Travon Banks, a guide with Greenville Glides, leads the way on a Segway tour of Greenville’s downtown, Falls Park and West End.
Photo by Sergio Loaiza
Ranked by Forbes as one of “America’s Ten Best,” Greenville’s spectacular downtown is full of history, public art, restaurants and shops. While it’s a walkable city, exploring it by Segway is one of the best ways to see the sights.
Greenville Glides offers guided tours using the self-balancing, two-wheeled scooters as a novel means of transportation. Learning how to ride a Segway—no previous experience required—is part of the fun and surprisingly easy.
“It’s the same idea as skiing,” says John Vaughn, a native of Greenville and my guide. “You want to remain loose from the waist down.”
To stay in balance mode, you have to lean forward slightly, which takes a little courage. Shifting between your heels and toes is the secret to controlling speed. With knees bent, pulling back slows the Segway to a stop, and leaning left and right controls turning.
To gauge each rider’s skill and confidence, Vaughn requires a few test laps before the tour. After watching a required safety video, strapping on a helmet and getting a final bit of coaching on sidewalk etiquette, we’re off.
Vaughn and other guides infuse each 90-minute tour of West End and Falls River with local history and stops at various monuments and art installations. Gliding down the tree-lined sidewalks, we receive smiles and friendly waves along the way. The Segway has a small footprint, about shoulder width, which makes it easy to navigate around pedestrians, through doorways and down paths, and on one of our first stops, we ride right up to Il Porcellino, a replica of the famous 17th-century fountain in Florence, Italy.
After stops that include the historic 1925 Poinsett Hotel—named for Joel Poinsett, a U.S. ambassador to Mexico who was first to bring the poinsettia to the United States—we cross the Reedy River Bridge to explore old textile mills transformed into retail shops, restaurants and artists’ galleries.
Spinning toward the West End, we glide around Fluor Field, home to the Greenville Drive, a Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A must-see attraction on this portion of the tour is the bronze statue of local hero and baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Then we pick up speed—Segways top out at 12 miles per hour—as we begin the return leg, rolling behind West End Market for a peek at a 12-foot, red, translucent sculpture created by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, before vectoring back toward Main Street.
By now, I’m feeling confident enough in my Segway-handling skills to carefully navigate around groups of young children searching for the nine bronze mice hiding throughout downtown. A public art installation, Mice on Main was created to encourage exploration of downtown, and Vaughn often challenges his guests to see how many they can spot. The mobility of the Segway makes mouse hunting a cinch, and it helps that my guide knows every location by heart.
“That one is the most difficult one to find,” he says, pointing to a bronze mouse tucked in its hiding place.
While you won’t burn many calories exploring Greenville by Segway, you will burn through close to 250 years of fascinating history and get a great orientation to the city.
Greenville Glides is located at 233 North Main St., in the heart of downtown.
HOURS: The popular 90-minute tours of West End and Falls Park depart at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily. Tours can be booked in advance at greenvillesegwaytours.com, and guests are required to check in 30 minutes prior to their scheduled time.
PRICE: $60 per person for West End and Falls Park Segway tours.
DETAILS: Call (864) 214-0119 or visit greenvillesegwaytours.com.