When it comes to vacation there are more options than there are days of the year. But if you're looking for a great laid-back mini-getaway and call the Southeast home, a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. may be the answer for you. Even in the winter, getting away to the beach can be a great, off-season option.
After spending three days up close with Myrtle Beach early this year, I found a host of fun activities and events. I didn't have the chance to see everything during my trip there with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, but here are eight of the things I did worth mentioning.
Note: Military families if you’re on a budget—this is an affordable family vacation, though some of the attractions are older, some a bit overpriced and touristy, and the overall experience average. It’s more of a place to hang out at the beach, get some much needed R&R, and find a few worthwhile things to compliment your days.
8 Fun Stops at Myrtle BeachAspen Grille: If you’re looking for a charming place to dine this is it. The overall ambiance was warm and inviting. The food was commonplace but the portions were just right and food presentations original. The extensive wine list was impressive. If you do order some, request (server) Wayne -- he pours wine in an unusual way. Also, be sure to try their signature peach martini -- the texture and blend of ingredients were quite good. The hospitality and service is the best thing about this restaurant. It's a decent dinner and nice outing if you’re on a budget.
Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar: If you’re more interested in an evening hangout spot (and not necessarily great food), then this maybe more up your alley. The Italian-American cuisine wasn’t that good (my dish was too oily and lacked flavor). However, my companions insisted that the Sinatra Chicken and Pasta Mia Noma were worth it. Jazz and rock and pop band U&I performs live on Friday nights -- the husband and wife duo creates a cool vibe for diners. Be sure to try the Friday special: a glass of wine and appetizers for just $8. This is cool for single service member looking for a taste of local nightlife (although one resident said it was still too touristy for his taste).
Wonderworks Science Center: This is one of the more memorable places for kids. A visit includes day-passes through the entire experience wasn’t riveting enough for more than a few hours (this is truly for kids). There aren’t military discounts but it’s a nice science lesson for curious children. Kids can create life-sized bubbles in the bubble lab, lie on a bed of 3,497 nails, or ride an Extreme 360 bike (the harder you pedal the faster you complete a 360-degree loop); and, you’ll be upside down in midair so don’t eat a large meal beforehand. There are laser tag games and an indoor rope course challenge that sits atop the open arcade. Some of the other attractions are basic and a few a bit routine and not really worth more than a passing glance. The building itself, an upside-down, tilted creation is super cool.
Skywheel: The 20-story high, one-million-LED lit creation is the tallest ride on the eastern coastline. The plush comfort of the more than 40 gondola cabins (some with glass bottoms), makes up for the frequent stop-and-go cycle to load and unload passengers. It also affords opportunities for cool pictures of where the sky meets the Atlantic Ocean, and great views of a meandering coastline that stretches beyond the horizon. Visit just before sunset and watch the wheel light up as the sun descends. This attraction offer military discounts but they vary and must be purchased onsite. The experience is typical but if you visit it’s worth seeing.
NASCAR racing experience at the Myrtle Beach Speedway: Here’s your chance to either drive a real NASCAR car or be a passenger in a ride-along. Dress in a genuine racing jumpsuit and let your own personal racing instructor guide you around the track via your helmet’s headset. At $199.99 for a 5-minute session or $69.99 for a 3-lap ride-along, the speedway is pricey and doesn’t have a military discount. And because of the length of the track, speedway officials don’t allow driving over 90 mph or any kind of actual racing. But if your dream has always been to drive a real race car, then this is a must-do for you.
Market Commons: This intimate village-like shopping area (2-3 blocks at most) is home to the unique Devo Olive Oil Co., (which also has organic cold-press varieties). There are classics such as Anthropologie, and southern favorites Ivy & Leo and Bijuju—a jewelry, scarf, and handbag bonanza of earrings, pashminas, pearls, pocketbooks, hair accessories and more. However, those are among the better highlights. The Commons consist mostly of quaint, smaller shops—some pricey and many you can find nearer home (like Victoria Secret, William-Sonoma, Chico’s and Pottery Barn). There aren’t military discounts here either, but if you’re a MilSos that’s into trinkets and souvenirs you’re sure to find something. A few of the clothing stores have some interesting selections but many literally have random items that don’t seem to fit the retail’s motif (on the other hand, that means there’s sure to a little something for every woman).
The Carolina Opry: The show at The Calvin Gilmore Theatre has some really cool performances by such acts as LaToya London (American Idol), all male-band “All That” (America’s Got Talent), and songstress/actress Christie Templeton. The song, comedy and dance show is 28-year-old and 2-hours long, and includes Blue Grass music, selections from Les Miserables, Whitney Huston, and other classics. While some of the acts are outdated though it’s a wholesome sampling of southern culture. Other events include The Good Vibrations Show, the Light Laser Extravaganza and the Carolina Opry Christmas Special. No military discounts to be had here, but the night we attended, a patriotic dedication at the show’s end honored all service members … and there were scores and scores of veterans (from WWII to Afghanistan) in attendance.
The Warbird Park: The Market Commons, a portion of the Myrtle Beach Airport and this park were built on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. This tiny park (you might miss it if you drive too fast), is dedicated to the men and women of the Air Force and their families. There’s a memorial to all armed forces veterans who were wounded in all wars, a Valor in Combat wall of service (1941-1993), and former fighter planes from the old base. The F-100D Super Sabre, the A-7D Corsair II, and the A-10 Thunderbolt are on display (from the 354th Tatical Fighter Wing (1957). There’s also a Warrior Sculpture dedication to those with PTSD. It’s a free park and the coolest part is you can touch the planes and read about its historic and adventures. It’s worthwhile if only it’s to pause and remember those who have gone before.
Note: Corrine received an all-expense paid press trip to Myrtle Beach from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce with no expectation of a favorable review. All opinions and views are her own.