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DAY TRIP: Exploring Spartanburg

There’s some debate about how Spartanburg came to be known by the name Sparkle City.

The general consensus is that it came as a tribute to the 1950s rockabilly band, Joe Bennet & The Sparkletones, which hailed from nearby Cowpens. The four teens put the area on the map when they performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand.”

A single, “Black Slacks,” hit No. 17 the Billboard charts in 1957. Before that, Spartanburg was known as Hub City — and many still refer to it as that today. As railroads expanded in the late 19th century, many railways intersected in and around Spartanburg.

There’s a lot to do in Spartanburg, especially with kids.

Good morning!

It seems cliché to call Mon Amie Morning Café a quaint café, but it really is. Warm yellow walls accentuated with a black-and-white checkered floor and toile window treatments really pulls off the look and feel of a French cafe. The cooks and some of the wait staff even wear berets.

Get a seat at the bar and the kids can watch crepes being made. Mon Amie is kid-friendly, and has a great menu of French toast, pancakes and, of course, crepes. Definitely get the sausage link. It’s huge and very flavorful.

Free mini golf

Nestled between two brick buildings just off of Main Street is a new nine-hole mini-golf course celebrating South Carolina and Spartanburg. There’s no charge to play at Sparkle City Mini Putt, but bring your own ball and putter or borrow one from one of a handful of businesses within walking distance of the course.

There’s an information mailbox that contains maps showing the location of the businesses. Only Dottie’s Toffee is open on Sundays. There’s no charge to borrow gear; you just have to leave your driver’s license as collateral.

Sweet treat

A visit to Dottie’s Toffee is like stepping back in time to the 1950s. It’s not quite a soda shop, but they do have ice cream for a post-mini-golf treat on a warm day, and hot chocolate for a chilly one.

Dottie’s milk chocolate and dark chocolate toffee is sold at Whole Foods and other posh places all up and down the East Coast, as well as in Kansas, Texas and Tennessee — all of it made right there in the kitchen on West Main Street in Spartanburg.

Back to nature

Hatcher Gardens are beautiful in the fall and winter; I can only imagine what they must look like in the spring and summer. When we were there, pretty much every other group in the garden was there with a professional photographer having family photos taken. Paved paths are stroller friendly. Grab a flier at the shelter next to the parking lot for a map of the different paths through the park.

You can go

Mon Amie Morning Café

Sparkle City Mini Putt

Dottie’s Toffee

Hatcher Garden