Regardless of the reason that brought us to South Carolina’s Grand Strand, there’s one common activity on our “to do” list. Sure, getting to the edge of the continent and eating some of the area’s great seafood is certainly on the agenda. However, what we’re talking about here is shopping. It’s hard to imagine any shopping destination shining brighter than the Myrtle Beach area.

Shopping malls with major store anchors, no problem. Quaint areas with unusual specialty shops, that’s certainly available. Outlet malls with hundreds of stores, take your choice of two. There’s more than one shopping, dining and entertainment complex here. Don’t forget the beachwear stores that only seem to be on every corner. The sports enthusiast is not forgotten with five huge golf/tennis choices and the leading outdoor adventure store.

Where to begin shopping is about as challenging as what to buy. Let’s begin our shopping journey with a look at some of the large special interest stores and dispel a myth. The two mega golf stores in North Myrtle Beach are the PGA Superstore and Golf Dimensions. These two stores and the area’s newest addition, Golfsmith, have locations in Myrtle Beach, too. Conveniently placed between the two communities at the Myrtle Beach Mall is the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. Here’s where we dispel the myth! There are more major brand men’s, women’s and kids casual clothing and accessories than what you’d find in some major department stores.

Now that we’ve pinpointed special interest stores, let’s make room for the shopping bags and begin our trek in North Myrtle Beach. Quite a few of the events that take place off the beach happen on North Myrtle Beach’s Main Street. Festivals, concerts and parades are all part of the story. Here in the home of South Carolina’s state dance, the shag, you’ll find some charming specialty shops. In fact, at one stop we can find all of our shagging music and dancing shoes. We’ll certainly find beachwear and souvenirs. The men and women’s boutiques have smart fashions, and, as you’d expect, there’s a gift shop that’s sure to have exactly what we want.

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Situated between the Intracoastal Waterway and Highway 17 South in North Myrtle Beach sits Barefoot Landing, the area’s original mix of shopping, dining, entertainment and nightlife. With 16 restaurants including Greg Norman’s Australian Grille Waterfront Restaurant and the Flying Fish Public Market & Grill, we’ll find something to please every palate. And there’s much to do when the sun goes down.

Opened in 1993, Alabama Theatre brings live entertainment with ONE The Show, regular celebrity appearances and the South’s Grandest Christmas Show. Gaylord Entertainment, no stranger to the bright lights of show business, produces these award-winning signature shows. The Guest Artist Concert Series brings in top touring acts weekly. Of course, nightlife and great food are alive at the House of Blues. Both venues have outstanding gift shops.

We came to Barefoot Landing to shop, and there is an abundance of specialty stores that are sure to fit any style. From accessories, apparel and gift shops to jewelry, shoes and more, those perfect finds are waiting for us. With plenty of places to eat and entertainment filled with memories in addition to shops, let’s plan to spend more than a few hours at Barefoot Landing.

Talk about convenience, just south of Barefoot Landing at the intersection of Highway 17 and 22 is the Myrtle Beach Mall, which offers a perfect blend of retailers you’ll certainly recognize and some intriguing specialty shops. In addition to Belk’s Men and Belk’s Women, Books-a-Million and JC Penney, you’ll find Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works and Hallmark. Islamorada Fish Company at the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World and Ruby Tuesday are good lunch or dinner stops.

You might be asking, “When are we ever going to get to our first outlet mall?” Right now! Almost directly across the highway and with easy access from the Myrtle Beach Mall is Tanger Outlet Highway 17 N. This is one of two Tanger Outlets in the Myrtle Beach area. If one is good, then two must be great. Both offer group services for 15 or more. They’ll provide us a meet & greet, a complimentary coupon book, merchandise rewards at host stores and a gift card bonus if we stay a minimum of one hour. Of course, we’re staying for more than an hour. There are 100 stores at each Tanger location, including Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, OshKosh B’gosh and Old Navy Outlet, to name a few.

You’re probably getting the picture that the Myrtle Beach area is a shopping mecca, but we still haven’t gotten to the area’s largest shopping-dining-entertainment complex, or the largest enclosed mall. And let’s not forget the area’s specialty shops and theater gift shops. We’ll check them out in just a few minutes, but let’s get to the big one first.

We really can spend a full day (or even two!) visiting Broadway at the Beach. Checking out the website prior to arrival for valuable coupons is a good idea. Upon arrival let’s stop at the Visitor Center to get a welcome greeting and map to plot our shopping strategy.

When ready to take a break from exploring the 75 shops, there are plenty of restaurants (24!) offering everything from hot dogs to sushi. Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood and Landry’s Seafood, among others, welcome groups. We’re not going to go hungry, and we certainly will not be lacking entertainment options. In addition to a dozen spots to listen to live music, comedy and karaoke, Broadway at the Beach is home to two live entertainment theaters.

The Palace Theatre Myrtle Beach is host to Hot Jersey Nights, a walk down memory lane with the Four Seasons and their perfect harmonies. Also new are Illusions of Magic, an amazing show for all ages, and Jersey Nights Christmas Special. Legends in Concert Myrtle Beach features the “World’s Greatest Live Tribute Show.” A live band and dancers back up tributes from today and yesterday. Enjoy both theaters’ gift shops.

The Carolina Opry has entertained groups for 28 years, and today it’s hard to choose between the four fabled shows in this single theater – The Carolina Opry, The Good Vibrations Show, The Carolina Opry Christmas special and LIGHT See the Music. CDs from cast members along with photos and souvenirs, T-shirts and hats capture the memories.

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament offers an entertaining evening of skills demonstrated by knights in the Battle of Champions. The feast alone is reason enough for our visit. It’s a four-course meal fit for a king and his majesty’s court. Like me, though, your favorite cast members just might be the magnificent stallions. Yes, we’ll have time for the gift shop.

I’d be happy to share a few tales of pirates along the Carolina coast, but it’s better to see them in action. We’re headed to Pirates Voyage Dinner Attraction to witness two competing pirate camps battle for lost treasure. All the action takes place on the deck of their pirate ship, in the 15-foot-deep lagoon and above the ship. Regardless of the victor, we will enjoy a delicious four-course feast. The soup is delicious and it’s available in the gift shop. Do not leave the building without some.

Hang on to your seats—we still have two more shopping stops.

We’ll find the Myrtle Beach area’s largest indoor mall—Coastal Grand Mall—on the south end. With Dillard’s and Belk serving as anchors and JC Penney, Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods as the supporting cast, will we need more? Absolutely. My favorite, Jos. A. Bank, is there along with Abercrombie & Fitch, Lane Bryant, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ethan Allen, La-Z-Boy Galleries, Men’s Wearhouse and a host of other national brands and local specialty stores. After shopping hard, we’re going to be hungry. Do we eat at the area’s largest food court, or do we dine at one of the restaurants adjacent to the mall? We’re sure to find something to please every appetite.

What happens when the U.S. Air Force decides to close the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base? Many of us saw good friends transferred and the community lost a great neighbor. By 2008 though, a new village setting emerged. The Market Common, a shopping, dining and living center, is a community within itself and one we want to visit. Here’s where we go to find the area’s only Barnes & Noble, Tommy Bahama, Orvis and CityMac Apple Specialist Store. When we get hungry let’s choose between Travinia Italian Kitchen and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro; both are on the top of my list.

I’m delighted you could come along while I show off the shopping extravaganza found in the Myrtle Beach area. Using the worn out adage “shop till you drop” may not be appropriate, but frankly I’m exhausted.

−By Dave Bodle, Associate Publisher