Plan Your Next Budget-Friendly Beach Getaway
Searching for a budget-friendly, multi-generational beach getaway, Vivian Vassos has Carolina on her mind.
Myrtle Beach is a getaway with a nostalgic appeal, long a hotspot for spring breakers, particularly in the ’60s and ’70s – as winter would roll on in Eastern Canada, families would pile into the station wagon and head to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for some good, clean and inexpensive fun.
Since, golfers of all ages have made it their go-to getaway and, based on what we saw last spring, it’s having a renaissance in these post-recessionary times with a whole new generation.
And we’ve got a history. The town’s steady love affair with Canucks began in 1961 when the city’s officials created a Canada Days festival to lure more of us during March break. It opened the annual vacation season here – a few years later it was changed to Canadian-American Days Festival – and it still does.
Here, a few more reasons why 100,000 snowbirds, grandparents and grandkids from Canada visit every year.
Tip Can-Am Days feature free concerts, golfing events and more wallet-friendly incentives for Canucks. www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/things-to-do/events/can-am-days/
Myrtle Beach is the mini golf capital of the U.S., with block after block of themed courses: pirate adventures, dinosaur encounters and in North Myrtle Beach, Hawaiian Rumble Golf, home of the U.S. Pro Mini Golf tourney. The mini golf Masters was held there in October 2011. We played the same course as the pros! www.prominigolf.com
For a full-scale 18 hole golf course, try the lush links of the Dunes Golf and Beach Club. Designed in the 1940s by newcomer and now legend Robert Trent Jones, it’s consistently ranked by golf magazines as a top-100 course in the U.S. The view of the Atlantic Ocean along the fairways is truly breathtaking. www.thedunesclub.net; www.myrtlebeachgolf.com
Tip: Tee times are less expensive Monday through Thursday; booking a time in the afternoon rather than the more popular morning slots can also result in savings.
If it’s a rainy day, Myrtle Beach has some interesting indoor experiences. Broadway at the Beach is home to Wonderworks Science Centre, a place that is so wacky that the exterior appears to be upside down. Guests can geek out by lying on a bed of 3,500 nails, play laser tag or even build a roller coaster using a computer program and then actually ride it in a simulator afterward. If science is not your thing, you can also find Ripley’s Aquarium and Magiquest at Broadway at the Beach. www.wonderworksonline.com/myrtle-beach
In 2010, the city spent $6.5 million to revitalize the Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade, a good old Americana way to get some shopping, grab a quick bite or try out some after-dark attractions. The shopping on the boardwalk is a unique experience, full of cool head shops (especially if Grandpa was a hippie!) sporting merchandise of stars such as Johnny Cash and Elvis, along with more recent celebs. In the centre of the action is the Sky Wheel, a massive Ferris wheel that reaches 196 feet into the sky, giving riders a flawless view of the town, its Grand Strand (about 60 miles of sandy beachfront) and the Atlantic beyond. www.themyrtlebeachskywheel.com
Tip: Make sure you pick up a copy of Visit Myrtle Beach, the official visitors guide, which is loaded with money-saving coupons, sometimes for up to six people.
The best crab soup in town can be found at the 50-year-old Sea Captains House. And don’t be surprised if a lovely group of mature ladies stands up mid-meal and serenades the dining room, which has views of the ocean. The Sweet Adelines chorus is from neighbouring Columbia. Rumour has it they drive in just for the crab soup. A menu that features a bounty of seafood dishes all for under $30 can’t hurt either. www.seacaptains.com (Want to try it at home? Go to www.everythingzoomer.com/crab-soup-recipe to make it.)
If you’re a foodie, chef Curry Martin’s Aspen Grille might suit your high-fallutin’ tastebuds. This is the place to go for the North Carolina native’s sophisticated take on southern food (shrimp and grits are paired with Andouille sausage and cheddar cheese – yum!), with most main courses ringing in at $35 or less. Not bad for an Open Table Diner’s Choice and Trip Advisor award of Excellence winner. www.aspen-grille.com
If You Go
Stay Island Vista. This all-suites hotel has big, spacious rooms with full kitchens, large living/dining rooms and big balconies with views of the Atlantic and direct beach access. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools mean that there’s always water play included, whatever the weather. 855-732-6250; www.islandvista.com
Play In summer months, many courses offer a kids-golf-for-free option with a paying adult.
Fly Porter Airlines has seasonal flights via Toronto that commenced in mid-February through late May, www.flyporter.com. WestJet has introduced seasonal flights also via Toronto, which begin in May 1, 2014, www.westjet.com
Tip: If you live in Southern Ontario, try Spirit Airlines out of Niagara Falls, N.Y. It’s just over the Canadian-U.S. border and because only Spirit and Allegiant fly out of this small airport, checking in and security is a breeze. Prices are extremely reasonable, even with the exchange rate, although there are some baggage fees and restrictions, so best to check before you fly. www.spiritair.com
Zoomer magazine, March 2014