It’s a family affair
May/Jun 2004

Above: Sunsets along Myrtle Beach bring all kinds of visitors out to the water’s edge. Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce photo

Below:The 30-year-old Myrtle Beach Pavilion remains one of the beach’s biggest family draws. Myrtle Beach Trips photo

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Myrtle Beach delivers fun for dad, mom and kids.
By Jack Cormier
The scene plays out endlessly in American households. Vacation time has come and everyone in the family has a different idea of what to do. Mom wants to go someplace cultural and civilized–she wants to see a musical and maybe visit a museum or two. The kids, well, they have different ideas. One wants to hit the theme parks–as far as she is concerned, the faster the ride, the better. The other has his sights set on the beach and maybe meeting a few new friends while he is there. And dad, he doesn’t care where the family goes this year, as long as there is a golf course or two where he can escape. If this reflects vacation planning for you, two words can solve the dilemma–Myrtle Beach.

Located smack dab in the middle of the Grand Strand–what locals call the area that runs roughly from Georgetown, S.C., to Southport, N.C.–Myrtle Beach finds a way to fulfill even the pickiest traveler’s wishes. From theme parks to musicals, tap dancing to shopping, white sandy beaches and, of course, golf, this is a town that has something for everyone. But it wasn’t always that way.

The history of Myrtle Beach dates back to before the Civil War. Rice plantations drew the first businessmen there. It wasn’t until 1901 that the Seaside Inn, the beach’s first hotel, was erected. By 1907, the still-unnamed town was becoming a popular vacation spot, due in part to the availability of beachfront lots selling for $25. It was during that same year that Addie Burroughs, the widow of prominent local developer F.G. Burroughs, won a newspaper contest to name the town, dubbing it Myrtle Beach.

In Myrtle Beach, the sun’s reflection off the rolling waves is visible blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. Parking to get to the beach can be scary at times, but thanks to the plentiful amount of public access–there is one nearly every city block–almost any parking spot amounts to a good parking spot. But the beach isn’t the only draw for visitors.

Known by many as one of the true meccas of golf, Myrtle Beach is home to 120 golf courses. And due to its mild winter climate, golf can be enjoyed year round, making it a destination for many golfers who would otherwise be snowbound.

Two of the golf jewels along the Grand Strand are Pawleys Plantation and Grand Dunes. Pawleys Plantation, about a half-hour south of Myrtle Beach, is a course with a purpose–to push a golfer to his or her limit. And who better than Jack Nicklaus to design a course to do just that? Pawleys is a unique course, especially its visually stunning par-3 13th hole.

If fortunate enough to play at Pawleys, take advantage of the Phil Ritson-Mel Sole Golf School. Rated one of the top golf schools in America, classes usually consist of three sessions. They cover everything from proper driving range practicing techniques to the best way to get out of a bunker.

Just north of Myrtle Beach is Grand Dunes, where the golf experience is paramount. Featuring one of the largest courses in the area, it boasts a unique topography, including dizzying drops and towering tee shots. But Grand Dunes is more than just a golf course, it also features a full-service clubhouse, a well-stocked pro shop, a comfortable tap room and a gourmet restaurant.

When you are through with the beach and the links, you’ve just scratched surface of things to do. Broadway on the Beach is far more than a mall, featuring 100 shops, 20 different places to eat, various types of nightlife and numerous attractions.

Smaller golfers can take to the links at Dragon’s Lair–a miniature course inside a medieval castle, complete with the requisite fire-breathing dragon.

And how many shopping locations have their own aquarium? Ripley’s Aquarium is one of the most visited locations in Myrtle Beach. Featuring both static and interactive displays, the centerpiece of the aquarium is its 330-foot long underwater tunnel, complete with moving sidewalk. It is as close as many of will ever get to a shark without getting wet.

After looking at all those sets of teeth, maybe you’d like a bite to eat. The Hard Rock Cafe, just a walk away, offers American fare mixed with rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. For a quick snack, or a good cup of coffee, try the Coffee Beanery. Another favorite, espsecially among visiting golfers, is the Murray Brothers Caddyshack, complete with a stuffed alligator.

Lose Lucy’s, a 1960s-era T-shirt store, is just one of the unique shops located here. Others to visit are Klig’s Kites, with everything from kites to joke shop items, and Illusions, a costume jewelry store. If you are still looking for more shopping, stop by Barefoot Landing and Tanger Outlet.

Fast times are just across the street in Myrtle Beach, thanks to its NASCAR Speedpark. Highlights include The Qualifier, which features race cars for the kids to drive, and ThunderRoad, a half-mile timed course with nearly scale Winston Cup race cars.

Other local theme parks include the Myrtle Waves Water Park; the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, a 30-year-old amusement park featuring a wooden rollercoaster; and Alligator Adventure, housed in Barefoot Landing.

If you’d rather see world-class entertainment, then this section of the Grand Strand has plenty to offer. From House of Blues, with its rock-centered offerings, to the Alabama Theater, run by the famous country music group, fans of either genre can have their fill. One surefire hit with the whole family is the Palace Theater’s show, Spirit of the Dance, an Irish-based, high-energy show. The Palace also has seasonal and morning show options.
Blessed with a mild climate year round, Myrtle Beach is nonstop fun.

Jack Cormier writes for AAA Going Places magazine in Tampa, Fla.

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