South Carolina's Grand Strand sizzles with excitement in summer. If you like your fun supersized and love to watch the great ocean of humanity, then Myrtle Beach is for you.
Find Your Spot on Friday
Your first priority should be to get where you're going to stay, and then plop those lounge chairs on some sand. Lodging can be cheaper if you're not surfside, but there's a lot to be said for being able to walk out of your room and onto the beach, especially on a traffic-snarled summer weekend.
One of the best beachside stays is Kingston Plantation--A Hilton and Embassy Suites Resort with a planned-community feel. It isn't cheap--a one-bedroom in one of their three oceanfront condo towers can set you back $219-$279; 1-800-876-0010. Less expensive but plainer beachfront stays include the Long Bay Resort. Efficiencies are $79-$141; 1-800-593-1519.
In town, there's a Hampton Inn on the shores of the manmade lake at Broadway at the Beach, one of the most popular shopping spots in the area. Rooms are $149; 1-888-916-2001.
The mind-boggling number of places to stay is outdone only by the number of restaurants. If you're near Broadway at the Beach, go for a burger ($7.59-$8.50) at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Restaurant Row along U.S. 17 on the north end of Myrtle Beach is the preferred place to dine. For sheer shock value, drop anchor at The Original Benjamin's Calabash Seafood. The 170-item seafood buffet ($23.95) features about every ocean-dwelling critter you've ever craved, as well as the usual salad, soup, and coleslaw; (843) 449-0821.
For most visitors, it just wouldn't be Myrtle Beach without going to The Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park. Sure, there are more high-tech rides at other theme parks, but there are two things about The Pavilion that will never be outdated: location and exhilaration. Plus, you won't want to get much more exciting than their 55-m.p.h., 110-foot-high Hurricane roller coaster.
Surf and Turf on Saturday
You know the drill: Stake your claim early on the beach. Even if you venture off for a bit, you've reserved a spot you can come back to.
By afternoon, the beach can get a bit too hot for comfort. Don't stray too far from the water, though: Cool off at Ripley's Aquarium, located at Broadway at the Beach. Our favorite part is the long tunnel that runs through the big tank. If you're the touchy-feely type, there are a few separate touch pools, where visitors can get their feel of spiny critters such as sea urchins, horseshoe crabs, and stingrays. In summer, children may want to check out the Marine Science Camps; (843) 916-0888.
Head for dinner at Greg Norman's Australian Grille restaurant. Superb wines, including some reds and whites from the golfer's vineyards, complement wood-grilled Australian and Mediterranean delights such as the pepper-crusted grouper ($22.95); (843) 361-0000.
For a different dining option, try one of Myrtle Beach's many dinner theaters. We're partial to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner and Show. There's just something about 32 thundering horses that gets your heart racing; call 1-800-433-4401 for show times and prices.
Although the Grand Strand abounds with championship, full-size golf courses, it's almost as well-known for the preponderance of miniature golf courses (46 at last count). Our favorite has to be the Dragon's Lair Fantasy Golf course at Broadway at the Beach, where a dragon rises from a castle tower and spews fire.
As with most popular summer spots, Myrtle Beach has an abundance of outlet-style shopping complexes and superstores. In addition to Broadway at the Beach, there's Tanger Outlet Center and Myrtle Beach Factory Stores, with more shops popping up all the time.
Have a late lunch or early dinner at Capt. Dave's Dockside, about 12 miles south of town at Murrells Inlet. It's worth the short drive. You could make a meal out of the bacon-wrapped shrimp appetizer ($7.25), but then you wouldn't be able to enjoy the crab cakes with rémoulade sauce ($18.95); (843) 651-5850.
If you're leaving town tomorrow, here's your last chance to hang out on the beach. You might be surprised at how much less crowded it gets later in the day, but especially as the sun sets. In summer, that happens later than any other season. Time just seems to go by faster when you're having fun.
For more information Contact the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, 1-800-356-3016 or www.myrtlebeachinfo.com.
This article is from the June 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.