Recreation and Entertainment in Darlington County
One of Darlington County’s best known entertainment attractions is Darlington Raceway. Host to the Southern 500, considered by many to be NASCAR’s greatest contest, Darlington Raceway has seen names like Pearson, Yarborough, Petty and Earnhardt grace Victory Lane. Darlington Raceway is an active community partner, hosting or participating in numerous local events every year. In addition, it is a major economic driver for the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, generating over $54 million of economic impact for the area every year.
Aside from NASCAR, Darlington County and its communities provide a variety of entertainment options to its residents and visitors. Popular events include the South Carolina Sweet Potato Festival and frequent Main Street Hartsville’s Downtown Block Parties, which consistently attract large crowds. The city of Darlington presents the area’s largest free fireworks display, Freedom Fest, around Independence day at the Darlington Raceway with live music, a car cruise in and kids carnival.
For a more contemplative kind of recreation, Kalmia Gardens of Coker College in Hartsville features 56 acres of thriving botanical attractions. A beautiful boardwalk runs down to and along Black Creek, a sensory garden, an herb garden and a memory garden. The gardens border the 700-acre Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve. Combined, the gardens and preserve cover an area almost as large as New York’s Central Park, earning Hartsville the nickname, “The Park with the City in It.”
Also accessible from Kalmia Gardens is the Sawyer Bike Path. The tree-lined path extends from just west of Kalmia Gardens and winds through the woods bordering the gardens and through a residential area before ending in downtown Hartsville.
Byerly Park, located in the city of Hartsville, is a 93-acre multi-use recreation complex that features many outdoor sports venues, including five soccer fields, four softball/baseball fields, a 400-meter eight-lane track and field facility, two football fields and six tennis courts. For more leisurely recreation, the park has a 1.2 mile walking, jogging, and biking trail, a picnic area, 12 horseshoe pits, and two playgrounds. The Coach TB Thomas Sports Center is also located on the property, offering indoor activities like basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, and a fitness center.
Byerly Park also has a water splash park, Piratesville Splash Pad, which features water jets, water cannons, dumping buckets and water slides. In 2018, the City of Hartsville opened a waterpark expansion project, Neptune Island Waterpark, that includes the Piratesville Splash Pad. The new waterpark hosts a capacity of 1,300 visitors, more than eight times the former Splash Pad. Guests enjoy more waterpark features, including a 1,000-foot lazy river, a zero entry pool, a wave pool, a speed body slide, a pair of tubular water slides and three mat racing slides. Cabana rentals, party huts, and food trucks make the new waterpark a celebrated destination for residents and visitors from throughout the region
Williamson Park in Darlington features five miles of nature trails, a three-mile boardwalk, and a variety of birds, plants and trees, making it a great place for hiking, picnicking, or studying nature.
Society Hill’s Lake Darpo is a nature-based park with a 20-acre lake as its centerpiece. In addition to fishing and boating, Lake Darpo features an RV campsite, picnic shelters, a playground, and pedal boats for both campers and day visitors to enjoy. It also features a renovated clubhouse that is a popular venue for weddings and reunions.
Historically Significant Attractions
Located in downtown Hartsville, the Hartsville Museum features both permanent and traveling exhibits that focus on the history of Hartsville and the Pee Dee area. Housed in a 1930s post office building, the museum boasts a permanent collection of Native American artifacts found along the Pee Dee River, and the 1899 Locomobile Steam Car, the first automobile in South Carolina. The museum also has a Sculpture Courtyard, which features different types of sculpture.
Coker Experimental Farms in Hartsville was founded in the early 1900s by David R. Coker. Coker’s Pedigreed Seed Company developed new, improved varieties of crop seeds and the first cotton breeding program in the United States. A replica of the site’s original dairy barn houses exhibits that depict the company’s impact on Southern agriculture. Coker Experimental Farms is now a National Historic Landmark, one of only 14 representing the agricultural industry in the country.
The Cotton Trail is a heritage corridor showcasing the impact of cotton on the rural South. Stretching some ninety miles from 1-20 to 1-95, it links Bishopville, Hartsville, Society Hill, Cheraw and Bennettsville, as well as the smaller communities of Clio and Blenheim. Sites along the trail include museums, gardens, historic homes, working cotton fields, and working cotton gins.