Often referred to as The Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach has been attracting families seeking a value beach vacation for years. In fact, it’s the most popular family beach destination on the East Coast, with more than 15 million visitors each year. But behind the high rise condos, mega souvenir shops and kitsch lies a quality destination with a huge array of activities available for every budget and taste.
Of course the beach is the biggest draw and the twelve communities that make up the Myrtle Beach area boast more than 60 miles of sand and surf. The beaches are wide, well maintained and each has its own vibe. Pawley’s Island at the southernmost end has a laid back atmosphere and is one of the oldest summer resorts along the East Coast. It’s also the only beach that allows dogs year round at any time (other area beaches restrict dogs during summer). Surfside, Litchfield and Garden City Beach are a little quieter and more geared to families with small children, while central Myrtle Beach (between 2nd Avenue South and 21st Avenue North) is near the boardwalk in the heart of the city and within walking distance to restaurants, shops and restrooms.
Myrtle Beach’s most recent attraction (it opened in 2010) has already received many accolades and is the newest boardwalk in the United States. The oceanfront boardwalk and promenade spans 1.2 miles and is lined with shops and attractions on the north end and has “revitalized” downtown Myrtle Beach. The new Myrtle Beach Skywheel rises 200 feet above the boardwalk and offers spectacular views from the air-conditioned gondolas. At night the Skywheel is lit up with millions of LED lights. Future plans to expand the walkway to 4.6 miles would make it the world’s longest boardwalk.
Broadway at the Beach
Broadway at the Beach is a destination in its own right. Don’t let the name fool you though, it’s 1.5 miles inland from the beach. It’s the largest festival entertainment complex in South Carolina with over 350 acres, three theaters, 23 restaurants and more than 100 shops. It even has a 23-acre lake in the middle. You could easily spend a day or two zip-lining across the lake or wandering through Pavilion Nostalgia Park where there is a collection of classic amusement rides, including a 1912 carousel.
There’s also Ripley’s Aquarium, South Carolina’s most visited attraction. Kids will love the moving pathway through the “Dangerous Reef” where they can see stingrays, sea turtles and lots of sharks. Wonderworks is another popular attraction at Broadway at the Beach. It’s an upside-down 40,000 square foot hands-on-science attraction. Visitors can find out what it’s like to be in an earthquake or hurricane, fly a NASA space shuttle or ride a virtual rollercoaster.
If that’s not enough, there’s also MagiQuest where after selecting a magic wand, participants are quickly trained as “Magi,” allowing them to set off lightning bolts, control music, open treasure chests and perform heroic deeds. MaqiQuest even spills out into other areas of Broadway at the Beach, with quests located throughout the complex.
Myrtle Beach is the seaside Golf Capital of the World and it’s easy to see why. Over 100 of the most unique, challenging and picturesque golf courses in the world are located here making it a premiere destination for golf enthusiasts. One-third of the Myrtle Beach area’s golf courses are rated with four-stars or higher in Golf Digest’s “Places to Play” and golfers can experience oceanfront holes or stand in the midst of giant live oaks draped in Spanish moss on courses designed by world-renowned architects such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and others. Local favorites are The Dunes, True Blue Plantation, Grande Dunes, Pine Lakes and Barefoot Resort & Golf.
If mini-golf is more your speed, you won’t be disappointed either. Myrtle Beach has over 50 miniature golf courses available. Dragon’s Lair Fantasy Golf, Hawaiian Rumble, Mt. Atlanticus, Jungle Lagoon and Jurassic Golf round out the top five favorite local picks.
When the sun goes down, the attention turns to night life. In addition to hundreds of bars and restaurants, the Myrtle Beach area boasts more than nine live theatres featuring everything from Pirates to magicians to variety shows.
The granddaddy of them all is The Carolina Opry presented by Calvin Gilmore. This theater is celebrating its 29th anniversary and has put on over 7,900 shows. Guests enjoy a variety of music, dance and comedy acts performed by professional artists including “All That!” of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
Next door to the Opry is Pirate’s Voyage. Here guests experience the wonder, excitement and spirit of the pirates who docked on the shores of Myrtle Beach. Not only does the show feature brand new music by Dolly Parton and Mark Brymer, but also includes acrobatics and live animals.
The Palace Theatre has a Masters of Illusion show featuring illusionist Rob Lake, and is a full-scale production show incorporating dancers, special effects and elaborate scenery.
Other theaters include The Alabama Theatre which features multi-talented entertainers performing America’s favorite music including country, Broadway, bluegrass and gospel, as well as comedy, dance and Legends in Concert is the greatest live, celebrity show of impersonators.
Lay of the Land and Where to Lay Your Head
There are two main roads that run through Myrtle Beach. Highway 17 business/Kings Highway is where you will find a majority of restaurants, mini-golf parks and big beachwear shops. Ocean Boulevard is where you find most of the hotels, condos, beach bars and of course beach access.
Accommodations in Myrtle Beach range from campgrounds by the ocean to high-rise condos like The Island Vista with spacious 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units’ equipped with full-size kitchens, washers and dryers and ocean view balconies and there’s something for every budget. Larger hotels have indoor lazy rivers, multiple swimming pools and restaurants onsite while smaller mom and pop motels offer value accommodations with fewer amenities.