10 things to love about Myrtle Beach

Sure, the winters are mild and snow is a rare sight — but the weather isn’t the only thing that’s warm in Myrtle Beach. True to the traditions of Southern hospitality, the city and surrounding area has been gaining popularity with travellers seeking some sun and fun — and great value. Though the permanent population is smaller than many tourist hotspots, the “Grand Strand” welcomes upwards of 14 million visitors each year — many of them Canadians.

So why all the attention? If you’re planning your next getaway, here are some reasons to head south.

10 reasons to love Myrtle Beach

Golf. Let’s start with the obvious: Myrtle Beach is famous for its links, and over 3.1 million rounds of golf are played on its 102 courses each year. Beautiful and challenging, the courses have been designed by some big names including masters like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert — there are many places to take lessons whether you want to get started or improve your game. Watch for golf packages at hotels and resorts.

Of course, mini-golf fans won’t be left out with 50 courses to get their game on.

Shopping. With the Canadian dollar hovering around par with the U.S. greenback, the many shopping opportunities are even more attractive. There’s something to suit every style and taste, from boardwalk promenades and upscale boutiques to malls and factory outlets (some 300 of them, in fact).

And when all that shopping makes you hungry, you’ll find many tasty restaurants and cafes along the way to recharge — or stop by the local farmers’ market to fill up your grocery bag.

The beaches. What would a sunshine getaway be without sandy beaches and pristine waters? There’s a good reason for Myrtle Beach’s name — here you’ll find 60 miles of coastline, which means plenty of places for relaxing, swimming and surfing. The area is also home to two state parks, the Myrtle Beach State Park and the Huntington Beach State Park. In addition to water sports and camping, you can also explore acres of parkland with educational nature programs.

The ocean. If you prefer to get out on the water rather than get in it, there are year round opportunities for fishing, canoeing and boating. Hop a jet ski or banana boat for some excitement, or catch the view from on high with a parasailing excursion. Rent a sailboat, or take to the seas to watch the dolphins play.

If relaxation is what you’re after, a river cruise will do the trick. For some adults-only playtime, try your luck on a casino cruise or enjoy the skies on a sunset cruise.

Attractions for all ages. If you’re travelling with the kids or grandkids in tow — or you’re simply young at heart — you’ll enjoy the family-friendly attractions the area has to offer. For roller coaster and Ferris wheel style fun, try the Family Kingdom Amusement Park. The Children’s Museum of South Carolina is a hit for both adults and their young companions, and WonderWorks is one of the area’s more recent draws. And believe it or not, Ripley’s is in town with a Believe it or Not Museum, Aquarium, Haunted Adventure and Marvellous Mirror Maze.

History and culture. Myrtle Beach isn’t just a place to play — get in touch with the area’s roots with a visit to any of its historic homes or museums. For instance, there’s the Hopsewee and Litchfield Plantations – coastal rice plantations dating back to the eighteenth century. The Rice Museum offers a look at the area’s history before the Civil War, and the Horry County Museum features historical and regional exhibits in addition to shows by local artists.

Vintage car enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Wheels of Yesteryear – an attraction dedicated to restored classic cars and trucks. Keep your eyes peeled for the “winged warriors” and nostalgia drag cars.

The nightlife. There’s still plenty going on when the sun goes down. With 7 live entertainment theatres, there’s something for every interest from music to comedy. One of the most notable is the Carolina Opry where you can enjoy a variety of musical entertainment from country and gospel to pop and jazz. Catch a concert at the Alabama Theatre, or enjoy le Grand Cirque at the Palace Theater. Before you go, you’ll want to chow down at one of the over 1700 local restaurants — many of which serve up the local specialty: the seafood.

If you’re in the mood to dance instead, Myrtle Beach also has a thriving nightlife scene. Don’t forget the sports clubs and beachfront spots too.

Special events and festivals. Load up the event calendar and you’ll likely notice there’s always something going on from local festivals to sports events. Some of the highlights include the CAN-AM Days, Rivertown Jazz Festival, the Sun Fun Festival and the Festival of Trees. Bike rallies, marathons and top sporting events are also a big draw.

Don’t worry if you’re watching your travel budget closely: Many events are free.

The variety of accommodations. No matter what your preference, you’ll find the ideal place to get a good night’s sleep. Sure, there are 425 hotels, motels and resorts — but there are also condos, cottages, campsites, bed and breakfasts, beach homes and resorts.

Many of the hotels also cater to the four-legged members of the family too, and city has a pair of “Barc Parcs” to take your pet for some playtime. From Labour Day to the end of April, dogs are allowed on the beaches anytime of day.

Tips for your trip

– Consider off-season deals. There are many promotions and packages available from November to March when temperatures — and prices — cool off. The 13-21 degrees Celsius ranges (about 56-69 degrees Fahrenheit) may be on the cool side for swimming and sunbathing, but there’s still plenty to do outdoors and in. It’s not unusual to find deals for around $50 USD per night — that’s half the price you’ll find in Florida.

As you might expect from an Atlantic coast city, the rainiest and hottest months are July through September, but April and October offer warmer temperatures without the humidity. (See Weather2Travel.com’s Climate Guide for Myrtle Beach for details.)

– Download the discounts. There are coupons for just about everything, including attractions, excursions, restaurants, golf and shopping. (There’s a full list of printable coupons here.) Another option is to purchase the Discover Myrtle Beach VIP Discount Card for $10-15 USD – but check out the list first to make sure you’ll make good use of the deals.

– Know before you go. The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce website has photo galleries, maps, videos and an online itinerary planning tool to help you plan your trip. DiscoverMyrtleBeach.com also has podcasts, virtual tours and area webcams in its Interactive Media section.

– Thinking of a road trip? If you live in Quebec or Ontario it’s a drivable distance if you have the time to spare. Myrtle Beach is roughly 1500 km (932 miles) from Toronto or just over 1900 km (1200 miles) from Quebec City. Another 780 km (485 miles) puts you in Orlando, Florida.

If you prefer to fly, Myrtle Beach has its own international airport with direct flights from Toronto, but you may be able to save some cash by hopping across the border to depart from Detroit or Niagara Falls, NY.

In addition, you can order the Official Myrtle Beach Area Vacation Guide here.

Additional source: Yahoo Travel

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Andrew F Kazmierski

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