in the making with the P-15s summer baseball league at Riley Park.
Play tennis at our world renowned Palmetto Tennis Center (for free we might add!).
- Make every lap count at our Aquatics Center or swim year around at one of the largest YMCA's in the state.
- Master the art of golf, at one of five courses in Sumter:
World Double Dutch
World Series Softball
- Statewide Archery Competition
- as well as year around sports leagues, such as baseball, soccer, basketball, golf and more (contact Sumter County Recreation and Parks office)!
6.) Grab some grub
Inspire your senses at any number of our unique local restaurants, each with their own flavor and story to tell. Here are just a few favorites in the community (zoom in on the map below for more locations in your area)...
- BBQ, Pizza, Burgers: Wards, BBQ Hut, Sidebar, Demara’s, Pizza Lane, J O'Gradys, Aunt Ruth Ann's,
- Fine dining: Hamptons, Lilfred’s, Millpond
- International Flavor: Thai House, Chicken Shack, Osaka, Sambino’s, Mariachi’s, Angels, Queen’s Caribbean
- Sports Bars & Pubs: Main Street Tavern, Shucker's, Brewer's, Melted Whiskey, Leo's Wings, Rafters
- Steaks and Seafood: The Shrimper, Palmetto Oyster House, Willie Sue’s
- Southern Cooking: Simply Southern Bistro, The Restaurant at Second Mill, Country Fixins, Maryann’s Deli, Cut Rate Soda Fountain, Guignard Diner, Country Boy Kitchen
7.) Explore the Water
- Pack’s Landing on Lake Marion, offers a public access boat ramp and parking, with prized catfish and bass fishing excursions available throughout the year.
- Poinsett State Park offers pedal boats, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and more!
- Sparkleberry Swamp is known for its beauty, tranquility, and abundant wildlife. It's an avid kayaker's dream location and is the host location of an annual duck run and boating party each spring.
- Find you inner child and run through anyone of our five Spray Parks.
8.) Hunt for and Hide Painted Rocks in one of our 24 Community Parks
Sumter has an extensive network of community parks and walking trails that allow visitors and residents to experience our natural beauty. Here are a few popular ones, but check out our map below for more!
- Bill Pinkney Park
- Birnie Park
- Dillon Park
- Memorial Park
- Mill Creek Park
- Palmetto Park
- Swan Lake Iris Gardens
- Veteran’s Park
- view a complete list of parks in the Sumter Community here!
9.) Take in the Arts
- Sumter Gallery of Art - Exhibits, classes and everything in between. Donations accepted as admission to gallery. Located at 200 Hasel Street or call 803-775-0543.
- Sumter Little Theatre - Performances and auditions throughout the year. Call SLT at 803-775-2150 or go by the theater, 14 Mood Ave., after 2 p.m. weekdays to make reservations and/or purchase tickets.
- Sumter Opera House - Main stage to matinee, stage door to cinema, the Sumter Opera House has quickly become the hot spot for entertainment in Sumter! Located at 21 N. Main Street in Downtown Sumter, it's close to restaurants and nightlife and there's a convenient Hyatt Place hotel directly across the street. Tickets available online or call 803-436-2616.
- USC Sumter has four art galleries on campus that are open to the public. Each gallery exhibition differs throughout the year, including local, regional and national artists. There is also a permanent aerospace art exhibit onsite. Click on their link to get more info and locations of each or call 803-983-3801.
- Or one our cork and canvas events around town, including full time studios:
- Bultman Avenue offers a wide variety of boutique shopping, with unique gifts at places such as the Olive Tree and Doolallies, Elephant Ear, Silverpaper, One-Accord and even a specialty farm store (plenty more in the area so keep your wallet handy, you'll want to sample everything Bultman offers).
- Have a party to plan? Check out Let's Party, Partys 'R' Us and Sumter Cash & Carry!
- Make your own (they'll do it for you too) custom designed merchandise at Rumor Has It, Jersey Joe’s and Southern Uniform.
- For all your hardware needs Wally's on Broad Street is a local favorite. For a truly family friendly experience, visit Simpson Hardware on Wesmark Blvd, they have something for everyone (seriously, they have a boutique clothing area too)!
- Grab a piece history at Broadstone Manor on Broad Street or Ages Antiques on Main Street in Downtown Sumter.
- Shop the Sumter Mall for all your staple stores, like Bath & Body Works, Belk, Books-a-Million, JC Penney, Kay Jewelers, New York & Co., and more.
- Whether you are buying or selling, looking for old or new the Sumter County Flea Market is a great place to explore to find that one of a kind treasure!